4th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Lands Acquisition Act 1906 - Land acquired under, at Boolaroo, New South Wales.
Manufactures Encouragement Act 1908 - Return showing Bounty paid under, during the financial year 191 1-1912.
Meteorology Act 1906 - Regulations relating to sale of Meteorological Publications. - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 159.
Public Service Act 1902-1911-
Return of Temporary ‘Employes during the year ended 30th June, 1912.
Regulation 168. - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 160.
Shale Oil Bounties Act 1910 - Return of Bounty paid under, during the financial year ended 30th June,1912.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether the Government will request theState Governments to ascertain the number of old-age pensionerswho were found dead or found destitute, and the number whose deaths were the subject of coronial or magisterial inquiriesduring the last financial year?
– Iask the honorable senator to movefor the production of a return. There will be no opposition offered tothe motion.
– I wish to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council if ‘it is a. fact that Dr. Jensen, and Messrs. Ryland, Campbell, and Chinn, whose ap- pointmentto the Public Service of the Commonwealth quite recently was so strenuously objected to by the Opposition
– Order ! The honorable senator may ask a question, but he cannot debate the matter at this stage.
– Can the Minister tell the Senate if these gentlemen were members of the Free and Independent Order of Masons?
– It would be impossible for me without very lengthy notice to be in a position to reply to the question. 1 have no knowledge as to whether the gentlemen referred to are Freemasons, or members of any other order.
– There would not be so much row if they were.
– I desire to again ask the Minister of Defence if he has received a report as to the wholesale resignation of officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the Australian Garrison Artillery in Sydney, and if he is prepared to tell the Senate what arrangements the Military Board intend to make for the properconduct of the forts?
– I have received the reports which were called for. I shall read first the report of Major Osborne, who is Staff Officer, Garrison Artillery Services, 2nd Military District -
With reference to the statements made in the attached cuttings from the Sydney press, I spoke to Captain Robb, Commanding 3rd A.G.A,, Newcastle, on the telephone this morning. He states : - “ The A.G.A. here, welcome the new organization, in which they come directly under the CO., R.A.G.A., 2nd Military District. Some twenty resignations will probably be sent in from the men of the 3rd A.G.A. chiefly because the men will not be able to afford the time for the extended length of the continuous training (seventeen days). Some dissatisfaction is expressed at the stringent regulations regarding smoking and use of alcoholic liquor.”
The O.C. 5th A.G.A. (Captain Forsyth) in- formed me by telephone this morning that about eighty resignations had been received. He attributes these to the fact that at the regimental dinner of the A.G.A. great dissatisfaction was expressed by the men, after they had heard speeches on the subject, at the abolition of the Regimental Staff. He also gave, as further reasons for resignations, the increased length of the continuous training, restrictions on smoking, &c.
Captain Forsyth repotted in reference to forts not being available for A.G.A., that his commanddid not arrive at Middle Head until 4.30 p.m. They were unable to then obtain admission to the B.L. Mk. V. Battery; they proceeded to battery drill outside until 5 p.m., they then, owing to darkness having set in, dismissed for tea. After tea the men attended a lecture.
Major E. W. Warren, commanding the 6th A.G.A., reported by telephone this morning that he has received about forty resignations. He considers that the main reasons, in their order of importance for these resignations, are as follows -
Increased length of continuous training.
Fines for non-efficiency.
Restriction on smoking, &c.
Re-organization, doing away with Regimental Staff.
Major Warren reports that no delay was occasioned in entering any of the forts at South Head.
Captain T. J. Lynch, I.S.O., A.G.A., who is in close touch with these corps, states that he does not think any of the dissatisfaction is caused by the abolition of the Regimental Staff, but that it is owing to the employers refusing to allow men away for seventeen days’ training in addition to annual leave.
Owing to the continuous heavy rain, the forts were not opened up until the A.G.A. arrived. No delay occurred at South Head or George’s Heights. At Middle Head, Master Gunner McClean (whose report is attached), was at Middle Head until 4.20 p.m. ; then, as none of the A.G.A. had arrived, it was then raining heavily and darkness was already setting in, he closed the fort and proceeded to George’s Heights to be on the spot where the men were drilling. This was the only instance of delay. Lecture rooms were provided at both South and Middle Heads in event of wet weather.
It is impossible to yet say the total number of resignations, as the time laid down for handing them in does not expire until 31st instant.
No steps have been neglected in attending to all their wants, and great attention has been paid to all details of the administration of these corps.
The next report is from Master Gunner McClean, who was in charge of the fort where the delay occurred, to the staff captain -
In compliance with your orders, I submit the following statement of what happened in the Middle Head sub-district on Saturday, 27th instant, with reference to the delay in opening batteries : -
About 3.45 p.m. the A.G.A. arrived at George’s Heights ; one detachment proceeded to the 6-in. B.L. Mk. VII. Battery, and were immediately admitted, another detachment proceeded to’ the 6-in. B.L. Mk. V. Battery, which was opened as soon as the troops arrived.
As soon as the details had settled down to work I proceeded to Middle Head, and ascertained that no troops had arrived ; I waited till about 4.25 p.m. and, no one turning up, I had the fort locked up and keys of the battery placed in the office, as by this time it was getting dark, and no candles were available.
I then returned to George’s Heights, reaching there about 4.45 p.m. About 4.50 p.m. I received a telephone message from Captain J. N. Shaw, R.A.G.A., that troops had arrived at Middle Head. I went to Middle Head and was informed that they did not require to enter the battery.
The reason for not keeping the batteries open was that orders had been received that they were to be kept closed till such time as the troops arrived, owing to the inclement state of the weather.
On arriving at Middle Head at about 5 p.m., I ascertained that no provision had been made by the A.G.A. to provide tea, and that if they had tea, no utensils were provided.
I reported the matter to Captain J. N. Shaw, R. A.G.A., and assisted him in making the best arrangements possible, he providing tea from the rations of the R. A.G.A., and detailing a gunner to prepare it, and provided messing utensils from the R. A.G.A. mess.
F; S.McClean, Warrant Officer.
There is also a return attached showing the establishment, the number of retirements, and the number remaining. The return is as follows: -
From several parts of the Commonwealth complaints have been received, not merely from the A.,G.A., but from other ‘sections of the existing Militia Forces that they were required during the forthcoming year, to undergo the same amount of continuous camp training as are the compulsory trainees. It was represented by the officers in command of companies that if this condition were persisted in they feared that we should suffer a substantial loss of militia men, particularly in the Garrison Artillery and in the Engineers. I sent that statement to the Military Board more than a week ago, and yesterday I received its recommendation, which was to the effect that the existing period of continuous camp training should be retained so far as the Militia Forces are concerned. That is tosay, under the new regulations members of the Garrison Artillery would have been required to put in seventeen days continuous training in camp, whereas under the old order of things they had to serve only eight days. It has now been decided, on the recommendation of the Military Board, that the old order of things shall continue so far as the militia, are concerned, and that its members will be asked to do only the same number of days continuous training in camp this year as they were called upon to do last year.
– That is eight days.
– It varies with each arm of the service. The compulsory trainees will do the full number of days continuous camp training, and if any member of the Militia Forces chooses to serve for a similar period he will be allowed to do so. It is hoped that this rearrangement will meet many of the objections which have been raised. I am going to issue in structions that the resignations of these men are not to be accepted until the position has been made clear to them, so that they may have an opportunity of reconsidering their decision. The other causes for the resignations assigned in these reports are the rather stringent regulations regarding the prohibition of alcoholic liquors in camps of continuous training, and the prohibition in regard to cigarette # smoking. I understand, however, that these complaints are not nearly so general. But there have been some complaints that, under the law, the canteen has been abolished in camps of continuous training. That, I have no power to deal with. It is the law of the land and must be observed.
– The prohibition of the canteen in camps of continuous training does not cover the matter of smoking.
– No. The prohibition as regards smoking is against the use of cigarettes. The other cause of complaint, which affects only a section of those who have resigned in Sydney, is the re-organization of the commands in the various forts throughout the Commonwealth. Under the old system, there was a mixed command. We had the Permanent Forces and permanent officers, and the Militia Forces and the militia officers. It used to be the practice to have a fortress commander who was a militia officer. Lord1 Kitchener recommended that, as the guns were now of such a highly technical character, there should be two reliefs of permanent troops, and that the command of fortresses should, in all cases, be in the hands of permanent officers. That recommendation has been backed up from time to time by other permanent officers. It has been represented that, in case of war, any attack upon our forts would probably be in the nature of a surprise attack, and that, therefore, the officers in command should .reside close to them. More than a year ago, it was decided to give effect to that policy, and the position of fortress commander at our two important fortresses, that is to say at the Port Phillip and the Sydney fortresses, was abolished. The position of fortress commander involved the further principle of a regimental staff, and there was attached to each of these places an additional militia regimental staff. Following the abolition of the fortress commanders, it was decided to do away with the regimental staffs, as they were considered to be unnecessary. That alteration was carried out in Victoria some months ago without any complaint, except on the part of the officers concerned. It was then given effect to in Sydney; and I understand that some of the dissatisfaction there has been caused by the officers who were on the regimental staff, who objected to the change, and who managed to get a certain amount of support from the men in their company.
– That is hardly a fair statement to make.
– That is the reason why a certain number of resignations have been forthcoming at the present juncture. I am of opinion - and I am fortified in that opinion by the reports of officers who have recently visited Sydney - that the alteration now being made in regard to the camps of continuous training will have the effect of preventing a number of resignations from being persevered in.
Motion (by Senator Pearce), by leave, agreed to -
That the Clerk have leave to return to the Department of Home Affairs the original plans presented to the Senate on the 4th and 24th July, 1912, in connexion with the re-distribution of the State of Queensland into electoral divisions.
asked the Minister of
Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are - 1. (a) 75,086.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is the table of appointments to the Public Service published in the Argus of Saturday last substantially correct?If so, how many of the appointments were those of persons hitherto outside the Public Service?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is -
The table referred to was apparently based on the particulars supplied in answer to a question asked in another place on the 16th July. An extract from Hansard is attached for the honorable senator’s information. The return does not show how many of the appointments were those of persons hitherto outside the Public Service, but this information can be obtained if desired.
asked the Min ister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What Customs stations are there in the vicinity of the McArthur and Roper Rivers on the west coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is -
The nearest Customs stations to the McArthur and Roper Rivers are Normanton and Thursday Island, and Port Darwin.
Motion (by Senator Sayers) agreed to -
That a return be laid on the Table of the Senate showing -
The varieties and amount of timber imported during the year ending 30th June, 1912.
Also the countries of origin of such timber and the amounts from each country.
– I move -
That the Ordinance No. 3 of 1912 (an Ordinance relating to Crown Lands, entitled Crown Lands Ordinance 1912), made in pursuance of the powers conferred by the Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910 and the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910, be disallowed.
In submitting this motion I should like to say at once that I shall, of course, touch upon some matters for which I can expect very little support or sympathy from my honorable friends opposite. I refer particularly to the challenge which the motion unquestionably throws down to the principle of leasehold as against freehold. But quite beyond that there are a number of matters covered and provided for by the Ordinancewhich involve no matter of principle, but which are regulations in respect of which I am entitled to ask for the impartial consideration of every member of this Chamber. We are starting to-day to develop a land policy for the Northern Territory - that great possession which has come under the rule of the Commonwealth - and we must recognise the great desirability of making a good and sound start in the work which is before us. Any one who looks over the history of land legislation in Australia will recognise thatit is a history of mistakes; and almost without exception it seems to me as if each mistake can be put down to an effortto correct some mistake made at a previous time. I am referring to the several matters covered by this land Ordinance in the hope that the practical knowledge which I, and others, possess on this subject may be availed of by the Government, irrespective of the side of the Senate from which suggestions come, with a view to avoiding mistakes which I think will be committed if the Ordinance is carried out in its entirety. The first matter to which I wish to direct attention is covered by clause 8 of the Ordinance. I should like to say here that I am taking a few matters which, in themselves, may not appear to be of very great significance, but which, as I shall show later on, when yoked with other provisions, assume a much more serious aspect. Clause 8 provides that -
Lands under lease granted in pursuance of this Ordinance shall be subject to reclassification, but such reclassification shall not come into force until the reappraisement of the rental of the land included in the lease has come into force, and shall not affect the lease as regards the area of the land which may be included therein.
One cannot avoid asking - What will it affect then? There are two major propositions in this clause, dealing with area and rental. It provides that you may reclassify, but that you are not to touch rental, and that you are not to touch area. What are you going to touch then? It appears to me that it is desirable that a clause of this kind, which has considerable ambiguity in it, should be redrafted, because, as it stands, it is extremely difficult to know what it means. The ambiguity should be set at rest, because it is extremely dangerous. If at any future time a number of people, in all good faith, overlooking this clause, are induced to become tenants of the Crown in the Northern Territory, they may find, later on, that the reserve power, couched in these ambiguous terms, is availed to interfere with their tenures, or to impose upon them conditions not contemplated at the time they took up their land. It is difficult for any one to understand what clause 8 does mean, seeing that while it provides for the power of reclassification it also affirms that the reclassification is not to affect the two things, rental and area. I pass on to clause 16, which provides for the general conditions applicable to leases. It lays down that leases under the Ordinance shall contain -
A covenant by the lessee that he will use the land only for the purposes for which it is leased.
I should like to know from Ministers what is the object of that proposal?I am aware that it finds a place in many leases issued by the Lands Department of New South Wales, and possibly of other States, but I hope that we are not going to be too strongly bound by regulations which have been in force hitherto, and which, as a matter of fact, are largely a dead letter under State administration. The sole effect of this will be, not to prevent a man using his land for an inferior purpose than that for which he leased it, but to prevent him from turning it to a better account. There are three classes of land contemplated in this Ordinance - land to be used for grazing purposes, here called pastoral leases; land which is for agricultural purposes only; and land for grazing and agricultural purposes. This clause cannot apply to the man who holds agricultural land ; orto the man who holds mixed grazing and agricultural land, because in these two leases it is set out that the lessee shall cultivate as much land as is provided for in the terms of his lease. No man can hope to escape the obligations he accepts when he signs his lease. The provision to which I am referring can, therefore, only apply to pastoral leases, and what is really provided is that if a man secures land for pastoral purposes, he is not to be allowed to use it for cultivation. I ask why not?
– Does not paragraph h modify the argument?
– I know of nothing in the Ordinance which affects the argument. The paragraph the honorable senator refers to only makes provision for forfeiture. First, there is the provision to which I have referred that a lessee shall not use his land for any purpose other than that for which he leased it. Then if honorable senators will look at clause 24, they will find that it is provided that -
A pastoral lease shall not authorize the lessee to cultivate any portion of the leased land, except for the purpose of consumption in connexion with the use of the leased land for pastoral purposes.
Honorable senators may think that I have read that clause for the purpose of directing attention to the quaint language employed. It would almost suggest that the draftsman thought a pastoral lessee likely to cultivate his land prior to consuming it. I quote the clause as showing that my original contention is proved to be absolutely correct.
– Does not clause 24 give power to cultivate?
– The grazing lease is the lowest form of occupation known to us, and under the clause referred to the (lessee cannot cultivate any portion of his lease unless he first obtains the sanction of the Director of Lands. I want to know why that should be so. Why should we throw even that little obstacle in the way of any man who desires to turn his land from an inferior to a superior use? What harm can it do any one if a man who has secured a pastoral lease says, “ I shall put the plough in and cultivate a thousand, acres.” We all desire that he should do so, and I venture to say that there will be no serious objection raised by the Director of Lands. Why, therefore, should there be any need for an application to that official for power to turn land to a better use than that for which it was originally leased? The only conclusion I can come to is that this Ordinance has been drawn up by gentlemen who are not familiar with the working of regulations of which they have obtained copies in the different States.
– That is a customary provision in South Australia.
– I am aware that it is, but I am asking that we should break away from such provisions. A similar provision was inserted in the legislation of New South Wales in the early days, but for a very good reason - to prevent a person who had leased his land for agricultural purposes neglecting to cultivate it, and using it merely for pastoral purposes. There would obviously be an objection to that, but there can be no objection to a man who has secured land for the purpose of grazing devoting it to a better purpose.
– If the lessee has a fair case, the Director of Lands can authorize him under clause 24 of this Ordinance to cultivate any portion of his land.
– I have said so. But when Senator Blakey admits that the Director of Lands would permit the cultivation of land leased for pastoral purposes, why should it be necessary for the lessee to make application to that official for leave to do so?
– It is as well to have a safeguard in the public interest. There might be exceptional cases in which it would not be advisable to authorize the cultivation of land.
– I should like Senator Blakey to mention any set of circumstances in which it would be inadvisable for a man who holds land for grazing purposes to put the plough in and cultivate it.
– Such a case might arise.
– I ask the honorable senator to mention any circumstances in which it would be to the public detriment for a lessee to turn his land from an inferior to a superior use. I would ask honorable senators to forget for a moment that suggestions are being made from this side. If honorable senators will permit me to say so without accusing me of egotism, I am speaking now of a matter of which I have had a great many years close experience. I am putting forward suggestions in good faith in the hope that the Government, seeing how much is involved in properly beginning the occupation of the Northern Territory, will give them favorable consideration, and I ask honorable senators to do the same as I proceed. I direct attention now to clause 16, paragraph It is provided generally that leases other than miscellaneous leases shall contain reservations, covenants, conditions, and provisions. A number of these conditions are specifically set; out, and in paragraph i there is the following dragnet provision -
Any other reservations, covenants, conditions, and provisions which ar« prescribed, or which are specified in the Gazette notice that the lands are available for leasing, or which are considered by the Classification Board to be necessary under the circumstances of any particular case.
I quite recognise that some clause is necessary to give the authorities power, when advertising any land as being available for occupation, to advertise at the same time any conditions they think it desirable to impose. But if honorable senators will look into this clause they will find that it goes much further than that. It seems to me to give the authorities power, after a lease has been granted, to step in and super-impose further or altered conditions.
If that be the intent, the provision is manifestly unjust to the lessee. It should not be forgotten that this provision will apply not only to the lessees of very large holdings, but to the lessees of small blocks. It seems to me that it is extremely bad business, when we are desirous of attracting settlers to the Northern Territory, to ask them to become tenants of the Crown under a provision that after the tenancy has commenced the Crown may, whenever it likes, and from time to time, impose upon them fresh conditions and obligations. The reading I put upon this clause is that lessees are to become subject to any conditions, covenants and provisions which the Classification Board may regard as necessary. I want to point out now a second objection to this clause. It has reference to grazing and farming leases. The Classification Board consists of three officials, the Director of Lands, the Director of Agriculture, and the Chief Surveyor. They have the right to determine these conditions, but if honorable senators will turn to clause 31 of the Ordinance, they will find that quite another authority is given the power to impose conditions and provisions with regard to miscellaneous leases. It seems to me that if the Classification Board is the proper authority to determine the provisions and conditions for one set of leases, it ought to be the authority authorized to impose the conditions with regard to all leases.
– The difference may be due to purely technical phraseology.
– No, it is not. The honorable senator will see that something quite different is intended, from the fact that there is an appeal from the Director of Lands to the Administrator. I am suggesting, as a matter of simplification, that the Classification Board which appears to me to be the active authority for the administration of this Ordinance should be the authority to determine the conditions not only of pastoral and farming leases, but of miscellaneous leases. I am inclined to think that the alternative provision is the result of an oversight. I think that the Classification Board is the proper authority, as it will have the actual ad ministration of all these leases. It is the body whose special duty it will be to consider what conditions and covenants should be included in leases. A portion of. that duty should not be handed as proposed to the Administrator. I ask the attention of honorable senators now to clause 17 dealing with reservations in leasesThere are four classes of reservation set out there, namely : (a) a reservation of theright of entry and inspection ; (b) a reservation of minerals which may be found’” on the land ; (c) a reservation of a power of resumption ; and (d) a reservation of all ‘ timber. The point I wish to make is in regard to paragraphs a, b, and d. The’ matters are specifically set out, and there is no opportunity for them to be varied1 later. But paragraph c, giving a power of resumption, is the most important one, as far as the lessee is concerned. Power is taken to vary that condition at any time the Crown may think fit, after the granting of the lease. The paragraph reads -
A reservation of a power of resumption shall be read as a power to resume the whole or any portion of the land as prescribed by this or any other Ordinance or the regulations.
– Does that weaken the security of tenure?
– That is my point, A man who takes a lease under the Ordinance may be fairly told that he took that lease knowing that there was a reservation which secured to the Crown the right to alter the conditions which the Ordinance provides for, in regard to resumption.
– The Land Acquisition Act gives similar powers to the Crown to resume land, if it is wanted.
– I have never said a word ‘ against the resumption of land*.. What I contend is that, when a man takes a lease from the Crown, he has the right, to know that the terms as to resumption set out in the lease will be observed during its currency, and that it shall not be left to the Director of Lands to come along later and provide for some other method of resumption, and, possibly, some other form of compensation. In this case, if honorable senators will turn to clause 35, they will find that it is set out clearly how the resumption is to take place. It is necessary to bear in mind, too, with regard to these resumptions, that it is an allimportant feature in the Ordinance which provides for a perpetual lease. It would’ not matter so much if these were terminable leases, which, I hope, they will become. We are dealing now with a perpetual lease. If any considerable portion of the Northern- . Territory is occupied under this system within the next few years, it is inevitable that the power of resumption will be con,tinually brought into play. It is, to pay mind, merely meeting the requirements of fair play and justice to say to persons who take up these leases, that the provisions which are set out in the Ordinance as to resumption and compensation will be faithfully and honorably observed by the Commonwealth, and will not be varied at a later date to the disadvantage of the tenants.
– Will not notice of resumption be given?
– That is not the point. Of course, the lessees will have notice given to them, but that will not ease the matter. My point is, that clause 35 sets out the method of resumption and compensation. I. hold that the man who takes up a lease under the strength and security of that clause ought not to be told by any authority later, “ We are going to destroy clause 35, we intend to tear up the terms and conditions under which you accepted the lease, and to impose upon you an entirely different set of conditions.”
– Might it not be possible that, in some cases, the tenants would be very glad to have the conditions varied?
– If so, the course is very easy, because they can, if they like, surrender something to the Crown. The honorable senator will see that that is not what is contemplated here. We do not need a special provision when we want a man to surrender anything, but we do when we want to take something which he will not voluntarily give up. I come now to clause 1 8, which bars the right of a lessee to assign or transfer a lease, except with the sanction of the Administrator. If we wish to make our land system in the Northern Territory a success, it is desirable to attach to it as few irritating and handicapping provisions as possible. Nothing has done so much to make leaseholders clamorous to become freeholders as the attaching of such provisions to their leases. We have had experience of this system in New South Wales, South Australia, and New Zealand. When a leaseholder has secured his block, and finds that he is unable to handle it as readily as may a freeholder, he necessarily becomes dissatisfied, and says that he is hampered by onehundredandone State regulations, and the most harassing condition of all is his inability to handle the lease he holds as a mercantile proposition.
– He desires to enter into land speculation, not into land settlement and use.
– Does the honorable senator think that that answers the question ?
– That is the experience in New South Wales.
– If this clause was put in the Ordinance to prevent the aggregation of land, it will absolutely fail, because there is no provision to prevent one man from owning 1,000. leases in the Northern Territory - a provision which, I think, ought to be there, but is not. Even if the clause be retained as it is, there is no prohibition against the Administrator consenting to one lessee acquiring a dozen leases from persons who are willing to sell.
– It will prevent him putting a block in pawn.
– It will. If it is intended that a lessee shall not have financial assistance, it ought not to be left to the discretion of the Administrator to say which men shall pawn their blocks and which men shall not. If it is intended that lessees shall not give their leases as security in order to obtain advances to carry on their work, it ought to be set out that underno circumstances shall the leases be available for assignment. If my honorable friends opposite object to leases being mortgaged, the correct thing is to provide in the Ordinance that a lessee shall not be allowed to mortgage his lease.
– Without consent ?
– That worked very well in South Australia as to the perpetual leasing system.
– What is provided in clause 18 is that a lessee may mortgage his land, provided that he first gets the consent of the Administrator. I dissent from. that provision.
– Would you agree to the Administrator giving his consent?
– Not at all. I would sweep away half the regulations which are contained in this Ordinance, and substitute one simple regulation which would prevent aggregation anyhow, anywhere, and at any time. I would simply impose a limitation as to the acquisition and use of land by any one man, and having got that limitation, I would not care what he did with the land.
– You would not allow him to sell to another man holding land?
– Certainly not
– You would not give him a freehold?
– Yes, in a living area.
– How do you propose to amend the Ordinance, seeing that the motion asks the Senate to reject it?
– Unfortunately, I am obliged to proceed in this form. An Ordinance is a .most unsatisfactory way of dealing with such an important matter as land policy. It would have been infinitely better if the Government had brought down a Bill and given us an opportunity to design rules and regulations which would have been applicable to the conditions in the Northern Territory. I hope that it will not be long before Parliament is afforded an opportunity to say what it thinks ought to be the land policy there.
– It ought to be just as much embodied in an Act of this Parliament as the railway policy.
– I do not know any subject which demands such careful consideration as our land policy. I ask honorable senators to turn to clause 25 of the Ordinance dealing with agricultural leases. It sets out that the leases shall contain, amongst other covenants -
A covenant by the lessee that he will cultivate the land to the extent and in the manner notified by the Classification Board by notification in the Gazette.
So far as the extent to which the lessee shall cultivate is concerned, I can have no objection. A man who takes a lease of this kind is taking an agricultural farm, and it seems quite right and proper that the Crown should say to him, “ We are leasing this farm to you on the understanding that you shall cultivate a certain area.” But when it comes to a question of setting out that the Classification Board shall have the right to determine the manner of cultivation, it introduces one of the useless, harassing, and pernicious rules which, if they are left alone, all Government Departments will attempt to inflict upon a long-suffering public. As regards the manner of cultivation, is a lessee to be told that he is to use a mould-board rather than a disc plough, or spike harrows rather than tooth harrows? Is he to be told that he is to trench his land, or subsoil it, or that he is to fallow it every other year, or one year out of three? These things come under the term “ manner of cultivation.” Either this provision is going to be used or it is not. If it is not going to be used it ought to be struck out.
– Suppose that a man were nominally cultivating his lease in a most inefficient way, what would be the good of it ?
– That would be his loss.
– And the country’s loss.
– Undoubtedly ; but we have always- to remember that this Ordinance stands to-day, and that under a perpetual lease the reappraiser will come along every few years. If he puts the market value upon the property he will by that means compel the lessee to turn the land to the best possible account. Senator Rae will recognise the extreme difficulty of reposing in any Government official the right to go round the country telling men the methods by which they shall cultivate their land. It is becoming absurd when we carry Government interference to that limit.
– And the Government official might interfere every year.
– I am not one of those who decry our official experts, or who depreciates the value we get from our experimental farms and agricultural colleges ; but nothing has been more ludicrous than the failure of a number of these experts to recognise the difference between an experimental farm and a farm upon which a man has to make his living.
– Under this Ordinance every farm will become an experimental one.
– Yes ; but, unfortunately, the cost of the experiments will fall upon the lessees. I am very grateful to Senator Symon for his interjection. The Crown will call upon its lessees to carry out whatever experiments it chooses, but at their own expense. Experimental farms are the proper places in which to carry on experiments.
– In the absence of such a provision, a lot of our land will be taken up and cultivated in a loose manner for three or four years, when the lessees will leave it and take up fresh land.
– Under the operation of this Ordinance a couple of years must elapse before’ the Crown can know whether a lessee is adopting right methods or not.
– A man may just have got his holding under profitable cultivation when he may be told to alter his methods, and thus he may be ruined.
– At first I was Under the impression that this clause had found its way into the Ordinance by accident, but it seems from the interjection of Senator Guthrie that, after all, there are some who believe in the right of a Government expert to go round the country telling men how they should boil their billies.
– Does the honorable senator think that a lessee ought to be at liberty to grow a luxuriant crop of prickly pears ?
– That is not covered by this point. If there is any man in the country who would feel irritated if a Government official attempted to dictate to him how he should work his land, that man is Senator Givens.
– But that point is covered by the stipulation that the lessee shall cultivate his land according to the best methods of husbandry. Under this Ordinance, he may be told to fence (his holding in the most extraordinary way, and to change his fences every six months.
–That is so. Further, I fail to discover in this Ordinance any provision for common boundary fences. In the absence of such a provision, I do not know whether the law of South Australia would be held to govern the position. But there is no more important matter between neighbour and neighbour with a common boundary than is the fence which is between them.
– In the case of large holdings, they do not have a fence.
– I am quite aware of that. The necessity of getting water ls about the best stockrider that ever operated in Australia; but as settlement thickens the question of fencing becomes an important one.
– That is prescribed in the lease under clause 19.
– If the honorable senator knew anything about fencing he would not have made that interjection, because I spoke of two neighbours who have a common boundary. I say that there ought to be some provision by which either one of two lessees, having a common boundary, should be enabled to fence. Otherwise, one lessee may wish to fence, whilst his neighbour may not feel so disposed. There ought to be some provision “by which, in such cases, one man can fence and demand a contribution from his neigh”bour. That is the law of the land in the different States.
– In most of the other States that provision is not included in the land laws, but in a separate Act, namely, the Fencing Act.
– We have had no end of trouble in New South Wales over common boundaries, and I therefore suggest that there should be inserted in this Ordinance a simple provision dealing with that question. Then, under clause 41, it is proposed to continue in existence the South Australian Acts so far as they are applicable. I think, that is a serious mistake to make. If anything that has happened in South Australia is at all paralleled by what has happened in New South Wales, it means that in accepting wholesale these South Australian laws, we shall be accepting a legacy of doubt and confusion.
– But it is necessary that we should have some law to bridge over the gap.
– The gap could be bridged over by simply reserving the South Australian laws so far as the existing tenancies are concerned.
– That is all that the Ordinance ought to provide for.
– But if we are going to adopt the whole of the South Australian laws, it may happen that in ten years’ time some contentious point will arise, and some lawyer will then say, “ Oh, but I rely upon the law which was passed by the South Australian Parliament in 1880.” With a clean slate, so far as the unleased lands are concerned, it would be better to start de novo rather than to accept, in this blind fashion, the South Australian laws, of which 1 venture to say nobody here, except the South Australian representatives, has any intimate knowledge. I would shudder if we were asked to adopt for the Northern Territory the New South Wales land laws. They are so complicated that it is almost the work of a life-time to get upon even a speaking acquaintance with them.
– They would require a Philadelphian lawyer to understand.
– The ““Philadelphian lawyer was lost long ago in the matter of understanding those laws. Then clause 40 contains a proposal to enable lessees under the South Australian Acts to convert their holdings into perpetual leases. I ask honorable senators to think what that means. These lessees took up their leases under a forty-two years’ tenure. It is now proposed to give them the right to have their’ holdings converted into perpetual leases. I hope that the Senate will not for a moment countenance the idea of granting perpetual leases for these enormous areas. However, I shall deal with that aspect of the matter at a later stage of my remarks. I turn now for a moment or two to the regulations. Regulations 9 and 10, I venture to say, do not find a place in any land law in any country in the world. The former sets out that an applicant for a lease may be required to produce a medical certificate of fitness. Is it to go forth to the world that the climate of the Northern Territory is such that only the most robust constitutions can stand it? What is the reason for this provision?
– If a medical certificate of fitness be required in the north, why not in the south?
– If we have made a mistake in the south, why should we make one in the north?
– Does Senator Guthrie seriously think that a man ought to provide a medical certificate of physical fitness before he goes to the Northern Territory ?
– I do.
– Then theCrown has a right to ask him for a medical certificate before he goes anywhere. When the honorable senator is journeying back to South Australia in a luxurious train to-morrow, I feel sure that, if he thinks over this matter, he will come to the conclusion that he ought not to have interjected. I submit that any man . who goes to the Northern Territory with a view to settling there will have given all the proof that is required of his physicalfitness. It seems to me that some officials entertain the strange idea that it is their special mission in life to act as a wet nurse to people. I am satisfied to leave this matter to honorable senators, and I am sure they will agree with me that the provision to which I have referred is an undesirable one. I pass now to the provision under regulation 10, which sets out that any information supplied by any person other than the applicant to the Classification Board, or to any authorized person at the request of the Board, shall be privileged,and shallbe treated by the Classification Board as confidential.
– That is an invitation to slander.
– As Senator Symon truly observes, it is an invitation to slander, and, moreover, the slandered person is to have no opportunity of refuting the slander. I wonder what our legislation is coming to. Here, it is absolutely set out that an official may go round the country; and say to any individual, “ You may tell me what you like about people, you may slander them as much as you like, and you will be immune from punishment. More than that, the persons whom you slander will not know of it!” Thus evilly-disposed persons, who may possibly be interested in counter applications, will probably give the Board untruthful evidence. As a result, the Board may come to the conclusion that the applicant is not a desirable tenant. I challenge any one to find a counterpart of that in. any land law in Australia. Invariably, when a man’s fitness as an applicant for land is called in question, there is a proper mode of making a pronouncement, and that is in open Court.
– On oath.
– Yes; although, as far as the oath itself is concerned, I do not attach much importance to it. Personally, I think that the time has arrived when we should abolish the oath altogether, and make the penalty which attaches to false swearing attachable to false declarations. I hope that, in this matter, honorable senators will seriously put to themselves the question whether it is desirable that we should proclaim by Ordinance that the Commonwealth of Australia opens the back door of its public offices to those who like to come in and commit a slander to the detriment and prejudice of an applicant for its land.
– What is more, any one who discloses the matter to the man whose character is taken away, is liable to be fined £50.
– That is the case. I leave that matter in the full belief that if honorable senators give it careful and impartial judgment, they will agree with me in saying that that clause should be struck out. I turn now to clause 19, and I ask honorable senators to compare it with clause 20. Clause 20 provides that -
The rental payable under perpetual leases shall be subject to re-appraisement every 14 years in the case of Crown lands and 21 years in the case of agricultural and pastoral lands.
There it is set out that re-appraisement is to take place at definitely fixed periods. If the principle of perpetual leasehold is to be maintained, there can be no fault found with that provision. But turn now to regulation 19. It deals with the matters that are set out in clause 20; but it pro- vides, not for a re-appraisement every fourteen years, because, under it, there may be a re-appraisement every fourteen weeks, or every fourteen months. Where any public work is carried on which, in the opinion of the authorities, increases the value of town land, a re-appraisement can be made ; and so with regard to each succeeding public work. The idea underlying that may be an excellent one ; but surely the Senate will agree that there ought to be some fixed period between one re-appraisement and another. Suppose the case of a man who obtains the lease of a town allotment. They tell him that his rental is subject to reappraisement at fixed periods of fourteen years. Suppose that he puts up premises - and bear in mind that premises in such a town as we hope to see growing up there are not going to cost a few hundreds of pounds, but may, in some instances, cost thousands - believing that he has a fourteen years’ lease. Immediately the Crown puts up a new public building, it can come along and re-appraise that man’s land. A month or two after, when another public work has been completed, the Crown can again say that there has been an addition to value, and make another re-appraisement. It may be quite right to devise a system which will secure to the Crown the value arising from expenditure on public works, but there ought to be some fixed period between each reappraisement. The term of fourteen years appears to me to be too short. Certainly it is not an unduly long minimum. It is a question whether we ought not to make it longer. But, at all events, a man who takes up land in a town in this Territory ought not to be subject to having his land re-appraised every week, every month, or every year. He will never know where he stands. In my opinion, clause 20 ought to be adhered to in its integrity, and clause 19 ought to be modified in conformity with it. I have just one other regulation to deal with, namely, regulation 22. It is a long one, and what it means is this It vests in the Director of Lands power to forfeit leases if the lessee, in his opinion, has been guilty of a wilful breach of the regulations. It is an extremely serious and dangerous thing to place in the hands of any one individual, not sitting in open Court, but within his own office, the power to re call one, or any number, of’ leases held by other individuals. No such power ought to be exercised by any offi cial behind the closed door of the office in which he sits. First, I object to the power being given, no matter who may exercise it, whether in open Court or not; but, beyond that, I strongly and doubly object to it if it is to be exercised in the Director’s own office. I am not saying this with reference to the particular gentleman who occupies the position at present. I am certain that if any honorable senator’s individual concerns were to be put in jeopardy in the way I have indicated, he would say that it was not fair, that it was not common sense, and that it was not just. To show that I am not overlooking anything, let me say at once that this power is subject to appeal.
– Hear, hear !
– We will see what the appeal is worth directly. There is no provision by which a lessee, whose block has been forfeited because the Director chooses to believe that he has committed a’ breach of the agreement, may have an absolute right to ask for a re-hearing. But there is power given to the Administrator if he sees fit to vary the decision of the Director. I am going to contrast that with another provision in this Ordinance. I hope that I have made it abundantly clear that under this regulation power is given to the Director of Lands to forfeit the lease of any man who, in his opinion, has been guilty of a wilful breach of the Ordinance, and that in that case the Administrator can if he likes review the Decision of the Director, but that there is no right given to the lessee to appeal from the Director. Now let me point out what is provided in a much less serious matter than the forfeiture of a lease. It will be admitted that the forfeiture of a lease is far more serious than the re-appraisement of rental. But when the time comes for re-appraisement it is provided that the proceedings shall be in open Court, with all the safeguards of publicity. Even before the Appeal Court is constituted the interests of the lessee are safeguarded, because it is provided that the appeal shall be heard before the Supreme Court Judge of the Northern Territory, aided by two assessors, one of whom isto represent the lessee. Before that open Court the lessee will have the right to go. He will have the fullest opportunity of stating his case, and his interest is to be further conserved by the presence ofan assessor who will look after his rights. But surely if it necessary to give him those safeguards where only the matter of rental is concerned, it is far more important that his interest should be equally well conserved when the forfeiture of the whole lease in involved. With the experience that you possess, Mr. President, of what has taken place in Queensland, and with the experience which other honorable senators have had of what has occurred in other States, it can hardly be denied that it is undesirable to place in the hands of any one man, sitting in the privacy of his office, a power which ought only to be exercised by a tribunal sitting in open daylight. If we are to avoid the serious mistakes which have always attended State administration when we have departed from the safe principle of the open Court, we ought to take warning here. Matters of this kind should be determined by a Board, and whatever the decision of the Board may be, the first .essential is that it should sit in public. That safeguard a lessee ought to possess. Then, if the Board gives an adverse decision, the lessee ought to have a right of appeal to a Land Appeal Board. In that way everything which justice requires may be met.
– There is an appeal to the Courts is there not?
– No; the Ordinance says distinctly that the decision shall not be subject to any appeal to a Court. Tt does appear to me to be carrying matters too far to say that any official shall have power to forfeit a man’s block without appeal, and in fact with the express condition that there shall be no appeal to any Court in the land. If I had stated as a proposition that we ought to give any one official the right to take a man’s land away from him without appeal, I venture to say that every member of the Senate would have scouted the idea.
– Why did not the honorable senator ask the Senate to disallow the particular clauses to which he objected ?
– It was not clear to me when I gave notice of my motion whether I could confine attention to parts of the Ordinance, because it must be remembered that we are not dealing with it as though it were a Bill capable of amendment in particular clauses. But if the Government would assist in bringing about desirable amendments, it would be possible to do what Senator Guthrie suggests. That is all that I want to do. I have submitted this motion in the belief that this is the only way in which I could state a case for the consideration of the Senate. But if the Senate shows sympathy with some of the points to which I have directed attention, the Government themselves might bring forward some amending provisions. It is not a matter of party concern, and I will do anything I can to avoid that aspect of the case. The matters which I have pointed! out hardly touch any principle o£ the leasehold system, but they do effect the satisfactory working of our land laws. Now I come to the question of perpetual leases as applied t® pastoral holdings. I strongly object to such leases without any qualification whatever. We have to recognise that these pastoral1 holdings are merely transient holdings. Land is held under pastoral occupation until such time as, with the increase of population, it is required for higher purposes. I recognise that there is a large portion’ of the Northern Territory which, so far as we can judge, must be devoted to pastoral occupation for all eternity. But there is a great deal of the country - how much we do not know - which, in the course of time, as has happened in- the Western1 Division of New South Wales, in Queensland, and in Western Australia, will, aspopulation increases and railway communication is provided, be required for higher purposes than pastoral occupation. Thereis much country there now held under pastoral lease which will probably remain’ under that form of occupation for the next generation, but its ultimate destiny is, not pastoral, but agricultural occupation. That being so, the question arises- Are we entitled to grant perpetual leases of that land?
– Resumption is provided1 for.
– Of course, it is, but that might be said of lands held under freehold. Every resumption we make wemust pay for. I say that these pastoral leases should’ be recognised as merely stopgaps, so far as the class of country towhich I refer is concerned. Ought wenot to give long, but still_ terminable, leases of such country, so that the question of” compensation may be simplfied for the generation that will come after the present one. It has been found that a fortytwo years’ lease has been sufficient to causeonethird of the Northern Territory to beoccupied. I venture to say that, when- the Commonwealth gets properly to work there, undertakes railway construction and affords increased facilities for graziers to send their produce to market, we shall find that a forty-two years’ lease is a sufficiently attractive lease for the balance of the country. If we cannot have it all occupied under a forty-two years’ tenure, we might try a fifty years’ lease, or a sixty years’ lease, but if we provide for a perpetual lease, it will mean that when we wish to secure the land for higher purposes it will have attained a value for which we shall have to pay under the provisions for compensation. I hope that the Senate will agree with me that there is no justification for perpetual leases of purely pastoral holdings in the Northern Territory. I direct attention to the fact that, with regard to pastoral holdings, the conflict is not between perpetual leases and freehold, but between perpetual leases and terminable leases. All I am asking is that, until we know better what the country is suited for, and experience has shown us how to properly classify the broad areas of the Northern Territory, we should let lands, at present suitable for pastoral pur-poses only, on leases sufficiently long to attract settlement, but still terminable leases, which would insure in due course, when the time came for further treatment at the hands of the Commonwealth Parliament, or some authority in which this Parliament may have vested its powers, the oportunity to put the lands to better use. A few figures will show what the grant of perpetual leases for pastoral areas in the Northern Territory might lead to At present one-third of the Territory is under lease. I am not referring -now to pastoral permits and licences. The 69,000,000 acres of land under pastoral lease in the Northern Territory, as distinguished from pastoral licences, is held under 256 leases, so that the average holding is 270.000 acres in extent. We may assume that the best and most attractive areas have been taken up so far. It is not unreasonable,, therefore, to suppose that persons now looking for land, and confined to less attractive areas, will be disposed and entitled to look for larger holdings What would be the position if this average area of holdings were maintained ? I* would mean that the Northern Territory would provide for only 1,237 holdings. Under this Ordinance, it might not provide for even half that number. Honorable senators will see that provision is made for pastoral leases of three classes, one with a maximum of 500 square miles, a second class with a maximum of 1,000 square miles, and a third class with a maximum of 3,000 square miles. Let us take, not the maximum area, but the mean area of 1,000 square miles - if perpetual leases are offered of holdings of 1,000 square mites, it will be possible to have in the Northern Territory only 523 such holdings. Suppose that the average at present existing, 270,000 acres, is maintained. There will then be provision in the Territory for only 1,237 such holdings.
– What about agricultural holdings ?
– I am dealing now only with pastoral lands. Can any one seriously and undisturbedly contemplate a proposal to grant the Northern Territory in perpetuity to 1,237 persons? The proposal is too absurd for serious contemplation. It is difficult to understand how provision for such a state of affairs came to have been made in this Ordinance. I can only assume that some theorist, attaching great importance to the idea of perpetual leases, and recognising that there is a great value attaching to such leases as applied to certain holdings, has not discriminated between holdings which may be permanent and those, such as pastoral leases, which may be merely transient. There is a big difference between a permanent holding, and that which is a mere stop-gap. I hope the Government will modify the Ordinance by providing, not for perpetual leases, but for leases which, while being of long tenure, are still terminable leases, of those big pastoral holdings. Dealing with classification, I may refer to the proposal to grant blocks of 64,000 acres, for what is termed mixed farming. It is proposed to grant perpetual leases for these areas also. I do not know why. I appeal to Senators Gardiner and Rae, and to all who know anything about land, to say whether a proposal to grant an area of 64,000 acres as an agricultural farm is not an absurdity itself. Honorable senators must recognise that on a 64,000-acre mixed farm, very little ploughing will be done. It will be used as a grazing farm pure and simple, with just sufficient agriculture to meet th( bare requirements of the lease. I should not be prepared at any time to grant perpetual leases of big areas of 64,000 acres. I object altogether to an area of 64 00c acres going in perpetuity into the hands o’ any one individual. Within reason, I d< not mind how big an area is given to an individual, provided there is a termination, within a reasonable period, to the lease he holds. I suggest a policy which I think ought to be adopted, and could be adopted, with advantage. I would give a man 64,000 acres, or even a larger area, under a terminable lease, with the right at the termination of his lease to secure in perpetuity - under a freehold tenure, according to my” idea, but if that is objected to under a perpetual lease - what is known in New South Wales as a living area.
– The leases are subject to a power of resumption.
– But we must pay for the resumption.
– What about improvements ; they should be paid for.
– That would apply to resumptions in the case of leaseholds as well as freeholds. Whether terminable or interminable leases are given, improvements must be paid for, but in the case of terminable leases, we should have to pay only for the improvements, whilst in the case of interminable leases, we should, on resumption, have to pay, in addition, compensation for dispossessing the lessee.
– It is now proposed to hand back to the Government some of the terminable leases in Western Australia for nothing.
– I am surprised at Senator Lynch’s interjection. I did expect that honorable senators on the other side would be careful to resent the possibility of land monopoly, and they must know that land monopoly can occur as well under a perpetual lease as under a freehold.
– That is so, if no precautions are taken to prevent it.
– Exactly. We could grant a perpetual leasehold to one man of the whole of the Northern Territory. Is Senator Lynch in favour of that?
– It is a question of reappraisement of rent.
– There might still be a monopoly. All I am saying is that in the early days of the Territory, as in the more settled States of the Commonwealth,’ there will be a developmental period, when we shall be anxious to have the land occupied. Those of us who have had experience of settlement in the eastern States knew that the first purpose to which land can be properly put is grazing, and that, as time goes on and population in creases, the land can be held under a better form of settlement. It seems to me that the correct course is to say that during the developmental period in the North- * ern Territory we shall lease lands on terminable leases for any purpose to which they can be put, but we shall not mortgage the future, and give people to-day the right to permanently hold lands which in the course of time will be suitable for subdivision. I should say that,, with respect to large pastoral leases, and also with respect to the proposed mixed farms of 64,000 acres, which ought not to be called agricultural farms, we should give leases for a fixed period, and at the end of that period give the lessees the right to secure, upon some more permanent tenure, areas which the circumstances then existing show to be fit and necessary for individual occupation.
– I take it that the honorable senator believes in leasehold as against freehold, but not in leasehold in perpetuity ?
– I have not said anything of the kind. I regard the existing leaseholds as stop-gaps, and useful while we are passing through the developmental stage in the Territory. We are not going to settle the Northern Territory in small holdings under any tenure to-morrow. Neither Senator Findley nor I am able to say what portions of the Territory are suitable for closer settlement, or when the time will arrive when it can be settled in small holdings. I say that I object to leases in perpetuity, because I know that the time will come when we shall have to resume lands, and it will then be necessary to pay heavy compensation to the lessees. I wish to avoid that. I say that we should have terminable leases of pastoral lands, and people will be prepared to take up pastoral leases if the tenure is sufficiently long to enable them to recover the money they sink in their ventures. I have dealt so far with what I call minor regulations, which, though of importance, do not involve any great matter of principle. They can be discussed dispassionately by honorable senators, whether they favour the freehold or the leasehold principle. It is with regard to them that I particularly request the impartial judgment of honorable senators opposite. The issue raised by the proposal to grant only leaseholds in ‘the Northern Territory will not be settled in the Senate. It will not be settled either at the next election, though I can assure my honorable friends opposite that it will be raised then. It is not going to be settled probably for a few years, but it is none the less necessary that the issue should be raised now, if only for the purpose of enabling honorable senators on this side to make their position regarding it abundantly clear.
– The principle of leasehold as against freehold has been established by this Parliament.
– I want to say that those with whom I am politically associated desire, at the earliest possible moment, to see a change made in the principle set out in this Ordinance.
– Why did the honorable senator not challenge it in connexion with the Federal Capital area?
– It is sufficient that I should deal with this matter at the present moment. The honorable senator’s interjection shows how necessary it is that the issue should be raised now. The fact that something may have been done at some time or another is no reason why we should to-day refrain from challenging a principle which we regard as obnoxious.
– Did you not approve of the leasehold principle as regards the Federal Territory and Papua ?
– Papua is quite a different thing.
– Well, as regards the Federal Territory?
– I am not aware that I approved of the leasehold principle then. We have been frequently asked what law passed by the present Government we would repeal if we came into power. I think 1 car, safely say that if the Liberal party come into office they will unquestionably make an effort to insure to every man who goes to the Northern Territory-
– Order ! The motion of the honorable senator deals with the disallowance of an Ordinance which has been made under the power of an Act of this Parliament, but he is now, I understand, proceeding to discuss the provisions of the Act itself.
– I must apologize if I have allowed myself to depart from my usual good behaviour in that respect. I raise the issue now, not with any hope that this portion of the Ordinance will be modified in any way, but in order that it shall be made abundantly clear that honorable senators on this side, by their silence, are not assenting to that proposition. We who object to this portion of the Ordinance be lieve that there should be an amendment made holding out to every man who ventures into the Northern Territory the prospect, under certain conditions and safeguards against aggregation, of being able to call his farm his own.
– Would you not hold out a similar prospect down here?
– Certainly, and 1 do so whenever I can.
– Would you hold out to the land-holder the prospect of taking the values which the rest of the community create?
– My honorable friend tempts me very much now to discuss a most attractive subject, sir, but he will pardon me if I pass that to-day, seeing that I have no desire either to tax your patience or my own strength. This issue marks very strongly the difference between the two parties on this subject. It is for that reason that I wish to address a few words t.o the Senate. It seems to me that our first business with regard to the Northern Territory is to get the land settled, and ia doing that we ought to pay a very great deal of attention to the method of land settlement which is likely to prove most attractive. We should not regard the Northern Territory as a. mere laboratory for the purpose of carrying out experiments. We have taken over this country, and I believe that most of us were impelled by the fear that if it were left open much longer it would become an imminent danger to Australia. We are, therefore, under the strongest of all obligations to adopt the policy which is likely to prove the most effective in bringing in as quickly as possible a considerable number of desirable settlers. I approach the matter from that stand-point. Which of the two policies is likely to be the more attractive?
– Leasehold, I think.
– I rather thought that Senator Rae would make that remark.
– Order ! I do not think that under the terms of his motion the honorable senator will be justified in discussing the question of freehold versus. leasehold, or any matter of that description. The Ordinance can be disallowed1 by the Senate, but the method of settlement has been laid down by Parliament in the Act under which the Ordinance was made.
– I should like to submit, for your consideration, sir, before you give a final decision, that while it is quite true that there is an Act dealing with the subject, the Act is inoperative until this Ordinance is given effect to. If the Senate should carry my motion, it will, for the time being, suspend all that is contemplated by the Ordinance, and it does contemplate the granting of land under leasehold tenure. [ am asking the Senate to call a halt, or, in other words, to say that it will not do what is proposed at the present time. It is the only way in which I can go to work. If the Ordinance is disallowed, what will happen? The leasehold system will be suspended for the time being. It appears to me, sir, that, inasmuch as I am asking the Senate to suspend the leasehold principle by disallowing the Ordinance, I am entitled to point out the disadvantages that would result from the Ordinance.
– The position, I take it, is that under an Act of this Parliament the Government have issued this Ordinance. The Act provides that the Ordinance must lie on the table of the Senate for a certain period, during which it is open to any honorable senator to move that the Ordinance be disallowed. The motion before the Senate may, or may not, be carried. If it is carried, although it will, for the time being, as stated by Senator Millen, prevent settlement in the Northern Territory for which authority is given in the Act, it will not alter in any way the method which has been laid down by Parliament for dealing with the land.
– It will stop settlement.
– That would not justify the Chair in allowing a debate to take place on a matter which is not covered by the motion.
– I do not disguise from myself that one of the reasons which moved me in submitting the motion was a disbelief in the sufficiency of the leasehold principle for the ultimate and permanent settlement of the Northern Territory. However, I am less concerned about discussing the rival systems, because, as I said at the commencement of my speech, I have no hope of getting any sympathy for that portion of my remarks from the other side. Now that the motion is largely shorn by your decision, sir, of the significance which otherwise might have attached to it as to the difference between the two systems, I can with greater confidence appeal to honorable senators opposite to bring their practical minds to bear on the several problems to which I have referred. I ask them to consider the problems impartially, without any party feeling.
If they will do that, I feel quite satisfied that there will be very material alterations made in the Ordinance. If there is any way in which the alterations can be secured, and save any appearance of a party triumph on the one side, or a Ministerial defeat on the other, I am quite willing to move in the direction which is most agreeable to my honorable friends on the other side. All that I want the Senate to do with regard to these land regulations is to try to avoid the mistakes which have been committed from time immemorial in dealing with land in the various States. I want to see that the land administration in the Northern Territory is started on safe, sure, and sound lines, because every mistake which may be committed to-day will ultimately throw a burden, not on future Parliaments alone, but on the people whose task it will be to develop this country. For these reasons, I submit the motion, and sincerely trust that honorable senators will join with me in endeavouring to make the Ordinance equal to the very important purpose for which it was designed.
Debate (on motion by Senator McGregor) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Findley) agreed to-
That the Quarantine Bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clauses 7, 9, and 23.
In Committee (Recommittal):
Clause 7 (Emergency Quarantine Grounds).
– I move -
That the words “on the recommendation of the Director of Quarantine “ be left out.
I desire the deletion of these words in order to remove a legal objection which would exist to the Minister appointing an emergency quarantine ground without the recommendation of the Director of Quarantine. As honorable senators are aware, the practice is for the Minister to act upon the recommendation of the responsible officer. But it is not considered desirable that it should be a condition precedent to the exercise of power by the Minister that he should act only on the recommendation of the Director of Quarantine. For these reasons, I submit the amendment.
– I would like a little more information from the Minister as to why he desires the omission of these words. It seems to me that he wishes to secure for the administration of this Bill purely Ministerial control, without the advice, or even the acquiescence of the executive head of the Department. At present we have at the head of the Quarantine Department one of the most experienced men in the Commonwealth. He is charged with the important work of watching closely all matters relating to quarantine and practically of recommending the location of temporary quarantine stations. The Minister proposes, by his amendment, to strike out of existence the important executive head of the Department, so that the Minister himself will have a free, choice in the location of any quarantine station. In such circumstances a quarantine station might be erected at a spot recommended by a local resident, or some uninfluential and inexperienced authority. I can imagine cases arising in which it would be very necessary to seek the advice of the Director of Quarantine in the matter of where a quarantine station should be- located. But, by this amendment, it is proposed to disregard Dr. Norris, and to .give the Minister absolute control. That is rather a high-handed action to take. I am not at all satisfied with what the Minister is doing. We have appointed a Director of Quarantine at a very high salary, although I do not suppose that it is too high having regard to his qualifications. But, having selected a gentleman of his standing, he should be the eyes and ears of the Minister for the time being, and on every occasion he should be consulted as the Minister’s guide and director. 1 await a more complete explanation as to why these words should be omitted.
– I also join issue with the Minister upon this matter, and I entirely agree with Senator Lynch’s contention. If we excise the words we are asked to eliminate, we shall at once put in the hands of the Minister the power of deciding where quarantine stations shall be located. In the past it has been the custom for the Minister to be guided by the expert in these matters. The latter is a practical man. I am sure that if Senator Findley were in charge of the Department to-morrow, he would not be in a position to entirely disregard the advice of the Director of Quarantine. To ignore the opinion of a man like Dr. Norris is, to my mind, a rather dangerous procedure. We ought not to hand over to the Minister of the day, who may not have a knowledge of these questions, full and com plete control. If we do, we shall be setting a bad example to other Departments. Today the Minister is guided by the advice of his expert officers ; and where the public health is at stake, surely he ought, at least, to have some advice from the Director of Quarantine, who, I presume, is an expert medical officer. Unless a more satisfactory explanation be forthcoming, I shall feel inclined to vote against the amendment.
– I would be the last man to do anything calculated to lessen Ministerial control. At the same time, we know that many of the questions which appertain to quarantine are of a scientific and technical nature. If we are going to have at the head of that Department a highly qualified man such as we undoubtedly have at the present time, the Minister ought to get from him all the guidance that he can. We know that Dr. Norris has recently been round the world, and that he ought to be au fait with all matters relating to his Department. Indeed, we know that he is practically the framer of the measure which is now under consideration. I am anxious to learn the reason why the Minister seeks to alter this clause. Dr. Norris is well fitted to tender advice as to where quarantine stations should be located. Indeed, the Minister could have no better officer. I do not say that the Minister in charge of the Bill has not good and sufficient reasons for the amendment that he has submitted ; but he has not taken the Committee into his confidence upon this matter. We ought to be told why the head of the Department should be ignored when an important matter such as the establishment of temporary quarantine stations is in question.
– In submitting the amendment, I stated that it is the practice of the Department to act on the recommendation of the Director of Quarantine. In speaking of the gentleman who fills that office - Dr. Norris - I can fully indorse all that Senator Lynch has said. Dr. Norris has been intrusted with work of the highest importance to the health of every citizen of the Commonwealth. It is true that we did ?end him abroad, and I hope that his trip will be of very great advantage to Australia, from the point of view of quarantine. When Senator Needham says that the omission of these words will mean that the Minister will not have the advice of that officer he misunderstands the object of the amendment. I repeat that the practice is for the Minister to act on the recommendation of the Director of Quarantine, and that practice will be continued so long as the present Government hold office j but I would point out to Senators Needham, de Largie, and Lynch, that the Minister’s hands will be absolutely tied in cases of sudden emergency if the words in question be retained. A legal objection would prevent him from appointing an emergency quarantine ground without a recommendation from the Director of Quarantine. What would be the position of the Minister if that officer chanced to be absent? The Director of Quarantine himself desires this amendment to be made in the Bill, because, while it will not lessen his powers in any way, it will authorize the Minister to proclaim emergency quarantine grounds should the occasion demand it. Honorable senators need have no fear whatever of the amendment, which is in die interests of Dr. Norris and which will be helpful to the Minister.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9 -
After section fifteen of the Principal Act the following section is inserted - …. “4. Where a vessel has arrived from a proclaimed place and the prescribed precautionary measures have not been taken, any prescribed measures, or measures deemed necessary by the Director of Quarantine, for the prevention of the introduction or spread of any quarantinable disease may be carried out by a quarantine officer with respect to the vessel her crew passengers and, cargo at the expense of the owner of the vessel.”
Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) [444I move -
That the words “ or measures deemed necessary by the Director of Quarantine “ be left out.
Vessels arriving from a proclaimed port are, under this Bill, expected to take certain precautionary measures. If they do not, precautionary measures may be made to apply by regulation, or may be suggested by the Director of Quarantine. Under the existing Act regulations may be prescribed, or may be such as the Director of Quarantine directs. We desire that the measures to be taken shall be prescribed by regulation only.
– Suppose there is an emergency, and there is no regulation to meet it.
– There is no likelihood of that occurring under this Bill. Every precaution has been taken to make the measure elastic, and the Director of, Quarantine feels that every opportunity will be afforded him to deal with emergencies.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [4.43].- Just now we were told that emergency cases might arise under clause 7, in which it would be impossible to communicate with the Director of Quarantine, and that, therefore, it was necessary to give the Minister full power to deal with such emergency cases. Now we come to a case where the prescribed measures may not be sufficient to deal with an emergency. If the words “ or measures deemed necessary by the Director of Quarantine “ be deleted, it will, be necessary for the Executive of the Commonwealth to authorize new regulations to deal with particular cases. I wish honorable senators to realize the objection that can be raised to this amendment, and the delay that may occur through leaving the matter in the hands of the Director of Quarantine.
– If an emergency should arise, it can be dealt with under this Bill. The powers given are so elastic that not much danger can arise with respect to it. But if an extreme case should occur, and fresh regulations be needed, a meeting of the Executive can be convened on the same day as the case is reported.
– The Minister tells us that a meeting of the Commonwealth Executive could be called to frame regulations to meet an emergency. Surely the easier method would be to telegraph to the Director of Quarantine, and ask his opinion. That would be much simpler than calling together the Executive Council, which, I believe, usually consists of two Commonwealth Ministers.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 23 (Liability of owner or agent for expenses of quarantine).
– I move -
That after the word “ responsibilities “ the words “ under this part “ be inserted.
The Bill is divided into seven parts, and, although the parliamentary draftsman has not the slightest doubt that the provisions in respect to security for carrying out responsibilities come under this part of the measure, ship-owners and others interested desire that any doubt shall be removed. To satisfy them and make it perfectly clear, we propose to insert the words included in my amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with further amendments.
– I lay upon the table, by command -
Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1913.
The Budget »9i2-i3- - Papers prepared by the Right Honorable Andrew Fisher, P.C., for the information of Honorable Members,’ on the occasion of opening the Budget of 1912-13.
I move -
That the papers be printed.
I am laying these papers upon the table in accordance with a custom which has been observed in the Senate for several years. The motion that the papers be printed is no reflection upon the Printing Committee, but is submitted for the purpose of enabling the Senate to discuss the financial affairs of the Commonwealth. In years gone by, the Senate had to wait until the Appropriation Bill came up from the House of Representatives before being able to review the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the year. But many honorable senators considered that they had a right to be afforded an earlier opportunity of looking into financial affairs. Consequently, the practice that I am following was adopted. I do not think there has been a financial year in the history of the Commonwealth that has been of greater interest to the people than the year 1912-13 will be. Members of the Opposition in both Houses of Parliament, and their supporters throughout the country - at meetings of the Liberal League, the People’s Liberal Party, the Australian Women’s National League, and so forth - have been ready to accuse the present Government of extravagance. When due consideration is given to the Budget for 1912-13, and to the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure .for the year ending 30th June, 1913, it will, I think, be recognised that the present Government are endeavouring to administer the affairs of the country in a manner that is really in accordance with economy and progress. Some might suppose that when an outcry of this description is raised the Government might be disposed to curtail expenditure, so as to justify the contention that we were economizing. But questions arise affecting the welfare of the people of the Commonwealth, and, in our opinion, a Government which was not prepared to launch out in various directions in the interests of the people would not be worthy of occupying the Treasury benches. I deny the accusation that has been made by the foes of the Government with respect to reckless extravagance. I maintain that where the Government intends to launch out in any direction they are doing so with a view to the best interests of all sections of the community, and we ask our friends, the enemy, when making these general statements, to give us some particular instances in connexion with which any act of extravagance can be sheeted home to the Government. It is all very well to say in a general way that reckless extravagance is going on, but I should like any honorable senator opposite to point out one instance of extravagance on the part of the present Government which, if the party opposite had been in power, they would not have been responsible for. They know that the people of the Commonwealth would have compelled them to carry out what the present Government have done. I wish to know where the opponents of the Government would apply the pruning knife. Would they cut down the estimates for the past two years, or for this year, in connexion with old-age pensions?
– Mr. Irvine said he would if he had the chance.
– I do not know whether Mr. Irvine is a man of infallible judgment and wisdom, but he is a courageous man. He does not, like the majority of our opponents, make general statements with respect to extravagance. He has had the courage to say where he would commence to economize. But is it the desire of the people of Australia that we should cut down the estimates for old-age pensions? There is no citizen worthy of the name who does not, at the present time, express a desire for the extension, rather than the curtailment, of that beneficial principle. Wherever I have gone, and I have been in a great many places in Australia within the last twelve months, the desire of the majority of the people with whom I came in contact was for an extension, rather than a reduction, of that expenditure. There is no one on the o:her side, with the exception of Mr. Irvine, who has said that we should begin operations with the pruning knife on the old-age pensions.
– The desire is there, although they have not the courage to express it.
– I am not so uncharitable as to imagine that there lurks in the minds of our friends, the Opposition, any intention to take from the aged people of Australia the privileges so graciously accorded them by this Parliament.
– Why do they not say so?
– I might remind honorable senators of the story of the jackdaw who was caught because he got into the company of crows. His only excuse was that he was in bad company. I issue a challenge to every opponent of the Government to say, in any place or on any platform in Australia, .whether he is prepared to reduce the estimates for old-age pensions. Honorable senators opposite will not say so. They are too generous. They have too much consideration for their fellow men and women who toiled and struggled to bring Australia into the position she occupies to-day. I am sure that, with respect to invalid pensions, they are of the same opinion. The great majority are generous minded enough to refrain from doing what would be a grievous injustice to many unfortunate people. To refer to something else, I may say that we have a very expensive Public Service under the control of the Commonwealth Parliament. Under the Public Service Act increases have been given to public servants within the last two or three years. Will any member of the Opposition say that they are prepared to apply the pruning knife in that direction? Are they prepared to say that more than justice has been done to those who are carrying on the Public Service of this great Commonwealth? If they are, why do they not say it from their places in Parliament? Why do they go to tea meetings, and such gatherings, to insinuate that there has been prodigal expenditure, and never mention the way in which they would be prepared to effect savings? I know that in the Public Service to-day there are men and women employed who are not getting the full reward to which they are entitled for the services they render. But up to the present time, so far as the resources of the Commonwealth have been available for the purpose of improving the position of those who have performed their duty so well in the Public Service, the present Administration have done their best, and justly so, to secure that improvement. I ask any honorable senator opposite to say whether he would effect retrenchment in that direction ?
– What do the members of the Opposition mean by saying that the Service is costing so much more now than ever before?
– I can hardly say what they mean. It is said that words are used for the purpose , of concealing one’s intent; but whether the Opposition have used the words referred to with that purpose in view, I am unable to say.
– Honorable senators on the Government side do not do that kind of thing.
– I am not saying that we are infallible. We may have our failings; but I can assure honorable senators opposite that the Government are doing their best in what they consider tobe the right direction. I ask Senator Gould and those associated with him whether they are prepared’ to get up intheir places in the Senate and say that assoon as their party secures possession of the Treasury benches they will apply the pruning knife to the Public Service of the Commonwealth. Within the last ten or twelve years, the defence of Australia hasbeen made a burning question throughout the Commonwealth. An alteration in the disposition of the military and naval power of Europe, Asia, and America, leaving Africa out of the question, has affected the destiny and welfare of Australia to some little extent. The majority of the people of the Commonwealth have come to the conclusion that we have become strong enough, important enough, and are sufficiently generous to provide for our own defence, instead of hanging on likecrawling cowards to the apron-strings^ of our parents and asking them to fight every battle for us. There are- 4,500,000 people in Australia at the present time, and they have as much right to maintain their own position in the world as have other nations comprising even asmaller population than ours. We have, an immense territory, and it is of’ such a character that every Australianshould be proud of being a citizen of the Commonwealth. Australia is thefinest country in the world. In no other part of the world is there to be found an equal area with the same uniformity of climate and productivity. Consequently,. the people of Australia should have sufficient pride in their own country to take upon themselves its defence.
– The Opposition think that the Old Country should pay for our defence.
– They did for many years think that it was quite sufficient for Australia to pay ,£200,000 a year to the British Government for the protection of this great Dominion. They fought very hard, not only in the House of Representatives, but in the Senate, to maintain that position. They fought against those who were prepared to take the responsibility of our defence - to place it upon our own shoulders - and pay for it with the money earned by our own energy and industry. The people of Australia rose to the occasion, and the Government of Australia also rose to the occasion, and advocated compulsory training. We have had compulsory military service both in the States and in the Commonwealth, for many years past.
– Before the Labour party was invented.
– The Labour party was not invented.
– It is hardly worth while to reply to that interjection. Honorable senators opposite, no doubt, consider that the Labour party was an invention of the devil. It was not an invention at all, but a creation of Providence for the benefit of the majority of the people. The great trouble with honorable senatorsopposite is that this creation grew from infancy to youth, and from youth to manhood, much too rapidly for their interests.
– They are inventing a new party every year.
– No; they invent a new name for the same party, and have done so for the last twenty years. I used to be able to count their names on one hand. I tried lately to count them on two hands; but I am now compelled to use both hand’s and feet to count the names by which the party opposite have gone within the last twenty years.
– And they are still the same old “ National Ass.”
– I am beginning to be generous towards them, and to refrain from saying anything of that description. The point I was endeavouring to make was that, even beyond my own recollection, there was compulsory military service in the States. Every man between the age of eighteen years and the age of sixty years, if required, would have had to go out and defend his country in a case of emergency. The Labour party did not invent that system. It was in existence before they became an active force, but they were a thinking party, who developed mind and intelligence, as well as physical force, and they came to the conclusion that mere compulsion in respect to service was not sufficient if we wanted an effective system of defence, and that to be efficient the men would have to be trained. Consequently, compulsory training was introduced to a very great extent by the insistence of the Labour party in the Commonwealth Parliament.
– By a Liberal Government.
– It has been brought into existence and developed up to the present time by the influence and arduous work of the Labour party. What did the Liberal party ever do? What did the Fusion party ever do? Everything they did in that direction was done with reluctance, and in direct opposition to the declared policy of some of their leaders. But when the Labour party came into power they went whole-heartedly into the matter, because they knew that it was the desire of the people, and they were prepared to materialize it, and, in connexion with both naval and military defence, they have made the training of our young people compulsory. I ask honorable senators on the ether side : Is it possible to effectively carry out compulsory training, and make the future defenders of Australia efficient without the expenditure of some money? The expenditure on defence has increased materially, and, as those to be trained increase, and as advances are made in the methods of training and the organization of the Defence Forces, so will the expenditure continue to increase, but it has not increased unduly. No Minister of Defence has, with respect to both expenditure and efficiency, carried out his duties better and more effectively than has my honorable colleague, Senator Pearce. Everybody in the country acknowledges that fact. I ask honorable senatorson the other side, when they talk about reckless extravagance, whether it is in connexion with the defence, the training and making efficient of our young people, that they would apply the pruning knife to make savings? A retrenchment policy in the near future would very likely prove the most disastrous policy which could be adopted by any Parliament or any Government. No member of the Opposition has accepted my challenge with respect to the three items I have mentioned.
– The Minister is annoyed because we do not interrupt him.
– I am very much obliged for the courtesy which has been shown to me, and I ask honorable senators, when they take an opportunity to speak on this motion, to be kind enough to indicate to the Government and the people of Australia in which directions they would attempt to effect economies. There is another great question which seems to agitate the minds of some persons, particularly in Victoria, belonging to Women’s National Leagues and shire councils. We have acceded to the desire of theframers of the Constitution and the people of Australia to have a Commonwealth Capital. It has been decided by Parliament that the Capital shall be established at a place called Canberra, and a certain sum of money has been spent in the development of the Territory and preparing the site for the buildings. I am assured that the money which has been spent there is returning over 4 per cent, interest in licences, fees, rents, and other things of that description. There are large amounts which have to be spent in the repurchase of freehold land in the Territory, and it is estimated that when these purchases are effected - and I understand that there are numerous applicants for the occupation of the land, even on the leasehold system - a return of 4 or 5 per cent will be derived from the investments. I ask those honorable senators who echo and re-echo the cry of the shire councils and ladies’ meetings, whether they are prepared to discontinue reasonable expenditure in the development of the Federal Territory.
– New South Wales senators ought to speak now.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - They will speak by-and-by.
– Yes ; and probably they will say that we are not spending enough.
– What will the Victorians say?
– They will say that we should not spend anything. But it does not matter what either of them may say. The Government are endeavouring to carry out a provision of the Constitution, and the wish of the people of Australia, and they are doing it in the most economical way they possibly can. We might allocate millions of money in this direction, but we could not expend it economically if we attempted to spend it all at once. We are appropriating and expending the money in the manner in which the improvements can be effected with the greatest economy. Will honorable senators take anything off that? Then there is the Northern Territory to be developed. Are my honorable friends prepared to go back on any expenditure which has been authorized as regards that great Possession? Are they prepared to go back on the decision of this Parliament to construct a railway to Western Australia? All these things require the expenditure of large sums. The Government are carrying out the works as expeditiously as economy will permit, and I ask the members of the Opposition to say whether it is in that direction that they would endeavour to curtail the public expenditure. With a few exceptions, they have not the courage to get up and say that, as far as the Government policy is concerned, they would retrench in any direction. On the Estimates for this year, a very considerable amount has been set down for what has been characterized as the “ Fisher bonus.” I ask the members of the Opposition if they intend to vote against that proposal? Are they prepared to take the platform, and to oppose the maternity bonus or allowance?
– They said it was a bribe.
– They may call it by what names they like. It will be appreciated by the people, because it is just and fair. I do not believe that there is any member of the Opposition who will openly oppose such a just and generous movement in that direction.
– Senator McColl said it was “a dirty political job.”
– But he was not here when he made that statement. It was made to a little crowd of persons, when the honorable senator was protected from any contradiction. Probably they were all admitted by ticket, and no doubt there were a bodyguard at the door, and a policeman or two inside to throw out any one who might interject. I want my honorable friends to make these statements here so that they shall pass into Hansard and be circulated throughout the Commonwealth. Are honorable senators opposite prepared to oppose any reasonable extension of old-age pensions as far as the home is concerned? I know that there are hon- orable senators even on the other side who are not satisfied with the generosity of the present law, and are prepared to extend it. When they get that opportunity, I hope that they will carry out their promise, and do what they can to improve the measure on the statute-book. I have dealt with a great many items. If there are any items which I have missed, I do not know that there is any necessity for me to take up further time in that direction. I desire to tell the Senate the actual position with respect to the resources of the Commonwealth. I think that in the Treasurer and his staff, we have a man and officers, who go as carefully as they possibly can into these matters, and who are in a position to give a very fair estimate. The revenue from all sources for the current financial year is estimated at £20,422,000, and the estimated expenditure - of course, you can balance almost anything - is £20,422,000. No allowance is made for a surplus, and I think that the Treasurer does not anticipate one. The net expenditure is estimated at £16,004,791. It needs to be thoroughly understood that from that net expenditure of £16,004,791 there has to be deducted in connexion with old-age pensions and the construction of the Fleet Unit £2,261,541. That sum represents the amount taken from revenue that has already been transferred to Trust Funds. The amount which will be paid to the States during the current financial year is £5,988,750, and the sum payable to Tasmania under arrangement will be £95,000. That is included in the total estimate of £20,422,000. We may with advantage, I think, institute a comparison between the present year and that which has just closed. To my mind, last year was even a better one than that upon which we have recently e*ntered. Still the Treasurer and his officers have done their best to cut their garment according to their cloth. Last year the estimated revenue from all sources was £19,515,000, and the actual revenue was £20,546,861, an excess of £1,031,361. So that honorable senators will see that last year we were in a fairly prosperous condition. The increase of revenue last year, as compared with the revenue for 1910-11, was £625,547. As far as the Estimates for this year are concerned, the Treasurer anticipates that in post and telegraph rates we shall have an increased revenue of £300,000, but that our Customs and Excise revenue will decline to the extent of £200,000.
– There will be a larger revenue from sugar this year than was received last year.
– I am not an authority on the sugar monopoly, and would not like to express a definite opinion upon something with which I am not thoroughly familiar. The estimated expenditure for last year was £15,541,429, and the actual expenditure was £14,297,572. The amount taken from the Trust Funds for the payment of old-age pensions and the construction of the Fleet Unit was £424,866. The amount paid in that year to the States was £5,824,423. In this year’s Estimates, I repeat, we provide for an increased payment to the States. That increase represents nearly £100,000, because the amount which it is anticipated we shall return to them is £5.988,745. So that honorable senators will see that we provide for a considerable increase. As the session progresses, ample opportunity will be afforded honorable senators of looking into the figures contained in the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, and of discussing any question which may arise out of the position which is there disclosed. The papers have been laid on the table for that purpose, and I hope that honorable senators will take full advantage of it.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gould) adjourned.
[5-32l- - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
It is not very often that a Minister, after moving a resolution of very great importance, is called upon immediately to rise for the purpose of moving the second reading of an important Bill. This measure is intended to amend the Royal Commissions Act, and its importance can be easily gauged by the strenuous opposition which was exhibited to it in another place. No doubt my honorable friends opposite will adopt similar tactics here. I do not blame them for taking up the position which they ought to take up in respect of almost any Government measure. We all know that in the past the work of Royal Commissions has proved ineffective because they have not been clothed with sufficient powers. In this connexion, I recollect very well theTobacco Commission, which cost the Commonwealth a very large sum of money.
Members of that Commission, in this Chamber, have often declared that its work was not as effective as it should have been, on account of the limitations imposed upon its powers. Then there was the Harvester Commission, the Chairman of which experienced very great difficulty in securing the evidence which he desired to elicit during that inquiry. So far as I am aware, nobody has as yet disputed the right of the Crown to appoint Royal Commissions. There may be some difference of opinion with respect to the powers that such a Commission has, or ought to have. I served on the Tariff Commission. Although that was an inquiry which did not lend itself to very strenuous concealment on the part of witnesses, yet it cost the Commonwealth a large sum, and if it had been desired to push its investigations further, I have no doubt that its powers would have been found to be deficient. At the present time, there is in existence a Commission - an expensive one I admit - but one which I do not doubt will result in great good to the Common wealth - I refer to the Sugar Commission. We all know the difficulties with which it has been faced in securing the information necessary to enable it to arrive at a just conclusion in respect of the relationship of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to the rest of the people, not to mention the cane workers and growers ot Queensland. If these Commissions are desirable, if they are capable of doing anything in the best interests of the people, they ought to be armed with sufficient authority to enable them to secure the most complete evidence. The Sugar Commission has, I repeat, experienced very great difficulty in the conduct of its inquiry. Witnesses have actually refused to attend to give evidence, and when they have attended, they have desired to give it in a way that was not satisfactory to the Commission. Then they absented themselves so that legal proceedings had to be initiated against them. To my mind, those proceedings have been unduly protracted, and it has been made painfully evident to the Government, and even to Parliament itself, that it is necessary that some steps should be taken to clothe Royal Commissions with greater powers. There is no intention of making any of the provisions of this Bill retrospective. But, of course, they will have effect in the case of Commissions which have already been appointed, or which may be appointed in the future.
– Is not clause 10 somewhat retrospective?
– I do not think so.
– Why should it not be?
– I do not wish to argue that the Bill should be retrospective, but it ought to apply to Commissions existing at the passing of this measure, or to Commissions appointed in the future. I wish to indicate what I consider to be the most important features of the Bill. There is first the matter of the summoning of witnesses. Every Royal Commission ought to have the power to compel witnesses- to present themselves if their evidence is considered necessary for carrying on the examination. If they do not present themselves, the penalty under this measure is increased tenfold. We believe that persons who are summoned will have some hesitation about running the risk of incurring the penalty of £500.
– In one particular case the parties would not mind paying £50,000.
– Cases have been brought under notice where a £50 fine would be as nothing. Much has been said with regard to the severity of the maximum penalty ; but I point out that it is a maximum, and that the fine inflicted may correspond to the heinousness of the offence. Something may be said with re- .spect to the expenses’ of witnesses who are summoned. Before this legislation is completed, every provision will be made so that no injustice will be done to any witness summoned from any part of Australia. The next feature is the production of books and documents. In the past a good deal of dissatisfaction existed, and the penalty was so low that many persons would rather incur it than produce books and documents which, in the opinion of a Commission, were necessary. Here the penalty is increased, but there is power for a witness to appeal to a Court. If, however, a case is submitted to a Court, and is decided against the persons summoned, a fine may be inflicted ; so that persons required to produce books and documents will have to consider whether it is worth while to refuse to do so. There is a general provision with regard to those who refuse to make statements or answer questions. I think that when any witness summoned before a Royal Commission - especially one presided over by a Judge of a SupremeCourt or a County Court - refuses to answer questions, or to give information, there must be something behind1 the refusal that is to the interest of the individual or those he represents, and is at the same time detrimental to the rest of the public of Australia. In cases of this kind, a Royal Commission should have the fullest power that can be placed in its possession to compel witnesses to give evidence without hesitation or reserve. The Bill also provides that witnesses may refuse to reveal trade secrets or secret processes. In connexion with contempt of a Commission, if the Commission is presided over by a Judge of a Supreme Court, he will have power to inflict summary penalties. I think that when honorable senators peruse the Bill from end to end they will find that, taken as a whole, it is really for the purpose of enabling Royal Commissions to extract such information as is necessary for the purpose of their inquiry, and to prevent individuals from bringing such bodies into contempt. It is, I am convinced, a necessary piece of legislation, to enable Royal Commissions to do their work properly.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gould) adjourned.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This measure is not of a very important character, but it is very necessary in order to bring the provisions of the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act into conformity with the Commonwealth Electoral Act. It will be remembered that during last session Parliament passed a Bill amending the Electoral Act in important features. We abolished postal voting, extended the principle of absent voting, imposed obligations on political organizations and on individuals to disclose expenditure incurred in behalf of, and in the interest of, a candidate or political party in connexion with an election, and also provided for the signing of articles published in newspapers commenting on candidates or political issues submitted to the electors. It is obvious that our law regarding referenda should, for public as well as for administrative reasons, be brought into conformity with the Electoral Act on these points. If we had separate provisions dealing with the election of members of Parliament and with questions submitted to the electors at a referendum it would be very confusing both to the public and to officials. There is a further provision in this Bill which will be of some value. In order to avoid confusion, a clause has been inserted to allow the referendum questions to be submitted on one slip of paper instead of on several. That will prevent a good deal of confusion in the minds of electors. Those who witnessed what took’ place in polling booths when a previous referendum was taken at the same time as a general election, know that confusion resulted, and many ballot-papers were spoiled. We wish to simplify the procedure. I shall not make any further remarks, anticipating that the Senate will be prepared to go into Committee on the Bill. In order that honorable senators may be able to follow the alterations made, we have distributed handy copies of the Electoral Act, and also a memorandum showing in. bold type the alterations proposed to be made.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [5.53]. - I understand that it is the desire of the Government to proceed with this Bill at once?
– Yes. I have stated clearly that it embodies no new principles.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - I recognise that both in taking a referendum and in holding an election for members of Parliament, it is just as well that our legislation should run cn parallel lines as far as possible. But at the same time assent to that principle does not prevent one from taking exception to certain proposals that it is now intended to re-enact. In the first place, this Bill is intended to make the taking of a referendum effective in the same way as the taking of a vote for an election of members of Parliament. Amongst other things, it refers to the abolition of postal voting, the insertion of absent voting provisions, the signing of articles in newspapers, and the submitting of a return of expenses incurred in connexion with the taking of a referendum. All those are matters which are still open to a great deal of debate. I recognise the right of the Government with their majority to determine on what lines our electoral law shall be framed. “Whichever party may be in power, it is essential that the electoral law shall provide opportunities for the fullest expression of the opinion of the electors. They may be in favour of the present Government or of the Liberal party, but they should, in either case, be given the fullest possible opportunity to record their votes. By the abolition of the postal vote, the Government enacted a law which is unfair and unjust to a considerable section of the people. They are attempting to repeat that enactment in this measure, and under it a very large section of the community will be precluded from recording their votes.
– The Werriwa election did not prove that.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - It proved that the Labour majority was reduced. Since postal voting was not permitted at that election, it was impossible to say how many people would have voted in that way, had the postalvoting provisions been in existence.
– There was an increased vote.
– Because there was an increase of population in the electorate, and the holding back of the date of the election gave an opportunity to a number of people to record their votes who would not, otherwise, have been able to do so. If it were pertinent to the question at the present time, I might have a great deal to say with regard to the desirability-
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to know whether the honorable senator is in order in discussing postal voting in connexion with this Bill? If he is, I shall feel obliged to follow the same Line of argument in replying to him.
– I remind the honorable senator that the Bill provides for the abolition of postal voting in connexion with a referendum.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - Senator Gardiner must bear in mind that, because a particular law has been passed, we are not precluded, at a fitting opportunity, from discussing it. Such an opportunity is provided by this Bill for discussing the abolition of postal voting. My feeling in this matter is that every elector should be given the fullest opportunity to record his vote. I should not be a party to taking away from one section an opportunity to record their votes, in order to secure an advantage for another section. I can recollect the time when the party opposite were most eager to provide for postal voting.
– That is incorrect.
– Will the honorable senator mention the time?
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - It was in the old State Parliaments, and I remind honorable senators opposite that the Labour party originated in the old State Parliaments. Representatives of that party in the State Parliaments advocated postal voting in common with other provisions, which they have subsequently decided operate less in their favour than against them.
– I never breathed a word in my life in favour of postal voting.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - The honorable senator will have an opportunity to reply ; but I shall be very much surprised if it can be shown that I am not correct in the statement I have made. My recollection is that in the old days one-man-one-vote, and also postal voting, were advocated. Honorable senators must bear in mind that it was only stage by stage that we reached the franchise we at present enjoy.
– I remember the time when the party opposite advocated onemantwo votes.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. -No ; the progressive Liberal party was, I think, always in favour of one vote one value, and, ultimately, in favour of adult suffrage. I have availed myself of opportunities to record my vote in favour of those principles. It is proposed to abolish postal voting under this Bill, though it must be admitted that many persons will be unable to attend ‘a polling booth. I think I am right when I say that it was shown that at the last referenda from 20,000 to 30,000 persons voted as absent voters, and a very large number recorded their votes in the same way at the Federal election held three years ago.
– They will still be able to record their votes as absent voters.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD.- No, it will be found that a considerable number will be unable to record their votes under this Bill. We are asked deliberately to take away a privilege that the electors enjoyed for a number of years. We have been told that the reason for this proposal is that abuses arose under the postal-voting provisions. Abuses will arise under any Act of Parliament, and it is our duty to take steps to punish those who abuse the privileges given them. No one will say that at the present time there is no personation or dishonest voting. There is more or less of it at every elec tion. The provisions of our law for the punishment of offences of that character pre-supposes that such offences are, and will be committed. By the abolition of postal voting under this Bill many women and many infirm men and women will be unable to record their votes. I do not object to a provision for absent voting if it is carried out honestly and straightforwardly. I come now to the provision requiring the signing of articles published in newspapers, and dealing with any matter referred to the people at a referendum. The Government are in this connexion following the course adopted in connexion with the Electoral Act. No newspaper is to be permitted to express an opinion upon a matter referred to the people at a referendum unless the article is signed by the writer. A newspaper exercises influence by reason of the value of the articles contained in it, and the manner in which it is conducted, and not because Mr. Jones or Mr. Brown is the author of a particular article. If a newspaper publishes any libellous or defamatory matter the person libelled or defamed has a right of action against it.
– Does the honorable senator think from the experience of the Werriwa election that the public suffered as a result of this provision of the electoral law ?
– I think it would have been very much better if the newspapers, as heretofore, had been allowed to publish any articles they thought fit in connexion with that election.
– How did the public suffer?
– I say that the public must suffer from lack of information in connection with elections. The object of the law is not I think to make writers of articles published in the newspapers fear that proceedings will be taken against them for the statements they make. Take the questions to be considered at a referendum. Is it not desirable that the greatest possible facilities should be afforded to enable the public to realize not only the effect, but the intended effect, of any proposal to alter the Constitution? I say that we should allow the press an unfettered privilege to express opinions on these questions, always bearing in mind that newspaper proprietors are subject to prosecution if they publish what ought not to be published.
– Why should they be given a privilege?
– Any one who issues a pamphlet or circular is obliged to put his name to it.
– The name of the printer of it is attached to a pamphlet, and if it contains anything defamatory, the person defamed has his redress. The old law was found sufficiently effective in the case of newspapers. The provision requiring the signing of press articles is intended to inform the public that the statements made in a particular article do not represent the opinion of any newspaper, but of the writer, whose opinion may not be considered as of much value. But honorable senators opposite must bear in mind that when an article is published in a newspaper the opinions expressed therein are adopted as the opinions of the newspaper. I might ask in connexion with such a provision as this, why the Labour party, above all other parties, should so much object to criticism ? In many ways we find the same objection to straightforward criticism of their action. If in this chamber an honorable senator expresses opinions which are not in accordance with those held by honorable senators on the other side, there are many indications suggesting that such opinions should not be expressed.
– The honorable senator surely would not describe as criticism some of the statements which are published in newspapers?
– Those who object to such statements have their remedy. I would ask honorable senators opposite to say what will be- the advantage of this provision. The Minister informed us that, under the Bill, a return of expenses must be supplied, and that it is required for public and administrative purposes. What value is there in that? I can understand that when a restriction is imposed upon the expenditure of a candidate for Parliament it is necessary that returns should be sent in, and that means should be provided for verifying those returns. But, in this case, so far as I am aware, there is no limitation of the amount of money which either party may spend in advertising its views and opinions. Is it any direct concern of the public, or of the administrative departments, that this information should.be supplied?
– It is a matter of concern for the public.
.- In what way?
– If they knew that the trusts were providing some of the funds, it might be very useful knowledge.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT COULD. - I would ask the honorable senator how he proposes to discover anything of that kind. A newspaper sends in a return showing that a very large sum of money has been paid for advertising. What are my honorable friends opposite going to do then? Do they propose to prosecute any one for having advertised in a newspaper? Suppose the plan adopted by the Labour unions is followed. We know that they spend enormous sums of money in connexion with elections. It may be that twelve or eighteen months before an election they send men out to advocate the cause of unionism, and those men may be the selected candidates of the Labour party when the election takes place, lt has not been their money, but the money of the unions, which has been spent in the advocacy of the cause of unionism. But, singularly enough, it happened that the men who engaged in this work appeared as parliamentary candidates, having had an opportunity to traverse the State at the expense of the unions whose servants they were.
– Do you mean to say that the unions covered up that expenditure?
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - I do not say that, but that the money so spent was to the advantage of the men who were selected as advocates, and were also the selected candidates of the party for the Senate. If other candidates were to go round the State and incur the same expenditure, they would fmd that it was very considerably in excess of that which is allowed by the Electoral Act. Of course, honorable senators may say that it is only a return of the expenditure incurred between the issue of the writ and the date of election which has <f» be made.
– Have not unions to send in any returns?
– I know that unions have to send in certain returns, but they can V>e prepared in such a way as to cloak up what has been done. It is perfectly legitimate, I admit, for unions to send men round the country advocating the cause of unionism, and bringing as many persons as possible into the fold. In doing that they use their own money.
– Did the Pastoralists Association show the levies they made from time to time to fight the Labour party?
.- I do not know.
– You do know that they made such levies ?
– I do not know that, nor do I belong to the Pastoralists’ Association. I have not had an opportunity of carefully examining the provisions of this Bill, because it has been brought on rather suddenly, but I heard the remarks of the Minister, and have briefly dealt with these particular principles. I think that our electoral machinery should be simplified, whether it is to be employed at an election or at a referendum, but I should be only too pleased to see certain principles cut out of this measure. I realize that if that were done it would be for the Government to consider whether it was not desirable to cut them out of the electoral law, which, I think, ought to be made perfectly plain and clear, so that, as far as possible, every elector in the community can understand its provisions, and, at the same time, feel sure that no person, no matter what his political opinions may be, will be left without an opportunity to exercise the franchise.
– Senator Gould mentioned one or two matters which, perhaps, deserve a reply. Not only has he stated here, but in other places his colleagues have stated, that the abolition of the postal vote was an attempt to deprive some people of the opportunity to vote.
– A certain portion.
– Our experience at Werriwa has put it beyond question that, instead of the new Electoral Act disfranchising any section of the people, the percentage of voters was larger than it used to be. What happened at the Werriwa election when no postal voting was allowed? A greater percentage vote was recorded. The Werriwa electors who happened to be in other electorates on polling day were not permitted to exercise the absent votes, but at the general election every elector in a State will be able to vote for the electorate for which he is enrolled at any polling booth in the State. If we got, as we did at the recent by-election at Werriwa, within one or two of 76 per cent, of the persons enrolled to vote, at a general election we can expect to get even a greater percentage of voters than that.
– J nope that your anticipation will prove correct, apart altogether from this particular question.
– My anticipation is based upon actual experience of the new Electoral Act at the recent election.
– What was the percentage of the absentee vote ?
– There was no absentee voting done outside the Werriwa electorate. Those electors of Werriwa who happened to be outside their own subdivision had to vote as absentees, and the percentage of those persons was 10 per cent. That is a fact worth noting, and it is reasonable to suppose that outside the borders of the electorate there was another 10 per cent, of Werriwa electors who, had it been a general election, would have been able to record their votes. Instead of the new Act bringing about the disasters which Senator Gould has imagined, and disfranchising a section of the community, it will afford greater facilities for each person to record his vote. The honorable senator has referred to the provision which compels newspaper articles and comments published during a certain period to be signed by their authors. If there was one thing which gave satisfaction to all sections who were engaged in the Werriwa contest, it was the fact that even in the Sydney press we had fair reports of political meetings. That was due to the fact that every man on the spot had to sign his report, and the responsibility was thrown upon its editor of manipulating or altering it. I believe that most of the reporters are not sufficiently biased against the Labour party to deliberately misreport a man; but I can state from personal experience that many of the newspapers are sufficiently biased to deliberately misreport a man in the hope of taking votes from him. The Opposition and the newspapers which support that party claim that the provision requiring the signing of these articles amounts to a gag on the press. It is nothing of the kind. The newspapers were entitled during the Werriwa contest to express their opinions as freely as they pleased, but the Act required that the writer of every article should publish his name and address.
– It did not stop the Sydney Bulletin from commenting upon the election.
– No; nor did it prevent the Goulburn newspapers. Day after day, that great single tax organ in the Goulburn district, the Penny Post, urged the electors to support Mr. Conroy because he was a great Free Trader and also a single taxer. These articles, which were written with much ability, were signed, and, of course, they exercised a large influence in the electorates. The Penny Post published a series of paragraphs pointing out that if he were returned it would be an indication to the Fusion party to alter their programme, to reduce the duties in the Tariff, and fetch the purchasing value of the sovereign back to its usual amount from 15s. In that contest, the newspapers were not gagged if they wished to place before the electors views which, in their opinion, ought to be submitted for their consideration. Morning after morning, the Penny Post came out with a column or a column and a half in support of Mr. Conroy. They took the trouble to send good reporters to the meetings, and published fair reports of the prominent speakers on each side, and, of course, the reports were signed. That is an effective answer to those who claim that the Electoral Act prevented the press from commenting on the contest, or publishing any statements relative to a candidate. I can produce a letter from Senator McColl which, although it was sent originally to Mr. Conroy, found its way into the press, and was circulated in the electorate. It showed that the honorable senator, although parading as a Protectionist in Victoria, was anxious to have Mr. Conroy, who was posing as a Free Trader in New South Wales, returned to this Parliament. Lest it might be thought that I am misrepresenting the honorable senator, I shall read the letter, which is taken from the Goulburn Penny Post, and dated from the Federal Parliament House -
I was very pleased ‘to learn that you had been selected to contest the Werriwa seat, and wish you a great success. As you know, I do not hold the same fiscal views as you do, but, nevertheless, 1 believe no man could have been selected who will be better able to do good service than yourself. We need a strong man just now to stem the rising tide of Socialism and save the country from this disaster the continuance in office of the present Government will bring upon” it. You have the qualities, and also the parliamentary experience necessary. I trust the people of Werriwa will realize the importance attaching to this by-election, and send you in with a large majority. The moral effect will be great.
The honorable senator will admit that he wrote the letter to Mr. Conroy.
– Yes, certainly.
– Here is a statement which appeared in the newspaper which published the honorable senator’s letter, and tried to win the seat for the candidate whom he, the so-called Protectionist, supported -
The fact, amongst other things, is that the Tariff has done its work in Australia as Tariffs do everywhere ; while the bleeding of the State by taxation and the continuous interferenceby Boards with industry have contributed to the general burden that we all have to bear.
They were putting up a fight to get a man returned who would teach the Liberal or Fusion party a lesson. In one issue, they published a statement which I will quote to show that the Electoral Act did not gag the press -
It has been calculated that if the heavy duties on certain requirements were removed it would be equal to a rise in wages of 5s. in the £1. That would be an increase worth talking about. “ Mr. Conroy cannot remove them,” it will be urged. Certainly he cannot. But his election would be a significant intimation that neither party could safely ignore.
We believe that many who voted last time to “ give them a show “ have come to the same conclusion. They have not come up to expectations. Mr. Conroy’s remarks at the beginning of the campaign were criticised in some quarters ; but the inexorable logic of events is proving him right.
The whole tenor of Mr. Conroy’s speech was that the Customs duties - for which he held the Labour party responsible - had reduced the purchasing power of a sovereign to 15s. The press reports of the speeches which were delivered during that campaign were reasonably fair. There was nothing in them to show that the operation of the provision in the Electoral Act requiring press articles and reports dealing with elections to be signed had in any way hampered fair criticism. Mr. Conroy declared that he would support no Customs taxation which would give the working man the benefit of 21/2 per cent protection whilst it conferred upon the manufacturer a protection of 30 per cent. I repeat that the press was not in any way hampered by the restriction imposed by the Electoral Act. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned until a later hour of the day (vide page 1558).
– I move -
Defence Act should be at once amended to provide that under no circumstances should any member of the Citizen Defence Force (other than members of the Permanent Paid Forces) be compelled to bear arms or serve in any military capacity against their Australian fellowcitizens.
Representatives in the foregoing be requested.
I would remind honorable senators that a very similar motion was submitted by me in August of last session, and that it met with some opposition, and was not fully debated. I do not intend to detain honorable senators by discussing this proposal at great length, although I believe it is of sufficient importance to warrant them in bestowing upon it their unbiased attention. Many statements have been made in opposition to it, most of which are entirely wide of the mark, inasmuch as they show unmistakably that some of those who have read it do not thoroughly appreciate its meaning. Many of the objections urged to it do not touch it in any way. For instance, I have been told that it would be unconstitutional to provide in any Act that certain citizens of the Commonwealth shall be subjected to different treatment from that to which other citizens are subjected. Again, it has been urged - and I know that certain newspapers have echoed the statement - that the proposal is an attempt to allow lawlessness to prevail, and to tie the hands of this Parliament, so that it cannot suppress domestic violence. Of course, the implication is that it is an effort to allow unionists - in the event of an industrial dispute - to run riot, to endanger life, and, in fact, to do whatever they may think fit for the purpose of accomplishing their ends. Needless to say, such a statement does not reflect in any way the intention of the motion. It is true that in most civilized countries any disturbances which arise usually flow from industrial disputes. While I believe that modern legislation is tending to discover peaceful methods of settling these disturbances, yet every thoughtful person must realize that, so far as legislation is concerned, we are only at the beginning of our search. We are living under a system of commercialism which is constantly tending to diminish the wages of employes, and so to force them into revolt against the desperate straits to which competition reduces them. Therefore, it is quite within the bounds of possibility that industrial disturbances may arise. But this motion is not limited in any way to- the cause of any trouble the suppression of which may involve the use of force. It is all-embracing in the sense that it calls upon this Parliament so to amend our Defence Act that our Citizen Forces shall be used for the purposes for which they were really intended to be used when the scheme was launched, namely, to protect this country against foreign aggression. It was not intended that they should ever turn their arms against their fellow Australians. When I gave notice of this motion, Senator Gould, by interjection, inquired, “ Why exempt the members of the Permanent Forces?” In much the same spirit I have been asked whether it would not be just as fatal for a man to be shot by a member of the Permanent Forces as by an ordinary soldier. These questions indicate that the object of the motion is not fully understood. This proposal is not an attempt to prevent the suppression of domestic violence should it ever threaten bloodshed or the destruction of life and property. When such conditions arise, I believe that steps must be taken to prevent chaos being brought about by the action of any body of persons, no matter how numerous or influential they may be. But it is quite conceivable that it may not always be the industrial classes who will be in revolt. It may so happen that a distaste of democratic legislation may so offend the classes which will be detrimentally affected thereby as to cause them in some foolish moment to make use of those who are in their pay to revolt against the decisions of this Parliament. I know that my ideas upon this matter are regarded as being farfetched. Only last year, when I brought forward the motion, the Minister of Defence stated that it was inconceivable that there would ever be any necessity in Australia to call out Federal troops to suppress domestic violence. Yet, within a period of six months from the time that he spoke, the Queensland Government actually attempted to obtain the use of the troops for the purpose that I foreshadowed. It is true that the wisdom and common sense of the Government prompted them to decline the invitation. It is equally true that one political party in this country condemned the Ministry in unmeasured terms for having refused, to grant the military aid desired. Of course, I do not accuse honorable sena tors opposite of entertaining these views, because they have evidently concluded that it is a very bad card to play. During the debate upon the Address-in-Reply, they steadfastly refused to be drawn into any expression of opinion in regard to this matter.
– Surely they have not repudiated the action of their leaders.
– They have certainly found that this particular card was a very bad one to play, and accordingly they have left their leader in the lurch over it. They are not prepared to indorse his wild and bloodthirsty utterances in that’ connexion. We are in a transition age, when the industrial and social unrest which exists in this country is only slight as compared with that which prevails in every other civilized land. Whether the efforts which the Labour and Socialistic parties are making to stem the evils wrought by the plutocratic system under which we live will be successful in warding off revolution is not for me to say. But anything is possible in the years ahead if we look at the unsettled conditions which are being created by the extreme wealth on the one hand and the ever-growing poverty on the other. My chief contention - and it is the one which warrants me in pressing forward, this motion - is that Australia would never have consented to compulsory military training and service but for the fear of foreign aggression from the coloured races who are located not far distant from our northern boundary. Had it not been for that fear - whether it is well grounded or not, is quite beside the question - any attempt by any Commonwealth party to foist that system, with all its disabilities, its heavy cost, and its many objectionable features, upon the people of Australia, would have been laughed into thin air. My contention is that to compel the young men of this country - against their will, it may be, in many cases - io enroll for the purpose of defending Australia against the outside aggression which is feared, and then to use them as a body of troops under any conceivable conditions to turn their arms and their military knowledge against their “own fellow Australian citizens, is not merely to enroll them under false pretences, but to violate the root principles of Democracy. I cannot conceive that any one deserving the title of Democrat can oppose the spirit of the proposal which I have put forward. It is true that verbal amendments might possibly be made which would considerably improve the motion. I am not concerned about that. This is not a proposed Act of Parliament. It simply asks for an expression of opinion on a principle. Therefore, the mere words in which the motion is clothed are not in themselves of pre-eminent importance. My concern is primarily for the working classes ; the others can look out for themselves. When we Consider the vast evils which militarism has inflicted, we need not be surprised that amongst the working classes in every civilized country - and it is they who have to bear this heavy burden, and against whom military force is frequenty employed to suppress any attempt to better their condition - there is a vast and growing movement to pledge themselves never to turn their arms against their fellow citizens. In fact, to embody the sentiment m one sentence, there is a growing feeling that no white man should ever turn his arms against another white man. Although that movement may not be of the all-embracing character which some of my socialistic friends would like - because they would like to see a universal brotherhood of white and black, and yellow and brown - yet its triumph would be a great step in advance, and certainly Australia, which boasts of being in the forefront of Democracy, should set an exampe in this respect.
– Is it not the policy of the honorable senator’s party to make Australia an armed nation?
– The policy of my Government and my party, as far as I can understand it, is to have every citizen of this country trained so that, in the event of the threatened danger from abroad coming upon us, each will be able to take his part in an intelligent way to overcome the aggression.
– What would the honorable senator do with the Badgers, the Denhams, and men of that kind?
– The people themselves can suppress persons of that kind when they have the intelligence to do it; and when they cease to be misled by the St. Ledgers and other men of his character, the Badgers will cease from troubling, and the Denhams will be at rest. As far as my proposal is said to be inoperative, I would call attention to the fact that our Defence Act provides that, in the event of domestic violence, the Permanent Forces, if it were deemed necessary by the Commonwealth Government to call out troops, must be utilized first; arid if those troops are insufficient, the other arms of the Service can be called upon in. such numbers as may be requisite to cope with the trouble. I do not propose for a moment to alter that portion of the Act. What I propose is to say that a cadet who enrolls - who is compelled to enroll whether he likes it or not - shall not be used by being turned against his fellow citizens when any Government sees fit. If the Permanent Forces of the Common wealth are not capable of suppressing domestic violence, the Government have the option of calling upon those who like to volunteer for service. But no one ought to be dubbed a traitor, or a mutineer, or a rebel, if he says, “ This is not the work for which I was enrolled as a soldier. I undertook this duty, under the compulsion of the law, to defend my country against a foreign foe, who might try to violate its integrity. But I am not going out to shoot down my fellow worker, my brother, or my father.” Under those circumstances, it would only be those who willingly responded to the call, if we were threatened with domestic violence, who would assist the Permanent Forces. Should any manifestly wrong course be taken by any State or group of States, in turning against the Commonwealth, or should one State turn against another, there is no doubt that there would be no lack of that broad patriotism which would cause thousands of our fellow citizens to respond in order to maintain and uphold the integrity of our Federal Union and to preserve the rights, the lives, and the property of the citizens of the country. But when a State Government, like that of Queensland recently, endeavours to entrap the Commonwealth Government into sending Federal troops into a State, I say that it should be optional on every citizen to say whether or not he will respond to such a call. If we had a Conservative Government in power in the Commonwealth, there might be a likelihood of that being done which the Queensland Government demanded.
– No; the other party would never have been asked to send troops.
– I am quite well aware of the strength of the position taken up by Senator Henderson in his interjection - that for political purposes a tactical move wasmade in asking the present Government to send troops to Queensland. However willing a Conservative Government might be, they certainly would hesitate before they would court destruction by such an act. But my reading of proverbs has made me very much attached to one, namely, “ Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
– That is what Senator St. Ledger has so often said.
– Then he has said something good in his time, although it was not original.
– Curran said that a hundred years ago.
– Even if Senator St. Ledger were the author of the proverb, or had been the first to use it, it would not necessarily be wrong. It is immaterial to me who was the author. Even amongst the worst of us there is some good ; so that there is hope even for Senator St. Ledger. Whilst the position which I have described might be assumed by a Conservative Government, we should nevertheless, when we have the opportunity, make ourselves safe, and in this respect, I think it would be wise to render it impossible for the Commonwealth Government to compel any of our Citizen Forces to serve in a military capacity against the workers of this country.
– That would be unBritish.
– Un- British to preserve to any one his freedom?
– Then I hope we shall always be un-British.
– The press-gang could be used under the British law to-day.
– Senator Guthrie, as a North Britisher, may see virtue even in the press-gang, but I do not think that his interjection is pertinent. We are told that when every citizen is a soldier, or is possessed of the rudiments of military knowledge, the workers, being in a majority in this country, and having been drilled and trained to execute military manoeuvres, will be in a position, if there is any trouble, to resent any violence which the authorities may attempt to inflict upon them. That argument, however, is a strong incentive to a state of armed rebellion, and goes a great deal further than anything I have been charged with advocating. I will put this position to honorable senators, and if it does not appeal to my honorable friends opposite, I am sure that it will to those on my own side. In the event of there being a dispute in any State, which was likely to result in an outbreak of domestic violence, what course would probably be taken? It would be that of calling in the arms and ammunition from the disaffected district so as to deprive those who were likely to resent being shot down with the means of resisting. The next step would be to take troops from a place distant from the scene of the trouble, who were not likely to have very strong sympathy with those whom it was desired to deal with, and to send them to the spot.
– The honorable senator is thinking of the way the cockyfarmers’ sons acted in Queensland?
– Just so; and I believe that the authorities could get a few people of that kind from the district where I live.
– Even the cocky farmers’ sons will get sense in time.
– I want to keep trouble of that kind from developing.
– I thought the honorable senator wanted to leave it optional for citizens to volunteer?
– That is so; but I .think the honorable senator will agree with me in this respect, that there would be no possibility, by any law under the sun, of preventing anybody from volunteering for armed service if called upon to do so by the governing authorities. Therefore, I do not propose the impossible in that direction. My point al] along is not that we are going so to alter things that we shall bring about any industrial or pacific milliennium. But my object is that no Australian citizen who is armed ostensibly for one purpose shall be compelled to use his arms and his military knowledge for an entirely different purpose. I want to provide against a day when, if the pendulum does swing in another direction, the Conservative and reactionary classes of this community may again obtain temporary command.
– Never !
– I hope so, too, but instead of living on hopes, I want certainty.
– The honorable senator would not attain certainty, because they would be able to amend the law if they had the power.
– The honorable senator’s own party are at present proposing to inflict pains and penalties.
– If pains and penalties are proposed by any measure, the honorable senator can deal with them when the subject is under review. The VicePresident of the Executive Council has just interjected that if such a time as I have indicated arrived, the reactionary party would, be able to alter the law. That brings me to a point which I think must be obvious to the most meagre intelligence. As the law stands at present, it is an Executive act to sanction the use of troops for the suppression of domestic violence. If, under the law, as I propose, no person who was unwilling to undertake such duty could be sent to suppress domestic violence, it would be possible for the reactionary party to revert to the present condition of things only by another amendment of the law. In such a case the Democratic party would at least represent, a considerable minority, and there’ would be a vast difference between the passing of an Executive minute by a Government, trusting to indemnity afterwards, and the amendment of a law in the light of day and in the face of public criticism. It. is not enough for me to trust that future Governments will be sufficiently humane to abstain from such an Executive act, and I say that, having a majority now, we should carry an amendment of the law which will render it practically impossible for any Government to commit such an act without the consent of the persons who would be detailed for duty in the suppression of domestic violence. The question 5s not whether domestic violence shall be suppressed, but whether citizens who are compelled to be trained for the definite purpose of defending the country against foreign aggression shall be used by any possible combination in the future to shoot down their fellow Australians. Let us consider what may happen in countries where conscription is the law. Recently thousands of industrial workers in France were ordered to join their regiments to be ready for active duty, if called upon, to shoot down their fellow toilers, unless disputes which had arisen in connexion with the railways were otherwise settled. That is the position in which those who oppose this motion would like to see the people of this country placed. I repeat that, under no circumstances, would the Australian people have consented to burden themselves with the labour, inconvenience, and disabilities which they have to endure under the system of compulsory military training were it not for their fear of foreign aggression. Surely we have arrived at such a stage of civilization that we may settle internal disputes amicably by means of arbitration and other industrial legislation, and it should not be left to the whim of any party that may temporarily control the destinies of this country to divert our citizen soldiers from the purpose for which they are being trained, and coerce them for a disgraceful purpose. For my part, I say that the man who would ask his fellow man to abstain from shooting when ordered to do so to suppress an, industrial disturbance would, instead of being a traitor, who ought to be sent to prison, as Tom Mann was recently in England, be doing no more than his duty. I will go further, and, as a member of the Senate and a legislator, I say that if this proposal, or something equivalent to it, is not embodied in our law, I shall do all in my power to prevent my sons who are now being trained from proceeding any further with their training, and to prevent, at any cost, obedience to such a dastardly order as I consider an order to shoot down their fellow Australians would be. I should be prepared, on any platform, until I was “ run in,” to counsel every one within reach of my voice to adopt the’ same attitude. In doing so, I should consider I was doing much more in the true interests of the country than- those who, by refusing to embody such a proposal as this in our law, would leave the way open for the reactionary forces of the Commonwealth, if at any future time, they should temporarily secure power to command the use of the citizen soldiers for the purpose indicated.. Those who think that such a thing is never likely to happen can have no objection to so amending the law that it cannot happen. Those, on the other hand, who, like myself, are not so sure that the millennium is as near as some imagine, will be prepared to take such a course as I suggest, so that our Citizen Forces may not be used for a purpose, so foreign to that for which they are being trained, except by an alteration of the law which must be carried out in the full light of day and under the public gaze, and when those who propose the alteration must justify it. Wherever we go in this country we find considerable friction and chafing against the present military system. If we wish to make that system safe, and secure for it the hearty co-operation of the vast majority of the working-classes of the community, we must do two things. We must, first of all say that the Citizen Forces shall only be used for the purpose for which the system was originated. We must, at the same time, say to those who support the system as a means of creating a strong force for the suppression of the legitimate aspirations of the workers for better things, that the Citizen Forces can only be used for the suppression of domestic violence with their own consent.
– Suppose it is necessary as a last resort?
– I do not wish to do Senator St. Ledger any injustice, but I hold that there is no such thing as a last resort in the sense in which the honorable senator speaks. I presume that he means to instance the case of something like a revolution.
– Something of that sort, when the ordinary force would not be sufficient to suppress a revolt.
– Can the honorable senator imagine what Senator St. Ledger means ?
– I am prepared to meet Senator St. Ledger as far as I can, and I admit that he has asked a pertinent question. There have been revolutions in days gone by in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and yet such revolts have been suppressed, and the integrity of the country preserved, though the people were under no compulsion to perform military service. I admit that what Senator Guthrie said a moment ago is true, and that when the Continental wars had been raging for many years, and it became difficult to fill the ranks, the press gang was resorted to.
– It can be resorted to to-day.
– Whether that be so or not, the honorable senator will agree with me that the press gang is a relic of barbarism. I admit that it has been resorted to in England, but it. is a very long time since it was used. I cannot. agree that there is no other way of suppressing a revolution except by compelling every citizen to take up arms.
– Some revolutionists have been the advocates of what was right.
– That is so, and we all know that if a revolution is successful it is justified.
-Colonel Sir Albert . Gould. - Not always.
– It may not be from a moral point of view, but from a national and political point of view it is. A successful revolution is followed by a change of Government, when the rebels that were become the constituted authorities. History teems with instances of that kind. It is no argument against my motion that a rebellion might be of such dimensions that practically every citizen in the Com monwealth would be involved in it. If a rebellion were of such a widespread character as to menace the safety of the whole Commonwealth, there would be thousands of persons who would refuse to serve, and who would be found in the ranks of the rebels. If the whole country were torn by dissension to such an extent that it would be difficult to say on which side the balance of numbers rested, our compulsory service system would be of no avail.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Ought not such a state of affairs to be prevented, if possible?
– It could only be prevented if public opinion were generally on the side of constituted authority, and in such a case there would be no difficulty in securing the voluntary assistance of those who had been drilled and trained to suppress the revolt. But should the constituted authority become helpless to prevent widespread feelings of revolt, our compulsory system would break down, because most of those who would be called upon to support the constituted authority would already have gone over to the other side. I hold that our people should not be compelled, under an unjust law, to take up arms against their fellow citizens, with whom they may be in active sympathy, or, in the alternative, be branded as traitors and rebels, and be penalized for refusing to so act. Suppose at some time a condition of domestic violence was declared to exist in a State, or a portion of a State, and some of those called upon to suppress it were closely related to and in sympathy with those involved in the trouble, and they refused to obey the command to assist in suppressing it, what would their position be under our Defence Act? I do not know exactly what penalties might be inflicted upon them, but I know that they would be considered traitors and rebels and false to the oath of allegiance they took. All sorts of pains and penalties would be inflicted upon them, and, in addition, the charge of cowardice would probably be levelled against them. I ask honorable senators now to consider what would be the position if my proposal were embodied in our legislation. Then some members of the Citizen Forces would be asked to go in order to supplement the Permanent Forces which had been found insufficient. Possibly whole companies might be in accord with the views of those in authority and volunteer their services. If not, there probably would be at any rate a sufficient number made up from other regiments to effect the purpose. I am not saying for a moment that this is a royal method of preventing people from being shot down, but it would leave every man clear of that bloodguiltiness which he would feel if he were put into the horrible position of having to choose between obeying the military authorities and shooting down his fellowmen at the word of command, and being branded as a traitor, a rebel, and a coward if he should refuse to do so. Those who wish to treat the citizens of this country fairly - and we are sent here to look after and conserve their interests - should not put any man in such a false position that, after he has been . ostensibly enrolled to defend the country against foreign invasion, he should be, against his will, compelled to either serve in an entirely different capacity, or bear all the pains and penalties, all the obloquy, and the disgrace which attach to the name of traitor. If some way of doing this thing is not discovered, I shall be found for the rest of my life a very active opponent of militarism in any shape or form. I would rather suffer the risk of any danger which might come from outside than allow my sons to be used for such a degrading and demoralizing purpose.
– While we know the Old Land is behind us to protect us, we will not protect ourselves.
– I am willing to take any risks so far as the Old Land is concerned. While that, of course, is not a subject for discussion here, I must remind my honorable friend that in the time of danger we shall probably have to do as the outlying parts of other Empires, of which history gives any record, had to do. When the heart of the Empire is in danger its outlying parts will have to scramble for themselves.
– Then Australia will have a very poor show.
– I do not think so. I am not one of those who think that Australia is going to knuckle under without putting up a good scrap.
– You will want men to be trained for its defence.
– I do want them to be trained.
– I thought you said that you do not.
– I say that if they are going to be trained for one purpose and used for another, when we have an opportunity to alter the law, so that they need only be kept for the purpose for which they were originated, I would rather run the risk of not having them trained, and of a foreign foe finding us more or less unprepared. I would rather do that than sanction any such degrading scheme as this is in its present form, which would permit of our young men being swerved from their rightful duty in order to become the oppressors and slavers of their fellow-men. I, for one, am prepared to hoist the standard of revolt against any military system which perpetuates such an infamy and iniquity. I have as fair a knowledge of the opinions of the workers of this country as has any other man in it. I believe that from one end of this continent to the other, the good sense of 90 per cent, of the working classes, and a very large proportion of the middle classes too, is absolutely at one with me in this proposal. I do not think that there is any appreciable number of persons who would offer the slightest opposition to >t. I am prepared to advocate this proposal on any platform, even at one of those meetings which my honorable friends opposite get up, and to which admission is by ticket, and even then put up a good case against the most “ tony “ audience which could be collected. I do not want to be a rebel in this country.
– You are preaching a petty revolution now.
– If this is a revolution, I hope that it will grow to be a big one.
– If you cannot get your way you will not allow others to have their way.
– I am voicing, I think, the opinion of the workers of this country. I believe that every worker, if the matter were explained to him, would indorse my view. Therefore, I say that if we cannot get our way, other people shall not have theirs.
– You would have peace at any cost.
– I would have peace <it any cost if I had to slay everybody else to get it, though that, of course, is putting a rather extreme view. Seriously speaking, I am not voicing any pet fad or scheme of my own, but I am voicing a view which, before it had expression, was at any rate latent in the mind of every worker in this country.
– I think it was the view of your last Hobart Conference.
– Yes, but I might remind the honorable senator that while that Conference passed the proposal by a very large majority, that was done subsequent to the occasion on which I submitted a similar one here.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - I notice that your friend, Mr. Finlayson, did not go on with a similar motion in the other House.
– I think that in this exalted Chamber, where we are very much more democratic than they are in the other place, it is quite possible for us to do what they may not find it possible to do. At any rate I am not Brother Finlayson’s keeper, and I think it is rather unfair on the part of the honorable senator, who has occupied the chair here, to break the Standing Orders by making an allusion to another place.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - I have not done so. I have merely referred to the record of a notice of motion.
– I do not wish to have a verbal warfare over the matter. I contend that our military system, whether it be good or bad, practically depends upon whether this motion is carried or not. That may seem a big thing to say. If the present Ministry cannot find it possible to do this thing in exactly the manner I suggest, then some other Ministry will have to find a way to do it, or this military system which they are erecting at such pains will crumble to the dust. There is no mistake about it that the Democracy of this country is out to win, that it is not going to put up with less than 100 per cent of what it requires, and one thing which it does require, and is resolved to get, is a military system which will never be turned against itself. The history of militarism all over the world shows that while nations ostensibly arm in order to protect themselves against each other, in the hands of authority the military power is used to crush and subdue the citizens and the workers of those countries. Consequently, the fear of that power is so deeply seated in the minds of those Australians, who either in themselves or their parents, have experienced these evils, that they are resolved that they shall never take permanent root in our midst. Now when this system of universal service is in its initial stages is the time to surround it with such safeguards as to prevent it from ever being diverted from the purpose for which it was originated. We must find a means of doing it, or our military system will go to pieces, and I shall help it to do so. I shall use my voice and influence amongst the workers wherever I go to induce them also to help.
– That is a threat.
– It is not a threat but a statement. I am as cool as a cucumber. While I believe in upholding the Constitution and the laws made under it, a hundred Constitutions are as nothing in my mind compared with the liberty and the freedom of the citizens of this country. Paper Constitutions are of no account whatever when they are pitted against human life and human liberty, and so it is of no use for the honorable senator to preach the Constitution or anything of that sort. I am prepared to obey the laws so long as they are fair, and no longer.
– As long as you think they are fair.
– As long as I think the laws are fair they are fair to me. If we are going to found a system which will give the ruling authorities in the future the opportunity to apply the military strength to the subjection of citizenship, I shall take alarm in time, and shall be no party to such an iniquity being perpetrated in this young country. We know very well that in these days of big standing armies, expensive munitions of war, forts, garrisons, and artillery, it is impossible for a modern nation, however cruelly or despotically it may be treated by its rulers, to secure its freedom. Neither Russia nor Poland, nor any other country in subjection has a possible chance, until these humane doctrines filter through and permeate the military, which is a slow process, of winning their liberty. They have not even such a chance as nations in olden times might have had under less highly organized military conditions. A high military organization, while it may be necessary to secure a nation’s integrity and freedom from foreign domination, isat the same time, readily used by those in authority as a horrible engine for the oppression of the masses of their fellow-citizens. I am desirous of preventing our military institutions from being diverted from their original purpose at the very inception. It is said that if you wish to train a tree you must start when it is young : train a twig and it will grow accordingly. I want this military system, now in its infancy, to be so shaped and moulded that it can never be used against the best interests of the citizens of this country, to wipe out those liberties which we and our ancestors had to spend so much blood and energy to obtain. With every confidence that ultimately, whatever we may do now, this will become embodied in our law, at no distant date, I move the motion standing in my name.
Debate (on motion by Senator Pearce) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1550).
– When the debate was adjourned this afternoon, I had gone to some trouble to show that the compelling of newspaper writers to sign political articles during an election campaign did not bring about any evil results at the Werriwa election. I was endeavouring to show by reading perhaps somewhat too lengthy’ quotations from newspapers circulating in the electorate that not only had they not been debarred from criticising the condidates, expressing their views on the campaign, and informing and instructing the electors, but, although it was expected that there would be, to some extent, a conspiracy of silence on the part of the press, the efforts of the Worker, the Co-operator, and other newspapers of that character compelled even the press of Sydney to daily furnish the people of New South Wales with correct detailed reports of the speeches and doings of the candidates. These things are well worth remembering, because when a new proposal comes before the people, its very newness sometimes causes them to view it with doubt. I only wish to make one or two more quotations for the purpose of showing that the Goulburn Penny Post exercised a very great liberty in the manner in which it criticised the candidates at the Werriwa election. Here is one of its statements as to what would be the effect of the return of Mr. Conroy, ‘ and as to what had been the effect of the absence of men of his Stamp from this Parliament -
It is understood that the Tariff issue is to be re-opened for the purpose of removing anomalies. That will be the opportunity for the Protectionist leeches to ask for more blood, that is, more taxation, and probably a further, increase in the cost of living.
One of the reasons why the Post was soanxious to secure Mr. Conroy’s return was that the Protectionist leeches would then have some one to fight.
– He is an ardent single-taxer, who desires to raise all revenue from the land.
– I hope that Senator Gardiner will not continue his present line of argument, which seems to be developing merely into a statement regarding the Werriwa election. At the same time,, there is no objection to the honorable senator using that election by way of illustration.
– I merely desire to show that by extending existing legislation in. regard to signed press articles to the referenda campaign, we shall not unduly restrict ‘ the press or prevent it from giving; full and free expression to its opinions.. The Post went on to say -
Werriwa electors by returning a man of Mr.. Conroy’s views ought to make it clear that theyare not to be fooled by that transparent device,, and, at the same time, give an intimation tothe Liberal party that the Tariff must be liberalized very considerably to bring the sovereign back to something more approaching itsold value.
Under these circumstances, can anybody truthfully say that the press was gagged? Right up till the very morning of the election, this great single-tax newspaper fought for its candidate in the most open way;, and the authors of the articles which it published, were merely required to append! their names to them.
– What is the useof this restrictive legislation? Why not wipe it away?
– We do not wish? to wipe it away. The outstanding feature of that campaign was the cleanness and? straightforwardness of the articles published by the press. That is saying a lot,, when we consider the bitterness exhibited! during its progress. The press of New South Wales occupied a most peculiar position in connexion, with that election. For instance, the sentiment around Goulburn is chiefly Free Trade, and as a result Senator Millen and Mr. Joseph Cook were sent to that city to deliver Free Trade speeches; whilst Mr. Deakin, the leader o£ their party, had to be content to visit smaller centres. They dared not take him’ to Goulburn, where the single-tax news- papers were fighting for their candidate. He had to visit places where the electoral strength was only one-half that of Goulburn.
– I wish the honorable senator would confine himself to the question before the Chair and not discuss the matter of Free Trade versus Protection.
– I must apologize for transgressing; but I have been led away by interjections. Some time ago Senator Gould referred to the huge sums of money which were expended by Labour organizations for political purposes. He spoke of organizers who were engaged for industrial organization, using the funds of Labour bodies for political organization. I wish to correct the honorable senator. I think that he has gathered his information from a wrong source. I was not sent out by the Australian Workers Union to engage in industrial organizing.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. Was not the honorable senator a selected candidate for the Senate at that time?
– I was selected at the time I was organizing; but I was not sent out by the Australian Workers Union to industrially organize, and simultaneously to use my time for political organizing. In the most straightforward way, that body advertised for political organizers. I am not a bit ashamed of having been a political organizer; but if I were sent out by a union to organize industrially, and if, while so engaged, I used my time to organize politically, I should feel ashamed. I repeat, however, that I was simply selected by advertisement to do political organizing.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. -And afterwards the honorable senator was selected as a candidate for this Chamber.
– Yes ; theAustralian Workers Union sacrificed the principleof preference to unionists rather than give up its right to organize politically. If that body had merely said that it would forego its political organization, it could have had preference to unionists. I repeat that everything was done in the most straightforward way. There was nothing underground about the methods which were employed.
– That is exactly what we say.
– I can quite understand the honorable senator’s statement. He never does see things clearly. Innuendoes have been thrown out that, whilst! paid to undertake industrial organization, certain organizers on behalf of the Australian Workers Union had used the time and funds of that body to do political organizing. I feel sure, however, that now that the matter has been explained, honorable senators will see that everything which was done was fair and above-board. Our business was political organizing.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - A return was made of the moneys spent in politically organizing, I presume?
– Yes. The honorable senator declared that huge sums had been spent in that connexion. I know what I stated as my expenditure in the return which I furnished. The trouble which we experienced was to get a sufficient sum in our returns to show that we had been fighting at all. It was difficult to make a return which looked anything like a fair one. The whole of the expenses of the three candidates for the Senate in New South Wales did not amount to£200 ; and I am perfectly satisfied that all the candidates put in a correct statement of their expenditure. The reason why the amount was so small was that neither we nor the organization at our backs had the money to spend.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - The organization has any amount of money.
– That is one of the bogies which has been raised for quite a long time. I have been connected with the Australian Workers Union for twenty years, and I have not yet learned that it is possessed of gigantic funds.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - A levy of 5s. per head must amount to a great deal.
– The honorable senator is quite mistaken if he imagines that that amount is contributed for political purposes. So far as I am aware, the only substantial levy made upon the members of that body is for the purpose of establishing a Labour daily newspaper.
– Order ! The honorable senator is drifting away from the subject-matter of the Bill.
– That is due to the fact that Senator Gould, on. a previous occasion, made a reference to this matter which I interpreted as a personal one. I will not offend further in that direction, but I hope that we have heard the last about organizations using huge sums of money and professional canvassers being employed for political purposes when they were ostensibly employed for quite other objects. With regard to the provision regarding the signing of newspaper letters and articles, I am able to say, from personal experience, that it had a most beneficial effect during the Werriwa election. It put an end to the publication of scurrilous anonymous letters, which often make a political campaign more bitter than it would otherwise be. Any one who wrote an article or a letter commenting upon the election had to append bis name to it. If any man was libelled, there was the name and address of the writer, and the slandered person could take his own course. It is equally desirable that we should have a provision of this kind in operation when referenda questions are submitted to the electors. The need for such a compulsory provision is illustrated by the state of affairs in connexion with the newspaper press of New South Wales to-day. There are sixty-two newspapers which are trying to manufacture public opinion against the present State Government by publishing articles under different headings, all emanating from the same source. What is the process ? An article is evidently written in some office in Sydney, put into type, and sent out to those country newspapers which are either paid for the insertion or publish it of their own free will. Conduct of that character will, I am satisfied, compel the State Legislature to do what we are doing in this Bill - to compel political articles to be signed.
– In this State, country newspapers “were paid four times the usual rates for publishing articles.
– I am not aware of what has been done in Victoria, but I do know how public opinion has been manufactured in New South Wales, and I think that we are wise in laying it down that the writers of political articles at election times should attach their names to them, so that the public may know what weight ought to be attributed to any article that is published. In exactly the same way, any man who appears on the platform has to take responsibility for his own utterances, and those who hear him form their own opinion as to the weight that is to be attached to what he says.
– There is nothing to provide that the man who signs an article shall be the man who has written it.
– That may be so; but if a good article is published over the signature of a man to whose opinion the public attaches no weight, the article will be deprived of some of its force.
– That would be the case if an article were signed by Senator St. Ledger.
– I suppose that if an article were signed by that honorable senator it would be highly appreciated by those ladies who foregather at tea meetings and invite him to address them ; but outside such circles the honorable senator’s name would not be known, except, perhaps, away up in Queensland. As to the abolition of postal voting, to which Senator Gould has referred, it has not had the ill effects which were prophesied by the other side. We were told that it would disfranchise hundreds of people.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould-. - Hear, hear ! So it has.
– At the Werriwa election a bigger vote was polled under this so-called disfranchising provision than had ever been polled before. No less than 76 per cent of the electors on the roll exercised their franchise on that occasion.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - If there had been postal voting, 80 per cent of the electors might have voted.
– There was postal voting at the general election, when there was excitement throughout the country, and then the percentage of voters to those enrolled was, I think, 72.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - It was less, I admit.
– I acknowledge that I was one of those who, in the State Parliament of New South Wales, advocated postal voting, and worked hard for it. Had it not been that the other side allowed thepostal vote to be used in an unfair and unreasonable manner, it would have been retained, and would have been a good thing for the country. But what was the effect of it? Professional canvassers went round the country and signed papers wholesale. Some of them had their hands full of these documents. They used the postal vote not only illegally, but in a way that was dangerous to the purity of elections.
– Why were not those individuals, prosecuted ?
– I recognise that some might have been prosecuted, as we have been prosecuting people connected with the Sugar Company ; and the result would have been that,, after three or four months, they would perhaps have been fined ^25. What is that to them? It is no punishment. But we have adopted a better system. We determined to take the postal vote out of the hands of those who had misused it. Honorable senators opposite may claim that all the dishonest people are not on one side in politics.
– The honorable senator will admit that, surely ?
– I never admit anything against my own side ! At any rate, I gave good reasons for my action in helping to abolish the postal vote. I know of one case where a person went to a hospital with a postal voting paper and asked a patient to vote against the Labour party, and, being met with a refusal, took the paper away. I can mention another case within my own knowledge, where an employer of labour called his men together and asked them to vote by post, inasmuch as they were at work a considerable distance from a polling place; and those who refused to say that they would vote against the Labour candidate were called up to the office the next morning and given their walking ticket. It is that sort of thing that induced us to abolish the postal vote.
– Instances like that were not mentioned here at the time the subject was under discussion.
– I myself gave plenty of instances from my own knowledge of the facts; and they were not isolated facts, either.
– How were the majority of the postal -votes cast?
– I never bothered to work out the figures. It was enough for me to know of the mischief of postal voting, and of the dishonest way in which it had been used. I have heard that the abolition -of the system is the sorest blow that has been given to the opposite party, because by means of it they hoped to win nearly every electorate in the country.
Debate (on motion by Senator McColl) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 9.21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 August 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1912/19120801_senate_4_64/>.