4th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the fact that one of the Orient Company’s mail steamers passed almost over the spot (a few days before) where the steamer Pericles was wrecked at Cape Leeuwin, the Government will take immediate steps to urge the Admiralty to re-survey the ocean surrounding the Leeuwin and other danger points on the Australian coast?
– The matter referred to by the honorable senator is receiving consideration. It may also be considered that the time has arrived when the Commonwealth should carry out its own marine surveys, and not have to depend in future upon the Admiralty.
.- I move -
That during the remainder of the present session, unless otherwise ordered, Tuesday be a meeting day of the Senate, and that, unless otherwise ordered, the hour of meeting on that day be Three o’clock in the afternoon, and that on such day Government Business take precedence of all other business on the notice-paper except questions and formal motions, and that, unless otherwise ordered, the hour of meeting on Wednesday be half-past Two o’clock in the afternoon.
Honorable senators will be aware .that there are some important measures on the notice-paper which it is desirable that we should dispose of as early as possible. An earnest wish has been expressed from many quarters that the Navigation Bill should be proceeded with expeditiously, so that it may be passed by both branches of the Legislature this session. In view of the fact that there are 419 clauses in that Bill, it is obvious that we shall require ample time for its consideration. The Australian Notes Bill may also be expected to occupy a fair amount of time. If our work is to be disposed of in an expeditious manner, it is necessary to bring honorable senators from their homes four days in the week instead of three. Every consideration, however, will be given to them, and, of course, the Government will do whatever is within their power to suit the convenience of the majority. But it is considered that in view of the voluminous mass of business that has to be done, we should make the most of the time available.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - It is very early in the session to take this step.
– It is not so early when we bear in mind the mass of work that has to be done. I know that the members of the Opposition are just as anxious as the Government are to see business transacted rapidly; and with that desire, and also in order that full time may be allowed for discussion, the Government have arrived at the conclusion that the stage has been reached when this motion should be submitted.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [2.37].- The Vice-President of the Executive Council was quite right in saying that the Opposition desire to see the business of the Senate proceeded with speedily. Neither in the Senate, nor in another place, has there been any evidence of a desire not to get through the work that has been laid before Parliament.
– Hear, hear.
– We have sat long hours, and on ail sides a desire has been evidenced to assist the Government in getting through their work.
– Does not the honorable senator think that it is better to have an extra day’s sitting per week, and so avoid night sittings?
– Yes; I will come to that point presently. There is no desire on the part of the Opposition to obstruct or delay unnecessarily the transaction of public business. It has, however, been generally recognised that as there are only thirty-six members of the Senate and twice as many members of another place we ought not to be expected to devote so much time to our work as the House of Representatives has to do.
– The House of Representatives is now sitting three mornings in the week.
– The most debatable measures initiated by the Government come before the other Chamber in the first instance. They are there debated thoroughly, and at considerable length. When they reach the Senate the ground has been to a large extent worked over, and often provisions that have been regarded as objectionable have been altered. Consequently a lesser amount of work is involved in dealing with them here.
– Another place does the rough work, and we do the polishing.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - Necessarily the rough work takes a good deal longer to do than does the polishing. A considerable amount of time is required to rub off the rough edges of projects submitted by the Government. It is true that another place is now sitting three mornings per week, and that practially places at the disposal of the Government six hours of extra time. I do not dispute that the Government require more time from the members of the Senate. But I put it whether that necessary time could not be obtained by honorable senators continuing to sit on Friday nights and taking advantage of the Saturday trains to go to their homes in other States. By that means we should not be required to attend on Tuesdays. In other words, we should sit on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and Friday nights, instead of on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. This method would not, so far as I can judge, occasion the slightest degree of inconvenience. Those who at present leave Melbourne on Friday afternoon reach Sydney or Adelaide on Saturday morning. Practically Saturday is of no value to them so far as the transaction of their private business is concerned.
– If the honorable senator’s plan were adopted, clergymen would have to be carried on the trains.
.- Those who left Melbourne on Saturday, arriving in Sydney or Adelaide on Sunday morning would reach home in sufficient time to go to church if they desired.
– Surely the honorable senator does not desire the Presbyterian senators to travel on Sunday?
– They sometimes travel on Sundays now ; and I again point out that they would reach home in ample time to go to church at n o’clock.
– They could sleep during the sermon.
– The plan that I recommend would give honorable senators an opportunity of going fresh to their work on Monday morning. At present those who have business to transact have an opportunity of doing it on Mondays and Tuesdays, leaving for Melbourne again on Tuesday afternoon. I am quite sure that if this plan were tried, and the Government still found that the time at their disposal was not sufficient, honorable senators would be quite willing to give them a morning sitting on Saturdays. The Government would really be obtaining more time than they will under their own proposal; whilst they would also be affording a great convenience to many who reside in adjoining States. Those who reside in Melbourne, of course, do not feel the inconvenience. It is immaterial to them whether the Senate sits on Tuesdays or on Friday nights. But it is of immense advantage to those who can reach their homes” at a week end to be afforded an opportunity of transacting private business while they are there. I can understand the desire of the Government to get through their parliamentary work as quickly as possible, but it is rather early in the session to have such a motion submitted. I am sure that honorable senators are pleased to know that the Commonwealth of Australia will be represented at the important celebration which is to take place in South Africa in the month of November, by the Prime Minister of this country.
– Will the honorable gentleman take some members of the Opposition with him?
.- I have no doubt that if the matter is properly represented, arrangements might be made to enable Senator St. Ledger to accompany the Prime Minister. Though it may be desirable that the Commonwealth should be represented at the South African celebration, it should not be necessary on that account that no members of this Parliament should be asked to bring their work to a close earlier than usual.
– Order ! I remind the honorable senator that the matter to which he refers was not given as a reason for the motion submitted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– You will permit me, sir, to point out that if one were to be confined only to reasons assigned for a motion, he might be given no opportunity to debate it at all, since the mover might submit it without speaking upon it. It is well known that the Prime Minister proposes to- go to South Africa.
– I interrupted the honorable senator because he said that that would lead to no members of this Parliament being asked to bring their work to a close earlier than usual.
– What I intended to suggest was that the visit of the Prime Minister to South Africa should not be regarded as a sufficient reason for sending the members of this Parliament into recess before the work of the session had been completed in the usual way. We should be told why the Senate is asked to sit four days in the week, whilst the House of Representatives, with a very much larger membership, sits only four days, and has two additional morning sittings. I recognise the desire of the Government to expedite their business, but I should like to know whether they wish to close the session as soon as the Prime Minister leaves the country for South Africa.
– Then why are we asked to take this course so early in the session? On the business-paper to-day, there is one third reading, two second readings, and the consideration of a private Bill in Committee set down for the evening. For tomorrow, the only other business on the paper is the Navigation Bill. I recognise that that is a very important measure, and that it will take a considerable time to deal with it. What have we to look forward to in the way of additional business at an early date? We shall have to deal with the Land Tax Bill, and perhaps one or two other measures. Then, I suppose that when the Treasurer makes his financial statement, the Senate will be given an opportunity similar to that provided last session of debating the finances of the Commonwealth . But I still think it strange that we should be asked to undertake additional work so early in the session. If the Government think that we should have additional sittings, I suggest that we should continue the Friday sitting into the evening, and, if necessary, sit on Saturday morning. I should have no objection, if the Government believed it to be absolutely necessary, to sit on Thursday mornings as well. The suggestion I have made would convenience a large number of the members of the Senate who come here from the adjoining States, and would tend to make their duties less onerous than they would otherwise be. lt is not unreasonable that we should ask the Government and those supporting them to facilitate the convenience of honorable senators who have no desire whatever to shirk their responsibilities or their work in this Chamber.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [2.53]. - I should like to ask the representatives of the Government in the Senate -whether they think it is imperative at this stage of the session to pass this motion. On the subject of consulting the convenience of honorable senators, I may say that I have always met with the greatest courtesy from representatives of the Government in this Chamber, in the arrangement of the business. During this session, the work of the Senate has been proceeded with in a record way. That has been commented upon outside, and the Government are entitled to the credit of it. On this side, we may entertain a different view of the business which the Government have considered important, but the way in which it has been pushed on says a great deal for the zeal and energy of the representatives of the Government in this Chamber. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has really given no reason why we should pass this motion at the present stage of the session. No one will dispute for a moment that it will be for the benefit of the Commonwealth to be represented at the South African celebration by the foremost Minister in this country. Apart from that, those of us who have been members of Governments know quite well that it is for the Government of the day to define the time they require and the business they propose to submit in that time. The VicePresident of the Executive Council has referred us to the Navigation Bill, trie adjourned debate on the second reading of which is down for to-morrow. It is, of -course, a very important measure, but many of us entertain a doubt as to whether it will reach the statute-book this session. I say that as one who desires to see a Commonwealth Navigation Act upon the statute-book. But, although measures in some respects identical with that now before the Senate have been debated here in previous sessions, no great harm will follow if its passage is somewhat further delayed. Although it contains 419 clauses, the bulk of them are likely to be passed as matters of course, and there are very few that will require lengthened debate.
– I am not so sure of that.
– I admit that some will require full consideration, but the vast majority of the clauses deal with matters of course, to which no exception can be taken. I say that as one who has taken a deep interest in similar Bills that have been before the Senate in former sessions.
– The Senate took some weeks to get through eighteen clauses. of a similar Bill in Committee.
– That is so, but were my honorable friends opposite in Opposition then, or supporting the Government ?
– We were supporting the Government, but the honorable senator was himself leading the Opposition.
– It was a time, I suppose, when my honorable friends had some difficulty in keeping straight the Government that was under the shadow of their wings. In the event of the Government feeling that they must have more time for the business of the Senate, I suggest that we might very well sit on Thursday mornings.
– The various Committee meetings are usually held on Thursday mornings.
– I believe that is so. I know that the Speaker, as Chairman of the Library Committee, called the members of that Committee together at half-past nine o’clock this morning. It seemed like getting up in the middle of the night, but we had to be here, and members of the House of Representatives, after their duties on the Committee were over, went to their own Chamber. There is no reason why members of the Senate should not do the same. It has been suggested also that it would convenience some honorable senators if the Senate sat on Friday evening and on Saturday morning. That” would necessitate honorable senators living in the adjoining States going home on the Sunday. I can see no objection, but we might add a proviso that any honorable senator having a conscientious objection to going home on the Sunday might remain here until the Monday. I like to have these conscience clauses. We have agreed to one in the Defence Bill, and there is no reason why we should not attach one to a motion providing for additional sittings. I think that the Government might wait for a few weeks until we see how the business progresses before submitting such a motion, and, if they cannot do so, they might agree to modify the motion in the way I have proposed.
– I think that the Government might at least give us some intimation as to whether they feel disposed to accept the suggestion of Senator Symon, cr the amendment which has been foreshadowed by Senator Gould, under which the additional sittings of the Senate would take place at the end, instead of the beginning, of the week.
– Let us meet on Thursday morning.
– Personally, I reside so far from Melbourne that it is impossible for me to return to my home at any week-end. 1 suppose that the Government desire to consult the convenience of honorable senators-
– That has been done.
– I do not know what my honorable friend is “ yapping “ about. My opinion is that the Government wish to meet the convenience of honorable senators, but he seems to object to that statement. However, I think it is a fair statement to make. I ask the Ministry to recollect that, during the parliamentary session, there are a large number of honorable senators who reside in and around Melbourne, and to whom it is a matter of small importance whether the Senate meets on an additional day early or late in the week. Those honorable senators whose convenience ought to be consulted are the representatives of South Australia, New South Wales, and Tasmania. Before the debate closes we ought to have a statement from the Government as to whether they are prepared to adopt the suggestion of Senator Symon, or the amendment outlined by Senator Gould. I ask them whether it would not be better for the Senate to sit the additional hours required for the transaction of public business, either late in the week or in the middle of the week, rather than at its beginning.
– I hope that the Government will not yield to the persuasive eloquence of Senators Gould and Symon by consenting to an alteration of the motion which is now under consideration. The Ministry have a programme of work to get through, and if that work is to be accomplished without any factious opposition, we shall require to sit on Tuesday as well as on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in each week, until the end of November. I submit that it is far better for us to meet upon an extra day each week, with a view to terminating the session by the end of November or the beginning of December, .than it is to sit long hours, and occasionally all night, till nearly the end of the year, so that some honorable senators will scarcely have time to reach their homes before Christmas. I hope that the Government will adhere to the motion in its present form, and thus afford honorable senators ample time to consider the important measures with which we have to deal this session.
– I trust that the Government will accept the amendment which has been outlined by Senator Gould.
– And sit on Saturday?
– I have conscientious objections to that.
– The adoption of Senator Gould’s proposal would afford more time for the transaction of the business which tile Government intend to bring forward than will the motion which is now under consideration, lt would also enable those honorable senators who are accustomed to return home each week-end to have the whole of Monday, and a portion of Tuesday, to devote to other business before they would be required to leave their respective States for Melbourne. That would be a great advantage to them, and I contend that their convenience ought to be considered. I have no objection to sitting as long as may be necessary for the transaction of public business, but I think that the convenience of honorable senators ought to be studied as far as possible. When we rise on Friday afternoon - as is our present custom - honorable senators who usually return to their own States at the week-end reach home on Saturday too late for the day to be of any use to them from a business stand-point, and they have to leave again on Monday afternoon ; whereas, if the Senate meet on Wednesday morning, and also on Saturday morning, they would have a clear day to themselves. I do not know that it is necessary to make any alteration in our sitting days at present, but if it is, I am prepared to do what I have suggested. So far the Senate has devoted a great deal of attention to the transaction of the public business, and the work which has already been performed constitutes a record. Therefore, there is no reason why the remaining business should not be got through expeditiously. Personally, I would rather sit on Saturday mornings, and have Monday to myself, than accept the proposal of the Government.
.- To my mind, there is a serious objection to the Senate meeting on Saturday morning in each week. Honorable senators who have suggested the adoption of that course have not, perhaps, considered thai there is a large number of parliamentary officials who, if we meet on Saturday morning, will be required to work during the greater portion of that day. We all know that Saturday afternoon is generally recognised as a half-holiday for officials in all Government offices. In addition, we should be faced with this anomaly : that the Senate would be sitting on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, whilst the other Chamber would be meeting on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Personally, I think it is preferable that the two branches of the Legislature should meet on the same days if that course be possible. At the same time, the Government are in charge of the business of this Chamber. They know exactly what measures they intend to bring forward during the current session, and they ought to be the best judges as to how long a period will be occupied in disposing of those measures. I would remind honorable senators who object to the Senate meeting on the extra day proposed that we are already half way through the session. We have been sitting for two months, and the general impression is that the session will not extend beyond the end of November. Some honorable senators appear to be very particular about the time they spend in this Chamber, but are, apparently, forgetful of the fact that members in another place cheerfully give up four days a week to the discharge of their parliamentary duties. I do not think there is very much weight in the contention that the convenience of certain honorable senators ought to be consulted. We are elected to devote the whole of our time to the public business.
– Then why should we wind up the session in four months?
– I have never suggested that we should do so, if it be necessary to continue the session till the end of the year. But the general impression is that the session will terminate about the end of November. The Government say that, to enable them to close it then will necessitate the Senate meeting upon an extra day. I submit that honorable senators who have put in earnest pleas that their convenience should be studied, ought to study the interests of the general public. If we do not sit upon the additional day proposed by the Government, the session will probably be prolonged by two or three weeks.
– Tasmanian senators will not suffer by the Senate meeting on an additional day.
– Whether the extra sitting takes place on Tuesday or on Saturday, the representatives of Tasmania will either have to miss it, or remain in Melbourne at the week end. The Government declare that they require an additional sitting day for the transaction of the public business.
– Which we are prepared to give.
– The honorable senator is not prepared to give if.
– I am prepared to give the Government an additional six and a half hours on Friday, and an additional four hours on Saturday, in each week.
– Some honorable senators opposite are not prepared to concede the extra day of sitting. I maintain that they should relegate their own convenience to the background for a few months, and consider only the interests of Australia.
– Senator O’Keefe has, apparently, got hold of the wrong end of the stick. When I spoke to the Minister of Defence upon this matter the other day, he said that the Government were indifferent as to whether the Senate met on Tuesday in each week, or sat on Friday evening. Senator Gould has pointed out that if we sit on Friday evenings, the Government will gain an additional six. and a half hours on that day ; whilst, if we also meet on Saturday mornings, they will gain another four hours. In other words, by adopting the course which he has suggested, the Senate would sit for a longer time than it will under the proposal of the Government.
– A majority of honorable senators have decided that it would be better to meet on Tuesday in each week.
– I have never yet understood that a member of Parliament is supposed to devote the whole of his time to the discharge of his parliamentary duties. If we did so, we should become professional politicians.
– Does the honorable senator object to being a professional politician ?
– I do. I do not say that anybody else is a professional politician; but I do say that if we do nothing but parliamentary work, we shall become professional politicians. If we sit on Friday evening, and meet again on Saturday morning in each week, the Government will really have more time at their disposal than they will have if we agree to the motion which is now under consideration.
– The whole day is being wasted in discussing this matter.
– There are eighteen honorable senators who reside in Melbourne, and eighteen who, at the week end, are accustomed to return to their homes in the several States. Surely if it makes no difference to the eighteen senators who are always here, and a great difference to the other eighteen, it is not unreasonable to ask the former te consider the latter.
– I should not have risen but for the suggestion that instead of sitting on Tuesday we might sit on Saturday. I should have been quite prepared to support the motion for the simple reason that, practically, in that form it has been proposed session after session.
– It has only been at the end of a session that the Senate has sat on Tuesday.
– Yes. I disagree with Senator O’Keefe’s statement in regard to the convenience of using Tuesday rather than Saturday for a sitting day. I hope that honorable senators will acquit me of taking a personal or selfish view. Senator O’Keefe knows as well as I do that at present it is only possible for Tasmanian senators to leave Melbourne on Saturday. The Senate sits on Friday until 4 o’clock, and then we have to waste twenty-four hours in Melbourne before we can leave by Saturday’s boat.
– The honorable senator knows that this week a steamer will leave on Friday.
– My honorable friend knows that that is not for all purposes correct.
– A steamer is now advertised to leave Melbourne on every Friday for Launceston.
– The altered running is to start from the beginning of next month, and although my honorable friend has suggested that the session- will not end until near the end of November, it is anticipated that it will end in time for certain members of another place to be somewhere else early in October.-
– Who anticipates that ?
– It is anticipated. Who has given my honorable friend information as to when the session will end ?
– I judged from a knowledge of what we have to do.
– If the honorable senator has relied upon the notice-paper of each House he has come to his conclusion without a satisfactory foundation. It is wrong, I submit, for the Senate not to sit on Saturday, which is practically a dies nott. Why should honorable senators who come here from other States be compelled to wait in Melbourne from Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon before they can depart for their homes? The proposed arrangement is all very well for those who can leave for Adelaide or Sydney on Friday afternoon, but how does it apply to those who come from Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania? Whyshould we not sit on Saturday ? Could we not get back to Melbourne on Wednesday and sit until Saturday afternoon?
– The honorable senator must know that Tuesday will suit his colleagues just as well as Saturday.
– It will not. With the exception of last week, and once earlier, I have returned to my State at every week-end during this session, and I desire, as far as possible, to continue to do so. I am conveniently situated in that regard by reason of the sitting hours which we have had. We should not be compelled to stay in Melbourne during Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Senator Cameron has been called back repeatedly to my knowledge when he might have been here. Why should we not sit on Saturday morning ?
– Because, if we did, honorable senators could not get to their homes until Sunday morning.
– I have had to travel and arrive at my home on Sunday each week during this session, and, on some occasions, on account of the fog, or something else, I have not reached my home until the afternoon. Some honorable senators seem to expect that everything should be arranged to convenience those who come from Sydney and Adelaide.
– -The honorable senator will be able to get home this week on Saturday.
– By leaving Melbourne on Friday afternoon, and neglecting my responsibilities. I can leave by a steamer which departs before the Senate rises on that day, and that is the only way in which I can get home on Saturday.
– The honorable senator can leave by a direct boat on Saturday.
– I cannot get home in time to return by taking a boat on Saturday this week. I ask honorable* senators to support any proposition to sit on Saturday morning. I regret to say that some Victorian senators have, in the past, been the strongest opponents to sitting on Saturday. Without realizing the fact that they have not been put to the smallest degree of inconvenience, they have not met the convenience of senators from other States. The position may be totally different now, but those who represent Victoria should realize that the senators from other States are entitled to have their convenience consulted. The best plan is to consult the convenience of the majority, and so or)der the sittings that honorable senators can discharge their public duties, and at the same time attend to their home responsibilities. At present, we cannot get over to Melbourne from Tasmania until Wednesday morning, and so Tuesday is cut out. We have to cool our heels in Melbourne from Friday afternoon’ until Saturday afternoon, because there is no boat to return by. As one who has not missed a sitting during this session, and has returned to his home practically every week, I regret to see that the Government do not realize their duty to honorable senators. I trust that they will consult the convenience of the general body. Of course, I can quite understand that a Minister with considerable administrative work to do, and who necessarily must remain here, may, for a moment, overlook the fact that other senators want to get home occasionally, if not weekly. I hope that the Government will see their way to accept the suggestion of Senator Gould.
. - If the Government wanted the Senate to sit six days a week, I should be inclined to support them, because our first duty is to consider the business of the country regardless of our own convenience. Some honorable senators live so far away from Melbourne that they cannot get away until the session is finished, and therefore it is an advantage to them to get the business done as soon as possible. That is the position in which I am, and for that reason I cordially support any proposal by the Government for an extra sitting ; but at the same time the convenience of honorable senators ought to be consulted as much as possible, and no one should be asked to suffer an inconvenience in order to convenience another. If Senator Keating has to cool his heels in Melbourne from Friday afternoon until Saturday afternoon, then those who could get away equally easily on Saturday should have some consideration for those who are situated as he is. If we can gain as much time in that way as in another, I do not see any reason why the Government should not accept what appears to me to be a reasonable request. At present, we only sit on Friday from 10.30 a.m. to 4 p.m. We could get a considerable addition to our time, equivalent to almost a day’s sitting, by continuing the sitting until 10.30 p.m., and we could have a morning sitting on Saturday. That arrangement would give the Government quite as much time as they will get under their own proposal. If it would meet the convenience of everybody, why should it not be adopted? Some honorable senators say that they wish to get away on Friday, but why should they take a selfish view when they deprive honorable senators of a day which they might reasonably spend at home? I suggest that that reasonable view be taken so that other honorable senators mav have their convenience studied.
– It is true that the Government Whip asked me which day would suit me best as an additional sitting day. I said that at present it did not make much difference to me, as I have to reside in Melbourne for the whole of the session. Previously my position has been different. If the Senate were to meet on Thursday at 10.30 a.m., and sit on Friday from 10.30 a.m. to 10.30 p.m., it” would give the Government ten additional hours a week. That, I think, ought to suit the convenience of all sections of the Senate, lt would not be necessary then to sit on Saturday morning. The Government would obtain more than an ordinary working day without inconveniencing any one. 1 know that a Tuesday sitting will be very inconvenient to Tasmanian senators. If they go home at the week end they must miss that sitting, because they cannot return until Wednesday morning. I am willing to meet the convenience of all parties. I should be quite willing to sit on Thursdays at half-past 10 o’clock in the morning, and also on Friday nights and Saturday mornings. The Government would thus obtain many additional hours for the transaction of business. None of us who come from Queensland can get home at the week-end. Neither can the Western Australian senators. But those who come from the other States can. We should consider the convenience of honorable senators who, by a reasonable arrangement of our business, can be enabled to return to their homes each week-end. I am anxious to see the work of the session concluded as speedily as possible, because I wish to visit Queensland; but I think that the Government can obtain all the time that they require, and still meet the convenience of the majority.
– Honorable senators have been discussing this motion as if it had been launched by the Government in a most arbitrary fashion, and as if the convenience of no honorable senators had been consulted. That idea is entirely wrong. I mentioned the subject in the Senate at the beginning of last week, and the Government Whip went round asking all honorable senators whom he could find what their views were, with the result that it was ascertained that the overwhelming majority were in favour of a Tuesday sitting.
– It is only the honorable senators from other States who ought to be consulted.
– I do not agree with’ that view. Consideration should also be extended to those who desire to visit other States at the week-ends, but they, I admit, are not the only honorable senators who should be consulted. It is also somewhat singular that this sudden protest should have been raised to-day. Senator Keating, who has so vehemently protested, was a member of a Government that secured Tuesday sittings, and never suggested that the Senate should sit late on Fridays or on Saturday mornings. Last session, when Senator Millen brought forward a motion securing Tuesday for the consideration of Government business, the question was put, and passed without debate.
– A Minister resides in Melbourne on account of his administrative duties.
– But the honorable senator was not a Minister last session, and he raised no protest then. There has been no alteration in the running of trains or steamers. Why, then, this sudden protest ? The attitude assumed has been unfair to the Government, and the fact that honorable senators were carefully consulted has been left out of consideration. The Government Whip, after making inquiries, informed me that the overwhelming majority were in favour of Tuesday sittings. Look at the converse proposition. Are we to say that the wishes of the minority are to be consulted, and not those of the majority? Ascertaining what the opinion of the majority was, there was no other course open to us than that which we have taken. I begin to think that there is some motive behind these loud protests.
– It is quite true that the Government, through the Minister of Defence, gave notice some time ago that action of this kind was to be taken. It is equally true that the Government Whip consulted various members of the Opposition. He very courteously asked my view. I think I said that, so far as I was personally concerned, if I had to choose between being hanged on Tuesday and shot on Friday, I should prefer the Tuesday operation. Of course, I was speaking metaphorically. But the preference of honorable senators has now been publicly expressed. It has been explained that the method proposed by the Government will inconvenience many. What is the alternative? It is not that we should refuse to give the Government all the time required for the business of the country. I- understand that every honorable senator is in accord with their desire that more time should be taken. It is simply a matter of what is the best time to take. But the Government ought to consider the clearly expressed wishes of the members of the Opposition. It might expedite business if the request preferred by the Opposition were more courteously attended to. It is unfair- to suggest that we do not wish to grant the extra time because we support those who wish to have a little more time for attending to their private business. In order that the view of the Senate may be clearly, ascertained, I now move, by way of amendment -
That the word “ Tuesday “ be left out.
SenatorFRASER (Victoria) [3.43]. - I was politely asked by the Government Whip what my wish was in this matter, when I replied that I had no idea of what the view of the majority was. We ought to consult the convenience of honorable senators who have to travel every week-end. Those who reside in Melbourne can attend at any time. 1 hope that the Government will recognise that those who are entitled to chief consideration are the senators who, to the detriment of their health, travel backwards and forwards every week-end.
– By way of personal explanation, I wish to say a word in answer to the statement of the Minister of Defence, that the Government Whip consulted honorable senators with regard to this matter.
– I consulted all the senators whom I could find about the building.
– As far as I know, I have been present every day this session, and have remained throughout each sitting. I ask the honorable senator to correctme if I am wrong, but I do not think that he consulted me. If he did, the fact has escaped my memory. Had I agreed to the form in which this motion is now submitted, I should very willingly apologize to him and to the Government for taking up the attitude that I have done. But I do not think that I ever had any conversation with the Government Whip in reference to the subject.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [3.45].- No doubt, Senator de Largie’s statement was due to the fact that Senator Pearce was acquainted with my views on this subject. Speaking to the amendment, I remind the honorable senator that ten out of about twelve who have addressed the Senate on this question have expressed a desire that the suggestion I made that we should sit on Friday evenings should be accepted.
– Then, if an honorable senator does not speak because he does not wish to waste time, he is to be assumed to be in favour of the honorable senator’s proposal ?
– Ten honorable senators out of about twelve who have spoken have pointed out the inconvenience of the Government proposal, though they wish to give the Government the full time they require.
– Win, tie, or wrangle is what the honorable senator proposes.
.- What nonsense !
– An honorable senator must speak for half-an-hour if he does not wish to be regarded as being in favour of the honorable senator’s proposal.
– I ask whether it is not high time that members of the Senate should be allowed to speak, if they desire to do so, without being subjected to impertinent interruptions, insinuating that they are not honest in what they are proposing. It is most insulting to an honorable senator who is honestly endeavouring to persuade his fellow senators to adopt a course which he thinks right that he should be met with such expressions as “ win, tie, or wrangle.” Every member of the Senate has a right to express his opinion. If honorable senators opposite were on this side, they would insist upon their right to speak so long as they did so in an orderly manner, and Ministers need not imagine that because they have a big majority behind them they can bully and brow-beat honorable senators on this side. I think it right to point out that ten out of, perhaps, a dozen honorable senators who have spoken on the motion have expressed the opinion that it would only be fair for the Government to consult the convenience of those who come here from adjoining States. Honorable senators are aware that the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Millen, has onerous and important duties to discharge, and it is but right that his convenience should be considered in a matter of this kind.
– There are three honorable senators from New South Wales who are just as strongly in favour of a Tuesday sitting as the honorable senator is in favour of Friday night and Saturday sittings.
– They have not said so.
– They have, though they have not taken up the time of the Senate.
– It may be that one or two honorable senators would prefer to address meetings of electors or political gatherings on the Saturday afternoon, instead of attending to their duties here; but it is not too much to ask that they should consider the convenience of other honorable senators as well as their own. I know I am speaking for the Leader of the Opposition when I say that he would like to have an opportunity of having the Monday and Tuesday to himself in Sydney. Although he does not occupy the position of a Minister of the Crown, his duties are perhaps more arduous, because he must make himself acquainted with the various measures submitted from time to time by the Government. I think the Government may reasonably be asked to give favorable consideration to the amendment, and to accede to the wishes expressed by honorable senators who take a prominent part in debates in the Senate.
– I should not have risen to speak to the amendment did I not wish to make a personal explanation. When speaking just now, I came into conflict with some of my fellow senators from Tasmania as to the sailing dates of the boats plying between Tasmania and the mainland. I have since consulted the shipping company’s advertisement, and I find that I was absolutely correct in my contention - that Tasmanian senators must lose one day, whether the Senate sits on Tuesday or on Saturday. The Tasmanian boats are advertised to leave Melbourne on Friday, at 4 o’clock.
– Did not Senator Keating say that the sailing time would be altered in a few weeks?
– No. The honorable senator said that the boats left for Tasmania on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and I said that they leave on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I am confirmed in my statement by the shipping company’s advertisement. As the boats leave Melbourne on Friday at 4 o’clock, honorable senators from Tasmania can be here for the usual Friday sitting and. still catch the Tasmanian boat.
– On what days do they return from Tasmania?
– They leave here on the Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fri- days, and leave Tasmania for Melbourne on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
– They leave Tasmania on Tuesday, and Tasmanian senators could therefore not be here on Tuesday.
– I say that so far as the convenience of Tasmanian senators is concerned, it does not .matter whether we sit on Tuesdays or Saturdays. We must lose one sitting day if we wish to go to our homes in Tasmania. . That is the point I wish to make.
– - I made a suggestion, which was also :made by Senator Givens, that we might overcome the difficulty by sitting, as the House of Representatives does, on Thursday mornings from half -past 10 and on Friday until half-past 10 at night. That would convenience a majority of honorable senators, and would give the Government more time than they are asking for in the motion before the Senate. We know that the Government have the strength of a giant, but they should remember that giants are very often gentle.
– We are proposing what was proposed by the Government whom the honorable senator supported last session.
– But they submitted the motion at the close of the session - I believe in November. An ordinary sitting of the Senate lasts for eight hours, and the suggestion we make, if adopted, would give the Government ten hours additional in which to transact their business, -md would suit the convenience of honorable senators generally. The Government are strong and can carry their measures, but harshness to the Opposition is not calculated to expedite the business of the Senate.
– The honorable senator should not threaten.
– I am not threatening. I know that when honorable senators opposite were sitting in Opposition they occupied ten times as much time as the present Opposition in debating Government business.
– We allowed a similar motion to this to go on the voices.
– I think the Government might very well consult the wishes of honorable senators generally. I am not concerned in this matter, because it would not inconvenience me if the Senate sat throughout the week ; but when honorable senators are prepared to give the Government more time than they ask for in their motion they should be prepared to strain a point to meet their convenience.
Senator Lt.-Colonel CAMERON (Tasmania) [3.56]. - I do not like to obtrude my personal affairs on the Senate. I can quite understand the desire of honorable senators who live so far from the Seat of Government that they must reside permanently in Melbourne during the session, to have as long a time as they can get before Sunday for purposes of relaxation. If I were living in Melbourne I should probably like to adopt the same course. I wish to refer to the matter as it affects myself. The steamer by which I arrive in Melbourne from Tasmania leaves Launceston on the Tuesday. That enables me to get here on the Wednesday.
– Is that a new departure in the sailing date?
.- No; since I have been a member of the Federal’ Parliament that has been the practice throughout each session. It is a great convenience to every Tasmanian senator, no matter in what part of the island he may reside. But if the Senate sits on the Tuesday I cannot possibly be here on that day, because I have no hesitation in saying, and make no “bones” about it at all, that I have other things to attend to besides public affairs. I have my private business to attend to, and I should be unable to attend to it if I had to be here on the Tuesday.
– The honorable senator would lose a day all the same if the Senate sat on Saturday.
.- I have always considered that I am here amongst friends, and I have always been desirous of meeting in every way possible the convenience of every member of the Senate and the convenience of the Government in expediting public business.
– A meeting on Saturday would not suit the honorable senator any better.
– So far, I have never been refused a pair upon a critical division by an honorable senator. 1 have given a pair whenever I have been asked to do so, and the same courtesy has been extended to me by honorable senators. We are not here to fight one another - to make this Chamber a bear garden - but to expedite the transaction of public business, and to treat each other as kindly and civilly as we can. With these few remarks, I am content to leave the decision of this matter to the Senate. After all, it is merely a question of kindliness one to another.
– Before the honorable senator resumes his seat, I should like to ask him whether it is not a fact that, as a Tasmanian representative, he will still lose a sitting day if the Senate meets on Saturday, instead of Tuesday, according to the advertised time-table of the steamship company?
.- I admit that that is so. When the honorable senator was residing in Melbourne during a former Parliament, he considered my position upon numerous occasions. We mutually considered each other’s convenience; and I should like to see that state of affairs continued.
.- As Senator Cameron has very truly remarked, we are here to expedite the transaction of public business. I understand that the Government have control of that business, and that, with a view to ascertaining upon which day an additional sitting would best suit the convenience of honorable senators the Government Whip canvassed their opinions. A majority expressed a decided preference for the Senate meeting on Tuesday in each week. Yet we now find that a minority wishes to overrule the majority, to take (lie ‘ business out of the hands of the Government, and to dictate to them the extra day upon which we shall meet. Because honorable senators upon this side of the Chamber do not speak upon every question which claims our attention, it has been said that we have nothing to say upon those questions. That is not so. We consider that it is sometimes necessary to remain silent, in order to expedite the transaction of public business. The Government, having consulted the wishes of a majority of honorable senators, what more can be done?
– An honorable senator may express a personal preference for a particular day, and yet not desire to inconvenience others.
– I am willing to give up the whole of my time to my parliamentary duties, and, when I was approached, and asked for an expression of opinion upon this particular question, I replied that I. was perfectly prepared to fall in with the view of the majority. I am still prepared to do so.
– The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat has put before us rather an extraordinary position. He has told us that the Whip - meaning, I understand, the Ministerial Whip - consulted the members of the Senate - meaning the Ministerial members-
– The honorable senator knows different. Did not Senator St. Ledger and Senator Fraser say that they were consulted ?
– I said that I was consulted.
- Senator Barker has stated that the Whip, meaning the Government, Whip, consulted die members of the Senate - evidently meaning the Ministerial supporters - and thus arrived at die conclusion that the proposal which is now under consideration is a fair one. I say that honorable senators upon this side of Hie Chamber were not consulted in the way that they should have been consulted by the Government Whip.
– Incorrect !
– I do not know that it is quite fair that honorable senators should drag up - as Senator Barker did - matters which have been discussed amongst the party to which they belong. There may be a minority of honorable senators opposite who think with us upon this question, and we have a perfect right to press the proposal of the Government to a division, and thus afford those honorable senator:an opportunity of voting with us. After all, the matter fs one of the personal convenience of honorable senators, and upon any future occasion of this sort, I do not think we should have the fact trotted out that the Government Whip has been round endeavouring to ascertain the opinions of members of the Opposition. I am not prepared to say what the Government Whip has done, or what the result of his canvass has been. But, .if fifteen honorable senators opposite are of one opinion, and eight are of a different opinion, I am prepared to think that the eight will vote whichever way they may think fit. I understand that Senator Sayers was approached by the Government Whip upon this question, but I say that a majority of the Opposition were not consulted in the ordinary formal fashion. We are not endeavouring to take the business out of the hands of the Government, as has been alleged by Senator Barker. We merely say that, ‘ instead of the Senate sitting a certain number of additional hours at the beginning of the week, it should sit for those additional hours at the end of the week.
– But for the fact that an absolutely incorrect statement has been made - and I should use a stronger term if the forms of the Senate permitted me to do so - I should not occupy any time in discussing this proposal. I am sure that the Government have treated the Opposition as fairly as any Opposition could have been treated. Certainly, it has been treated quite differently from the way in which its members treated the members of our party when they were in power. Upon that occasion they altered the sittings of the Senate at their own sweet will, without consulting anybody. Last week, when the Minister of Defence asked me to ascertain the wishes of honorable senators in regard to the Senate sitting for additional hours, I went round and consulted all those who were in the parliamentary buildings at the time.
– I was not consulted.
– The honorable senator was in Western Australia. When the views of honorable senators had been ascertained, I informed the Minister that an overwhelming majority was in favour of the Tuesday sitting in preference to an extension of our sitting on any other day. Then, why has all the afternoon been occupied in debating a question which had been previously settled, and settled not upon party lines? Some honorable senators who expressed a preference for Tuesday sittings, have, to-day, gone back upon that preference. Senator Chataway has said that the Opposition were not acquainted by the Government Whip with what had been done. I say that that statement is absolutely incorrect.
– The time which has been occupied in debating a small matter of this kind evidences the necessity which exists for lengthening the sittings of the Senate. As has been already indicated, everything possible was done by the Government to ascertain the opinions of honorable senators before the proposal now under consideration was formulated- That is conclusive testimony that the Government desired to study the convenience of honorable senators. I have been a member of this Chamber for nearly ten years, and, upon every previous occasion that a motion of this kind has been submitted, it has been agreed to almost unanimously.
– At near the end of the session.
– How does the honorable senator know that we are not near the end of the session now? The Government came to the conclusion a short time ago that it would be better for the two branches of the Legislature to sit longer hours in the day time than to have recourse to all-night sittings. I am very much obliged to Senators Gould, Symon, Keating, and St. Ledger for the valuable suggestions which they have made to the Ministry. In the proposal which is now before us, the Government seek to give effect to the wishes of a majority of the Senate. But, should business become congested and the necessity arise for all-night sittings, the honorable senators whom I have mentioned have themselves suggested a remedy - a remedy which we should not hesitate to adopt. Should occasion arise for it, the Government will not hesitate to take Senator Gould at his word, and to propose that the Senate shall sit on Friday evenings, and meet also on Saturday mornings at half-past 10 o’clock. We shall do everything that we can to meet the convenience of those honorable senators. No Government can do more than that. In the proposal which is now under consideration we seek to give effect to the express wish of a majority of honorable senators, and, in the future, we shall, if necessary, study the wishes of the professed friends of the Government upon the opposite side of the Chamber.
Question - That the word proposed to be left out be left out (Senator St. Ledger’s amendment) - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . … … 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That during the remainder of the present session Government business, unless otherwise ordered, take precedence of all other business on the notice-paper except questions and formal motions.
– Probably the Government have no intention of blocking the only private measure on the notice-paper, and that is the Commonwealth Banking Companies Reserve Liabilities Bill, in the name of Senator Walker?
– Certainly not.
– On the nth September, 1906, a motion very similar to the present one was moved by the then Leader of the Senate, in this form -
That, during the remainder of the present session, unless otherwise ordered, the time of meeting of the Senate on Wednesday and Thursday in each week be half-past 10 a.m., and that Government business take precedence of all other business ou the notice-paper except questions and formal motions, and except that private members’ Bills already on the noticepaper take precedence of all other business on Thursdays after the tea adjournment.
If the Government are willing to allow Senator Walker’s Bill to be dealt with they will probably accept an amendment to exclude private Bills already on the notice-paper from the operation of the motion. If they do, that would meet the case exactly, and allow Senator Walker’s Bill to be dealt with. Suppose that the Government give me an assurance-
– The honorable senator need not argue the matter. The Government will accept that amendment.
– I do not want to stop the Government from getting on with business, and therefore” I shall move that addition to the motion.
– Perhaps the Vice-President of the Executive Council will agree to add that exception to his motion.
– I ask leave to amend the motion by the addition of the following words : - and except that private members’ Bills already on the notice-paper take precedence of all other business on Thursdaysafter the tea adjournment.
Leave granted, and question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia-
Minister of Defence) [4.27]. - Senator McColl raised a point yesterday as to whether the breeding of horses would include the breeding of mules. In another place the Government will submit a definition of horses which will include mules andother beasts of burden and draught. That is the definition which is contained in the British Army Act, and it will cover the point raised here. I move -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– I do not desire to delay ‘the measure, but wish to mention a matter which, I hope, the Minister of Defence will reconsider. In the pre- Federal days a uniform was found to be a powerful incentive to boys, especially to those between twelve and fourteen years of age, to join a cadet corps, take marches, attend parades, and begin that physical training which is so necessary for taking up militarytraining at a comparatively early age afterwards. I think that I am historically correct in saying that the cadet movement may be said to have originated in Queensland. It was attended with remarkable success so far as it went, and was expected to lead to great things. It was only in recent years that the movement spread throughout the Commonwealth. In his introductory speech the Minister of Defence explained, I think, that it would cost about £100,000 per annum to provide uniforms for the junior cadets. I hope that that is not a final or confirmed estimate. In the Education Department of Queensland many teachers have taken a great interest in the cadet corps, and received a training which qualified them to become most efficient military officers. Some time ago a Minister of Defence refused to recommend a uniform anything like that which the cadets in Queensland used to have. The Queensland uniform may have been too expensive, but if some simple kind of uniform, with a little attractiveness about it, were allowed to the cadets, and some provision made, if necessary, to recoup to some extent the expense to parents, I do not think that there would be a single youth in the primary schools between twelve and fourteen years of age who would not welcome it. At that early age the minds of boys are very receptive, and under intelligent instructors much good can be done. Certainly a great deal of good will be done to the cadets through the teachers, especially in primary schools. If a simple uniform is supplied to cadets it will suggest that which every man and woman in the community ought to honor - the King’s uniform.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [4.30]. - I also can speak as to the way in which the cadets have always appreciated the privilege of wearing uniforms. Now that we are introducing a system by means of which juniors will be called upon to undergo a certain amount of training, we ought to do our utmost to encourage them. Under this Bill the Citizen Forces are to be supplied with uniforms. The senior cadets will also have them. But they are to be denied to the junior cadets, on the score of expense. As, however, we are calling upon them to perform certain services, we ought to do our utmost to induce them to take a pride in their work. It seems to me that the estimate of cost, £100,000 per annum, must be erroneous. The uni- forms themselves are not expensive. A uniform for a cadet can be obtained at a very small price, and might be made to last a youth during the two years’ period of service before he is transferred to the senior cadets. I urge the Minister to have the matter inquired into further, and to see whether it will not be possible to make provision of a reasonable and moderate character to supply these youngsters with uniforms that will tend to inculcate’ that spirit with which we desire to see them imbued. I am glad that the Minister of Defence has agreed to insert in the Bill a definition of “ horses,” so as to include mules. It might also be well to include the other useful animal referred to by Senator Needham, by way of interjection, last night. When speaking on this measure at the second-reading stage, I pointed out briefly how desirable it was from a defence point of view to adopt such an immigration policy as would enable large numbers of people to be brought to Australia. I mentioned that hundreds of thousands of people were going to Canada. But it was suggested that nevertheless the population of Canada was not increasing, at any rate, by .leaps and bounds. I have been induced to look up the subject since then. I find, taking the statistics for the years 1905 to 1908, that they include what are called declared settlers ; that is to say, men who on entering Canada make declarations that they intended to remain, and thus became entitled to acquire land and other privileges. In 1905 there were no less than 146.266 declared settlers: In 1906 _ there were 189,004 ; in 1907 there were 252>°38j and in 1908 there were 204,071. Amongst those were many who came from the United Stales, as well as from Great Britain. In fact, in some years, the numbers from the United States and Great Britain closely approximated: Those figures show that Canada has received an enormous number of declared settlers. In addition, a’ large number of persons entering Canada we’re not so enumerated. The arrivals as distinguished from the declared settlers in 1907 were. 277,373, making a total immigration in that year, of 529,000 persons. In 1908 the arrivals as distinguished from the declared settlers were 148,000, making a total immigration of 352,771. The total population of Canada for the year’ 1908 is given at 7, 184,000, showing an increase over the year 1901 of something like 1,812,000: I also turned up the statistics with regard to the Argentine. I find that in the year 1895 the population of that country was 3,954,911. It had increased’ by the year 1909 to 6,805,684. In Australia, between 1901 and 1908 our population increased from 3,828,286 to 4,275,306, showing an increase, in round numbers, of 450,000 during a period of seven years. ‘ The argument that I base upon those figures is that there are people to be had for Aus: tralia as there are for other portions ‘of the world, if a vigorous and determined effort were made by the Government to bring them here.
– The land tax will be a vigorous effort.
.- The land tax, I make bold to say, will not effect what the honorable senator expects. I wish honorable senators to realize that the first essential for Australian defence is increased population. Population means men for defence purposes ; it means increased security from attack. With a larger population we shall be able to make it clear that we intend to defend this country from inroads by people who might desire to settle on our sparsely - populated areas. With an increased population we shall be better able to realize our determination to keep our country intact and white. We cannot keep it white unless we make up our minds resolutely to do all we can to fill up our empty spaces. We shall then have not -an army of 120,000 men, but a very much larger and’ mors effective fighting force at an earlier date than is contemplated at present by the Government. It cannot be too strongly impressed upon honorable senators that we are living in perilous times. We cannot afford to be supine and to neglect our defences. There are nations which are seeking more scope for their people, and are prepared to take what they want if an opportunity is presented to them. At present our safety is being maintained by the alliance between Great Britain and a great nation whose citizens are not allowed to enter our country and fraternize with us. The! safety of Australia at the present moment is dependent on the alliance between those two countries.
– That is rather strong.
– We know perfectly well that Great Britain at present has a very small naval force in the Pacific. She is relying to a great extent upon a militant power situated within a comparatively few days’ sail of Australia. The nation to which I refer has proved her ability on the field of battle. She has an abundance of people to man her ships. If that nation should quarrel with Great Britain, and see fit to make a raid on our coasts, we should be in a very weak and miserable position. We ought to bend our efforts in every way to strengthen our defences. We should not wait for ten. years before establishing an effective defence force. We should insure our safety at as early a date as possible. We should endeavour to repair the serious mistake that has been made by the Commonwealth ever since its initiation. Until recently no serious effort has been made to put the defence of this country into the position it ought to occupy. If we are to maintain our supremacy in this island-continent of ours we should push this matter forward to the utmost of our power. We have commenced to realize our responsibilities in regard to naval defence. But no man can say that we have realized it to the fullest extent. We must be prepared, not only to increase our expenditure on the land force, but aiso on the naval force. We know that any attack upon Australia must be made from the sea, and we must be prepared to take our part in defending the country at sea. I commend most earnestly to honorable senators the necessity of adequately providing for naval defence. I feel that, so far as our land defence is concerned, we are adopting a scheme which will eventually insure a good force to main tain the independence of the country. If the members of our Citizen Forces are imbued with the feeling that Parliament regards them favorably, and will do what is possible to enable them to discharge their duties, they will carry them out, not merely because they are bound to do so under the law, but from patriotic motives. They will consider it a privilege to defend their country. No country can be great whose citizens are not prepared to sacrifice themselves in its defence. Australians are interested in Australia, whether as the land of their birth or as the birthplace of their children, and I am sure they will be willing to receive people from Great Britain, the Continent of Europe, and elsewhere, who will be able to assist them to more adequately defend the Commonwealth than they are in a position to do at present.
– There is one provision of the Bill about which I am not quite satisfied, though, no doubt, there may be a great deal to recommend it. It is proposedthat after a period of five years no one shall become an officer of the Permanent Force unless he has graduated at the Military College. Perhaps no one places a greater value upon military education than I do, but, when we look into history, we find that some of the finest soldiers who ever lived were men who had very little military education, as it is now understood. The question arises whether it is education after all which is chiefly required in the art of war. No doubt education is very desirable, but other qualifications very often prove themselves much superior to education when action has to be taken in the field. We know that under the old British system the promotion was by purchase, and that meant that the rich man’s son became an officer of the British Army, whether qualified or not, and that the common soldier, however good a man he might be, had only the remotest chance of ever becoming a commissioned officer. That system was done away with, and promotion by examination was substituted for it. Yet we found, I think, in the late Boer war, that the class of officers in the British Army had not been very muchimproved. They were still the sons of rich people. In fact, the officers of the British Army are a select section of the upper class. No one, unless he has a private income in addition to his pay, can be an officer of the British Army. If he does happen, by some strange accident, to stray into the sacred preserves, he very speedily discovers that he is not wanted, and, in the popular phrase, he is usually “sent to Coventry.” Any one who has read much in connexion with wars, ancient and modern, as I used to do before 1 had much sense, must know that many of the greatest battles recorded in history were what are known as “ soldiers’ battles,” the conduct of which, by some chance or other, was taken from the commanders altogether and which were fought out by the soldiers. I do not say that it is desirable that that should happen. I think that the control of a battle should always, be in the hands of the General, but I think, also, that we should try, by every possible means, to secure the best man for that -position. Napoleon was admittedly one of the greatest military geniuses who ever lived. He was, 1 believe, the product of the Academy, but, notwithstanding that, he, as he said himself, created his marshals out of mud. That is to say, he went down to the ranks of the common soldiers for them. Wherever he saw aptitude for war, bravery, and those characteristics which stamp the soldier, there he found his officer, and that man had his chance. Under the system we are laying down for the Commonwealth that could not occur at all.
– The honorable senator is quite mistaken.
– If the future officer in the Defence Force must attend the Military College for a number of years, it will mean that his parents will have to spend a considerable sum of money on his education.
– He will be paid as an officer of the Army.
– Even his preliminary education will require the expenditure of a good deal of money.
– The preliminary education will be such as he might obtain in any of the free schools of the States.
– Will he be able to pass from the school to the Military College ?
– And after he passes his examination his education at the college is to be free. Is that the proposal ?
– How is he to be supported in die meanwhile?
– We shall pay him during the time he is at the college.
– That is very much better than I anticipated. I had not looked very closely into the matter, and the Minister’s explanation removes the objection I had.- My idea was that every opportunity should be afforded to men in the lower ranks of the service to rise to the top if they possessed the necessary qualifications. I am %’ery glad that the provision as explained by the Minister is included in the Bill.
– It will shut out, to some extent, those who do not develop at an early age.
– That may be so; but, unfortunately, we cannot provide for every case.
– It would not be possible for a man to rise from the ranks to the position of a commissioned officer under the Bill, though he might secure a position as a noncommissioned officer.
– A man might rise from the ranks to the command of a brigade, or of a division under this Bill.
– Perhaps the Minister will point out the provision under which he might do so.
– I have said all I wish to say on the subject. It appears that there is some attempt made in the BiU to carry out the idea I had in my mind.
– No doubt the Minister of Defence will, in his reply to the debate, explain how a man of distinguished bravery like Sir Hector McDonald might, under this Bill, rise to be an officer in the Defence. Force without going through the Military College. The honorable senator might also state what provision is made for the transfer of officers of the British Army to the Australian forces. Our object, of course, should be to secure the very best men as officers, whether they are to be found in the ranks or not.
– - I am rather pleased that Senator Stewart raised the point he did, because there is some misconception existing, even in the minds of those who have followed the Bill closely, as to die position of officers. First of all, it must be remembered that we are not proposing^ to establish a standing army of permanent soldiers. The men who will command our troops will not be permanent officers. The only permanent officers we shall have will be the members of the
Instructional Staff. Obviously, as war is a science, those who are to teach it should be scientifically trained. To give instructions in any branch of science highly scientific men are required. If a man is to become competent in the science of war as in the science of chemistry, or any other branch of science, he must start young, be educated in it, and make it his profession. Therefore, we lay it down in this Bill that the instructional officers who will not have command of regiments, companies, brigades, or divisions, but will be the instructors of those who will command, shall be scientifically trained from youth onwards. They must make this science the profession of their lives. But this does not necessarily conflict in any way with the idea suggested by Senator Stewart, and, as under Napoleon, every man in the ranks may have in his knapsack the baton of a field marshal. The Bill specially provides that before any man can obtain a commission, he must have served in the ranks. There will, under this Bill, be no promotion as there has been in the past of men straight from civil life to a commission in the forces of the Commonwealth. The officers who will actually command the troops will have first of all to serve in the ranks. Senator Stewart will understand that when the Bill provides that after five years no officer shall be appointed who has not been through the Military College, the reference is to officers of the Instructional Staff, whose duty it will be to teach the officers who will command the troops.
– Will the instructional officers go into the field?
– Of course, in the event of war, we shall avail ourselves of the services of every officer we have. But the duties of the officers of the Instructional Staff in time of peace will be merely to teach and administer our military organization. Senator Stewart will agree that the Bill carries out the idea he has in mind.
– I am satisfied.
– With reference to Senator St. Ledger’s remarks about the junior cadets, it is not necessary that I should go over what I said on the second reading of the Bill. First of all, we provide, at considerable expense, for a staff of instructors in physical drill and exercises. They will be permanent men, distributed throughout the States. They will attend at suitable times and places to in struct the teachers of our primary and State schools in physical exercises, and those teachers, in turn, will instruct the junior cadets. We are going to provide all junior cadets with miniature rifles, and all schools with miniature rifle ranges. This work will involve a very considerable expenditure. We also intend to provide that existing cadet officers shall be continued, in order to instruct our junior cadets in elementary exercises and drill. But, at the present time, we do not consider that we have sufficient money to spare to enable us to provide those cadets with uniforms ; and we do not regard the payment of a partial subsidy towards supplying them with uniforms as a satisfactory proposal. It must also be recollected that under the old cadet system service by the lads was voluntary; whereas we now compel them to join the Cadet Forces. In former times, if a parent could not afford to purchase a uniform for his son, the lad simply did not join the Cadet Forces. But now we say that he must join them. Therefore, whilst in the past we have given only a grant in aid of the uniforms, in the future we shall have to provide the whole of the uniforms.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - What is the estimated number of the junior cadets?
– There must be over 50,000, because there are more than 100,000 cadets between fourteen and eighteen years of age.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould, - When a cadet reaches fourteen years of age the Government will provide him with a full uniform?
– Yes. The expenditure that will be incurred under this Bill will aggregate nearly £2,000,000 annually. When the Budget papers are available, honorable senators will see that we have incurred a huge expenditure. If we had £100,000 to spare, there are a dozen different things upon which it might well be expended. But when I am given the choice between spending money in supplying junior cadets with uniforms and spending it on some of the things which are necessary to make our Defence Force more efficient, I am sure that Senator Gould will not suggest that I should spend it upon the uniforms. It is like asking one to choose whether he will have windows in his house, or whether he will paint it. When the honorable senator comes to peruse the Budget papers, he will see that our defence expenditure has increased enormously, and he will also realize that we could have very well spent a good deal more in that direction. I would further point out that, in two years’ time, none of these lads will be without uniforms, because, when they reach fourteen years of age, the Government will provide them with uniforms. I do not intend to discuss the question of immigration, because a very effective Bill will shortly be submitted to honorable senators, which will disclose the reasons for the stagnation of settlement in Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I have much pleasure in moving
That this Bill be now read a second time.
My colleague and myself are of opinion that two small Bills which have been standing on the business-paper for some time ought to be pushed forward, “ if possible, before honorable senators are called upon to deal with larger measures. This Bill is one of them. It is a measure which can scarcely be described as a party one in any sense of the word. Some considerable time ago, the attention of the then Prime Minister, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives was called to a collection which was in the possession of the gentleman who is referred to in the agreement which is attached to this Bill. With the assistance and concurrence of the Library Committee, they arrived at the conclusion that, in the best interests of Australia, the Library of the Commonwealth should be supplemented by that collection, which in future will be found to be of considerable value. I have been informed that, if the collection had been allowed to become dispersed - that is to say, if no action had been taken at the time - it would, at no very distant date, have cost nearly £30,000 to purchase it. The matter having been considered from that point of view, it was deemed advisable that the collection should be secured for the Commonwealth, and accordingly action was taken, which is embodied in the two short agreements attached to the Bill. As there are honorable senators present who in the past were members of the Library Committee, they will doubtless be able to afford the Senate such information as will be required to enable it to arrive at a speedy decision in regard to this matter.
Debate (on motion by Senator Lt. Colonel Sir Albert Gould) adjourned.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
It is a small measure, to which I hope honorable senators will be prepared to give their serious consideration, with a view to advancing it to the report stage this afternoon. It does not involve any question of policy, but is of a purely administrative character. The Minister of External Affairs, with whose Department the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act rests, has for some time past experienced certain difficulties in the administration of that Act. It is for the purpose of removing those difficulties that a few short amendments to the principal Act are proposed in this Bill. In the principal Act, it is provided that immigrants entering Australia under certain conditions may remain here for twelve months. The Act also limits the time for taking action against a prohibited immigrant to twelve months. Consequently, if an immigrant who is subsequently found to be an undesirable person fulfils the conditions set forth in the Statute for that period, the time has passed when he can be deported, or when the educational test can be applied to him. The amendment which is proposed in clause 2 is to strike, out the period of twelve months within which action must be taken, with a view to making it two years.’ I do not think that any honorable senator can object to that. Clause 3 of the Bill is intended to amend section 9A of the principal Act, by omitting the words “ for the purposes of this section.” Its effect will simply be to broaden the scope of the Statute. Clause 4 seeks to amend section 9D of the principal Act. Under the existing law there is no adequate provision requiring the captains of vessels, upon their arrival in Australia, to report whether or not they have prohibited immigrants aboard. This clause will make it necessary for them, immediately on their arrival in port, to report to the proper authorities whether or not they have any such immigrants aboard. Clause 5 introduces a proposed new section, i2A, to deal with the introduction and concealment of prohibited immigrants. At present nothing can be done with aiders and abettors, and the Minister desires power to deal with persons on board a ship who have had some connexion with the introduction of prohibited immigrants, and have assisted in concealing them on the ship, or keeping them away from justice after they have succeeded in landing them. I believe that it is the desire of honorable senators to make the principal Act- really effective, and, as the proposed amendments have been found necessary for its proper administration, there should be no objection offered to them. Clause 5 also introduces a proposed new section, 12B, to enable the Department to effectively deal with the case of false naturalization papers. I am sure that many honorable senators will admit that some of the very innocent-looking Orientals who have come here would almost deceive Satan himself with their urbanity and their smiles. Very often a man, fifty or sixty years old, who has had a birth certificate, or a certificate of some description, given to him in some of the States, has left Australia and died abroad. But, by-and-by, a young man, nineteen or twenty years of age, has arrived, and presented a birth certificate which ought to belong to a man sixty or seventy years of- age.
– Yes ; these men have gone a long distance on their innocence. This clause introduces a proposed new section for the purpose of dealing with all those who come here with false certificates of any description, stopping the leaks in the Act, and preventing fraud being perpetrated on the -Department. Clause 6 amends section 14 of the Act by omitting the words, ‘ ‘ every member of the police force of any State, and.” This is done because the words “ every officer “ are sufficient. Clause 7 embodies a consequential amendment, while the next and last clause introduces a new section, empowering “ any officer “ to search a vessel or vehicle for prohibited immigrants. In the administration of the Act some difficulties have arisen with respect to the power of officers to make a search in certain circumstances. In regard to a boat or a cab or a house their action has been, to some extent, circumscribed. The proposed new section extends the power of search to any officer, so that there may be no difficulties placed in the way of the Department in the detection of prohibited immigrants and the effective administration of the Act. These are the amendments which are embodied in this short Bill. I know that every honorable senator desires the laws of the Commonwealth to be made so perfect that evasion of them will be almost impossible, and, therefore, I feel sure that the Senate will give the Minister of External Affairs every assistance in an honest attempt to caulk up the leaks in the existing legislation, and make it really effective.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [5.20]. - I do not know that honorable senators could do otherwise than continue the consideration of this Bill, as I presume the Minister is anxious that it should be passed as early as possible. It deals, as he pointed out, with matters of administration only. Our policy with regard to prohibited immigrants was debated years ago and settled. I agree with Senator McGregor that when any leaks in an Act are discovered, steps should be. taken by Parliament to get rid of the leaks, and so enable the law to be carried out as was originally intended. We may settle a policy here, but if we do not make the necessary provisions we may find that the Act was so weakly framed that it will not enable any breaches to be discovered and dealt with in such a way as to deter otherpersons from committing similar breaches. On that ground, I concur in the desirability of passing this Bill. There are, however, one or two matters which rail for some consideration. Clause 2 amends section 5 of the principal Act by increasing the period within which a prosecution may take place thereunder from one year to two years, and by introducing a new subsection. The period of one year was allowed to stand when the Act was recently amended, and the .proposed enlargement of it calls ‘for some justification. We all want a period to be fixed within which it will not be possible for the Government to take proceedings against an individual’, perhaps without any justification, or under a mistaken idea. Of course, I freely admit that it is necessary to have some provision to enable the Government if they believe that a person has got into the Commonwealth in fraud of the Act, to take proceedings against him within a reasonable period.
– Why should any length of time expiate a fraud?
– Why should the lapse of a period abolish the right of a man to recover a debt which is due to him? It is simply to quieten things, and not to keep persons in a perpetual state of turmoil. Only the other day a woman was charged with being a prohibited immigrant on the ground that she was a person of colour, and the defence was that she was not a person of colour within the meaning of the Act, but a European who, in consequence of having gone to a tropical country, had got rather brown. Unless cases in fraud of the Immigration Restriction Act can be cited, I do not think that honorable senators should be called upon to alter the period within which a prosecution may be instituted from one year to two years. If a person fails to comply with the requirements of the Act he ought to be prosecuted. We recognised years ago that there must be a period within which to vindicate the law, and we decided that one year was enough.
– Experience has proved that it has not been enough.
– The honorable senator makes that statement, but we have not had any instances cited in which the law has been evaded in consequence of that period being fixed. I want the Senate to be satisfied that there is a need for making the proposed alteration. If it can be shown that the law has been evaded for want of the proposed extension, I shall have nothing more to say on the point.
– The honorable senator has missed the point that a prohibited immigrant may be in the Commonwealth twelve months before the Department can possibly take action.
– Does not “ that tell rather against the administration of the Act by subordinate officers?
– During a period of twelve months the Department can take no action.
– Why not?
– A prohibited immigrant might be under a bond for twelve months, and he might remain here afterwards in defiance of the law,4 because the period fixed in section 5 had expired.
– If the honorable senator will refer to the law he will see that during the term of the bond the man is not a prohibited immigrant; but the moment it expires he becomes a prohibited immigrant, and unquestionably the other period of twelve months runs from that event, and does not cover the period during which the bond was in existence. It naturally and properly should be so. If a person arrives in Australia and is permitted under the authority of the Government to remain here for six months, he is not a prohibited immigrant during that period. But if, at the end of that period, he has not left the country, he becomes a prohibited immigrant from the date at which his authority to remain expires ; and the period of twelve months would probably be reckoned from that date, and not from the day when he arrived. There are several clauses that appear to me to be necessary and reasonable in order to make the existing Act work more effectually. But I take exception to others. Clause 6 proposes to amend section 14 of the principal Act by omitting the words ‘ ‘ every member of the police force of any State.” The Vice-President of the Executive Council did not appear to me to explain sufficiently why those words should be eliminated.
– A police officer is already an officer under the Act.
– If every member of a police force has been created an officer under the Act the objection that I was going to take is obviated. The only advantage of the amendment is that it gets rid of certain unnecessary words. But clause 8 proposes to introduce new principles. The first part of it would enable any officer to stop and search any vessel or vehicle in which hehad reason to suspect any prohibited immigrant to be. That provision leaves it open to any officer or constable, without a warrant, at his own sweet will, to stop and search any vessel without having, in the first instance, to go before a magistrate and satisfy him that a warrant should be issued. It may be said that it is necessary in emergencies for the officers to act immediately. That may be an excuse for placing this wide power in the hands of police officers. While we must recognise that, as a rule, the police are vigilant and desirous of performing their duty reasonably and fairly, still there are times when police officers have, through ignorance, or it may be from dislike of individuals, transgressed the bounds of fairness. That is serious enough; but it would be still more serious for a police officer to prevent a vessel from leaving an Australian port on the alleged ground that he suspected that she had & prohibited immigrant on board. Such action might do serious injury to a shipowner, whose only remedy would be to bring an action against an individual who might not pecuniarily be worth a snap of the finger.
– That is exaggerating the danger.
– If the honorable senator had a greater knowledge of what has taken place he would know that what I have said is by no means an exaggeration of what is possible. Again, it is provided that any officer may, at any reasonable hour in the day time, enter any building or place in which he has reason to believe a prohibited immigrant to be. Here, also, no protection whatever is afforded by requiring the officer to go before a magistrate and obtain a warrant to authorize a search.
– While the officer was doing that the bird might have flown.
– This provision would enable a policeman to enter my house at any hour of the day, on the plea that he had reason to believe that there was a prohibited immigrant within. He might enter without a search warrant, and cause a considerable amount of annoyance. He might not be wearing a uniform, and might be a total stranger to me. I might say, “ Who are you?” He might say, “I am an officer under the law, and am authorized to search your premises.” He might refuse to show me any authority, and, if I kicked him out, I should be liable to an action. Moreover, suppose that in kicking him out, he was seriously injured, or had his neck broken. I should then be in a serious position. Why should any man, without having any authority to show, be empowered to enter the premises of another ?
– The Officer would have the authority of the Act.
– Suppose the honorable senator himself came to my house, and said that he was an officer entitled to make a search. Suppose that I did not know him, and asked for his authority. Would it not be the simplest thing in the world for him to produce an authority signed by a senior officer and entitling him to make the search ?
– An officer is given power to arrest without warrant; and what is the use of having the power of arrest if the officer has not the power of search without warrant i
– The danger to which I refer could be obviated by requiring an officer to carry an authority from a superior officer. I do not even urge that he should be required to obtain a warrant from a magistrate.
– Supposing a Chinaman got away from the Haymarket, iri Sydney, what chance would an officer have of catching him?
– That applies with regard to a man who commits a crime in London. Suppose he commits burglary, robbery, or murder. He has the same opportunity of getting away as a Chinaman would have in Sydney. What I particularly urge is that a policeman, or Customs officer, exercising authority under this measure should carry a document signed by a superior officer, authorizing »him to carry out his functions. The draftsman of this Bill has recognised that there are times when a person ought not to enter the house of another.; He has, therefore, inserted the words “ at any reasonable hour in the day time.”
– But a ship may be stopped at any time, day or night.
– It is going too far to leave Lt in the power of any understrapper to exercise this power of search. It is a recognised principle of British law that a man’s house is his castle, and that he is entitled to remain unmolested in it, except it be invaded by due process of law. The exercise of this power should be surrounded’ by certain safeguards, to prevent injustice to individuals. I do not make this criticism from captious motives. The matter is worthy of serious consideration. Our law is, in many respects, being put upon a different basis from that of thirty years ago. In some cases that is being done with great advantage. Under our Customs Act an averment can be made which is to be regarded as true, unless the contrary is proved. There is always a. danger of abuse in such cases. In the history of the operation of the CommonwealthCustoms Act, there have been Gases which have not been creditable to the administration, and people have in consequence been placed in false positions. This is why I say we should be very careful when proposing a departure from lines laid down with very great care and after years of experience. I am not one of those who, because a practice is old, believe that it should always be continued. I believe that we are progressing as the years go by, and in the more advanced legislation of the present day we have left old land-marks and established new ones. But when a departure is proposed from an established principle, it should be fully justified, and we should be very careful that it will not lead to injustice. If the Minister could see his way to accept an amendment of the clause providing that the authority of a senior officer of the Customs Department, or a magistrate should be required, my objection to it would be removed.
– 1 have only a word or two to say on the Bill. . I have always protested against the suggestion that a man should be considered guilty until he has proved that he is innocent. That is contrary to the principle of the law under which we were reared in the Old Country that a man shall be supposed to be innocent until he is proved to be guilty. The proposed new sub-section 3 of section 5 of the Act leads -
In any prosecution under the last preceding sub-section, the averment of the prosecutor contained in the information that the defendant is an immigrant and has entered the Commonwealth within two years before, failing to pass the dictation test, shall be deemed to be proved in the absence of proof to the contrary.
I object to the principle of that provision. There may be cases in which its application would be permissible, but, as a rule, it is a bad principle. With regard to the provision to which Senator Gould referred, I think it is necessary that there should be a definition of the words “ reasonable cause.” What might be considered a reasonable cause by one person might not be viewed in the same way by another.
– It is a very difficult thing to define.
– And it is, therefore, in my opinion, very objectionable. Under this Bill an officer of the Department, for what he believed to be a reasonable cause, might prevent the sailing of a vessel from Sydney or Melbourne.
– He should satisfy some one in a superior position that he acts from a reasonable cause.
– I think that an amendment to that effect would overcome the difficulty.
– Although we are in entire sympathy with the policy of this Bill, I think the Minister should give some reason why the Government propose to make the administration of the law more drastic. He may have information from the Department, and may know of concrete instances which justify the proposal, but I think the information should be given to honorable senators. I direct attention to the use of the words, “ who is directly or indirectly concerned,” in the proposed new section 1 2 a. I take it that it is upon the advice of the Crown Law officers that these words were inserted, but I think it would be much better if the words “ directly or indirectly “ were omitted. There are stupid officers in the Customs Department as in every other Government Department, and more injury is done by the acts of stupid officers than by those of deliberately malicious officers. A man comes into this country in violation of the Immigration Restriction Act, and proceeds to some country place. Some person may give him food or shelter, or show him on his way without any knowledge that he is a prohibited immigrant, and that person might, by a stupid 01 malicious officer of the Department, be brought up and grave injustice might be done him. If the words “ directly or indirectly “ were left out, the Department would still- have ample power to deal with the matter without injustice to any person. It is a virtue in the drafting of a Statute not to make it too extensive. Qualifying words should be used with great care in drafting, as well as in the construction of a law. In sub-section 2 of the proposed new section 14b it is provided that -
Any officer may at any reasonable hour in the day time enter any building premises or place in which he has reasonable cause to believe any prohibited immigrant to be, and search the building premises or place to ascertain whether any prohibited immigrant is therein.
Under our Excise Act the departmental officers are given very great powers, and for sufficient reasons. But speaking now from . memory of the Queensland Excise law, an officer is required to have a special warrant to carry out the provisions of the law.
– That is not necessary. This is just the same as smuggling.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that an Excise officer can without a warrant enter premises in which he believes there is an illicit still ‘t
– Then the Federal Excise law must be entirely different in that respect- from the State law. I can remember when warrants under the State Excise law in Queensland were being considered and framed. Only certain Excise officers are vested with the discretion to enter places in which it is supposed illicit stills are operated, and they require to have a special warrant with them.
– Even in Great Britain that is not necessary, and every coastguardsman is expected to prevent smuggling.
– Surely the honorable senator does not contend that an officer of the Department, at his own sweet U ill, should be allowed to enter a house to search for a. prohibited immigrant, without a warrant?
– Under the existing Act an officer can make an arrest without a warrant.
– It may be advisable to permit an officer to make an arrest without a warrant. If a man is arrested wrongfully without a warrant he has a remedy against the Government, who are responsible for the acts of their officers. But to permit an officer of the Department to enter a house without a warrant is quite a different thing. We are not suggesting that the hands of the Department should be tied, but we cannot disregard the dictates of elementary justice. When an officer of the Department! .enters a house, he should be armed with a warrant, or at least with a written authority, guaranteeing his bona fides and his relation to the Department. I hope that Ministers will not object if we suggest in Committee an amendment of this provision requiring that the officer concerned shall at least carry with him a written authority from a superior officer to execute the powers proposed. In other respects there can be no objection to the Bill, which seeks to carry out a policy already adopted.
Sentor RAE (New South Wales) [5.56]. - I regret very much that the Acting Leader of the Opposition, and his colleagues, were not members of the Parliament of New South Wales when the State party they represent recently passed a law which is commonly known as “ Wade’s Coercion Act.” Under that law to-day a constable of the rank of a sergeant, or above that rank, can enter any man’s house day or night. He can burst the place open, and, if necessary, blowit up, and seize papers and documents if he believes that persons are meeting there for the purpose of instigating a strike.
– Even in the extreme case the honorable senator cites, it is not left to any member of the police force, but to a constable of a certain rank, and the presumption is that a man of that rank is possessed of a certain amount of discretion.
– I have said that he must be a sergeant or above that rank, but men of that rank and’ above it are not incapable of making blunders, or beyond being actuated by malice. Under the law to which I have referred a man’s house may be burst open or entered with any force considered necessary, and without a warrant, if a constable believes that persons are meeting there for the purpose of instigating a strike. They may be engaged in a prayer meeting, or a mother’s meeting, but if the constable believes that they are meeting in order to instigate a strike, he is at liberty, without a warrant, to use whatever means he pleases to secure anentrance, and to make arrests. I again express my regret that Senator Gould, with his tender solicitude for the rights of the subject, was not a member of the State
Parliament when this coercive and reactionary measure was passed. It is a pity that such benighted legislation as was passed recently in the Parliament of New South Wales should be due to the fact that Senator Gould has left the State for the Federal arena in politics. It appear* to me that the object of the Bill now before us is to secure the apprehension of prohibited immigrants who are trying t<> evade the law. These are usually coloured’ aliens, and they go at once to the haunts of their fellow countrymen, who so much resemble one another that it is very difficult to trace them. I do not wish to see Australia a police-ridden country, by any means, but if the authority suggested byhonorable members opposite were necessary the prohibited immigrant might make good his escape while the officer went to a superior to get it. The object of this provision is to insure promptitude, so as toenable arrests to be made of those whodesire to escape. For that reason, and as- the measure is a mere machinery one, I think it is unnecessary to do what the honorable senator suggests. At the same time, the Bill is not merely intended to stop leaks. It is more particularly designed to stop Chinks. Consequently, the more promptitude is displayed by our officers the less likely are we to allow these child-like and bland heathens to get the better of us. We ought to give the widest possible powers to our officials, and I do not suppose that any of them will desire to turn anybody’s house upside down for the sake of mere fun. It is all very well to compare smuggled goods with prohibited immigrants. But there is this difference : that the prohibited immigrant, being a man with conscious intelligence, may escape, whereas 150 tins of opium cannot be so easily smuggled away. I regret that the honorable senator did not use his great influence to prevent the members of his party from putting upon the New South Wales statute-book what is known as Wade’s Coercion Act.
– I regard this Bill in the same light as I do the Customs Act. It will be administered in precisely the same way. It is intended to apply to those persons who seek to evade the provisions of our Immigration Restriction Act. Section 197 of the Customs Act of 190 1 reads -
Any officer of Customs or police upon reasonable suspicion may stop and search any carriage for the purpose of ascertaining whether any dutiable goods are contained therein, and the driver of any carriage shall stop and permit such search whenever required by any such officer.
Penalty : Twenty pounds.
That provision was enacted in the early days of Federation, and is intended to apply to smuggled goods in exactly the same way as it is proposed to apply this Bill to smuggled aliens.
– The section which the honorable senator has quoted reads : ‘ ‘ Any officer of Customs or police.” That does not mean an ordinary policeman. An “officer” under the Customs Act includes all persons in the employ of the Customs, whereas ‘ ‘ officer ‘ ‘ under this Bill means an ordinary policeman.
– An “officer” under the definition section of the Customs Act does not include the police.
– Does this provision in the Bill refer exclusively to coloured aliens?
– It refers to prohibited immigrants.
– Not to Europeans.
– A man may be a prohibited immigrant by reason of being diseased, or of being a criminal. Let honorable senators imagine the case of a ship lying in Sydney Harbor with a criminal on board who wishes to land in that city. I have seen hundreds of men escape from their ships by dropping over the bow at night into a boat, and being rowed ashore. Ought not our Customs officers to have power to search vessels under such circumstances ? But if we first require them to consult the Collector of Customs or an officer of police, or a justice of the peace, a prohibited immigrant will be able to get ashore, without any prospect of being afterwards discovered. The only way to prevent him doing so would be to make every Customs officer a justice of the peace.
– But the prohibited immigrant could be arrested the very moment he landed.
– How would our officers know where he was going to land? He would take good care not to land at Circular Quay, seeing that there are plenty of other spots in Sydney Harbor at which he could land safely. I would further point out that under the Customs Act a Customs officer has the right to do all that is proposed in this Bill, not only in the day time, but at night. He may board any vessel, and search every part of her, even the private accommodation of. the crew or passengers, and by an order of the Collector he may be stationed on board, when the ship is required to feed him.
– But he must be a person who is employed by the Customs Department.
– There is nothing more stringent in this Bill than is to be found in the Acts which the honorable senator has assisted to pass ever since this Parliament was called into existence. In some countries, such as France, Spain, and Portugal, the Customs laws are a great deal stricter than are our own. I hope that the Bill will pass in its present form.
– I have listened very attentivelyto all that has been urged both for and against this little Bill. Honorable senators must admit that if we are going to administer a law which is already in existence, we must extend its provisions in any direction which experience may suggest is desirable. A great deal of attention has been devoted to the last clause of the Bill, which relates to the searching of vessels. But I would point out that under a preceding provision an officer has power to arrest without warrant. That being so, would not a very nice position arise if an officer suspected that a prohibited immigrant was aboard a vessel, or in a cab, or in a house, and he had not authority to make a search for him in order to exercise the power of arrest without warrant, which he possesses? I would point out to Senator Gould, and Senator St. Ledger in particular, that under British law it was a grand old principle of the old days that a man should always be . presumed to be innocent until he was proved to be guilty. But nowadays the custom is to regard every person as guilty until he has established his innocence. I need scarcely remind honorable senator that the facilities for evading the law which exist now, did not exist in the old days. Therewere not then the fast steamers, launches, and taxi-cabs of modern times. In those days when a British Fleet came within range of an enemy’s port at night it was customary not to open fire upon it, but to wait until morning, and then to forward an intimation of its intentions. But I venture to say that Great Britain would be in a very queer position to-day if she attempted to give effect to that grand old policy. It is just the same with every piece of legislation that we enact at the present time. If we do not adopt precautions to close every loophope for evasion, we shall find that people have become so much more active, energetic, and cunning in the matter of doing wrong that our legislation will be ineffective. Therefore, I say that when an officer has reason to suspect that a prohibited immigrant is in a vehicle, vessel, or house, he should be empowered to arrest him straight away. If he has first to go to some other person for authority to arrest him, the sheen of his buttons will scarcely be out of sight before the immigrant will be transported to another place where the officer will have no suspicion of his existence. The Bill represents an honest attempt to make existing legislation effective without doing anything which will outrage the best interests of the people of the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Amendment of section 5).
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [6.15].- I should like to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to assign some reason for increasing the period within which action may be taken against an immigrant from one to two years?
– There are occasions upon which the greatest publicity does not conduce to the greatest safety. I have already said that in the old days when a British Fleet anchored before the port of an enemy at night it would not open fire upon it, but would wait till the following morning, when it would send the enemy notification of its intentions before putting them into execution. If Senator Gould will possess his soul in peace, I shall give him privately the reasons.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
After section twelve of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted : - “ 12A. Every person who is directly or in directly concerned in -
the bringing or coming to the Commonwealth of any immigrant, under circumstances which lead to the inference that the immigrant intended to land in the Commonwealth secretly or without the knowledge of an officer; or
the concealing of any immigrant with intent to enable him to land in the Commonwealth secretly. . . .
– I suggest to the Minister the de sirableness of omitting the words “ directly or indirectly.”
– Would the provision mean the same then?
– Yes. The words introduce two dangerous qualifications, of which one may obstruct the Department and the other may do an injustice. Unless the phrase “every person who is concerned “ is used, it may lead to an injustice, and also to some trouble.
– It will let out somebody who is very much responsible.
– How ?
– The man who had paid the fare would only be indirectly concerned.
– No matter what act a person might take, he would be concerned in bringing immigrants secretly to the Commonwealth, but if the words “ directly or indirectly “ are retained we shall have a limitation. Surely every person who is concerned in these practices must be guilty of an offence against the Act, and liable to the penalty of £roo, or six months’ imprisonment, or to buin.
– He might not be concerned in bringing out the man, but he might be concerned in hiding him.
– Would he not be concerned all the time? The phrase “directly or indirectly” is not used in section 12 of the Act. I thought that there might be some support for its use- in this clause from the Crown law officers. If the Minister says that he will resist an amendment to omit the words I shall not press the point.
– T shall stick to the Bill as it is.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 -
After section fourteen a of the Principal Act the following section is inserted : - “ 14B. - (1.) Any officer may stop and search any vessel or vehicle in which he has reason to suspect any prohibited immigrant to be. “ (2.) Any officer may, at any reasonable hour in the day time, enter any building premises or place in which he has reasonable cause to believe any prohibited immigrant to be, and search the building premises or place to ascertain whether any prohibited immigrant is therein.”
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [6.20].- In his second- reading speech Senator Guthrie alluded to the powers of search which are given in the Customs Act and the Excise Act. In the Customs Act, “officer” is defined to include “ all persons employed in the service of the Customs,” and the Excise Act contains a similar definition. Those Acts give a certain amount of protection, which is not given so fully in this measure. The principal Act does not give any protection, and only a limited protection is given in the Bill. It is clear from the Customs Act and the Excise Act. who are the officers referred to therein, but it is not clear on the face of it that any police officer can take such action as is indicated in proposed new section 14b.
– Look at section 100 of the Excise Act.
.- It reads-
Any officer of Customs or police may without warrant arrest any person whom he has reasonable cause to believe is guilty of -
unlawfully manufacturing any excisable goods i
unlawfully receiving carrying conveying or having upon his premises or in his custody or under his control any excisable goods ;
being found without lawful excuse upon any premises where excisable goods are being illegally manufactured.
That does not go to the extent of enabling an officer to break into a house or a ship for the purpose of searching because he has, or thinks he has, reasonable cause for taking that course.
– He may enter, but he cannot break in.
– Under the Customs Act he can.
– I admit at once that many drastic powers were given, and properly given, in the Customs Act and the Excise Act ; but I would remind the Committee that they have been abused. I have a clear recollection of the discussion which took place here when they were asked for. The then representative of the Government - ex-Senator O’Connor - said that he could not imagine that any man would exercise the powers in other than a reasonable manner and in justifiable circumstances. With that assurance, the powers were granted, but they have been abused by men occupying important positions under the Commonwealth Government. When I find that Ministers will not listen to my suggestion, and will adhere to the provision in their Bill, I give them credit for sincerity of purpose, but I decline to assume the responsibility which properly belongs to them. I consider that I have done my duty in directing their attention to the terms of the proposed new section.
– I point out that, after all. the Department may not be able to carry out all which it intends to carry out by this provision. The power to enter does not confer the power to break in, and that is why I drew attention To the fact that under the Excise Act, in certain circumstances, an officer needs to have a special warrant.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 25th August, vide page 2056) :
Clause 4 -
Any Joint Stock Banking Company before carrying any moneys to the credit of such reserve fund shall appoint by deed under its common seal not more than five nor less than three trustees of such reserve fund, but of these not more than one shall be a director, and all of them shall have been previously approved by the company in general meeting assembled by a three-fifths majority of the shareholders present in . person and voting at such meeting, and as soon as such trustees have been so appointed their appointment shall be notified in the Commonwealth Gazette under the name of the president, or governor, or chairman and the general manager or the manager for the time being of the company, and immediately upon such notification and from thenceforth the said trustees shall be and they are hereby constituted a body corporate by the name of incorporation mentioned in such notification and shall have perpetual succession and a common seal and power to sue and be sued in their corporate name and to hold and acquire and to convey and assign any present or future property belonging to or held for the purpose of the trust fund subject to the provisions hereinafter contained. “ Trustee “ within the meaning of this section includes a public trustee company.
.- It is too much to ask the Committee to assent to this clause without hearing any information from the honorable senator in charge of the Bill.
– The object of the clause is plain to any one who will read it. Some alterations were made in it at the request of Senator Givens himself.
– Will the trustees who are to be appointed be removable or not?
– Certainly they will be removable. A subsidiary corporation will have to be formed, and there will be a clause in its articles providing for the removal of trustees. There will be a trust deed, of which the shareholders must approve. I cannot understand any subsidiary corporation being formed without a provision for the appointment and removal of trustees. The corporation will . have to receive the approval of three-fourths of the shareholders at a special meeting called for the purpose. Each bank will arrange its own conditions.
– The whole gravamen of the objection to this clause is that it provides that certain trustees sha”ll be appointed to have charge of certain funds created for a certain purpose.
That purpose, as frankly set forth, not only in the preamble to the Bill, but inthe clause itself, is to safeguard the interests of the shareholders. But the trustees will be of absolutely no use if they are to be removable at the beck and call of the company. Suppose that a banking company in time of stress wanted to get at this trust fund. They could get at it if they had power to get at the trustees ; and they could get at the trustees if they were removable. The fund should be absolutely outside the control of the directors.
– The shareholders will find the money.
– But the money is to be set aside for a certain purpose. No one should have the right to use it for any other purpose.
– The honorable senator should suggest a better method.
– I am not in charge of the Bill. I look upon this, rightly or wrongly, as the most dangerous measure that has ever been introduced in the Commonwealth Parliament. The only strong reason that has been put forward in favour of it is that Senator Walker is “ such a nice man. “ None of us denies that. But every innocent girl who has lost her virtue has had to mourn for it because the tempter was “ such a nice man . “ That kind of reasoning does not weigh with me. We have to regard this Bill on its merits or demerits, as the case may be. No trust fund can be of any service in the event of an emergency arising if the trustees can be got at ; and most certainly they can be got at if they are removable.
– Is it not better to remove trustees who ave not doing right than to appoint them for the term of their natural life, even though they may do wrong ?
– But the question is who has the right to remove them? What is the object for which this trust fund is to be created? According to Senator Walker, it is to safeguard the interests of shareholders. He alleges that there is also the subsidiary object of safeguarding the interests of the public. That being so, I maintain that the fund should be vested in a public official, appointed by the public officers of the country - that is to say, by the Government. The directors of the company should have no power to remove them. A trust fund is useless unless it can be guaranteed to be there if wanted for the purposes for which it was created. That is an axiom which cannot be disputed. The only way to safeguard the trust fund is to provide that the trustees appointed to safeguard it shall not be removable by the men whose interest it may be to rob the trust fund at any time when it may suit them. It is quite conceivable that in a time of stress the directors of a bank might say, “ Unless we can get some resource from outside, we must go under. If we could only lay our hands upon halfamillion of money, we should be able to pull through. Here is this trust fund. It is our money. We should like to use it. But how are we to get at it? It is in the hands of trustees, and they will not give it to us unless we exercise pressure.” If the directors were able to exercise pressure, undoubtedly they would do so, and this Bill gives them the power.
-No; there are law Courts to stop that sort of thing.
– The law is as we make it, and we are making it by means of this Bill.
– We are providing what shall be done with the money.
– As long as the trustees are removable at the will of the directors, those directors will be able to do as they like with the trust fund. Even Governments have not kept their hands off trust funds. We have known cases in Australia in which even trust funds provided for the superannuation of officers have been raided by Treasurers, and Parliaments have condoned their action. The same thing might happen here.
– Any one shareholder could block the directors from doing what the honorable senator suggests.
– How much interest is taken by the general body of shareholders in the proceedings at the yearly and halfyearly meetings of banks? Usually not half-a-dozen shareholders attend.
– We have 150 shareholders at the half-yearly meetings of the Bank of New South Wales.
– The general experience of companies is that the directors can bull-doze their shareholders every time, and they do it very persistently. Unless the clause be re-drafted in such a way as to provide that a public trustee shall be appointed who will be beyond the influence of the directors and will safeguard the fund, I shall urge the Committee to vote against it.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [8.0].- It should not be necessary to remind Senator Givens that we have 110 public trustee in the Commonwealth who might be charged with the custody of this fund.
– Have we not trustee companies ?
– They are private companies, and not Government officials. They are appointed by legislation, to act as trustees in the various States, and their powers are defined. But even in public trustee companies there are boards of directors who, according to Senator Givens, might bulldoze their shareholders. The suggestion he makes would not help us forward one bit. The clause provides that trustees of the proposed fund may be appointed by a three-fifths majority of a meeting of shareholders. We should require special legislation to enable a public trustee who was a Government officer to undertake the duties of trustees under this Bill. The clause provides that, instead of intrusting the proposed reserve fund to a trustee company it shall be placed in the hands of three trustees to be selected at a meeting of the shareholders.
– A trustee company might be one of the trustees appointed.
– That is so. Senator Givens’ principal objection to the clause is that the trustees would be removable. Senator Findley made a pertinent interjection when he asked whether, if it were found that any of the trustees were not acting properly, it would not be better to have the power to remove them. Senator Givens said that the directors of a bank wishing to secure the money in the fund might appoint newtrustees who would be their pliant tools and give them control of a fund established for a specific purpose under this Bill. My reply to. that is that the new trustees would be just as much bound by the provisions of the Bill as the original trustees. They would have no more right than the former will have to divert the moneys of the fund from the specific purpose for which it was established. We have been told that the directors of a bank might bull-doze the shareholders at a meeting, and, by the way, there are often very many more shareholders at these meetings than Senator Givens imagines, and they take a very keen interest in the business of the bank.
– Nine-tenths of them know nothing about it.
– Possibly, but the other onetenth would know a good deal. If we assume for the sake of argument that directors and shareholders in a bank wish to perpetrate a fraud, for which they might be prosecuted, and in order to do so appoint new trustees, the fact remains that the new trustees cannot divert the fund from the purposes for which it is established. If any attempt were made to do so, one shareholder would have the right to bring it under the notice of the Court, and the Court would restrain those who desired to misappropriate the moneys of the fund. If Senator Givens argues that trustees have made away with funds intrusted to them I admit the fact.
– But in this case that would not relieve the shareholders of their reserve liability.
– That is the kind of thing which it is impossible entirely to prevent. If a man is determined to pick another’s pocket we can punish him for doing so, but we have no law which can prevent him from doing so. A public trustee might make away with moneys placed in his care, and we know that public trustees have done so.
– He would not be subject to pressure.
– The trustees appointed under this clause would not be subjected to presr sure.
– They would be under duress if they did not do what the directors and shareholders desired, because they could be removed.
– The answer is that the new trustees appointed would know that they were appointed for a specific purpose under the law.
– The honorable senator has just admitted that, although we have a law against stealing, some people steal.
SenatorLt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - And I have also said that if a public trustee were appointed to take charge of these reserve liability funds he might be guilty of peculation as well as any one else.
– He would yield only to his own temptation ; he would not be under duress to yield to temptation by others.
– Suppose a public trustee were intrusted with a reserve liability fund of £500,000, and the shareholders and directors of the bank desired tosecure the moneys of the fund for purposes other than that for which it was established, what would there be to prevent them going to the public trustee and saying, “You have £500,000 in trust, give us £400,000 of it, and you can have the other £100,000”? We know, of course, that Senator Givens’ objection is to the Bill as a whole, but the Senate has approved of the Bill.
– No, a majority of the Senate has not approved of the Bill, but has approved of Senator Walker as a very nice man.
– Senator Givens must recognise that the clause now before the Committee merely provides for the way in which the trustees shall be appointed. We may have to consider later the question of their removal. They are to be appointed for a specific purpose, and that is to carry out the provisions of this Bill which has been affirmed by the Senate on the second reading and by the Committee in agreeing to the substantive provision for the proposed reservefund.
– Senator Givens seems to forget that even if such a thing as he supposes were to occur, the shareholders of the bank would still be liable for the reserve liability on their shares. The reserve liability fund would be placed in the hands of the trustees for a specific purpose, and if it were misappropriated it would haveto be replaced by the bank, so that the shareholders and not the public would be at a disadvantage if the moneys of the fund were stolen. I am obliged to SenatorGould for what he has told us. He is a good lawyer, and I bow to his superior knowledge of law. The trustees under this Bill will form a corporation, and cannot be done away with without an Act of” Parliament.
– They may be removed.
– Even if the honorable senator were right in his contention the shareholders would not be relieved of their reserve liability. I trust that the Committee will accept the clause.
– I hope the Committee will not accept the clause merely on the recommendation of two such ardent advocates of it as Senators Walker and Gould.
– Does the honorable senator wish the opponents of the clause to get up and advocate it?
– No, but I want some logical reason why the Committee should accept it. Will Senator McGregor tell me that private trustees appointed in this haphazard fashion and removable at will would be as safe as a public trustee? If he will not take that stand he should hold his peace.
– I am not built that way.
– The honorable senator should contend either that these trustees would be as safe as a public trustee, or that they would not.
– We have no public trustee at present.
– There is no reason why we should not have a .public trustee if such an officer is necessary. Senator Gould has pointed out that private individuals and corporations have been false to their trusts.
– And so have public trustees.
– But if a public trustee is false to his trust the Government of the country are responsible, and the money is safe. If the trustees under this ‘ Bill -were false to their trust the money would be gone- and no one would be safe. There is a radical difference between the two positions. Under this clause three trustees may be appointed by a three-fifths majority of the shareholders of a bank. We know what that means. The directors, who have laid down the law for the shareholders, in running the institution will recommend three trustees for appointment, and the unfortunate shareholders, who do not know anything about anybody, will accept their recommendation ; and let me remind honorable senators that one of the trustees may be a director of the bank. If the other directors and shareholders wish to collar the trust fund they have only to bulldoze one of the other trustees, and they can do what they please. We should not create trust funds with which any one may play ducks, and drakes. We should legislate -in a serious fashion. This Bill is either a good or a bad one. The objects for which it has been introduced are good or bad, and if it is desirable that what is proposed should be done it ought to be done in a proper way. It is the duty of the Committee to see that it is not done improperly. Under this clause it is done in a very improper way.
– That is merely an assertion.
– I am simply putting forward my opinion, and endeavouring to advance reasons why it should find acceptance with honorable senators.
– The honorable senator can submit proof.
-Yes. Senators Gould and Walker have admitted that the trustees may prove false to their trust.
– If they did, who would suffer - certainly not the public.
– Undoubtedly the public would suffer.
– No; it would be the shareholders who would suffer.
– It would be the public, because it would be the public money which would disappear.
– But the shareholders would have to make up the difference.
– The honorable senator wishes to relieve the shareholders of certain banks of a certain reserve liability, notwithstanding that their capital may have entirely disappeared from those banks, and we have known it to disappear previously. We all know that in 1893 some institutions had not enough money to enable them to meet their fixed or current deposits, let alone their note issues. In my judgment, this is the most rotten clause in the Bill. The trustees are to be removable by a vote of three-fifths of the shareholders. I contend that such trustees can be “ got at.” As Senator Walker has remarked, I am opposed to the Bill root and branch. 1 hold that if we remove the penal clause which has been inserted in the Bill, and which Senator Walker wishes to remove-
– I wish to provide for it.
– No. Under this Bill the shareholders and directors of these institutions will have power, not only to look after their own interests, but also after the interests of other people. They will be able to safeguard their own interests, and to let the interests of the public go hang. That being so, I say that if any fund is to be created, it should be created only under such safeguards as will make it absolutely secure. It should be invested in a public trustee appointed by the Government - an officer who is absolutely independent of the shareholders. _ That is a -perfectly reasonable proposition to lay down, and unless the clause be so amended I shall oppose it.
– Upon this occasion I find myself in a very peculiar position. For the rest of my natural life I feel disposed never to have anything in a banking institution except an overdraft, because, according to Senator Givens, such institutions are merely dens of thieves, which are going to do everything possible, even in the matter of the appointment of trustees, to cheat the public and to ruin themselves. What are these trustees to be appointed for? Whose money are they to be appointed to look after? Is it public money, State money, or Commonwealth money? It is money which is to be taken out of the profits of the shareholders, and placed to the credit of a fund to meet their liabilities. But, whilst the fund is intended to meet the liabilities of the shareholders, its creation will not relieve them of one penny of their obligations, either to the depositors or noteholders in any banking institution.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council does net understand the Bill if he says that.
– Nobody understands anything but Senator Givens, and, consequently, he is always opposed to the common sense of everybody else. Is it not very nearly time that he gave credit for good intentions, even in a small degree, to such humble individuals as other honorable senators, instead of arrogating to himself all the knowledge, all the integrity, and all the foresight? He arrogates to himself, in a legislative capacity, everything which, if he were liberal-minded, he would be prepared to share with others. As Senator Walker has truly pointed out, under this Bill it will not matter whether the shareholders appointed Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, and Ananias as trustees, because they would still be responsible for their reserve liability. What are the trustees to be appointed for? To look after a fund which is to be established, and which is intended to grow, so that, if a ci.L-is arose, that reserve liability might be met in another way.
– The trustees may be impenitent thieves !
– They may be; but that fact does not affect the question so far as the note-holders and depositors are concerned. The shareholders propose to establish this fund to meet their ownliabilities. If I had £10,000 worth of notes in a bank, should I not be in a better position if a fund equal to my reserve liability had been built up than if no such fund had been established? I may be a shareholder in a bank to-day, and my reserve liability may be £5,000 or £10,000 At the time, I may be worth £20,000. But next year a crisis may occur, depositors may come rushing for their funds, and, as far as my share of the reserve liability is concerned, I may not have a £5 note. Will it not be better for the public if such a fund be created, even if trustees of a doubtful character be appointed to take charge of it, than if no such fund exists? Further, are all the shareholders and directors of banking institutions either rogues or foo.’s ?
– We have had a very bitter experience of them.
– It is all very well for the honorable senator to talk like that. He, apparently, thinks that everything good is to be found in a public trustee. But I have known a public trustee to rob trust funds, and to get away to one of the South American Republics with a young woman and spend them there. That officer even left a bill for the Government to pay in respect of information regarding the extradition laws of America. I say that the honest intention of Senator Walker is to enable banking institutions toconduct their business in an honest way. There is no intention to be dishonest in the appointment of’ these trustees. If, after a few years, they turn out to be disreputable characters, and levant. with the money, that will be the look out of the shareholders, and not of the note-holders or depositors. Will it not be better for a reserve fund of this description to be established than for no such fund to be in existence?
– According to the VicePresident of the Executive Council, the funds might be taken to South America.
– If they were,, the trustees would scarcely take the shareholders with them, although they mighttake some of the shareholders’ daughters. Consequently, I say that the Bill . represents an honest attempt to give a doublesecurity to various sections of the public. Wl en Senator Walker stated to-night that ihe trustees will be elected by a three-fifths majority of the shareholders, Senator Givens interjected that they were also removable by a majority of the shareholders. That circumstance, I submit, is not affected by this clause. Even assuming that they can be removed by a three-fifths majority of the shareholders, what then? If they are not discharging their duties satisfactorily, the shareholders ought to have the power to remove them. But, if they w’ere removed, and new trustees were appointed, would not the latter occupy an exactly similar position ? What benefit would it be to the shareholders- to remove the trustees unless the latter were administering the fund in a dishonest way? I hold that we ought to support this clause, because it contains nothing to the detriment of the public.
: - I confess that I do not know onetenth as much about the subject-matter of this Bill as does Senator Walker. I am sure that the standing which he occupies in financial circles in Australia fully warrants us in believing that what he is attempting to do is to safeguard the interests of those who have business with the banking institutions of the Commonwealth.
– The Bill will safeguard the interests of the shareholders.
– At the same time, I experience a little difficulty in understanding the measure, and, perhaps, in the course of my remarks, I may be assisted by the interjections which will come from its author.’ Every person who was in Australia during the financial crisis of the early nineties will recollect how many of our banking institutions, with brass plates upon their front doors, toppled over like so many houses of cards. Where, then, was the liability of the shareholders of those institutions? The law provided that noteholders should have an unlimited liability. In the Old Country the shareholders of banks are liable to the extent of their private fortunes. I believe that in the crisis which occurred in Australia in 1893 the shareholders of some banking institutions were placed in the dock.
– Not the shareholders, but the directors.
– But in clause 3 I find a provision to which I invite the attention of honorable senators.
– It is clause 4 which is now before the Committee.
– I believe that it is the earnest intention of Senator Walker to safeguard the interests of note-holders and depositors. It would seem that it is intended out of the profits, the premiums derived from shares, and recovered bad debts, to form a fund to protect the shareholders in regard to their reserve liability. Suppose, for example, that a bank had a legitimate liability of ,£100,000, and the amount in the trust fund came to only £50,000. Would the shareholders escape the reserve liability?
– No ; the other £50,000 would still be payable. In placeof calling on the shareholders to pay the reserve liability, the trustees would, if the bank went into liquidation, say, “ We have £50,000 towards that, but you will haveto get the other ,£50,000 from the shareholders.” Under this Bill, the trusteescould not part with any money, except the bank failed, until they had the whole of the reserve liability in hand.
– No doubt, it is a laudable effort to provide an additional safeguard. I feel that there is something to commend the proposal of Senator Givens, because, after all, banks stand in a wholly different relation to the public from any other trading concern. Banks must have the confidence of the public The latter reciprocate that feeling by accepting the notes of the banks at face value and depositing money with them, and expect to be paid on demand. If there is nosafeguard provided in the shape of a public trustee who will see that the trust fund is devoted to the proper purpose, both the note-holders and depositors will stand in a very awkward position. As regards banking institutions, we have plenty of evidence to the effect that Governments have had to step in and appoint trustees to administer their affairs. The majority of the directors of the Bank of New Zealand are appointed by the Government of New Zealand.
– The New Zealand Government have lent to that bank £[1,000,000, and taken shares therein to the value of ,£500,000, on the condition that they should appoint a majority of itsdirectors. It is, therefore, partly a Government bank.
– I recognise that fact, but it is undoubted that the Government of New Zealand have a paramount interest in the control of the institution. They also appoint the auditors, who, I believe, are authorized to-be present at the deliberations whenever it is proposed to increase the capital, or to make any other important departure. In the case of the Imperial Bank of Germany, the Kaiser appoints the manager. Even in the case of the Bank of Japan, the Mikado appoints the manager. For what purpose? To safeguard the interests of those who have dealings with the bank.
– Does the honorable senator want us to go to Japan for an authority for our legislation ?
– I only made that statement by the way. The best sense of Japan recognises that it is highly desirable that the interests of the vast majority of the residents should be safeguarded in some way ; and the best way, in the judgment of German public opinion, is to see that the bank manager is appointed by the Government, and by no one else. The proposal of Senator Givens is a mild departure from that. He does not require all the trustees of a trust fund to be appointed by the Government. What he demands is that they shall have a say in the appointment of those who are to stand between a Board of directors perhaps clamouring to misappropriate the trust fund and the depositors and note-holders, who look to that fund for the purpose of meeting their obligations. I believe that, at least, a third of the trustees should have the approval of the Government, and if Senator Walker will adopt that view, I do not think that there will be any further cause to delay the passage of the Bill.
– I am extremely astonished to find the Vice-President of the Executive Council - the Leader of the Labour party in the Senate - taking up the stand that a public trustee is not wanted for a fund of this sort, and that it does not matter whether a public trustee is appointed or not, as private trustees are just as good. He even went further, and said that his friends, Pontius Pilate, Judas Iscariot, and Annanias, are quite trustworthy in this regard.
– Oh, no ! I did not say that they were quite worthy.
– Well, the honorable senator said it did not matter if they were appointed.
– So far as the re serve ‘iability was concerned.
– Is this Parliament to be seriously asked to authorize the creation of a trust fund of which it does not matter whether those three persons are to be trustees or not? If so, it is a mere farce to ask us to deal with the matter at all. If that is the way in which the Government ask us to deal with serious business, I, for one, am not in accord with them. There is another point which seems to be overlooked, and that is that, not merely the interests of the shareholders, but the interests of the general public have to be protected. It is stated by Senator Walker, and admitted in the Bill, that it has been brought in for the express purpose of safeguarding the interests of shareholders. But this Parliament has a right to see that men who invest their money in banks get a fair deal, just as it had a right to see that the customers of, and depositors in, banks also get a fair deal. I do not doubt the honesty of Senator Walker’s intentions, but I would remind Senator McGregor that the road to a certain very warm place is paved with good intentions.
– And the honorable senator is trying to make a tar pavement all the time.
– That is not sufficient. We must have, at least, a modicum of common sense, otherwise we might be led astray very much. Common sense should satisfy the Committee that the Trust Fund should be safeguarded in such a way that the money would be available for the purpose for which it . was put aside whenever the need arose. In this clause we have no such safeguard, because if the trustees were removable, then undoubtedly they would be at the beck and call of the directors, and might be made under that duress to do whatever was required of them.
– Is not a public trustee removable?
– Not by the Government, but by a vote of each House of Parliament, exactly in the same way as a Judge is removable, and in no other way. There is no one who will say that our Judges do not possess the full confidence of every person in the community. A public trustee would occupy a similar position. He would be the repository of a public trust, would possess the confidence of the public, and would only be removable for the same cause as a Judge, namely, for grave misconduct. So far, we have never had an instance of a public trustee having betrayed his public trust, but we have had scores of instances of private trustees having betrayed their trust. It is very strange indeed to hear the Leader of the Labour party here put forward the idea that a public trustee is no better than a private trustee. That view is not in accord with the tenets of our political faith, and I, for one, refuse to subscribe to it. Let me point out how a grave situation might arise. Only three trustees might be appointed.
– If the honorable senator likes to move an amendment, the number may be five.
– I am not going to do that. The clause is vitiated by the fact that the trustees would be removable, no matter what their number might be. It is possible that one of the trustees might be a director of the bank. Undoubtedly, he would have immense influence with his fellow trustees. When a time of great stress arose, he might say, “ Here is £1,900,000 or £1,500,000 invested in the Trust Fund. If we had that money at our disposal, we could tide over this difficulty, and return it without anybody being the wiser.”
– Could they do that strictly legally?
– No. We cannot prevent a man from stealing, although we have a law on the subject. I do not believe that even Senator Walker will deny that that temptation might arise in certain circumstances.
– They would have to realize on the Government bonds.
– Under the next clause, the trustees could vary their investments. Under that pretence, they might sell out tfie Government bonds and put the proceeds In the funds of the bank for a day or two, and there would be a very good “get-out” for them. They could say, “ We were only waiting’ until we could invest the money in some other Government security.”
– The honorable senator is well up in the ways that are crooked.
– Will the honorable senator deny that such a thing is possible? I never had an opportunity of dealing with more than a few pounds at a time, because 1 never owned more. But I have not gone through life with my eyes shut. Moreover, I can read, and I know what other people have done. Must a man necessarily have been a murderer to know that murders are committed?
– The honorable senator must have missed his vocation. He ought to have been a detective.
– The honorable senator knows very well that there is reason in what I say. The trustees are given power to vary their investments. Before they can vary investments, they must sell out of one class of stock, and buy into another. What will be done with the money between those two transactions? It will be put in the bank.
– The shareholders only would suffer in that case.
– But why create a fund by parliamentary authority if it is not to be insured for the purpose for which it is created? Is it not our business to safeguard the interests of shareholders who take advantage of this measure? The Bill expressly asks us to do a certain thing. Now we are told that it does not matter about the shareholders, because if the Trust Fund were misused, they would be the persons to suffer. That kind of reasoning is absolutely ridiculous.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … …9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Investment of moneys).
– This clause provides a way by which directors may play ducks and drakes with the Trust Fund, and still escape the law. After investing the money in any Government security, they can vary the mode of investment. That is to say, they can sell out of one class of security and buy into another.
– Debentures mature. Would the honorable senator prevent the trustees from re-investing their funds?
– Not at all. But suppose that in time of emergency a bank were suddenly faced with the absolute need of getting a million of money to strengthen its ‘ position. Suppose that the directors were impressed with the idea that if they could only get hold of that money for a day or two, they would be all right. Under this clause they would have power to sell out a million pounds of debentures, with the ostensible purpose of re-investing the money in other stock. But in the meantime they could put the money into the funds of the bank, and leave it there tor a week, or a month.
– It could not be done.
– It could easily be done. The bank might sell, say, £200,000 word of New Zealand funded debt, £100,000 worth of Victorian funded debt, and £200,000 worth of Queensland and New South Wales stock, with the ostensible idea of re-investing in some other form of security. But in the meantime the money would be paid into the bank, and would be used for its purposes.
– The honorable senator always forgets that the reserve liability of the shareholders still exists.
– But why should we waste our time in creating a reserve fund unless it be safeguarded, so that it may be used for the purposes for which it is created ? The whole position is vitiated by this one provision - that we are to leave the fund in the hands of trustees, who are to be the mere creatures of the directors, instead of in the hands of a public trustee. Those who voted for placing the money in the hands of private trustees will be fortunate if they do not live to be pursued by the curses of unfortunate people who have lost their money owing to this action of ours. In the year 1890, when we had prosperous seasons, every one looked upon the banking institutions of Australia as being as sound as it was possible for them to be. But in two and a-half years what happened ? Almost every bank had to close its doors. Were it not that the Governments of the various States came to the assistance of the banks, every one of them would have had to close.
SenatorVardon. - In one State.
– In every State the Government came to the assistance of the banks. In Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales the State rendered assistance. The same thing may happen again. I hope that it will not be so. I do not wish to be a Jeremiah, predicting bad times to come; but we are always face to face with that possibility. We are sacrificing the interests of millions of people who have money deposited in banks, or whose interests are bound up with those who have money deposited, and we are doing this to safeguard the interests of a few fat men who are shareholders in the big banks.
– Unfortunately, I was not in the chamber when the last clause was under discussion. If I had been, I should have voted against it. I strongly disapprove of the three trustees being appointed by the bank. Of course, we have now dealt with clause 4, but I also point out that there is a danger in this clause. The latter part of it provides that the investments “ may from time to time be varied for others of the same nature.” The trouble is that these trustees will be the mere creatures of the bank directors.
– No; they will become a corporation. Moreover, if the funds were misappropriated, the shareholders, not the public, would lose. The reserve liability of the shareholders would still remain.
– Would it not be better to appoint trustees who would be whollv independent of the banks?
– We have passed the clause dealing with the appointment of tiustees.
– Unfortunately, I thought that that point had been attended to.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 -
The directors of the company may with the approval of the company previously given in general meeting, three-fifths of the shareholders present approving, by deed under the common seal of the company remove any trustee or trustees being a member of a body corporate of trustees constituted under this Act whom they shall consider it desirable or expedient to remove.
– Under this clause, the trustees are removable. What happens where trustees of any trust fund are removable? We know that they can exercise no independence whatever. They are the mere creatures of the people who have appointed them and have the power to remove them. No trustees should be placed, in any such position. Did any one ever hear of the trustees under a will being removable by the beneficiaries under the will ? Did any one ever hear of (he trustees of any fund being removable at the instance of people whose interests it may be to vitiate the trust and misappropriate the fund? That is what is proposed in this clause. Under clause 4 the trustees of the fund may be appointed by a three-fifths majority of the shareholders, and one of them may be a director. Under this clause they are to be removable at the sweet will of the directors whose interest it may be at some. time or another to collar the reserve fund and use it to tide the bank over a time of distress or grave emergency. We are enacting a farce in creating a trust fund which is placed under the control of mere men-of straw, who will be at the beck and call of those who appointed them, and may be removed unless they do the will o’f those who have appointed them.
– Suppose a trustee goes wrong or becomes insolvent?
– Let Senator Walker propose a clause making the trustees removable by a Court on proper cause shown, and he will have some reason for asking the support of the Committee. I hope the Committee will reject the clause. I do not intend to submit any amendment upon it.
– This clause provides that the trustees of the proposed reserve liability fund may be removed by a three-fifths majority of the shareholders present at a meeting called for the purpose. If we provided that a trustee should not be removed except by a three-fifths majority of the whole of the shareholders of the bank, whether present at a meeting called for the purpose or not, we should prevent the possibility of trustees being removed by the decision of a hole-and-corner meeting. I think that the word “present” should be left out of this clause.
– Personal voting is provided for here, and not proxy voting.
– Three-fifths of the shareholders present at a meeting may be a very small minority of the shareholders of the bank. It is possible that halfadozen shareholders might represent threefifths of those present at a meeting. If the directors of a banking company are anxious to get rid of a trustee who stands in the way of their carrying out a certain course of action with regard to the trust fund, all that they will require to do under this clause will be to have their action ratified by three-fifths of the shareholders present at a meeting called for the purpose. I think it is right that shareholders who may not be present at the meeting should also be consulted, and I move -
That the word “present” be left out.
That would at least have this effect, that, before action proposed by the directors for the removal of one or all of the trustees could have effect, it must reflect the wisdom of a three-fifths majority of the whole of the shareholders of the bank.
– - I do not think that Senator Walker can have any hesitation in accepting the amendment. Under the clause, as it stands, there is very great danger that the trustees of this fund might be removed by the action of a hole-and-corner meeting. If we are going to observe in our banking institutions the democratic principle which permeates all our legislation and every action of this Parliament, the amendment should be welcomed by the author of this Bill. It would be reprehensible, in my opinion, to provide that a few individuals, suddenly summoned, should have the arbitrary powers given under this clause.
– How are we to get the consent of shareholders if they are not present at the meeting?
– Various ‘ means are adopted for getting an expression of opinion from shareholders who cannot attend a meeting. If Senator Lynch’s amendment be defeated, another might be proposed to make this clause more democratic. It is possible to get an expression of opinion from an absolute majority of” the shareholders of a bank, whether they are present at a meeting or not, and I shall be no party to legislation which would give this power to a few men who might desire, for reasons of their own, to remove one or all of these trustees. I am sure that Senator Walker is actuated by the best intentions, and I bow to his superior knowledge of banking, but if he desires to make this Bill democratic, he will accept the amendment.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [9.10].- Senator Needham is anxious that this matter should be settled on democratic lines. I remind the honorable senator that the decision upon a proposed amendment of the Constitution under which we live, which might have the effect of materially altering its terms, is left, not to a majority of the people qualified and entitled to vote, but to a majority of those who record their votes.
– But we give all voters facilities to record their votes, and none are asked to travel thousands of miles to one place, to record a vote.
– The honorable senator has not mentioned an analogous case.
– If Senator Needham contends that the Constitution of the Commonwealth should not be amended except by the vote of a majority of all the people entitled to vote, which would be equivalent to all the shareholders of a bank, his argument on this clause might be considered sound. If that is his contention, I invite him to suggest a provision, the effect of which would make it almost impossible to secure any amendment of the Constitution. To justify the contention raised in this case, we must assume first of all that the directors of a bank will desire to act dishonestly in regard to the reserve liability fund. Honorable senators should remember that the men appointed to the position of directors of a bank are men upon whose integrity and common sense the shareholders can rely. They do not put men in such positions whose character may be doubtful, and who might be expected to be guilty of some smart or dishonest trick. When honorable senators talk about a hole-and-corner meeting, I remind them that meetings of the shareholders, of a bank are summoned in accordance with its articles of association. Provision is made for a specified notice of the time of meeting to enable the shareholders to make themselves acquainted with the business to be dealt with at the meeting, and if they see fit to be present at it.
– Is it not possible under this clause for half-a-dozen shareholders to ratify action proposed by the directors for the removal of a trustee?
– If half-a-dozen shareholders formed a quorum, and the meeting were called in a proper and legal way, it would, of course, be possible for them to take action. The whole object is to enable the shareholders, if they see fit, to attend the meeting.
– Suppose some could not attend?
– There is usually provision made for proxy voting. I understand that Senator Lynch does not desire proxy voting.
– Yes, if necessary.
– I might point out in connexion with proxy voting that, in nine cases out of ten, the man who sends in a proxy addresses it to the chairman of the board of directors without giving any instructions as to what is to be done with it.
– Proxy votes are in favour of the directors.
– As a general rule there is no doubt they are. The directors can make what use they like of them. If shareholders are keenly interested in any proposal, they do not rely upon a proxy vote, but make it their business to be present at the meeting at which it is considered. There may be some business to transact of vital importance to the institution, and it is always transacted in this particular way. A special meeting of the shareholders is summoned in accordance with the articles of association in order that a decision may be arrived at. I need scarcely remind honorable senators that not long ago a great battle was fought between the members of the Australian Mutual Provident Society upon the question of whether or not that society should open a branch in London. In that case notices of a special meeting were forwarded to the policy-holders in the usual way, and those who were fighting the proposal ‘made it their business to be present in order that their views might be made known. Why should we take further steps than the members of that society took to protect the shareholders of banks from themselves? A bank may call a special meeting of its shareholders for the purpose of dealing with some matter of vital importance to it. If so, every shareholder has an opportunity of being present. What does this Bill propose? Merely that a three-fifths majority of the shareholders present at such meeting shall be necessary for the removal of the trustees. Of course, it may be urged that only twelve or fifteen or twentyfive shareholders may attend any meeting which may be called for the purpose. I admit that that is so. But if the shareholders, after having been apprised of the nature of the business to be dealt with, do not deem it worth while to attend, they cannot think that their interests are seriously in jeopardy. As the Vice-President of the Executive Council has already pointed out, it is the shareholders’ money out of which the fund is to be established.
– And it does not matter whether Judas Iscariot, Ananias, and Pontius Pilate are appointed trustees of it?’
– Of course, we prefer to get the most honest trustees that we can. Let me assume that an honorable senator had property which he desired to settle on a certain trust, and in which he wished to maintain a certain interest during his life. It would be perfectly competent for him to remove the individuals whom he had appointed as trustees. If they played ducks and drakes with his property, he would be at liberty to approach the Court for the purpose of obtaining a remedy. But when the shareholders of banking institutions provide for the appointment of trustees, and when we know that they alone will be personally affected by any action of the trustees, why should we wish to place any obstacle in the way of their getting competent men to maintain the trust? Surely the individuals who are primarily interested are those who ought to be consulted. It ought not to be possible to remove a trustee without a great deal of difficulty and expense. The Bill is so manifestly just that I cannot understand why honorable senators have occupied so much time in picturing a dishonest number of directors who are intent upon playing hanky-panky with the reserve fund in order to benefit themselves and injure the shareholders.
– I am sure that Senator Needham wishes to do what is right, but if the Bill places terrible difficulties in the way of the removal of a trustee, what sort of difficulties may be experienced in securing the removal of a dishonest trustee under the amendment? Why, in one bank with which I am acquainted, there are 4,000 shareholders. Just imagine the removal of a trustee requiring the assent of threefifths of those shareholders in meeting assembled !
– A good reason for adopting the proxy system.
– The adoption of that system would defeat the very object which the honorable senator has in view, inasmuch as persons who reside at a great distance from the scene of the meeting would not understand the reasons underlying any proposal put forward, and would almost unanimously forward proxies in favour of the board.
– Senator Gould has endeavoured to rebut my arguments in favour of providing that an absolute majority vote shall be necessary for the removal of a trustee. In his effort to achieve his object he quoted the method which has to be followed to effect an” amendment in our Constitution. Let me remind him that the Senate cannot assent to an amendment of the Constitution unless an absolute majority of its members be present. The clause in this Bill, which relates to the removal of trustees, practically deals with an alteration of the constitution of banks. Consequently, I hold that, before trustees can be removed, a majority of the shareholders should be present in meeting assembled, so as to prevent any hole-and-corner business.
– The shareholders of banks occupy a similar position to that occupied by the electors of the Commonwealth, and only a majority of the latter are required for an amendment of the Constitution.
– A majority of the electors who record their votes decide any proposed amendment of the Constitution. But the question at issue is put before them very plainly.
– And all have an opportunity of voting.
– The electors are afforded an opportunity of hearing both sides of the question which they are called upon to determine, irrespective of whether or not they exercise their franchise. Does Senator Walker suggest that the shareholders of banks will have a similar opportunity ?
– Of course. The usual advertisement will be inserted in the newspapers, and a copy of it will be forwarded to the shareholders.
– It is a very easy matter to advertise the object of a meeting. But every shareholder may not take the same keen interest in the matter to be decided that is evidenced by the directors. To my mind, the position is not at all analogous to that of a proposed amendment of our Federal Constitution. Every amendment of the Constitution that is proposed must be placed before the electors for ratification. Parliamentary candidates stand upon the public platform and discuss it. The press takes part in that discussion, and thus the elector is afforded an opportunity of appraising its exact merits. That is one reason why Senator Lynch’s amendment ought to be carried. The word “ present ‘ ‘ should be omitted so as to prevent anything in the nature of a surprise meeting being held, in order to secure the removal of some trustee who may have been discharging his duty well, not only to the shareholders of the banking institution, but also to the depositors.
– If Senator Lynch wished to play into the hands of the directors of our financial institutions, he could not achieve his purpose better than by means of this amendment. He proposes that proxy forms should be sent out to the shareholders. If proxies are sent out by the directors, a great many of the shareholders will say, “ Oh, this is all right. I will send my proxy back to the chairman of the board of directors.” But when a meeting of shareholders is called, the shareholders keep a keen eye upon the directors, and make it their business to attend.
– It may be only the toadies who attend.
– Usually it is the shareholders who are dissatisfied and critical, who attend such meetings. They are the people who are most keenly interested in seeing that no injustice is done. I take it that the removal of a trustee under this Bill will be a very difficult matter.
– I intend to provide an alternative method if I am permitted to do so.
– I am very pleased to hear that, but so far I have not heard the honorable senator suggest any such method. To my mind, it is safer to provide for the calling of a meeting of shareholders than to allow the directors an opportunity to pile up proxies which they may use in any way that they may think fit. If a trustee is faithfully discharging his duties,, is it likely that the directors will endeavour to have him removed? Would he not be able to raise such a storm amongst the shareholders that the directors would not dare to attempt such a thing?
– Why should he be called upon to do that?
– The directors would not dare to take action which would compel him to do that. We must always recollect that the directors of our banks hold their positions by virtue of the confidence of the shareholders themselves. It is the shareholders who are continually watching the affairs of those institutions, who are always upon the alert .to safeguard their own interests, and who, if this Bill becomes law, will see that the fund which it is proposed to establish is maintained intact. They are the people who attend the meetings of these institutions. I have been a director of companies, and I know that when everything has been going smoothly, no shareholder has presented himself at the meetings of those companies. It is only when something has gone wrong that shareholders have put in an appearance. Similarly I contend that, when it is proposed to remove a trustee of one of our banking institutions, the whole of the shareholders will immediately become alert, want to know the ins and the outs of the business, and to be satisfied as to the justice of the proceeding, before they will give their assent. I believe that the clause as it stands is safer than it would be if amended in the direction which Senator Lynch has indicated.
.’ - After the Committee has agreed to clauses 3 and 4, I cannot understand why those who, like myself, have been opposed to the principle of the Bill are very much concerned about the clauses affecting the trustees of the reserve fund. I frankly confess that* those clauses concern me very little. I do not regard them as being in any sense a protection to the depositors or to the bank itself, but purely and solely as a protection to the shareholders. Nor am I much concerned about the reserve fund, because, after all, it will not be a public fund for the public interests, but merely a private fund subscribed by the shareholders of a bank to protect their own interests. The question as to whether they shall attend and vote personally or vote by proxy is not to me a matter of public interest. It does not seem to be a matter about which the Parliament should concern itself.
– If it is too trifling, why include it at all?
– When honorable senators passed clauses 3 and 4, they virtually approved of the Bill so far as it affects the public safety and the depositors’ interests, because by so doing they relieved the shareholders of that liability which was the guarantee to the public. How the reserve fund shall be administered is after all a very secondary question, and I agree with Senator Vardon that it does not concern the public whether we allow only the shareholders who are present to vote. Even if Senator Lynch’s proposal is carried, and we allow voting by proxy, the position will not be altered in that respect.
– He has not proposed that.
– There is no sense in the amendment unless Senator Lynch intends to provide for proxy voting. It is not possible to get three- fifths of the shareholders to attend any meeting. Unless the honorable senator intended to follow his amendment with a proposal to include proxy voting it should not have been moved. We must have either the voting system which is provided for in the clause, or proxy voting. If the former system is preferred, the most active shareholders will be those who are present at the meeting. And if we provide for proxy voting every active shareholder will increase his voting power. I suggest to those who, like myself, have opposed the principle of the Bill, that they should allow the clauses relating to trustees to pass, because that is merely a matter of concern to the shareholders.
– While there is a great deal of truth and of force in what the Minister of Defence has said, still this Parliament is concerned with not only the interests of the public, but the interests of every section of the public.
– With a private fund?
– Yes ; the shareholders in banks are a section of the public whose interests we ought to safeguard. Every Companies Bill which has been dealt with in a State Parliament has contained provisions which safeguarded the interests of investors in companies. We are saddled with a similar responsibility. Our duty is to look after the interests of, not only the general public, but every section of the community which is affected by legislation.
– And we discharged that duty when we dealt with clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill.
– I agree with the honorable senator that we have done so to a large extent, but I would point out that if in this clause we give the directors of a bank the power to remove the trustees of the reserve fund, we shall thereby make the latter the mere .creatures of the former, and that, therefore, the fund will be worth nothing. It is a mere farce to waste time on the consideration of a Bill which can have no effect. I agree entirely with the view that a provision for proxy voting would be worth nothing. We all know how it has been used in connexion with hospitals and other public institutions. Instead of being a service to the subscribers, it has always been a great danger. I am not particularly concerned as to what may become of Senator Lynch’s amendment, because I do not believe that anything very effective could be done thereunder. My original proposal was that this clause should be deleted with a view to insert after clause it a new clause providing that there shall be a Government audit of the funds, that on the application of the directors of a bank to a Judge of the Supreme Court or of the High Court the trustees may be removed for a misdemeanour of any kind, and that on the nomination of anybody whom the Committee may in its wisdom determine upon, the Judge, shall have the right of appointing a trustee in his place. That is my remedy for the whole thing. If the Bill is to pass we should see that it is made effective enough to accomplish the object for which it was avowedly introduced, if for no other object. For that reason I ask the Committee to negative this clause, and to insert at the end of the Bill the new clause which I have suggested.
.- I intend to support this clause for the simple reason that the previous clauses have been passed. It merely provides for the removal of the trustees of a reserve fund. If it is altered, that will vitiate the rest, of the Bill. I cannot understand why those who voted for the previous clauses which contained the crux of the Bill should want to defeat that decision by trying to eliminate from this clause something which certainly would not make it more perfect than it is. I trust that, inasmuch as we have accepted the clause which provides for the appointment of trustees, this clause will be allowed tq pass as it stands. It is in unison with what has been done, and cannot be improved by the amendment.
Question - That the word proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Lynch’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority… … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 agreed to.
.- I ask Senator Walker to consent to progress being reported now, because I desire, with his own concurrence, to have the Bill recommitted at a later stage, so as to have a clause which was inserted at my instance re-drafted by the Parliamentary Draftsman. I also desire to move the insertion of a new clause to provide for the Government audit of the fund proposed to be cteated. My request is a perfectly reasonable one, inasmuch as it is proper that we should provide that the fund should be placed upon a sound footing.
– Can this general discussion take place now?
– Undoubtedly it can. I can move for the insertion of a new clause now, if I please. Neither the VicePresident of the Executive Council nor anybody else can prevent me. I am entitled to my rights under the constitution of this Chamber, and am not beholden to any member of it for them. I appeal to Senator Walker to allow this perfectly straightforward thing to be done. It is only in accordance with a promise which he made to me that he should do so.
– It will simplify proceedings, and permit of business being forwarded, if Senator Givens induces a friend in another place to move for the insertion of the amendment he desires.
– Does the honorable senator go back on his promise now? He promised that he would consent’to the recommittal of the Bill.
– He was very foolish if he did.
– If I made such a promise, I will ask. the honorable senator to excuse me from adhering to it. He can easily get his amendment proposed in another place if he wishes. I believe I did say to him that I had no objection to a recommittal, but it was understood that he would bring up his amendments to-night, not some weeks hence. I did not say that I was willing to wait an indefinite time.
– I do not know at this moment what form the new clause should take.
– The honorable senator asked me to allow the Bill to De recommitted, to enable him to reconsider clause 2 . He has a perfect right to submit his new clause now, and if he does not choose to do so, I am relieved from my promise.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Senate adjourned at 9.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 September 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1910/19100901_SENATE_4_56/>.