2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m. and read prayers.
Motion (by Senator Playford) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– I find from a newspaper extract that an old personal friend of mine, Senator Styles, has made some remarks with regard to certain imports, which, I presume, would be affected by the passing of this Bill, and they are of such an erroneous nature that I believe I am justified in drawing the attention of the Senate to them. Speaking from wrong information, no doubt he believed what he said. In a speech he referred to a sum of no less than ;£i 1,000,000 in sovereigns having been sent to America to pay for goods which were imported therefrom, and which might very easily have been produced in our own country. I happen to know something about the figures to which he referred, and I take the liberty of mentioning’ the facts here, so that he may not repeat the mistake. The goods may possibly be considered to have been exported by American trusts and others. I happen to possess information about some of the transactions.
The same remark as my honorable friend has made was made in New South Wales under a misapprehension by the Honorable E. W. O’sullivan, and I corrected it at a public meeting.
– How long is it since he made the remark ?
– It was made in respect of the same years as the honorable senator referred to. Great Britain, as we all know, is a debtor country to the United States for food products, and Aus.tralia is a debtor country to Great Britain for importations. From London the banks in Australia got instructions to send large remittances in gold to San Francisco not to pay for goods bought from America, but for goods which Great Britain had bought there. In place of sending the gold to Great Britain and thence to New York, it was sent under those instructions direct to America. The honorable senator therefore was under a misapprehension in supposing that the payment was in respect of goods brought into Australia from America. Let me read exactly what he said. Speaking at Cobram on Tuesday, of last week I presume, he said -
During the same five years Australia sent only £5,500,000 worth of merchandise to the United States, but sent £11,000,000 in sovereigns to be distributed amongst the manufacturers, middlemen and operatives of the great Republic of America, instead of distributing that enormous sum amongst the manufacturers, middlemen and operatives of the great Commonwealth of the south. Had that £11,000,000 in sovereigns been expended in Australia not a single person need have been out of work during the period named. About 80 per cent, of the people of Australia are native bom, and he asked them to think over these plain statements. If after having given the matter full consideration any Australian not being interested ‘ in the shinning trade, or getting a living or making a fortune out of imports, would send (rood Australian money across the sea for articles which could be produced in his own country by his own people, he was at all events unpatriotic, if not a fiscal crank.
I think it will be seen - and I hope the public will recognise and take note of the fact - that sometimes our honorable friends on the other side make grave mistakes as to the reason why gold is sent to America. It is often sent there to pay for goods which are got from our own countrymen in Great Britain, to whom we wish to offer a preference. The statement I have quoted was, if I may say so, unworthy of my honorable friend.
– Does the honorable senator dispute the facts given?
– I dispute the fact that we paid over£11,000,000 in gold for imports from America.
– But did we send the sovereigns there?
– They were sent there at the request of Great Britain to pay for goods which she had got from America, and if the honorable senator cannot see the reason after the explanation I ‘have given, I am not in a position to provide him with understanding.
– I desire to thank Senator Walker for having given me a good advertisement. I should not have heard anything of this matter but for the development which, took place last night in connexion with preferential trade. I am now going to claim my honorable friend, and some others, as preferential traders. For the last three or four days they havebeen talking about giving to the grand old mother country a preference. They will now have plenty of opportunity to do that.
– The honorable senator is not loyal.
– I am not lip loyal, I admit, but I am prepared to go quite as far as some honorable senators on the opposite side. When it comes to the point it will be found that they will hide behind their free-trade principles, and make no distinction between one country and another. If any preference is to be given at all, they will be delighted to give it to the foreigner, and not to the country from which we have all sprung. I thank my honorable friend for having given me a splendid advertisement on the eve of an election.
– In a few words, I wish to very emphatically repudiate the statements which were made repeatedly last night, and which are made in the press this morning, that some honorable senators endeavoured to unduly delay the passage of this Bill. There is no question that it is one of transcendant importance and entirely novel ; that in its drafting those concerned had nothing to guide them ; that from first tolast it had to be thought out here, and that it is honeycombed with possibilities of trouble. So far from, any time having been unduly consumed in the consideration of this important and momentous measure, I venture to say that it has not been sufficiently discussed, and that the exact consequences of many of its clauses are not even yet perceived by its authors.
– I quite agree with what Senator Pulsford has said in regard to the debate which took place early this morning. I do not remember a debate in the Senate in which the argument was closer, and in which there was less rhetorical embellishment.
– Was that owing to the absence of Senators Best and Symon ?
– It was owing, perhaps, to the absence of some honorable senators who, at times, deliver long and tedious speeches to which nobody wantsto listen, and which are simply addressed to the reporters, in order that they may be read by their constituents. These honorable gentlemen were in another part of the building, and the consequence was that the argument was very close and exceedingly well reasoned. All the amendments which were moved by me were marked in my copy of the Bill to be moved, and I felt it my duty to move them. In doing so, I said just as little as was possible to make the meaning of each proposal clear to the Committee ; there was no waste of time. I do not see a printed copy of the Bill in the Chamber. In standing order 204 there is a direction that a Bill, if reported with amendments, shall, before the adoption of the report is moved, be printed, and the object of the direction is that we shall be able to see in what form it appears when the amendments have been made. That is the reason why, I take it. the consideration of a Bill, when reported from Committee with amendments, is delayed until a future day. The standing order reads -
If a Bill be reported with amendments, a future day shall be appointed for taking the report into consideration, and moving its adoption, and the Bill, as reported, shall, in the meantime, be printed.
I desire to know, sir, whether the standing order has been complied with?
– I understand that printed copies of the Bill will be here in a minute or two.
– As printed copies of the Bill are not here it is rather premature to go on with the discussion of this motion.
– Ask for an adjournment of the debate.
– There isno use in delaying the passage of the Bill.
– In this case there is a special reason. We had some difficulty in regard to sub-clause 3 of clause 18. The hour was late, and there, were two amendments under consideration. One amendment had been circulated by Senator Pearce-
– Take a point of order straight away.
– As a matter of order, sir, I ask that the Bill, as printed, may be circulated amongst honorable senators before I proceed with my speech.
– Undoubtedly, the honorable senator has correctly interpreted the standing order. The object of postponing the adoption of the report is that honorable senators shall be able to see a fair copy of the Bill as agreed to in Committee ; but, under the circumstances - as he knows we did not adjourn until nearly 3 o’clock this morning - it is difficult for the printer to supply printed copies of the amended Bill in time for our next meeting. If we cannot get them, they cannot be circulated.
– Last night I raised the question as to whether the expression “ future day “ in the standing order did not mean a future day in the ordinary calendar sense. It would seem from what has occurred that that interpretation would be more in consonance with the meaning of the .standing order, because the object of the delay is no doubt to enable honorable senators to have a copy of the Bill with the amendments printed therein, so that they may know what they are speaking about. It might happen that a sitting of the Senate would .extend so far into the next day that it would be absolutely impossible for the standing order to be complied with.
– I would suggest, as a way out of the difficulty, that an honorable senator should move the adjournment of the debate.
– That is what I was going to do.
– I am not prepared to agree to that suggestion. I take it, sir, that you have already decided that under standing order 204 it is not competent for an honorable senator to move the adoption of the report on a Bill until a certain condition precedent has been complied with, and that is that in the meantime the Bill shall have been printed.
The Bill has not been, printed, and therefore I submit that it is not competent for the Minister or any one else to move the adoption of the report.
– The spirit .of the standing order has not been carried out, but I understand that the letter of it has been.
– Have you closed the discussion, sir?
– No, I have not.
– I wish to move the adjournment of the debate.
– I claim my right to speak on the point of order. I rose before Senator Clemons.
– The position is this : Senator Millen has raised a point of order as to whether it is competent for the Minister to move the adoption of the report upon the Bill until the Bill, as amended, has been printed and circulated. The letter of that standing order, I am informed, has been complied with. But the spirit of it is that the Bill shall be printed and circulated. What is the use of printing it if it is not circulated ?
– We do not know that it has been printed.
– I only know from the Clerk.
– The Clerk does not know, except from information supplied.
– The Clerk tells me that the Bill was read through at 9 o’clock this morning, and was sent 1o the printer. He is now waiting for printed copies of it. I think that the standing order has not been carried out, but I do not wish to give a final ruling at present if other honorable senators wish to speak.
– In the meantime copies of the Bill may be received.
– I have not the slightest objection to let the Bill stand over until next Tuesday if honorable senators wish to go through it careful])1, but it is a most unusual course for them to adopt. There is not the slightest necessity for it either, because the Bill will undoubtedly be in print next Tuesday, and then they will have an opportunity to move its recommittal on the motion for the third reading. That opportunity would be quite equal to moving its recommittal now. Nothing is gained by the action taken by honorable senators opposite.
– Does Senator Millen insist upon a ruling?
– -Not after the Minister has stated that he is willing to adjourn, the further consideration of the Bill until next Tuesday.
Debate (on motion by Senator Clemons) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Playford) proposed -
That the debate be resumed after the next Order of the Day has been disposed of.
– The Minister distinctly gave a promise that the Bill will be taken on Tuesday next. This is an absolute and gross breach of faith. Did I not withdraw my point of order ‘ upon the distinct understanding that the Bill would go over until Tuesday? I appeal to the Senate as to whether that is not so. Every honorable senator present heard my words. I said that if the Minister was content that the Bill should go over until Tuesday I would withdraw my point of order. That took away the advantage which I possessed. Now, however, the Minister proposes to take the Bill at a later hour to-day. He is, consciously or unconsciously, doing something which lacks the element of fairness. He will see at once the position in which he places me. Having abandoned the strong position which I occupied on the understanding that the Bill was to go over till Tuesday, he now moves that it be taken at a later hour to-day.
– The honorable senator is altogether mistaken as to what took place. He suggested that we should wait until the Bill was printed, and put it to the President that it could not be dealt with until the printed copies were received.
– Shall I be in order if I take my point of order again ?
– No, it has been withdrawn. I may state that I certainly understood that the Minister of Defence expressed his willingness to take the Bill next Tuesday, and it was on that understanding that I asked Senator Millen if he intended to persevere with his point of order. Whether my recollection is right or wrong I do not know.
– I moved the adjournment of the debate because Senator Playford said that it was to be resumedon Tuesday.
– The position, as I understand it, is this: Senator Millen had raised a point of order. Before that point was absolutely decided, SenatorClemons moved his motion for the adjournment of the debate.
– He could not have moved it before the point of order had been either decided or withdrawn.
SenatorClemons. - I moved the adjournment of the debate after Senator Playford had said that the Bill would be taken on Tuesday.
– I understood that Senator Millen had withdrawn his point of order, and that Senator Clemons then moved the adjournment of the debate. I said that it did not matter whether the Bill was taken to-day or next Tuesday, because, on the thirdreading, there would be every opportunity to recommit, if a majority supported a motion to that effect: If there has been any misunderstanding, all that I can say is that I will allow the Bill to go over until Tuesday. Perhaps then honorable senators will allow me, if they fail to get the Bill back into Committee, to take the third reading shortlyafterwards. That may be a fair understanding. I do not wish to lose another day.
– Does the Minister move that the adjourned debate be an order of the day for Tuesday?
– I understood that the Minister had already moved that the Bill should be taken after the next Order of the Day had been disposed of.
– I did not put that question, and Senator Playford has withdrawn it.
– He could not have withdrawn it without the leave of the Senate, and that leave has not been given.
– He could not have withdrawn it had it been put, but if an honorable senator submits a motion, and, not having spoken, he afterwards says that he wishes to withdraw his motion, he can do so if the original question has not been put. The question now is -
That the resumption of the debate be an Order of the Day for Tuesday next.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Bill received from House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Playford) read a first time.
Bill received from House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Playford) read a first time.
– I think the Minister should comply with the standing order, and when he moves a motion should rise in his place.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill which consists of three clauses. The object of it is to make provision for altering a certain portion of the Constitution. This is the first step that has to be taken in accordance with section 128, which lays down the mode of effecting a constitutional alteration. It is there provided that the Constitution shall not be altered except in the following manner: -
The proposed law for the alteration thereof must be passed by an absolute majority of each House of the Parliament, and not less than two or more than six months after its- passage through both Houses the proposed law shall be submitted in each State to the electors qualified to vote for the election of members of the House of Representatives.
It is necessary, therefore, that a Bill should be passed by both- Houses of the Parliament bv an absolute majority in each instance, and “ not less than two or more than six months “ before the proposed alteration is submitted to a referendum of the electors of the Commonwealth. The Bill is designed to alter section 13 of the Constitution, which reads as follows : -
As soon as may be after the Senate first meets, and after each first meeting of the Senate following a dissolution thereof, the Senate shall divide the senators chosen for each State into two classes, as nearly equal in number as practicable ; and the places of the senators of the first class shall become vacant at the expiration of the third year, and the places of those of the second class at the expiration of the sixth year from the beginning of their term of service; and afterwards the places of senators shall become vacant at the expiration of six years from the beginning of their term of service.
The election to fill vacant places shall be made in the year at the expiration of which the places are to become vacant.
For the purposes of this section the term of service of a senator shall be taken lo begin on the first day of January following the day of his election, except in the cases of the first election and of the election next after any dissolution of the Senate, when it shall be taken’ to begin on the first day of January preceding the day of his election.
With that provision in the Constitution, the first election of ‘members of the Commonwealth Parliament was held on the 29th March, 1901. Thirty-six senators were returned, with respect to eighteen of whom it had to be provided that they, were in the first class, while the eighteen others were in the second class. In every instance, the term of service of the thirty - six senators began on the 1st January, 1 901. By consequence, the term of the senators of the first class became vacant on the 31st December, 1903. It was necessary to make provision for the election of eighteen senators to take those vacant places on the 1st January, 1904. The election was consequently held in December, 1903. The election for the House of Representatives in the first instance was also taken on the 29th March, 1901. By reason of the fact that the term of office of the members of the House of Representatives had not, under the Constitution, expired on the same day as that of the members of the Senate “of the first class,” it was necessary at the last general- election, 11 order to have the elections for both Houses on the one day, that the members of the House of Representatives should forego a certain portion of their term. The senators and representatives were elected simultaneously in March, 1901. but Parliament did not meet until May of the same year, when honorable members of both Houses were sworn in.
– The slightest disturbance in the term of honorable members’ of another place would destroy the whole value of the Bill.
– I shall deal with that point directly. Honorable senators have doubtless had it presented to them not only that it would be more convenient to have the election of both Houses held’ simultaneously, but also that it is desirable the elections should be held not at the end’ but in the early part of the year. There has been a very general expression of opinion throughout the Commonwealth that if the elections were held in March-
– Does the Bill insurethat the elections for the House of Representatives will be held in March?
– I think there lias been a very general expression of opinion throughout the Commonwealth that if the elections were held in March, or thereabouts, that would be preferable to their being held in November or December, or even October. One of the reasons is that the month of March or thereabouts is much more convenient for a large number in the farming community. That opinion has been very freely expressed in more than one State, and in more than one way. and this Bill has been introduced in order to meet what the Government consider a reasonable desire on the part of the great majority of the electors, and also to obviate, as far as possible, the sending of the Chambers, to the country at different times. Senator Millen has asked if any guarantee is given that the elections will always be held in March. No; the Government are not in a position, and no other Government would be in a position, to give such a guarantee. But we assume that under ordinary normal circumstances - in the event of the House of Representatives continuing its full term without any penal dissolution - this Bill will, as far as is possible, secure simultaneous elections in the autumn, rather than, as at present, in the spring, or early summer.
– The first time there is an extraordinary dissolution of the other House, the whole benefit of the Bill will disappear.
– That I admit.
– Could not a clause be drafted to rectify that?
– I may inform honorable senators that the Government tried very hard to provide in this Bill for the case of an extraordinary dissolution of the other House. Several methods were very care.fully considered, but the Government came to the conclusion that, so far as any arbitrary arrangement was concerned, the disadvantages were greater than the advantages. It was intended to have a provision to meet a contingency of that kind, and the one first suggested was open to a great deal of very serious criticism. Other provisions were proposed, but, eventually, it was found that no system, which could be thought of at the moment, could be adopted without entailing considerable disadvantage.
– If a dissolution took place in the third year of the Parliament, could the case be met by extending the term of the House of Representatives fora few months?
– Perhaps so. These, however, are matters which can be best discussed when the Bill is in Committee. I tell honorable senators frankly that these considerations received a great amount of attention from all the members of the Cabinet, and different suggestions to overcome the difficulty were presented, and most carefully considered. The Government will welcome any suggestion calculated to meet any possible difficulty which may present itself. The Bill aims at insuring simultaneous elections for both Houses, and seeks to so arrange that it will be possible to hold the elections during the first, rather than during the second, six months of the year.
– Has the Minister any figures as to the cost of a separate election for the Senate?
– I cannot say offhand what the cost would be; but I shall “be able to get the information for honorable senators very speedily, or, at any rate, before we finish the consideration of the Bill. The alterations proposed by the Bill might at first sight appear to be merely verbal ; but that is not the case. Clause 2, which deals with the rotation of senators, proposes to strike out of section 13 of the Constitution the words “the third year,” and to insert instead “three years,” thus making the term of every senator so many years from the beginning of his service. By clause 2 it is also sought to strike out of _ section 13 of the Constitution the words “ in the year at the expiration of which,” and to insert instead “ within one year before.” The second paragraph of section 13 of the Con,stitution is as follows: -
The election to fill vacant places shall be made in the year at the expiration of which the places are to become vacant.
At present the term of a senator’s service, no matter when he may have been elected, expires on the 31st December in some year, and the Constitution provides that the election shall take place in anticipation of a vacancy occurring. The second paragraph of section 13, as amended, will read -
The election to fill vacant places shall be made within one year before the places are to become vacant.
It is subsequently provided that the term of a senator’s service shall henceforth cease, not on the 31st December, but on the 30th June, beginning on the1st July following the clay of his election. It is provided that the election to fill the vacant places shall be held within one year from the first day of July.
– That will really cover a dissolution in the third year.
– Yes, if it were sufficiently forward in the third year. At any rate, there would be six months of the third year in which it would be possible to hold the election.
– There cannot be a double dissolution within six months of an ordinary election.
– But Senator Best referred to a dissolution of the House of Representatives.
– There may be a penal dissolution of the House of Representatives within six months of an election.
– The Constitution makes no provision as to when the election of senators shall be held, further than that it shall be within the year at the expiration” of which the terms of certain senators cease. The Bill makes no alteration in the principle, but, while altering the date on which the term shall cease, provides similarly that the election to fill the vacant places must take place within one year before the expiration of such term. We do not deviate from the principle, but simply alter the date on which the term of service shall cease.
– I think an alteration is required in section 7 of the Constitution, which provides that senators shall be chosen for a term of six years. The Bill deviates from that provision.
– I think not. The first paragraph of section 13 provides that the places of the senators of the first class shall become vacant at the expiration of the third year, and the places of those of the second class at the expiration of the sixth year, from the beginning of their term of service.
– But the Bill extends the term of the next senators by six months, and, therefore, I think it is necessary to amend section 7.
– The arrangement under section 7 is only until Parliament otherwise provides.
– By providing that the election to fill the vacant places shall be held within twelve months ending the 30th June, when the term of office expires, we shall be enabled to hold the elections between the 1st January and the 30th June. At the same time, it will be possible, in all cases until an extraordinary dissolution has intervened, to hold a simultaneous election for the House of Representatives, and to have that election as nearly as possible to the first assembling of the newly elected Parliament. There are other provisions in the Bill which may be regarded as consequential on those which I have already indicated. There is provision for the extension of the term of service of certain of the present senators. There is no differentiation between present senators except what is brought about by the operation of the Constitution as at present. Eighteen honorable senators will finish their term of service on the 31st December next.
– Their present term?
– Yes ; and the other provisions passing, it it proposed to extend the terms of certain senators. In order that this Bill shall take effect immediately on its passing, it is proposed to extend the term of those who would serve until 1909 to the 30th June or the 1st July, 19 10.
– Not nearly long enough.
– As to honorable senators who will be elected at the forthcoming elections, they will have to serve not six years, but six years and six months. If we affirm the principle, it must take effect at some time or other; and, when it does, this addition of six months, under certain circumstances, is inevitable. The Bill has been circulated for some time, and as honorable senators are familiar with the provision of the Constitution in this connexion, they will have little difficulty in appreciating the necessity for the extension of the term of service of certain senators.
– Insofaras this Bill aims at consulting the convenience of the electors, it is of course entitled to a favorable reception at the hands of the Senate. But many of the remarks addressed to the Senate by the Minister in support of the measure seem to me to be quite beside the question, and to overlook what to my mind is the one fatal objection to it. Let me point out that all that is contended for in favour of this Bill would disappear absolutely if the life of the other branch of the Legislature were terminated by an extraordinary dissolution. We have these dual elections now only so long as the House of Representatives runs its full time.
– Or consents to cut off a portion of its time.
– Yes. We are now asked to take the serious step of altering the Constitution to secure an advantage which might be limited absolutely to one election. The advantage could not be derived at an election to take place between this and the end of the year, as the Bill could only cover an election taking place later than that date. Before then there might be not one, but two, extraordinary dissolutions of the other House. That is a matter upon which, of course, we can speculate, but as to which no one can decide with any degree of assurance.
– W - We can view the matter with more equanimity than can honorable members in another place.
– That is so; but I suppose that members of the Senate can at all times do that with any measure brought before them. We are being asked to amend the Constitution, a course which should not be lightly undertaken, for an entirely imaginary advantage, it being assumed that a dual election which has taken place once only in our Federal history will continue indefinitely. I say again that the whole of the benefit of this Bill disappears absolutely the moment the other House fails to complete its full term.
– Not necessarily.
– My honorable friend will pardon me; but I think that it does necessarily disappear. By shortening the term of the existence of the other House, it might be possible, as was done on a previous occasion, to have the elections for both Houses on the one date. But when that is done, it might be that the next Parliament, in a time of crisis, would have its life cut short and another election take place. Is it, then, to be assumed that the other House would foreshorten its life by one-half of the usual term, and go out. in the middle of the three years term, eighteen months after an election ?
– It might happen if an election took place at. the end of the three years.
– As Senator Pearce has suggested, that might happen if members in another place consented to shorten their term.
– The other House might consent to a dissolution at a particular time, to suit the convenience of the Senate.
– It might do so. The members of the other House did undoubtedly, in the public interest, make a sacrifice by consenting to an earlier election than the Constitution required ; but it is not to be supposed that they will continue to do that, nor is it right that they should. If, for instance, a penal dissolution of the House of Representatives were to take place in the middle of a three years term, it would be idle to suppose that the members of that House would agree to shorten the life of the next parliamentary term by eighteen months. Even if they were willing to do so, they would have no right to do so. They would have been elected for a three years term to do certain work, and so long as they were competent as a House to discharge the work required to be done, they, would have no. justification for abandoning their posts and going up for re-election before the time for which they had been elected had expired. I have endeavoured, so far, to show that the Bill offers no advantage applicable to the forthcoming election. It offers a possible advantage, though by no means a certain advantage, in” connexion with elections which may take place in the future, but should a penal dissolution of the House of Representatives take place, that advantage might or might not entirely disappear. I now come to what appears to me to be the most serious blot in the Bill - a blot so serious, and a defect so startling, that unless it can be explained away I shall be compelled to vote against the measure. H is proposed, by means of this Bill, to hold the elections some time during March or April. Our financial year starts on the 1st July, and it seems to me that the inevitable result would be that Parliament would be called together before the 1st July. I say that-
– There is no reason for that.
– I see the strongest of constitutional reasons for it in the slovenly way into which Australian Parliaments have got of meeting to deal with Supply for the year long after the money has been expended. What ought to be done is- that Parliament should be called together before the year for which it has to make financial provision, is entered upon. We follow’ that practice here, and meet now in the autumn of the year, with the knowledge that the financial year for which we have to make provision is ahead of us.
– Does the honorable senator call the 27th June .autumn of the year ?
– Senator Dobson is referring to one instance, whilst I spoke generally of Australian Parliaments. The honorable senator will not dispute the fact that.it is the practice of the mother of Par,liaments. and was the practice of Australian Parliaments, to meet before the expiration of the current financial year.
– We could alter the financial year.
– We might alter anything, but I should like to know to what we are leading, when we are asked to alter the Constitution in this way for an imaginary advantage. If we were to alter the financial year, we should probably then find that we would be no better off than we are now. For the reasons I have given, if Parliament were called together on the 30th June, we might have sitting in the Senate honorable senators whose time was about to expire, and who had been rejected at the last election. That might be perfectly constitutional and legal, but would it be desirable? Is it desirable that we should have senators rejected by the electors in April coming here to legislate in May or June.
– The same thing happens in America.
– Is that a sufficient answer? Is the history of American legislative ways such as would induce Senator Best to accept this proposal merely because such a thing happens in America ?
– No ; but it is almost inevitable.
– It is not inevitable under our present system, where we erect senators to the end of the calendar year. Unless, in the case of some extraordinary national crisis, we are under no necessity to call Parliament together until the end of the year, and before the new senators are entitled to take their seats. I admit at once that in our Constitution provision is made for what I have referred to. but I do ask honorable senators whether it is likely, in practice, to be found desirable. In the first place, I think that it is very probable that an honorable senator rejected in April would fail to attend Parliament’ in May or June, especially if he had to come from a distant State, and the result of that would be that the representation of his State in the Senate would suffer.
– - If he were rejected in ApriL he could not attend here in May or June.
– There is no doubt that he could, and a senator rejected at an election in April, and residing in Western Australia or in the north of Queensland, would hardly leave his State to attend here only until the 30th June following. He would have to do so at considerable personal sacrifice, and when he ‘came here it might be that he could only attend for a week.
– H - He would be hardly likely to do it.
– Exactly, and I am glad that my honorable friend now sees the practical objection I am urging. In such circumstances the very basis of the Senate would be undermined. The one thing for which our friends from the smaller States - small in the matter of population - fought most strenuously when the desirability of Federation was being discussed was equal representation in the Senate. I say that if this Bill were carried into effect, in all probability, so far as one can foresee, the result of the adoption of the proposal would be that the smaller States would be absolutely deprived of that equal representation to which they attach so much importance. I should perhaps be inclined to waive that objection if there were any reasonable grounds for assuming that the elections for the two Houses would always take place on the one date.
– The same objection would apply now. If there were an extraordinary dissolution of the House of Representatives, and an election for the Senate and House of Representatives took place in March or April.
– What I mean is that the senators elected then would not take office until the 1st January following. That is quite possible under existing circumstances.
– That is to say if Parliament were called together in December.
– No, in the following June or July. If there had been a dissolution of the House of Representatives, and an election was held in last March, and the opportunity had been taken at the same time to elect senators.
– Just so. But the Minister points out there exactly the defect in the present Constitution which may lead to what prevails in America. The only reason why the Constitution as it now stands is not likely to be injurious in a similar way here is that we are not likely to have a session in November or December following an election.
– We might have it in June - as we have at the present time.
– If a dissolution of the other House took place in the earlypart of the year I am not prepared to believe that the present or any other Government would propose to elect the senators then, because that would be so opposed to public sentiment in Australia that they would hesitate to do it. My assumption of their hesitancy to do that is the strongest argument I can find for pointing out the defects of this Bill. I do not believe that Australian electors are prepared to elect their parliamentary representatives nine or ten months ahead of the time at which they are called upon to assume their duties.
– We have power to do it now; the Constitution provides for it.
– I admit that the power is there, but the mere fact that it is there must be taken in conjunction with the other fact I have pointed out that there being no reason for supposing that this Parliament will be called together immediately prior to Christmas, the present Constitution is not greatly open to that objection. What Senator Keating proposes to do in this Bill is not merely to make it possible, but to absolutely insure the very difficulty he points out. At present, under the Constitution, the disadvantage is only possible, but under the proposal now submitted it would be absolute! v insured and guaranteed that it would become operative and effective I shall not labour the point, but I put it to honorable senators to say whether they think that the possible advantage of securing the elections for the two Houses on a simultaneous date - an advantage which can in no sense be regarded as permanent, but only as accidental - is not more than outweighed by the fact that we should be running the nsk of having honorable sena tors in this Chamber who had been rejected at the elections, and whose term of office was about to expire; or in the alternative leaving their States without efficient representation, which, to my mind, would be equally objectionable. For these reasons, unless strong arguments are brought forward to destroy those which I have used, and to meet the objection I have raised, 1 shall have to vote against the second reading of the Bill.
– This is a Bill to amend the Constitution, and, as such, it ought to be approached with great deliberation and caution. We ought to be extremely chary of making alterations in the Constitution. I fully appreciate our powers of amendment, and they should be used whenever a case of overwhelming, necessity arises, and the wellbeing of the whole people is concerned. But, if we err at all, we should err in the direction of over-cautiousness, because it is not only the Constitution of the Commonwealth as a. political body, but it is also the charter of the States, having been accepted by their people as a compromise between the sovereignty which had previously been exercised bv the States and the new sovereignty which it created.
– But that is safeguarded, because the Constitution cannot be altered without the consent of the majority of the States.
– I know al] the steps which are necessary in order to insure an amendment of the Constitution, and they are not too rigid to be overcome in the case of necessity ; but I still adhere te* my view that, as the fundamental instrument of government, we should be very chary in making amendments therein. There is a tendency, I am sorry to say, at certain times - and it has been emphasized of late-with parties or individual politicians who have schemes, perhaps perfectly right arid proper ones, for carrying out certain matters under the Constitution, as soon as they are confronted with a difficulty in the Constitution, to say, “Oh, let us amend it.” Practically, the principle they adopt is, “ We hold certain views with regard to particular matters. If they are not in accordance with the Constitution, so much the worse for it : alter it.”
– It cannot be worse for the Constitution unless the views are in accordance with the opinions of the majority of the people.
– I am only pleading now for deliberation and caution, and the honorable senator must see the application of my remarks. During the past few years I have heard a great number of amendments in the Constitution proposed, and in almost every case, after having gone very carefully into’ the matter, I have come to the conclusion that the Constitution is right, in the interests of the whole of the people, and that the proposals are not right. I believe that no amendment of the Constitution is necessary at the present time, and I should not be disposed to budge from that position unless an overwhelming case were made out to my satisfaction. In the present case, I have come to the conclusion, that there is no necessity to amend the Constitution. The reason which is put forward generally is that we have had two elections close to the end of the year, that that is an inconvenient time for certain sections of the people, and that therefore the Constitution should be altered in order to allow1 the elections to be held at some other time in the year.
– We have had only one election near the end of the year.
– I thank the honorable senator for the correction. The first general election was held in March, and the last near the end of the year. We are told that, on account of the inconvenience of that period, we should proceed to amend the Constitution. Even if that be so, and there is nothing in the Constitution to require the elections to take place in December, I would point out that in such a vast territory as Australia, and with such varieties of climate we should never find any time in the year which would be equally convenient to everybody and every section. If we altered the Constitution so as to have the elections in March, we should assuredly find certain sections of the public complaining that that was a most inconvenient time to them. Pursuing the same course, there would be another agitation to amend the Constitution, in order to have the elections held at another date, and we might be engaged from year to year in tinkering with the Constitution, in order to find a date which would suit everybody. That, however, is impossible. The Constitution at the present time allows one year - from the ist January to the 31st December - for the holding of elections for the Senate. The objection which Senator Millen raises to elections taking place a long time before the expiration of the term of office of sena tors is not, I think, sufficiently strong to justify us in making any alteration in the present arrangement, because I do not agree with him that there is anything to lead us to believe that an honorable senator who knows that his term of office will expire at the end of the year will be less attentive to his legislative duties than he would be in other circumstances. There are several honorable senators who have allowed it to be known for twelve months that they are not going up for re-election at the end of their term of office, but we have not found them in the discharge of their legislative duties one whit less attentive than they were previously.
– Are they living far from here?
– No, they live quite close.
– That makes a big difference.
– I do not think that a senator from another State who had made up his mind not to stand for re-election would be less attentive to the discharge of his duties than he had been before. That is not, I think, a consideration which should weigh with us, and, as I have said, the Constitution allows the senators to be elected at any time .in the year, if that course be considered desirable, when there may be an election taking place for the House of Representatives. I want to call attention to a point which apparently has escaped the notice of Ministers, and, perhaps, of Senator Millen, and which must be remembered throughout the debate, and that is that the election of the senators is a States matter. It is the State Governor who issues the writ, and the State Parliament which makes the law in regard to the time of choosing the senators for a State.
– “ The times and places.”
– Section 9 says -
The Parliament of a State may make laws for determining .the times and places of elections of senators for the State. and section 12 provides that -
The Governor of any State may cause writs to be issued for elections of senators for the State.
That, to my mind, makes, it perfectly clear that the election of senators is in the hands of the States. We cannot compel the Governor of a State to issue writs for the election of senators at any time if he does not choose to do so. Under the law made by its. Parliament he may select any time in the last year of the expiring term of office. In one State one period may be more convenient ; in another State another period may be more convenient; and there is nothing in the Constitution that I can see to prevent the States individually from choosing various times for the election of senators. Suppose that we had an election for the House of Representatives taking place in March, and that in a particular State it was considered inconvenient to hold the election of senators at any time later than that, the elections could take place simultaneously. It is of no use for us as a Federal Parliament to raise questions as to the desirability of senators being chosen a long time beforehand. The answer to that is that the Constitution allows the whole of the year for the purpose, and puts the whole matter in the hands of the State, so that it can choose its own time. Under these circumstances what advantage can be gained by passing this Bill? Supposing that the proposed alteration of the Constitution were made so far as the time for electing the senators was concerned - and that we are told is the object - it could be entirely passed over by a State, and the only difference which would be made then, and which we have the power to make, would be to add six months to the term of office pf the senators next elected. The particular object which it is supposed would be attained by the proposed amendment of the Constitution would be no advantage whatever. It would be very inadvisable for us to pass the Bill unless we could attain some definite and useful purpose. With regard to the other House we have nothing to do with their electoral arrangements.
– What !
– I mean to say that we cannot affect the time at which the election of members of that House shall take place, because a dissolution might occur at any time. Its members are not elected for a fixed term, and if we altered the Constitution with the idea that the elections for the two Houses would be held simultaneously, and that thereby expense would be saved, it might be upset in a moment bv a dissolution of the other House taking place at some time not coincident with the end of the term. Unless I change my opinion bv reason of any arguments I .may hear, I shall feel compelled to vote against the second reading of the Bill.
– I listened with great interest to the speech of Senator Drake, and I was impressed with the force -of much of what he said. If there is going to be an alteration of the Constitution I fear that section 7 will also require to be amended. The last paragraph of the section reads -
The senators shall be chosen for a term of six years, and the names of the senators chosen for each State shall be certified by the Governor to the Governor-General.
If the Bill were passed it would increase the term of office of a senator to six and a half years. It might, perhaps, be said that the greater would include the less, but I consider that we have no right to refer this Bill to the electors unless we also submit that particular provision. With regard to Senator Millen’s remark as to the difficulty of our not meeting until the expiry of the financial vear, I think it could be got over, if there is to be an alteration made, by making the date the 1st May instead of the ist July. If we .met on the ist May the financial year would have two months to run, but if the ist July is to be adhered to as the date we ought to make the financial year close later than the 30th June. It is very desirable, on constitutional grounds, I take it, that the Parliament should meet before the expiration of the financial year. It has been said that it is somewhat irregular for an election to take place months before the new senators will enter upon the discharge of their duties. But in the United States, the President is chosen in November, and assumes office in March of the following year. When the Bill gets into Committee, I shall take the opportunity to suggest that the ist May be substituted for the ist July, so as not to interfere with the present financial vear. I also think that it is necessary to alter section 7 of the Constitution, because I take it that “ a term of six years “ means no more than six years
– - The chief argument adduced by the Minister in moving the second reading of this Bill has not been answered by Senator Millen and Senator Drake in their interesting speeches. I take it that Ministers have brought in the Bill to insure that the elections shall be held in March, which month is more suitable to the majority of the people than December.
– The Bill will not insure that.
– Of Of course it is impossible absolutely to insure that the election shall be held in any particular month. We cannot insure that the elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate will be held simultaneously. A penal dissolution would spoil that arrangement. But the Bill appeals to me in this way. We are now within a few weeks of the end of the session. The general elections are to be held at the end of November or in December. Three years ago the same thing happened, and we had the spectacle, as we have it now, of a number of members of both Houses, not dealing with the business of Parliament as they otherwise would do, being anxious to rush away to their constituencies. Members naturally are not giving measures that due consideration which they would give to them if the elections were to be held some two or three months after Christmas, and if there were not this hurry to get away. We are perfectly well aware that in both Houses at the present moment, but particularly in another place, there is a desire on the part of members to meet their constituents.
– Is this a Bill to promote the convenience of members present?
– Cer Certainly not, but if an alteration of the Constitution were made as proposed, it might conduce to the better consideration of measures, and therefore to the convenience of the public, by insuring a better class of legislation. This Bill, if passed, will make it possible for every election after the coming one* - supposing there is no penal dissolution - to be held in March or April, instead of in December. Every Parliament, even if it meets early in the year, is not in the habit of rising until near Christmas time. In each session of the Commonwealth Parliament the ten.dency has been to sit almost to the end of the year, except in a vear in which the general elections are to be held. The present system means - we saw it three years ago, and we see it now - that as the elections have to be held some time before Christmas,’ and we do not meet until June, the session in which to deal with business of considerable importance is very short. A number of very important measures now await consideration. Many members of both Houses would like to have an opportunity to consider them, but there is not sufficient time. Many of the Bills will, in the circumstances, be amongst the “slaughtered innocents.” Senator Clemons laughs in a sneering way.
Surely I am entitled to my opinion, and need not be met by these superfluous sneers.
– I am not sneering.
– The The honorable senator has a very unfortunate smile, then.
– I never heard such a ridiculous argument. The time that we have depends upon when we began, and when we shall end.
– T - The time we have is that between the commencement of the session and its close. But we know perfectly well that for some reason or other Parliament is not in the .habit of meeting until the middle of the year. If the present system is continued, it will probably continue to meet in June, and if there are to be elections in December that means a very short session.
– When does the honorable senator think Parliament would meet if we had the elections in March ?
– We We should probably meet about the beginning of July. If the elections were in the following March, it would be possible to deal with the work of the session in a proper manner. But, under present circumstances, the inevitable result is that towards the end of the session measures which many members of Parliament would like to see passed are either cast aside, or have to be considered in Houses half the members of which are away. That is actually what is being’ done to-day. We find members leaving when the House is sitting to address mid-day meetings, while others are away in different parts of the country.
– And “count outs” are brought about.
– Yes Yes. The .object of this Bill, therefore, is to make it possible for the elections to be held in March or April instead of in December. If that be done, there will, I think, be a better chance of avoiding the difficulties and inconveniences that surround us under the present system.
– The greatest advantage of the Bill is that it suits the people better to have an election in March than in December.
– I d I do not .say that we are here to suit the convenience of Mem bers of Parliament. We have to consider the convenience of the people.
– The honorable senator has been discussing the convenience of senators.
– N - No; I have been showing that if the present system were altered, it would not only suit the convenience of the people and of Members of Parliament, but that better legislation would result, and fuller consideration would be given to important questions. That seems to me to be the chief argument in support of the Bill. I am perfectly in accord with Senator Drake that it is not desirable to alter the Constitution hastily. No one wishes to do that. As a matter of fact, the Constitution itself prevents us from making alterations in an ill-considered manner. Every proposed amendment has not only to be fully considered by both Houses of the Parliament, but has also to be accepted by the people when submitted to them. If it can be shown that it will in any way improve our legislation and our manner of performing our duties to make the alteration proposed, that is, I think, a sufficient justification for the Bill.
.- I can see no objection to the Bill, except the uncertainty that must be present in the mind of everybody about any Bill that is brought forward in the expiring hours of a Parliament, when, in our hurry, we may overlook some consequence which might, perhaps, be very inconvenient, if not dangerous. The Bill merely provides, so far as I can see, for an addition of six months to the term of senators who are to be elected this year and of those who will be elected three years later. I do not pay much attention to the dangers which Senator Millen and others have outlined. They seem to me to be imaginary possibilities rather than probabilities. The measure is introduced partly, perhaps, for the convenience of some Members of Parliament - or, rather, partly for the convenience of one House - but mainly in response to a desire that the date of the elections should be altered. I agree with Senator Drake that no matter what date we fix, no matter what season of theyear we determine is the most convenient, circumstances may upset all our arrangements. As a matter of fact, March would not suit us in Queensland, because it is the rainy month. It is certainly inconvenient to be electioneering in wet weather in tropical and sub-tropical country. When elections have been held for the State Parliament in February or in March, and the streams have been flooded, candidates have frequently been prevented from travelling.
– April would be suitable.
– April and May would suit us better. Those months are usually chosen for the elections for the State Parlialiament for that reason. How much force is there in Senator Millen’s contention as to a probable dissolution of the House of Representatives rendering all our efforts in passing this Bill null and void? The tendency of the Federal Parliament is to have regular periods for the elections; and I am inclined to the opinion that there never wall be a double dissolution of the House of Representatives before the Parliament expires by effluxion of time. Members of the House of Representatives view, with a great deal of dread, not the uncertainty of the elections, but the travelling which an election entails. Many members of another place have constituencies larger than the State of Victoria, while candidates for the Senate appeal to constituencies many times larger than some of the countries of Europe. An election is not contemplated with any equanimity, in view of the appalling distances which have to be travelled, and the immense amount of work entailed. Members of the House of Representatives were inconvenienced by the last general election, on which occasion they very generously sacrificed several months of their term of office in order to save the States and the Commonwealth expense. The question of expense will operate against a state of things such as Senator Millen has described. A separate election for the Senate would mean an extra expenditure of something like £50,000, and this in itself would, I think, prove an effectual bar to a dissolution.
– A dissolution of the other House does not rest with the members.
– As a rule, when there is a dissolution of a Legislative Assembly, it is in consequence of the action of members who have turned out the Government. Senator Millen has suggested that a sitting senator, who had been rejected at the poll, might, pending the expiration of his term, take his place in the Senate, and share in the work of legislation. It is a matter of some surprise that Senator Millen should at last have assumed the attitude of an advanced reformer. I never before heard Senator Millen complain because in New South Wales, and other States, the system largely obtains of appointing to the Legislative Councils, men who have been rejected by the electors for the Legislative Assemblies. I suppose that the majority of the members of the Legislative Councils in the various States have at one time or other been rejected by the constituencies - that they are men who have lost the confidence of the people, and yet, as members of Second Chambers, are allowed to shape legislation..
– And they are appointed for ever and aye !
– In many instances, members of the Legislative Councils are appointed for life.
– But there is a difference. In the case of senators, their term will not have expired, and, therefore, the case is more one in which somebody else has been selected than one in which senators have been rejected. I imagine that such a case as that suggested by Senator Millen would be very unusual. A period of thirty days may elapse after the return of the writs.
– Which writs?
– Not the writs issued in connexion with the bank controlled by the honorable senator - not the writs issued against some poor devil who is not able to pay his interest.
– I am asking whether the honorable senator means the writs of the State Governor or the writs of the GovernorGeneral.
– I must apologize to the honorable senator for my little levity. I do not think that any senator rejected at the polls in November, would put in an appearance here to take part in legislation. The State represented by such an honorablesenator, might be franchised to the extent of his vote, but the contingency is not one likely to arise.
– The President of the United States continues in office under similar circumstances.
– Senator Drake has contended that we ought not to alter the Constitution.
– What I say is that we should alter the Constitution only with caution.
– The honorable senator contended that we should exercise great care and deliberation in making any alteration in the Constitution. There is an advantage about a written Constitution, and there is also an advantage about an unwritten Constitution. Some writ ten Constitutions are a complete bar to progress. Our Constitution, however, contains safeguards which would, I hope, prevent any radical alteration against the interests of the people. In order to effect an amendment of the Constitution, there has to be the consent of a majority of the people and of a majority of the States ; and surely that is sufficient to prevent any detrimental change. The only alterations sought under the Bill are in regard to the date of the elections, and to the extension of the term of honorable senators by six months in either case. I think we may give ourselves the credit of saying that that is a very desirable alteration.
– I think that more alteration of the Constitution will be necessitated by this Bill than Senator Higgs imagines. On examination, the arguments against the Bill seem rather to multiply than otherwise. In 1902 we passed an Act relating to the allowance to members of the Federal Parliament, and providing that the pay of senators should date from the day of election. If we pass the Bill as presented to us, there may be two sets of senators, and the allowance to one set, if it dates from the day of election, will mean to the Commonwealth the expenditure of a few thouand pounds. The Act to which I refer provides -
The allowance to each senator under section forty-eight of the Constitution shall be reckoned -
It is quite clear that if we make the change in the Constitution suggested by the Bill, the Parliamentary Allowance Act will have to be repealed or amended, or it will remain as a more or less fatal objection to the measure. It is contemplated that senators may be elected some months ahead, and, as I have pointed out, that may mean considerable expenditure in the way of allowances. At present, when the elections take place towards the end of the year, the expenditure is very little; but if we pass the Bill there will be a good deal of difference in this respect. Another point is that there will be some difficulty in making the arrangement desired for the time of meeting. At present we avoid holding the session in the hot months ; but, with a general election in the month of March, we should be called upon to meet at ai very undesirable period of the year. I should like to call attention to the fact that, although the other House is nominally elected for three years, the members go for reelection about every two years and nine months. Such an arrangement is almost compulsory, in order to coincide with the arrangements of the Senate. The other House might continue for three years from the time of its first meeting ; and, if it did so, an election could not take place for three years and three months.
– That would mean having the general election at all times of the year.
– It is because of that possibility that it can now be proposed to have the general election in March. But if there be an election in March, 1907, there could be an election in July in. 1910. It would seem, therefore, that there are difficulties in the way of bringing the elections for the two Chambers together automatically. In the past we have been able to have the elections together; but it must not be assumed that that will always be the case ; and I do not see how the position will be improved by the change suggested by the Bill, to which, as I said before, a consideration of the provisions of the Parliamentary Allowance Act of 1902 suggest a difficulty which is more or less fatal.
– We should bear in . mind two factors which are responsible for the measure before us. One factor is the .convenience of the electors, and the other is the question of cost. I do not know whether the press have exaggerated the inconvenience caused to the farming community by holding the elections during the harvest ; but the press is borne put by the fact that scarcely more than one-half of the electors take any interest in the matter. Either there is a terrible amount of apathy and neglect on the part of the electors, or the elections are held at a very inconvenient time. Then there is the question of expense. I believe that it is an absolute fact that if it should be necessary to hold the elections, for the House of Representatives and the Senate at different times, that would involve an additional expense of £40,000. We have had several very thoughtful speeches, which have gone to show that -this Bill is not half so simple as it looks. We should bear in mind that we are taking merely a preliminary step, and that any Bill we pass providing for an alteration of the Constitution must go before the people for ratification. We have, therefore, no ultimate responsibility in the matter, although we incur some responsibility even by suggesting an amendment of the Constitution. I think that the Bill will be of comparatively little use, .and I shall be inclined to let is pass into the waste-paper basket unless some arrangement can be made for conducting elections for both Houses at the same time, even should a dissolution of the House of Representatives take place before the end of the three years. I can see no reason why in such circumstances we should not pass a measure extending the term for which the House of Representatives should sit to cover the balance of the three years, should a dissolution take place before the expiration of that term. Unless we can do something of that sort, I can quite see that at any moment the advantages of this Bill may be taken away by a dissolution df the other House. Senator Drake made a most excellent speech, but I think he. exaggerated slightly when he said that the Bill would be of no advantage to the electors. I believe that there is a harvest time in every State, and that to hold the elections in November or December would be most inconvenient. That might not be the time of the sugar harvest, but it is the harvest time for apples, fruit crops generally, and hops, and this is of small consequence compared with the harvest time for grain throughout the States.
– But we could have elections for the Senate at any time. It is a matter for the States.
– I confess that the honorable and learned senator somewhat startled me bv reminding me of the provision in the Constitution with respect to the elections of senators being a State matter, and that the Governor of a State can issue the writs at any time during the last twelve months of a Senate term. I was led to inquire what might happen if the Governor of a State were to issue writs at a time which, -while it might suit the convenience of a State, might not suit the convenience of the Commonwealth Parliament, but I presume that the States and the Commonwealth will always be prepared to act together in that matter. The electors will have the final voice in the decision of the question dealt with in this Bill. If it be passed it may have the effect of saving us an occasional expenditure of ,£40,000. In the circumstances, I think we might take it into Committee, and consider there whether the disadvantages, and difficulties of the measure are found on reflection to increase or decrease.
Debate (on motion by Senator Pearce), adjourned.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I remind honorable senators that this is one of the measures which the Senate can amend. The votes dealt with were some years ago separated from the ordinary Estimates in order that the Senate might be given that opportunity. Last year for this purpose we voted ^41-6,911, and spent £3i9>72°> We propose this year to vote £479i724Last year ,£97,000 of the amount voted was not spent, and that is probably due to the period of the financial year at which the Bill similar to this was finally passed.
– Why are we asked every year to vote far more money than is required ?
– It is impossible to estimate accurately the amount of money that will be expended on the works proposed within the year.
– We might make arrangements to carry out the works for which money is voted in the year in which it is voted.
– That is done as far as possible, but until the money is voted the Departmental officers hesitate to incur the necessary expense in preparing plans, specifications, and so forth. Very frequently also something occurs to prevent a particular work being carried out as quickly as was at first anticipated.
– There is something wrong somewhere, when the Departmental officers suggest a certain vote and are unable to spend during the year a sum of nearly £100,000 within “their estimate.
– There is noth-ing wrong so far as I know. Precisely the same thing has occurred in South Australia year after vear. We always had an unexpended balance at the end of the year. There were two sheets brought forward, one dealing; with excess on votes, and the other with unexpended balances. It’ was very often found that the excess on votes came to about the same as the unexpended balances, and one was practically put against the other. We have here established a Treasurer’s Advance Account, and though I cannot at the present moment give honorable senators the exact particulars’, I have little doubt that since the commencement of the present financial year the whole of the £97,000 unexpended balance from last year’s vote has been absorbed. That is to say, the works had been commenced, were not completed at the end of the past financial year, and have been continued into the present financial year. The Treasurer makes the necessary advances against those works, and I believe honorable senators will find that the unexpended balance of £97,000 has in this way been absorbed by this time. Honorable senators who, like Senator Drake, have had practical experience in office, are aware that it is impossible to estimate what will be required to carry out the public works projected in a particular year with such accuracy that,, in a total expenditure of about £500,000, there will not be a considerable sum unexpended at the close of the year. Contracts may be entered into and the works may be in progress, but may not have absorbed within the financial year the whole of the money voted for the purpose. The Treasurer has laid down a rule that he will not permit the expenditure of .money in connexion with new works until Parliament has appropriated it. That is a very wise provision, and I now ask honorable senators to assist me in- getting this Bill through at the earliest possible moment, in order that the officers of the Home Affairs Department who are intrusted with the duty of carrying out these works will be able as quickly as possible to undertake their construction with money voted by Parliament. The Treasurer will not give them the slightest advance for new works, and they cannot go on with them until Parliament has voted the necessary money, I repeat that the Treasurer has made a very wise rule, but a consequence of it is that if we allow three or four months of the year to elapse before we vote the necessary money we have on.lv the balance of the year in which to spend it.
– Does this apply to ‘ necessary repairs to buildings?
– No, there is a general vote under which absolutely necessary repairs are provided for. ft is only where we are dealing, with absolutely new works that the Treasurer says that until Parliament gives the’ necessary authority he cannot permit the expenditure of the money, since the Auditor-General may say to him, “ What right had you to expend this money?” The Treasurer has therefore put a stop to expenditure in that way.
– Have we up to the present time voted money for works that subsequently have been found not to be required ?
– I cannot from memory refer to any particular works at the present moment, but I have no doubt such things have occurred. They certainly occurred in my experience in the State Parliament of South Australia. Sums have often been voted for works, and it has subsequently been considered advisable not to expend the money. Such things will always occur. I do not propose to refer to every item dealt with in this Bill, but 1 shall direct the attention of honorable senators to those which are most important. A vote of £4,000 is provided towards the cost of erecting a store at Darling Island, Sydney, for the purpose of the Defence Department. It is only fair that I should inform the Senate that this work is estimated to cost eventually £22,300, and this item of £4,000 is a first instalment towards the cost of the work.
– What is. the work for?
– It is for a magazine. At the present time we have some magazines situated close to Circular Quay, which we took over from the New South Wales Government as transferred properties. It is found that they are very inconveniently situated. They are not very close to the wharf, and there is no communication with them by rail. We have a piece of land at Darling Island on which we can erect magazines to take the place of those we occupy at the present time. When the proposed magazine is erected at Darling Island we shall hand back the magazines we at present occupy, and the land on which they are situated to the New South Wales Government, The advantage of a magazine at Darling Island will be that we shall have the wharf on one side, and communication by rail at the back. We shall thus be able to convey warlike stores in New South Wales to the places at which thev are required bv water or by rail.
– Is not the proposed store to be erected at Darling Harbor, and not at Darling Island ?
– lt is connected with Darling Harbor. I visited the old stores, and the site on which it is proposed that the new magazine shall Le erected. It appears to me that what is proposed is the most economical course we could take. We should have to pay £20,000 Or £30,000 to the Government of New South Wales for the stores at present occupied as transferred property, whilst as I have said, thev are most inconviently situated for the purpose.
– Does the honorable senator refer to Dawes’ Point?
– No, we have given up Dawes’ Point entirely to the New South Wales Government, and are removing the material stored there to the neighbourhood of the present barracks. Honorable senators will find a large item at £8,000 for a’ trawler. This is an entirely new vote, and the object is to procure a trawler for the purpose of exploring our coast to ascertain whether we have not in certain localities large quantities of fish that could be secured by means of trawlers. .
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– When the Senate adjourned for lunch, I was pointing out that we had placed on the Estimates a sum of £8,000 for the purpose of purchasing a trawler. As it will be an uptodate boat, we anticipate that it will cost £7,500, and that the annual expenditure on the crew and upkeep will be about £2,500.
– Had we not better Have a sufficient number of honorable senators present to hear the Minister? [Quorum formed.’]
– The trawler is intended to perform pioneering work in connexion with the deep-sea fisheries on the coast of the Commonwealth. We believe that the waters beyond the three miles’ limit have not yet been explored, and that they ought to be explored for the purpose of ascertaining first what fishes of value they contain ; and, secondly, in what manner they may be caught. Trawling is the method most frequently employed in connexion with such fisheries, and under certain conditions it is ‘ the most effective method.
– Will the trawler be made here, or will it be purchased ?
– I have no information as to where the trawler is to be made or procured. I only know that we have placed on the Estimates a sum for the purchase of a trawler, and that until the item is voted, a decision as to what shall be done will not be come to. We have the experience of Cape Colony to guide us. It purchased a trawler for about £7,500, and therefore we anticipate that our trawler will cost about that sum.
– Have the Government in view any particular part of the deep-sea fisheries which they intend to explore ?
– I do not know, nor do the papers give any information on that subject. I have here a mass of papers showing what has been done in other parts of the world, and with what success. But I do not know in what part of Australian waters the trawling will- be commenced.
– Seeing that we have a tremendous length of coast line, we ought to be supplied with some information of that kind.
– There are other methods of deep-sea fishing which, of course, the trawler will try. Over rocky bottoms there is what is known as great line fishing, and. in addition, there is surface fishing with drift nets - the method bv which herrings are captured in Europe. So far as we know Australia is the only civilized country with a large sea-board which has done nothing to establish this industry. I propose to explain what has been done in this direction by the Government of Cape Colony. It was said by some persons that so far as that Colony was concerned, there was no deep-sea fishing which would be profitable. But the Government determined to purchase a vessel for the purpose of testing the point. In 1897, therefore, thev purchased a vessel called the Pieter Faure. a modern type of steam vessel, on which a skilled crew was placed. The report from the Government biologist says -
It was soon demonstrated that there was an abundance of fish, notwithstanding what was said to the contrary, and that there was an excellent trawling ground rivalling with the North Sea in productiveness.
The people of Cape Colony soon discovered that they had an excellent trawling ground. Let us now look at the results.
In 1902 four trawlers were engaged on the work, and a large number of fish were landed.
In 1903 the report of the Government Biologist stated that - “ Four large steam trawlers, each considerably larger than the Pieter Faure, and over ^’30,000 in value in all, arrived during this period from Europe, in order to follow up the work, initiated by the Cape Government.” Further - “ Two other vessels, fitted up with special refrigerating arrangements for the South African trade, have arrived during the course of the year. Another large boat, 250 tons gross register, designed as a carrier and trawler, was valued at ^7,500. Other trawlers are at work in addition to those mentioned, and continue to do profitable business.”
Writing to the Prime Minister in April, 1906, the Premier of Cape Colony said -
The latest information from the trawling companies now established indicates that they are doing well, and are sending large quantities of fish to the inland towns.
The expenditure of a considerable sum on the purchase of a trawler to do exploring work has resulted in the establishment of a big and growing industry. So far, Australia has done nothing in this direction. Canada, as honorable senators know, has done a great deal. She is spending about $160,000 per annum in bounties in connexion with her fisheries.
– That is a different thing.
– I admit that it is a. different thing. But, so far as the Government are concerned, I am not quite sure, but I believe that they did send out vessels originally, as we propose to do. New Zealand hired a boat which was sent round the coast with the result that it was found that large quantities of fish could be obtained by that means, and the industry in that Colony is now a very large one. According to my notes -
The amount of fish imported into Australia is 13,000,000 lbs. annually, valued at about ^300,000. The local supply is spasmodic, and the people away from the sea-board have virtually no opportunity of obtaining it. This is shown by the fact that the consumption is only 9-4r lbs. per head per annum. The quantity landed in Great Britain is 47.5 lbs. per head per annum. Fish is three times as expensive in New South Wales as it is in Great Britain. The value of the fish obtained by Canada is about 16s. per head, by Norway about 14s. 6d., and by New South Wales 2s. iod. As the fisheries of New South Wales are more developed than in any of the other States, a comparison with the Commonwealth would be less favorable. Reference has already been made to the large amount of known edible fish on the Australian coast. The question of their habits, however, is not well understood, and their location is not defined.
I do not think that I need say any more on the subject. “ If honorable senators ask any questions, I shall get all the informa- tion I can. What we want to do is to get a trawler and send it out on an exploring expedition, as was done in the case of Cape Colony, to ascertain whether fish can be obtained outside the three-mile limit, and their habitat; also whether they can be caught by trawling or by deep line fishing, or bv other means. It will be merely an exploring expedition, ‘in order to ascertain the facts.
– Did I understand the Minister to say that the cost of a fish in Canada is only a third of the cost of a fish in New South Wales?
– I said that fish are three times as expensive in New South Wales as in Great Britain.
– Does the honorable senator say that the cheapness is due to the existence of the trawlers in Great Britain?
– I think so. An immense quantity of fish is obtained by the fleet of English trawlers, which, as we all remember, was fired upon by the Russian fleet. Fish is exported from England to all parts of the world.
– Is it proposed that the trawler shall be worked by the Federal Government?
– The trawler will be worked by the Government just as is done at the Cape
– The Ministers will take it in turn to be skipper of the boat.
– We might like to take a few members of the Opposition outside the three-mile limit and clear the political atmosphere. I propose to call attention to only the more important items on the Estimates, especially to new items. On page 15, for instance, there is a new item of £1.0,000 for installing wireless telegraphy. The Marconi Company and others have been approaching the Defence Department with a view to the adoption of that system in connexion with the defence of the Commonwealth. I have considered all through that it is more a matter for the Post and Telegraph Department to take up than for the Defence Department. However, the minute I have on the subject reads as follows: -
This amount has been placed on the Estimates as a first instalment of the cost of introducing the wireless telegraph system into the Commonwealth. It has not yet been determined in which part of the Commonwealth the system will first be introduced, but full inquiries will be made into a number of proposals which have been submitted to the Department, and when a decision has been arrived at, tenders will be invited to instal the system
What we are really asking the Parliament to do is to vote £10,000 as a preliminary amount for the purpose of starting the installation of wireless telegraphy.
– We are asked to give the Government an open cheque without any information as to where the system is to be established or anything else.
– That will have to be determined subsequently.
– But the Minister ought to have some sort of a scheme to submit. As in the case of the trawling, he does not know where the start will be made. Possibly the wireless telegraphy will be used to communicate with the trawler.
– The Department has not decided what the scheme shall be. The sum is required to be voted so that the authorities mav commence making the necessary arrangements. When a definite scheme is carried out, other sums will have to be voted, and it will then be explained how the money is to be expended, every information being given. Of course, if Parliament says that it will not vote anything for the purpose, the Postmaster-General will not proceed any further in his inquiries.
– He may continue his inquiries, but he can do no more.
– He cannot take steps to instal the system anywhere. It will be observed that large sums are set down for Defence purposes. Altogether £169,156 is asked for, less anticipated unexpended amount of £39,156, making £130,000 to be spent. This is an amount that has been voted year by year since a paper was laid before Parliament - I think in 1903 - explaining that about £500.000 was proposed to be expended upon new war-like material. The £160,000 now proposed to be expended will exhaust the sum which it was thus proposed to spend for this purpose. Considerable alterations have been made in the proposed allocation of the money at different times. Last vear, instead of buying a quantity of saddles and similar accoutrements, I induced Parliament to agree to buy rifles. This vear honorable senators will see that there is an item of £8,000 for purchase of accoutrements, saddle trees, stirrups, and bits. These are required for the Australian Light Horse, field and garrison troops. The next item is £53>°4° for guns, harness, waggons, and ammunition for the Field Artillery. The purpose of the vote is to provide - 12 18-pounder quick-firing guns, carriages, and limbers, with 300 rounds of ammunition each, to complete three batteries attached to the garrison force; 36 18-pounder ammunition waggons and limbers for the 24 guns arranged for last, and for the 12 guns above mentioned.
Saddle blankets to complete harness and saddlery already obtained.
The present establishment of field guns is : -
Field force - 36 ^-pounder breech-loading guns attached to light horse brigades. 24 18-pounder quick-firing guns attached to infantry brigades.
Garrison force - 24 18-pounder quick-firing guns.
Sufficient 15-pounder breech-loading guns for the light horse brigades are already in the Commonwealth ; the 24 18-pounder guns for the infantry brigades have been arranged for ; 20 of them have been received, and the remaining 4 are expected to arrive very shortly. 12 of the i8-pounder guns required for the garrison troops are provided this year, as shown above.
– Are the guns we have now all up-to-date?
– Practically all. There is a vote of £6,000 for camp equipment -
To provide tents, waterproof sheets, &c, towards completing the requirements of the field and garrison troops to peace establishment.
Colonel Le Mesurier has put - this note 011 my papers -
When the Estimates were prepared, it was anticipated that this sum would complete the peace requirements on the lines proposed in Major-General Sir E. T. Hutton’s scheme, but a recent overhaul of the equipment on hand in Tasmania reveals that the requirements of that State are much greater than originally set out.
The next item is £400 for miscellaneous purposes. It is to provide various tools and materials, including field sketching instruments for the purposes of the garrison forces. Under the heading of “ Field Engineers’ equipment,” there is a sum of £2,216 to provide - certain Royal Engineer pattern carts and waggons with necessary equipment for instructional purposes to complete the proposal embodied in General Hutton’s scheme.
– In what States are there engineers?
– I think there are engineers in New South Wales and Victoria. The money is to be. allocated to each State on the basis of the forces there situated.
– There are no field engineers in South Australia and none in Western Australia.
– I really do not know. There is also an item of £16,000 for machine guns and ammunition.
– What type of machine gun is referred to?
– The type we are going to obtain is that recommended in the report of the Imperial Defence Committee. I forget the name of the gun. I am not sure whether it is the Colt gun or the Maxim automatic machine gun. I know, however, that the Imperial Defence Committee recommended us not to get anymore pom-poms. When I saw that recommendation, I telegraphed at once to Captain Collins, in London, to countermand the order which we had given for the supply of those guns.
– On whose recommendation were they ordered?
– On the recommendation of our own officers, because up to that time they were being used in the Imperial service. I do not know exactly why they have been abandoned.
– A new machine gun has lately been adopted.
– A sum of £r 2,000 is set down for the purpose of purchasing cadet rifles. The intention is to provide 300 Francottes and 5,500 Wesley Richard rifles for our cadets. The rifles already in the Commonwealth, and those ordered will together complete the number of miniature rifles required by us. the total number being 16,000. Then there is the large sum of £21,500 for small arms ammunition. We propose to purchase 4,000,000 rounds. That quantity is necessary to keep up our stock of reserve ammunition. We have not sufficient at present to meet what military authorities consider to be our requirements. But we are getting close up to the quantity we ought to have in reserve. I also ask for £50,000 for the purchase of 10,000 magazine Lee-Enfield rifles and parts.
– Will the cut-offs be provided in this case?
– I expect so. I sent for the cut-offs for the other rifles to which the honorable senator refers. Why the War Office did not send them out, I do not know. These cut-offs are merely little discs which can be obtained without any difficulty. It is undoubtedly an advantage to have them and, therefore, I have taken steps to see that they are provided.
– I think there are cut-offs for some of the rifles which the Department has in its possession.
– Yes ; but in the case of a number of the short rifles of the present English pattern, by some means or other the cut-offs were not sent.
– Is it the short rifle that the Department is getting?Is it considered satisfactory ?
– Yes. It is recommended by the Imperial authorities, and is being furnished to the Imperial troops. We are getting the exact pattern of rifle with which the British Army is being supplied. According to the latest return, we have about 26,000 Lee-Enfield rifles, single-loaders. Of quick-firers we have in the Commonwealth at present 36,093. We have on order 8,604, making a total of 44,733. I propose to order 1 0,000 more, making 54,733. But it also has to be remembered that the members of our rifle clubs are armed with rifles, and that we have in addition a considerable number of single-loaders.
– How many effective rifles will the Department have when all orders are filled, including the 54; 733 quick-firers mentioned ?
– We shall have 54,733 quick-firers when the rifles to be ordered come out. These are all thoroughly effective up-to-date magazine rifles. The single-loaders which we have are, however, very useful rifles indeed. In fact, I know officers who have been in the Boer war, and who say that they would not wish their men to be entirely armed with magazine rifles. They would prefer that some should have single-loaders. The tendency is, when the men are armed with magazine rifles, for them to fire away their ammunition too quickly. Then they’ have to go to the rear to get fresh ammunition, and sometimes it is difficult to supply them. Some of the officers consider that it is better to have a proportion of the men armed with singleloaders and the rest with magazine rifles, in preference to the whole number being armed with magazine rifles. Passing from military matters, it will be observed that the sum of £12,000 is set down for New South Wales in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department for the extension of telegraph lines, instruments and material. Honorable senators will notice a note at the bottom of the page stating that £2,400 of this sum is for work necessitated by the proposed erection of the new telephone line between Sydney and Melbourne.
– Why is not that sum included in the other vote for telephone lines ?
– Part of the vote for telephones is allocated to New South Wales, and part to Victoria. The £2,400 in this instance is to be spent in New South Wales. In erecting a telephone line between Melbourne and Sydney, the money that is spent in Victorian territory is allocated to that State, and the money spent in New South Wales is allocated to New South Wales.
– It will be all “other” expenditure now. There is a vote of £23,000 for the New South Wales portion, and I desire to know why £2,400 for the same work should be included in this item of £12,000?
– I cannot say, because this is not in my Department; but I shall have inquiries made. The note I have in regard to the item is -
Of this amount, £2,400 is required to complete the re-poleing in connexion with the trunk telephone line between Sydney and Melbourne - the total cost of which re-poleing is estimated at £4,400. The balance of the amount, viz. : - £9,600, is required to provide for instruments, material, labour, &c, in connexion with the construction of new telegraph lines, and the extension of existing lines.
The note I have as to the item of £27.500 is as follows : -
This amount is required to provide for the construction of additional conduits in the city of Sydney and suburbs ; the establishment of new telephone exchanges in New South Wales where the telephone system is being availed of to an extensive degree ; the establishment of bureaux telephone offices ; the erection of private telephone lines in accordance with regulations ; labour, material, instruments, &c.
As to the item of £5,500, my note is -
This is towards the establishment of metallic circuits, £5,500. This amount is required to provide for the extension of the metallic circuit system in connexion with the metropolitan system, so as to prevent interference with the service by the electric traction system of tramways in the city of Sydney and suburbs, and also to provide an improved service.
I have full informationhere in regard to every item., and that information I shall be happy to place at the disposal of honorable senators when we are in Committee. I have called attention to the fact that most of the items are simply intended for the continuation of work under votes previously made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause1 (Short title).
SenatorPLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence) [2.33]. - I promised Senator Mulcahy to give him an opportunity this afternoon to submit a motion in regard to the regulations under the Commerce Act. I undertook that my speech on the second reading of the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill would not occupy more than half-an-hour, and I have not exceeded the time by more than a few minutes; and I should now like to know whether the honorable senator desires that progress should be reported in order to give him the opportunity to proceed with his motion.
– The Minister of Defence knows that this is the last afternoon, and almost the last hour when exception can be taken to the regulations under the Commerce Act. I suggest that progress be reported.
– I move -
That the regulations under the Commerce Act dealing with imports, other than those referring to - (a) Articles used for food or drink ; (b) Medicines ; (c) Manures : and (f) Agricultural seeds, as laid upon the Table of the Senateon 2nd August, be disagreed with.
In order to remove any idea that a personal favour has been extended to me in connexion with this motion, I may say that in my opinion a rather important principle is involved. Though I may be the one affected to-day, other honorable senators may be affected in the future ; and as these regulations have to lie on the table for only a given number of days after passing the Executive, this is virtually the last day and hour when any formal objection to them can be taken with any effect. Although Senator Playford did me the personal favour of placing this afternoon at my disposal, I should like it known that the motion deals with a matter of public rather than of personal importance. I shall not take up the time of the Senate more than I can possibly avoid. These are regulations under an Act of Parliament for which, to a certain extent, Ministers have now no further responsibility, except as regards the regulations. I hope to be able to show that there are reasons why these regulations ought not to be allowed to stand ; at any rate, I hope to show good reasons why they should be altered and improved. Although I condemn and dislike the Act, I shall avoid, as far as possible dealing with its principles. I recently called attention to the fact that the Act has imposed on the Minister a duty, which I do not blame him for exercising, of drafting regulations, and submitting them to Parliament and to the country. I point out that though these regulations have been published, and will have the force of statutory rules, they will not come into operation for some time, because it is necessary that due notice shall be given to importers, and, further, they cannot take effect beyond the boundary of His Majesty’s Customs warehouses. It will be seen, therefore, that there is no violent hurry for the acceptance of the regulations. Any postponement of their disallowance would not involve the country or the Minister in any great difficulty or trouble, but would merely give further opportunity for consideration.
– Why not judge the regulations on their merits without any postponement ?
– I propose to judge the regulations on their merits. All I can do is to ask the Senate to disapprove and disallow, and I am pointing out that any disapproval would not prevent the drafting of other and better regulations, or result in any damage to trade or commerce. I hope to be able to suggest a much simpler way than is presented by these regulations, to carrying out the idea of the promoters of the measure - a way which would not result in irritation to the trade at large, but would result in as much benefit to the public as can be hoped from regulations of so extreme a character. I do not propose to disagree with the regulations affecting food, medicine, and so forth, because Ifrankly admit it, so far as I can judge without any particular knowledge of the trades, that those regulations may result in some good. I shall deal only with the regulations so far as they affect the materials of which I have personal knowledge, confining my objection to the regulations as they affect -
My motion deals with imports and the regulations as affecting imports. First, it is provided that the importation of the goods enumerated shall be prohibited unless there is applied to the goods “a trade description in accordance with this part “ of the regulations. That is to say, this regulation as to a trade description applies to apparel, Including boots and shoes, and the materials from which such apparel is made, and also jewellery, amongst other articles. The regulations go further, and provide that the trade description applied shall comply with the following provisions: -
– Is that not fair enough ?
– I do not object to that at all. I may here say that I intend to confine my remarks practically to apparel. The regulation proceeds : -
If the material contains wool, but less than 90 per cent. of pure wool, the description shall also state the other substances contained in the material.
That is a somewhat different matter to which I shall refer later. It is well known that the Commerce Act copying the Merchandise Act of Great Britain, prescribes first of all that where a voluntary description is applied to any goods whatever the description shall be a true one. That is reasonable legislation to which no one could object. I admit that it led for some time to disturbance in trade in Great Britain, because there were certain conventional descriptions with regard to quantities, weights, and so on that were thoroughly understood between merchants, importers, and those with whom they dealt, but which were not literally true descriptions. The law occasioned some trouble for a time, until people became accustomed to it, and then it worked very well. Now, if any goods are described, they must be as described. That is quite proper, but the difficulty here is that under our Commerce Act we go further, and require a compulsory description of goods.
– They can put goods on the market without any description whatever.
– No, they cannot with regard to these particular goods. The Act requires first of all that where a description is put on goods voluntarily, it shall be a true description.
– That is the English Act?
– Yes ; and we go further by providing that, in addition, certain goods shall be described, and that they shall not be imported unless they are described. The English Act does not compel the description of goods, but it compels a true description where a description is applied to goods.
– But under the Commerce Act a description is not compulsory in all cases.
– It is not in all cases, but I am dealing with those cases in which a description is compulsory. In order to save the time of honorable senators, I briefly enumerated my reasons for objecting, and I shall state those reasons. First of all, the very great difficulty of defining what goods are required to be marked, or described, under the comprehensive heading of “ apparel.” I refer to the difficulty which confronts the importer who, with the best intention in the world, is ordering stuff from Home, in ascertaining what must be described, and what might come in without description. The second reason is uncertainty as to the nature of the description itself. What sort of description will the Customs officials require? I refer to the uncertainty of thenature of the description owing to the diverse character of the goods themselves, and very often to the diverse materials in any one particular article. The third reason for objection is with regard to a very great variety of articles, the uselessness of the description for accomplishing any good purposes, or for accomplishing the purposes of the Act.
– These are really objections against the Act rather than against the regulations.
– They would be if I were not prepared to show, as I hope
I shall before I sit down, that a description which might be useful to carry out the purposes of the Act could be adopted in the case of some goods whilst it would be impossible to provide such a description in the case ofl other goods. It will be admitted that in passing any Act of Parliament, we should have some useful purpose in view. With regard to the first reason for my objection, I direct the attention of honorable senators to the very comprehensive character of the general heading of “ apparel.” If any honorable senator happens to have a Tariff Guide, and most importers take care to possess themselves of one, he will find that under that general heading, an enormous variety of made-up goods, and of materials from which goods are made, are imported. I again direct attention to the regulation itself. It deals not merely with apparel, but with the materials from which apparel is manufactured, and it is comprehensive enough to embrace every piece of stuff that goes into a draper’s shop.
– The honorable senator would not describe “mosquito net,” or “window curtains” as “apparel.”
– Mosquito net might possibly be used in the manufacture of an article of apparel. But admitting, that certain articles used in connexion with household’ furniture might be excluded, the term embraces almost every variety of textile fabric used in the manufacture of clothing for men, women, and children. I have no hesitation in saying that that comprises almost the whole of a draper’s stockintrade. I take it that it is not the wish of the Senate, or of any member of it, to unnecessarily embarrass the importer. If incidentally we embarrass people, we cannot help it, but I am sure that we have no desire to legislate merely for the purpose of irritating and embarrassing people. This< term “ apparel “ covers the most comprehensive varieties of goods and articles madeup from different kinds of fabrics, and a merchant who last month, to-day, or next month, is sending Home his indent orders, must naturally expect to meet with inquiry from his agents as to what goods are to be described. The Home buyer or agent reads the Act, and the regulations under it, and endeavours to ascertain what it is intended should be described. I have before me a letter received from the buying agents to a large wholesale firm in the city> which illustrates some of the difficulties, ft is but a sample of one of the ordinary notes in which comments are made by O buyers with regard to certain goods they are under instructions to purchase. This agent says -
Merchandise Marks, Sec, under new Act.
On this subject we should like to have some definite instructions from you, as being on the spot, regarding the marking and invoicing of goods to come within the new regulations? We give a few indications as to subjects which appear doubtful.
Foreign goods with no lettering on ticket except yardage. Must these be stamped, “ Made in Germany,” &c. ?
I do not know that there would be any advantage to be derived from stamping them so, unless it might be contended that it would be necessary, now that it is proposed to adopt something in the way of a preferential Tariff. But I think there is no objection to that -
Measurements. - Must now, we take it, be nett 36-in. to the yard, and not 37-in.?
Descriptions. - This is a crucial point, for instance : - “ Moleskins “ - Will this description satisfy the Customs? ~
– There is nothing like moleskins.
– But “moleskins “ is not moleskin, it is printed cotton.
– Why not call it cotton ?
– The buyer at Home wishes to know whether the description will be considered sufficient if he simply invoices the. goods as “moleskins.”
– I do not believe that the Customs would interfere, whether the goods were marked “moleskins” or “ cotton.”
– There again the honorable senator tells us what he thinks might happen under the present administration, but he cannot accept responsibility for everything that some ill-informed, well-intentioned, but over-meddlesome Customs official .may do. Do we not know that in the different States different methods are now adopted in administering the Customs Act? The terrible scandal which has arisen in Senator Playford’s own State is a proof that different methods are adopted in different States.
– That is thieving and fraud.
– It is fraud which has been permitted to occur owing to the different methods of administration adopted.
– It is cheating on the part of a Customs agent, arid not on the part of Customs officers.
– Yes ; but that condition of things has arisen through a different and less careful method of administration of the Customs Act in South Australia.
– Nothing of the sort. The thing arose before the Commonwealth was inaugurated.
– I shall not further discuss that now, but we know that in different States Customs officers will hold different views, will have different opportunities for acquiring knowledge, and will exercise their powers under the Commerce Act, according to their own ideas, and in different ways. Dealing further with the descriptions of goods that will be required, the agent of the firm to whom I have referred mentions “ bearskins.” This, is a conventional term applied to a woven fabric, and not to a bearskin at all. With the greatest desire to do what is required of them under the Commerce Act, the merchant at home would have great difficulty in describing what “bearskin” was.
– He could describe the material from which it is manufactured ; and that is all that would be required.
– I wish that SenatorGivens could get rid of his preconceived ideas, and be a little open to reason. If he will approach the consideration of this matter in a spirit of fair play he will find that I am making what are really solid objections to some of these regulations.
– We do not know what bearskin is.
– No, because the honorable senator never buys bearskin. His wife might go into a shop, and buy a bearskin cloak for herself, but if she did she would know perfectly well what she was doing, and she would know that she was not getting bearskin any more than she would be getting sealskin, if she asked for that material. These are conventional terms for fabrics made up in imitation of these skins.
– Why not say that it is an imitation?
– People know perfectly well that a sealskin jacket, as generally so described by the trade, is not made from the skin of the seal, but that it is an imitation. The trade name has become a conventional term, and a merchant ordering 100 sealskin jackets to be invoiced at 20s. or 15s., would not think it necessary to take the trouble to say that he did not want jackets made of the skin of the seal.
– They could be marked “imitation sealskin.”
– There is no occasion for it. I wish to point out that the compulsory marking of these goods is quite useless. The agent to whom I have referred mentions a number of other materials. “Venetians,” for instance. We know that Venetian cloth is not necessarily made in Venice. The Italian cloth we get is more often made in Bradford than in Italy. Then there are alpacas, Sicilians, silesias, and sateens. This last is a cotton fabric made in imitation of satin, and it might be supposed to be silk.
– All shoddy.
– The honorable senator is so infatuated with extreme ideas as to the dishonesty of every man who makes a living by methods of trade that. he is unable to entertain the idea that a tradesman can deal honestly at all.
– “ Methods of trade “ is a good phrase.
-I know a little about trade, and I contend that tradesmen are as honest as any other section of the community, even as honest as members of Parliament.
– And that is saying a great deal.
– The honorable sen-; alor is speaking for himself now.
– I do not think that I would disparage Senator Henderson if I were to say that he is quite as honest as an ordinary tradesman. The writer continues -
As there appears to be some doubt on this side as to the necessity of having tickets,&c., of certain foreign goods under certain circumstances stamped with the country where they are made, we thought it advisable now to ask the question in reference to one or two lines, and ask for cable reply.
He proceeds to deal with lines on the same plane. I have referred in my list to fabrics only ; but there is another and very much more difficult line of goods, and that is articles of apparel and attire, which are made up of different fabrics. For instance, we might have a variety of fabrics composing, a lady’s costume. What sort of description would be of any use in that case? Our object, I take it, is to ultimately protect the public. We do so initially by requiring that all goods coming into the Customs warehouse shall be marked, in the hope that the mark will remain when they have gone out, or that the State will follow up the idea of registration and enact a provision which will compel the marking of the goods on the same lines as we initiated. That would be all very well if the States had legislated. But so far they have not shown much eagerness to follow up this legislation, and that, I may say incidentally, is another reason why the Minister might verv well be asked to hold his hand in this matter.
– That means that if the States will not do their duty we should refuse to do our duty.
– No; because in this regard it is very doubtful whether we are not going outside our province. There is a number of articles in respect of which we require a description, but which ought to come in under either the Food and Drugs Act or the Health Act of the State, and which could be more usefully super.vized by the State authority. We stop at the boundary line. No matter what description, may be required, once the goods have left the Customs warehouse they are no longer bound to retain that description. .
– Does not the honorable senator think that it is the duty of the Commonwealth, as far as it can, to protect the people against deleterious compounds or articles being dumped upon their shores without an accurate description ?
– I do not find fault with any such intention. If we desire to accomplish a certain thing, let us adopt such means as will enable us to accomplish our object. But do not let us accomplish a great deal more than we wish to do. Do not let us. by means of harassing and irritating regulations, impose upon persons a great deal of trouble and difficulty when no good result can be attained. Before dealing with the uselessness of the description, perhaps I may, without offending Senator Givens, refer to a letter which has come from a body for which he will show great respect, and that is the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce.
– If the honorable senator said that I have great disrespect for Chambers of Commerce, he would be more accurate.
– I think that I almost implied that. The honorable senator has been candid enough, to tell the Senate and the country that it is so, and I am rather sorry, for him. From the secretary of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, I have received a letter which reads as follows : -
I have the honour by direction of the President and Council of this Chamber to inform you that the Statutory Rules for the “ Commerce Act “ recently issued by the Minister of Customs have been carefully examined, and found to be most disappointing, so far as they relate to. the textile section. Under the amended regulations received from the Customs Department (see page 30, clause 7), copy of which is herewith enclosed, Apparel reads : - “ Goods containing wool with an admixture of other material, shall be so described.” The Council quite expected that goods not. made entirely from wool might be described as “Wool and other materials “ -
– Is that 5 per cent, of wool and 95 per cent, of other materials? Would not that be a misleading description?
– That difficulty can be overcome by prescribing that the percentage of wool shall be stated. When we require that “ wool and other materials “ shall involve a description of every other material used in the composition of the fabric we impose on those concerned what may be at times an impossible task. Honorable senators will realize the position if I read the remainder of the letter - or “Wool and other ingredients,” but the Statutory Rules just issued state on page 3, clauses D and E, that the description shall set out the substances contained in the material. Considering that firms which manufacture tweed apparel do not make the material a compliance with this regulation is impossible, as far as they are concerned.
Does Senator Givens understand that, so far as thev are concerned, it is absolutely impossible ?
– No, and no one else can understand from the way in which it is being put. What is the necessity for importing ready-made clothing? Why cannot these persons import the tweed and make up the clothes here?
– We permit persons to import ready-made clothing.
– Then let them accept the responsibility of giving a true description to the Customs.
– They are willing to do so, but do not wish to have forced upon them the obligation to do an impossible thing.
– It is not impossible. What is to prevent them from getting from the manufacturers a true description of the tweed or other fabric? .
– If the honorable senator knew anything about trade matters he would know that there is avery great deal to prevent a man from getting a true description, because the manuf acturers closely guard their secrets in regard to the making up their fabrics. I am sorry to say that the honorable senator seems to have made up his mind that anything which will embarrass and irritate the importer must necessarily be good. I propose to give a practical illustration of my remarks. I have referred to the absoluteuselessness of the regulations as regards protecting either the importer, who is able to protect himself, or the public, whom we assume to be benefitedby the Act. What is our object in requiring a description? Is it any advantage to a person to know that the article he is buying in a shop is made up of wool and cotton?
– From what point of view?
– From the health point of view.
– I asked the question for the purpose of eliciting that reply, with which I shall deal later on.
– Another advantage is that it prevents customers from being deceived.
– There are too many interruptions. The honorable senator should be allowed to get on with his speech.
– I want some interruptions, sir, because I wish to elicit what is in the minds of honorable senators, and, if I can, to remove their difficulties. An honorable senator on one side of me believes that the advantage of a description will be to protect the public in regard to value.
– Yes, in one way. It will also protect them from being deceived.
– It will protect them from being deceived in regard to the value of the article.
– And its nature.
– The honorable senator joins with Senator Pearce with regard to the effect of an article upon health ?
– Yes, among other thines.
– I wish to discriminate between two things if I can get honorable senators to follow me. The descriptions required under the Act are veryvague and uncertain. If a fabric is composed of one material, say cotton, a man is required to say that it is composed of cotton. If it is composed of cotton and linen he is required to say that it is union. If it is composed of wool, he is required to say, that it is an all-wool fabric. If it is composed of wool and cotton, he is required to say that it is wool and cotton. The Minister might go so far as to insist upon the percentage being put in. It would cause an enormous amount of trouble to the importers, but still it might not be open to very much objection.
– The trouble would fall, not on the importer, but on the exporter.
– Everything which the exporter at Home does has to be paid for by the importer in Australia. If an analysis of cloth has to be made at Home, who but the importer has to pay for it? Again, if an importer desires that his goods shall be put up in a special way - for instance, that large pieces of stuff, as sold by the manufacturer, shall be cut into smaller pieces - he has to pay for that being done. Now, what is the use of a description? Is it of any use in regard to cotton goods? It really is not. Because a fabric which is made entirely of cotton might vary in price, as calico does, from 2d. to 1s. 6d. per yard, or even, more for the finest textures of long cloth. As theyare all pure cotton goods, of what use is a description ?
– Is it any hardship to say that they are all pure cotton goods?
– I do not know that there is any particular hardship in simple cases of that kind, but why should we compel a man to give a description if no benefit will result? Why should we compel an importer to go to the extra expense of having a particular description put on his goods? Why should we require a man to put on a piece of calico, which any man recognises, “ This is a piece of calico” ? any more than that we should require a ton of coal to be branded as “coal.”
– Why should I have a cotton handkerchief palmed off upon me as a pure linen handkerchief?
– In that case the honorable senator is deceived. There is no step which we can take under the Commerce Act, or which any State Legislature can take, which will prevent a dishonest man from palming off a cotton handkerchief as a linen handkerchief if he chooses to do so.
– If the States would follow up our Commonwealth legislation, we could punish those traders who deceived the public.
Senator MULCAHY. If the honorable senator went down Bourke-street, and bought a handkerchief which was sold to him for linen, and he found that it was entirely cotton, he would have his remedy at present under the common law. It is impossible under these regulations to stop a dishonest tradesman from palming off inferior goods on his customers. The honorable senator, as a matter of fact, could buy linen handkerchiefs for less than it would cost to buy some kinds of cotton handkerchiefs.
– I doubt it.
– I am stating an absolute fact. It is possible to buy at a shop in Bourke-street or Chapel -street, Prahran, an absolutely pure linen handkerchief of coarse quality for 6d. It is possible at the same time to buy a Scotch lawn cotton handkerchief for1s. No one would gain anything from branding the one handkerchief as linen, and the other as cotton.
– A man should be able to get what he bargains for.
– I have materials in my hand which will prove what I say.
– The Chamber will be a haberdashery shop directly.
– Well, if argument will not convince the honorable senator,perhaps ocular demonstration will. If, for the purpose of protecting the purchaser who, for reasons of health, wishes to buy an entirely woollen garment, it is considered desirable that no fabric shall be marked “ all wool,” unless it complies with that description, I shall raise no objection. But that object can be secured in a very simple way ; and I venture to say that it is the only good that we can secure by these regulations. If the Minister of Trade and Customs would allow me to deal with this matter in my own way, T believe that I could show him how all the good that can be accomplished under the regulations may be accomplished in a very simple manner. But even to brand an article “ all wool ‘ ‘ is not necessarily to guarantee it to be superior to a union article. I hold in my hand a piece of very common fabric in which it may be said there is only a percentage of wool. It is 54 inches wide, and is sold at1s. 8d. per yard. But this fabric would be described in exactly the same manner as another which is sold at 2s. 6d. per yard, and as a third which is sold for 4s.9d. All three are union fabrics - Yorkshire tweeds containing a certain proportion of wool and cotton. The one designation “ union tweed “ would cover them all.
– I suppose that the wool and the cotton are in different proportions according to the value.
– Yes; but the point is that the same general description applies to each, although there is such a wide difference in their value. I have here another piece of stuff which I can guarantee to be absolutely pure wool. It is what is known as a cross-bred serge, made of the lowest description of wool. It is sold wholesale for 2s. 6d. per yard - about half the price of the best specimen of Yorkshire tweed which I have shown. Therefore, the description “ all wool “ or “union” does not necessarily imply superiority.
– The all wool article in the case mentioned is inferior.
– It is. The owner of this article assured me that he would guarantee it if submitted to any kind of analysis. Another sample which I produce, and which is sold wholesale at 3s. 4d. per yard, is also all wool of a finer texture, though it would not keep its colour for any time. Other samples of allwool material are sold wholesale for 9s. and 11s. per yard. Where, then, is the advantage of compelling importers to describe every piece of stuff which comes in ? There is no protection to the public. The regulations are absolutely useless for that purpose. Take an example. I have here a pair of military socks sold retail at 6d. per pair. In the pair which I now exhibit the material is 95 per cent. cotton and 5 per cent. wool. Here is another pair of military socks containing 80 per cent. of wool and 20 per cent. of cotton. The one description would apply to both articles, although they differ so widely in quality.
– Would not the price indicate what they are?
– Exactly ; it is the price of the article and the reputation of the tradesman upon which the purchaser has to depend. He must do it. If a man goes into a shop and buys an article’ which looks very nice, and he is told that it is pure linen, though he afterwards finds that it is merely ai piece of cotton, he will not purchase at that shop again. The same happens in other branches of trade. The purchaser necessarily has to depend upon the reputation of the tradesmen’ for the quality of the goods that he buys; and that specially applies to the textile fabrics trade. I have here also some specimens of ladies’ hose. Here is a pair which is sold at is. It is absolutely pure wool, and could be submitted to any analysis. Another pair, of finer quality, is sold for 3s. But both are pure wool. There could be no discrimination between them in the description applied to them under the regulations. I have admitted that a trade description might be of value in the case of some articles, but the regulations are of no use whatever to enable the public to determine the quality of an article. It may be that the person desires to purchase an all-wool material for hygienic purposes.’ I have no objection, therefore, to the description “all wool “ being applied’ specifically to articles which are made entirely of woollen material. Or it might be provided that any article containing less than 90 per cent, of pure wool should not be allowed to be described as woollen, and there might be a heavy penalty for an offence. But to go further, and insist upon a general description being applied to articles which are widely different in quality and price, secures no good purpose, and simply has’ the effect of embarrassing trade. What sort of reputation will the Australian Parliament secure for itself if we insist upon this legislation? It is because I honestly think that the regulations have absolutely no useful effect, and not because I wish to inflict any rebuff upon the Minister, that I ask the Senate to support me in disapproving of them.
[3.27I. - We all have to admit that Senator Mulcahy is an authority on these matters. I acknowledge that I cannot speak with authority relating to apparel. But I point out that the honorable senator said nothing about jewellery.
Why did he leave that matter alone, although it is mentioned in his motion? It appears to me that the regulations in regard to jewellery are exceedingly fair. They simply provide that if a man imports jewellery he shall mark it as being of 9, 10, 15. or 20 carat gold, as the case may be. It has been a justifiable cause of complaint throughout the Commonwealth that hitherto jewellery has come in as gold when, as a matter of fact, the amount of gold in it has been infinitesimal. In respect of apparel, what the Minister of Trade and Customs really wishes to do is to insure that people who import goods into the Commonwealth shall give a true description of them. The Minister is exceedingly desirous, as I know from conversations that I have had with him on the subject, npt to do anything which would unduly hamper people engaged in trade. He does not wish to impose conditions with which it is impossible for them to comply. Now, Senator Mulcahy wrote to the Argus on this subject some time ago. His letter was published on the 2nd August. On that letter, the Comptroller of Customs has made a minute as follows: -
Senator Mulcahy takes exception to the Regulations as they apply to : -
Apparel (including boots and shoes), and the material from which such apparel is manufactured ; and
We have heard nothing from Senator Mulcahy about boots and shoes.
– No ; I deal only with matters of which I have some knowledge.
– The minute proceeds -
With regard to apparel, it is probable that the honorable senator will argue in the manner set out in the attached copy of his letter to the Argus of 4th August, 1906.
From the motion it is not clear whether the honorable senator wishes to omit apparel and jewellery altogether from the Regulations, or that he only objects to the additional particulars required by Regulation 6 (2) (d) (e) and (ft) to be shown in the trade descriptions. Presumably it is the latter.
Senator Mulcahy’s letter to the Argus goes far beyond the departmental interpretation of Regulation 6 (2) (d) and (e), which is as follows : -
The principal material only must be stated unless such principal material contains less than 90 per cent, of pure wool, in which case the substance mixed with the wool must be stated. For example : -
Hose made entirely of cotton must be described as “ cotton “ or “ cotton hose.”
That is exceedingly reasonable.
-To that I have no objection in the world.
– The minute goes on -
– What is the use of that?
– Of course, I know that, in the opinion of the honorable senator, there is no necessity for the Commerce Act, and therefore the regulations are all useless.
– I do not say anything of the kind.
– It is considered that importers should give a true description of the goods which they import.
– There may be a difficulty in giving a description when goods are composed of a variety of materials, but, at all events, whatever description is given should be true. A material consisting of cotton and wool should not be described as “bearskin,” but as imitation bearskin, and the same remark applies to imitation seal skin, and similar goods. The ComptrollerGeneral continues his minute -
Examples (b) and (c) only affect apparel made from materials containing wool. In all other cases example a only applies, i.e., that the name of the principal material only must be stated, e.g., lady’s silk jacket, in which silk is the principal material, the description would be “silk jacket,” without reference to trimmings, &c.
The Department has had illustrations of the necessity for some such provisions as those in the proposed regulations.
Senator Mulcahy may reassure himself that the Department will not unduly harass merchants in seeing that the intentions of Parliament are properly carried out.
As Senator Mulcahy has decided not to ask for any interference in the case of jewellery, I shall not read what the ComptrollerGeneral has to say on that point. I know that the Minister of Trade and Customs is exceedingly anxious that these regulations shall not in any way unnecessarily hamper importers; all that he de sires is that goods which are imported shall be truly described. It is not intended that’ every little particular shall be given, but that the principal materials used shall be, named. The Minister of Trade and Customs has intimated to ‘me that he will be only too pleased to talk ‘over the matter with Senator Mulcahy, and to lay before his colleagues any reasonable requests or suggestions made by that honorable senator. I think Senator Mulcahy will see that there is no necessity to further proceed with the motion.
.- As it was at my instance that jewellery was included within the operation of the Commerce Act, I feel called upon to disagree with Senator Mulcahy’ s proposal to strike out the regulations in this connexion. I understand that Senator Mulcahy does not desire his motion to embrace jewellery.
– That is so.
– And that is a very proper step, because there is being imported into New South Wales, and I suppose other States-
– If Senator Mulcahy desires to amend his motion so as not to comprehend jewellery, where is the necessity for Senator Styles to proceed as to jewellery ?
– It is within the knowledge of the Government that there was being imported into New South Wales, and, no doubt, into other States of the Commonwealth, jewellery which was represented as being of 9-ct. gold, but which, when analyzed, was found to be of 3-ct. gold.
– Does the honorable senator think there is much use in discussing that question if Senator Mulcahy’s motion does not refer to jewellery?
– If the motion does not deal with jewellery I do not think I need proceed further.
– I ask leave to amend the motion by including jewellery amongst the articles to which, inmy opinion, the regulations ought to refer.
Motion amended accordingly.
– As to cotton and woollen goods, Senator Mulcahy has not, in my opinion, advanceda single argument why they should not be brought within the regulations. The honorable senator drew attention to the fact that, if the hose of the’ character he displayed here is mainly of wool, it has to be so labelled.
– That is not the objection.
– The complaint is that the quality is not permitted to be described.
– But quality depends very often on workmanship as well as on the material ; and the purchaser must determine the point for himself. If there are three qualities of goods, but all are made of wool, the purchaser has a guarantee that, even if he buys the worst quality, he gets wool.
– There is no suchguarantee.
– There will be, if the law is carried out.
– Yes; if the law is extended by the State application of it.
– At any rate the importer has a right to-be protected.
– The importer can take care of himself.
– Importers are not experts in all things. Senator Mulcahy has not shown that the regulations impose any burden or inflict any evil on the community. What he has shown is that it is very necessary for the States to supplement this legislation, in the same way as they supplemented the secret commissions legislation passed by this Parliament. Several of the States have passed Secret Commission Acts, with the result that within those States there is a perfect chain of legislation to deal with the evil. If the honorable senator has made out a good case at all, it is in favour of States legislation of the kind to insure that the descriptions shall be retained on the goods in the retail shops, which would give a guarantee to both wholesale and retail customer. There is another strong objection which applies to the whole motion. We are asked, under cover of this motion, to practically repeal the Commerce Act.
– That would be the effect if the motion were carried.
– I intimated that if the present series of regulations, or some of them, were withdrawn, the Minister could frame other regulations more simple and just as effective.
– It seemed to me that the honorable senator’s arguments were all in the direction of showing that any regulations in regard to these particular articles will be futile and unnecessary.
This legislation depends, for the observance of the spirit of the law, on regulation and administration, and the Senate would be very ill-advised, in the absence of any proof of evil or injury, if it repealed the regulations. Senator Mulcahy proposes that we should repeal the regulations relating to apparel, while retaining the regulations relating to food and drink. Apparel may be just as harmful to health as good food and drink. Some doctors tell us that certain people should never wear wool next the skin, and that, in some cases, especially in a climate such as this, it would be fatal to wear cotton.
– Importations of food and drink are different, because they are more standardized.
SenatorPEARCE. - I think there is a similarity. As to removal of the marks, the same objection would apply to imported seeds, manure, and to food and drink. I trust the Senate will not agree to the motion, which, as I say, would practically mean the repeal of the Commerce Act.
– I very much doubt whether honorable senators at all grasp the onerous ‘ character of these regulations with regard to the trade to which Senator Mulcahy has referred. I have seen invoices of drapery extending over many pages; and a shipment may consist of from 100 to 300 different classes of apparel.
– If we do not grasp the matter, does the honorable senator grasp it?
– Then the honorable senator is a very wise man - I suppose the only wise man in the Senate.
– I doubt whether honorable senators are aware of the enormous number of items-
– The honorable senator has a cheek to tell us that we cannot grasp the matter.
– Is Senator McGregor in order in making that remark?
– I do not think that “ cheek “ is a proper word to use in this connexion. Of course, I think that, perhaps, Senator Pulsford, to a certain extent, brought the remark on himself when he assumed that he knew all about the matter and that nobody else did. I ask Senator McGregor to withdraw the word.
– I do not know what word I have to withdraw.
– I did not myself hear the statement, but I understand that the honorable senator said that Senator Pulsford had the “cheek” to say something or other.
– No; I said it was “ cheek “ to assume that we knew nothing, and that the honorable senator knew everything.
– Surely that is the same thing.
– If it is offensive to the honorable senator I withdraw the expression; but I should like him also to withdraw the insinuation that nobody but himself knows anything.
– I think the exact words I used were that I thought that honorable senators did not perhaps grasp the situation.
– Well, I thought that the honorable senator had a “ cheek “ to say that.
– Very well, we will let it stand at that.
– I rise to a point of order. I do not think that Senator McGregor should be allowed to repeat what you, sir, have just ruled to be out of order.
– I think the matter had better be allowed to drop.
– I presume that there are various matters on which Senator McGregor may be the best authority in the Senate. Any person may possess more complete knowledge of certain matters “ than is possessed by some other persons. The very simple suggestion I made was that honorable senators might not perhaps have grasped the full consequences of this matter.. I went on to say that a shipment of drapery might cover several hundred descriptions of drapers’ goods. To require that each one of these should be specifically and accurately described would be to impose on those handling the goods an amount of work which perhaps is not quite understood. That is the point I desire honorable members to consider. If any one imports a shipment of seeds of a particular kind, it is a very easy matter to describe them, but if a wholesale or retail draper imports a shipment that covers 300 or 400 descriptions of drapery goods, it is obvious that there might toe a great mass of work involved in meeting the requirements of the Customs in regard to those goods. While insisting upon honesty, I think we should not needlessly add to the labours of the mercantile people of the Commonwealth. This is the ground on which Senator Mulcahy asked that these regulations should be suspended, or, at all events, that they should not be enforced for the present, but should be reviewed with the object of securing modifications in them which will render them less burdensome to traders.
– I have no desire to prolong the sitting of the Senate, and as Senator Playford has given some kind of assurance that by an approach to the Minister of Trade and Customs some modification or improvement in these regulations may be brought about, I am satisfied that that is an indication of the possibility of some pacific settlement of the trouble.
– Does the honorable senator regard it in that light ?
– This is the last day on which the honorable senator can act effectively.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs can act on any day, and I am aware that this is the last day on which we can effectively protest.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs shown any disposition to revise the regulations?
– I believe that the Minister of Trade and Customs is disposed to look into the- matter with the view to making the regulations less burdensome, if he can see his way to do so. That being so, I think that it is better that I should withdraw my motion than that a majority of the Senate should affirm that the regulations to which I object should be continued, which I think is the only alternative. In the circumstances, I ask leave of the Senate to withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (by Senator Playford) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wa les’ [3.52]. - I should like to ask the Minister of Defence the question of which I gave notice, and which I was not in time to ask this morning. I desire to ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General -
Sir Joseph Ward said “ The High Commissioner will be instructed to enter into negotiations in order to arrange that the steamers now being built for the Commonwealth mail service shall come direct from Adelaide to New Zealand.”
I understand that the honorable senator is in possession of the answer to the question, and perhaps he will be good enough to impart it to the Senate now.
– As we are likely to adjourn a few minutes before the usual hour, and I shall not therefore unnecessarily detain any one, I take advantage of the opportunity to refer to a matter with which I dealt at an earlier hour this morning. I wish to ask the Minister of Defence if, before Tuesday, next, he will seriously consider the question of giving the Tariff Commission some instructions, on behalf of the Government, as to their future work and conduct. I wish to put before the Senate the position in which the members of the Tariff Commission are placed. As every one knows, we have had a very hard task to get through, and, without going into detail, I may say that we have had to work almost continuously for eighteen months. We now find ourselves in this position : that, in the closing days of a busy session of this Parliament, it is possibly necessary and desirable that we should bring forward fresh reports for the consideration of Parliament. If we could get any intimation from the Ministry, on whom rests a responsibility which, I think, they should not shirk, the members of the Tariff Commission would do their utmost, in spite of the extra pressure which must necessarily be put on six of them who are members of Parliament, to present further reports for the consideration of Parliament.
– Does the honorable and learned senator not think that Sir John Quick, the chairman of the Commission, might ask these questions in another place, where they could be answered by the Prime Minister? The honorable senator is asking me questions which, as a subordinate member of the Ministry, he cannot expect me to answer.
– I said at the outset that I took the opportunity of asking these questions, or of bringing these matters under the notice of the honorable senator to-day, so that he might have an opportunity of discussing them with the rest of the Cabinet before- giving an answer to them on Tuesday.
– I did not understand that.
– The members of the Tariff Commission who are also members of Parliament have much to do during the remainder of the session; but whatever demands may be made upon their time they are prepared, if it is desirable, and if Parliament will have an opportunity to consider their work, to do what they can in order to submit further reports. I think I speak for every member of the Commission, although I have no authority from them to do so, when I say that the Tariff Commission: consider that, having in view the fact that the session is likely to close at the end of next month, or shortly afterwards, and having regard to the public business’ to be submitted for the consideration of Parliament, the Government should say distinctly that they cannot undertake to ask Parliament to do more than a certain amount of work. If they would do that, the Tariff Commission would be relieved of their responsibility of doing work which really is beyond the Ordinary capacity of men at the present time in giving attention to public business in Parliament as well as to the presentation of these reports. If Ministers would say that certain reports would be submitted for the consideration of Parliament, .the members of the Tariff Commission would do their utmost, even though -they should have to work on Saturday and Sunday to present further reports. That would be done by them, irrespective of the party views which they may hold, but they feel that they should not be called upon at this time todo work which might, and probably will, be pf no immediate value ; that is to say, to prepare and send. in. reports which Ministers recognise cannot possibly be submitted to Parliament for consideration this session. This matter was referred to last night bv Senator Higgs, and that should be sufficient to prove that what I say has no party bearing whatever. It is simply a request made practically by six members of the Commonwealth Parliament that Ministers should undertake a responsibility which no one on either side will blame them for accepting. I hope that on Tuesday next Senator Playford will be in a position to give the information desired. I trust that in what I have said I have put the position in which the members of the Tariff Commission find themselves at the present time clearly and precisely.
– I think that the matter should form the subject of a written communication between the Tariff Commission and the Government.
– I prefer to put the position publicly on the floor of the Senate.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister of Defence to the fact that the papers connected with the important Tariff proposals now under the consideration of Parliament have been distributed to the members of the House of Representatives, and have not, so far, been distributed to honorable senators. I admit that Senator Keating was courteous enough to have a typed copy of. one of the papers handed to me, but the printed papers, copies of which I have obtained from a member of the House of Representatives, are not, I understand available to members of the Senate.
– That is not the fault of the Ministry, but, if there is any fault, rather of the officers of the Senate, whose duty it is to deal with the distribution of papers.
– I wish to put the responsibility on to somebody. I should be glad if the Minister would find put where the blame lies in order that what I object to might be rectified in future.
– In reply to the question asked by Senator Millen, I . may say that the formal answer supplied to his question as appearing on the notice-paper is -
The Postmaster-General has no information bearing upon the subject referred to.
I might say in addition to that that Senator Millen has possibly noticed, in a subsequent issue of the newspaper to which he has referred, the report of an interview with the Postmaster-General on the subject. The Minister is there reported to have stated that he had received no official communication of the kind, . and that the information came to him for the first time in the announcement appearing in the newspaper, as it did to every other reader of the newspaper. The honorable gentleman is also reported to have expressed a doubt as to whether any such arrangement was being made, and gave some reasons for that doubt, amongst others, that the contractors have given an undertaking to call at Sydney and Melbourne, and further, that it is impossible under the terms of the contract for them to enter into any arrangement to carry mail matter for any other oountry than the Commonwealth, whilst the poundages received in connexion with such mail matter would belong, not to the company, but to the Commonwealth. I have not had an opportunity to interview the Postmaster-General to ask him whether the statements attributed to him in this connexion are correct, but I have every reason to believe that his views have been correctly reported.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 31 August 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1906/19060831_senate_2_33/>.