4th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are as follow : -
Not exceeding 4d. per word, as determined by the ship authorities concerned ;
Plus land line charges for pressmess ages within the Commonwealth.
– Arising out of the answer, may I ask the Minister if the Commonwealth was a party to the Convention to which he referred, and participated in the settlement of these charges ?
– I understand that to be the case.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The designs for the lay-out of the Federal Capital City have been adjudicated on, and the premiums awarded, but no design has yet been adopted for the purposes of the design of the city. 3 and 4. A Board has been appointed to investigate and report as to the suitability of certain designs for adoption in connexion with the lay-out of the Federal Capital City, and is now engaged investigating.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer to the questions is : - 1 and 2. Since the 8th April, 1912, the Melbourne Harbor Trust has not imposed any differential charge on Australian and imported green fruits. On the date named, the Harbor Trust charges on all goods, whether Commonwealth or imported, were made uniform.
– Arising out of the answer, may I ask the Minister why he fixed upon the 8th April, 1912, as the date, since which no alteration has been made?
– That is, I understand, the date on which the regulation was made.
Bill received from the House of Representatives. .
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all stages without delay.
– I should like the Vice-President of the Executive Council to state whether, if this motion be assented to, it is intended to carry the Bill through all stages at one sitting. It may be that he has merely submitted the motion with the view of getting over what may be regarded as a mere formal stage. If that be the case, I venture to think that the Senate will offer no objection, but if it be the intention, irrespective of what debate may be interposed, to carry through at one sitting a Bill involving an expenditure of nearly £4,000,000, I think that the time has arisen for the Senate to enter more than a formal protest.
– I would remind Senator Millen that notice of this contingent motion having already been given,I must move it now in consequence of the position which the Senate occupies at the present time. The first reading of this Bill is a formal matter. In other words, it is not upon the motion for its first reading that discussion takes place. Let us carry its first reading, and then 1 shall be prepared to move that its second reading be made an Order of the Day for a later hour of the day. I have no intention of forcing the measure through all its stages without affording honorable senators the fullest opportunity of discussing its provisions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
In Committee: (Consideration resumed from 14th August, vide page 2 131).
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Section 6 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words, “ be liable on summary conviction to a penalty not exceeding Fifty pounds,” and inserting in their stead the words “ be guilty of an offence.”
Penalty : Five hundred pounds.
Amendment (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That after the word “ amended “ the following words be inserted : -
By inserting after the word “ question “ the words “ relevant to the inquiry “ ;
By omitting the words “ touching the subject-matter of the inquiry, and (c)”
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [2.45]. - This is a very awkward and complex way of effecting an amendment. Before one can understand the proposed amendment, he has to put into the principal Act words which in themselves are unintelligible. Would it not be very much better to repeat the words of section 6 of that Act as it proposed to amend it, in this clause?
– I think honorable senators will find that the peculiar circumstances pointed out by Senator Symon in relation to this Bill render the course which we are taking necessary. There is no other way of effecting our purpose. This is. the method which has been suggested by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. It has to be recollected that this is an amendment of an amending Bill, and that when the amendment has been made, these words will not appear as an amendment of the original Act. But when the original Act is brought uptodate the words which are supposed to be struck out of it will be struck out, and the words purporting to be inserted in it will be inserted. So that there will be no confusion in the mind of any person looking at the Act itself.
– It is very comforting to have the assurance of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that there is nothing confusing about the order of the procedure which is submitted for our consideration ; but I invite attention to the fact that it is extremely difficult for anybody to understand the position if he is called upon to take up a Bill to amend an existing Act, and then has thrown on top of it a proposed amendment which is entirely different from that which is contained in the Bill itself. In such circumstances, one is obliged to take the principal Act and to introduce into it the latest amendment for which the Government is responsible. If the clause be amended in accordance with the desire of the Government, it will read as follows : -
If any person appearing as a witness before the Commission refuses to be sworn or to make an affirmation, or to answer any question relevant to the inquiry put to him by any of the Commissioners, he shall be guilty of an, offence.
Penalty : Five hundred pounds.
So that the Government now propose to lay it down that the questions which a witness shall be compelled to answer shall be questions relevant to the inquiry, rather than questions touching the subject-matter of the inquiry. I must admit at once that I prefer the words proposed by the Government. It appears to me that they are introduced in consequence of the criticism bestowed upon this provision in another place. It is a curious fact that the amendment now submitted was proposed in another branch of the Legislature by Representative Sinclair. Senator McGregor admits that the Government sometimes does the correct thing. The correct thing has been done in this case; and I have yet to learn that it is not within my competency to proclaim the fact publicly when I find the right thing being done by this Ministry.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [2.51]. - I quite appreciate what my honorable friend says as to the practice that has been adopted with regard to reprinting Bills. But the method adopted by the drafting authorities is a very, bad one. Some of our legislation, even in these early days of the Commonwealth Parliament, is unintelligible except at the expense of very great difficulty. It is a very hard thing to find out exactly what the statute law is on’ some of the matters which have been subjected to amendment. Those who have before them the original Act will see how very much more simple and clear it would be, and how much subsequent reprinting it would save, if the original section were simply reintroduced with the amending words in it. In point of fact, instead of our amending the original Act, we are, by adopting this method, simply giving direction for an amendment. A person reading, this new Bill - at any rate until the reprint is issued - has to dove-tail the new matter into the old, and it becomes a sort of Chinese puzzle to find out what the Legistire ] intended. May I also say that I donot see the necessity for amending section 5 of the original Act at all, because “touching the subject-matter of the inquiry “ isthe same thing as “ relevant to the inquiry.””
– Does not the new set of words bring the Bill more into conformity with the amendment adopted elsewhere ?
– I simply point out that this is an excess of conciliation - that the words “ relevant tothe inquiry “ are put in by way of amendment when we already have the clear words “touching the subject-matter of the inquiry.” But would it not be desirable to put on the face of this Bill the original section of the 1902 Act containing the words “ touching the subject-matter of the inquiry “ ?
– I agree with a great deal of what Senator Symon has said, but honorablesenators will understand that this amending Bill was introduced, with an amendment foreshadowed, for the purpose off increasing penalties. It has been found desirable to bring the clause with which we are dealing into uniformity with an amendment made in a previous clause. If honorable senators consult the original ‘ Bill, as amended, they will see that there will be no confusion. In discussing matters of this kind, it is very easy for a misunderstanding to arise. I think it appropriate for me to say a word or two now as to an incident that occurred yesterday. When dealing with Royal Commissions, I stated that Senator Clemons was in Hobart with the Tariff Commission, and acted as Chairman there. Senator Clemons, to the amusement of honorable senators opposite, said that he was not in Hobart with the Commission at all. They all laughed when he said that, like so many hyenas or jackasses. I do not wish to reflect on Senator Clemons, because I am sure that he honestly thought be was not in Hobart on the occasion to which I have referred. I take that for granted. But my reputation depends upon my memory, and I have consulted the proceedings of the Tariff Commission since the incident occurred. I find that Senator Clemons was Acting Chairman of the Commission when it sat in Hobart on the 9th, 10th, and nth August, 1905. He flatly contradicted me yesterday. I know that “he honestly believed that what I said was not accurate, but the records are against him. The sneering laugh that honorable senators opposite indulged in ought to be introspective now. They must laugh at themselves, if at all.
– May I be allowed to make a brief personal explanation?
– Inasmuch as Senator McGregor has made a personal explanation, 1 think that Senator Clemons is entitled to do so.
– Of course, I at once accept what Senator McGregor has said. He knows perfectly well that when 1 made the remark to which he has alluded I firmly believed that I was not in Hobart on the occasion referred to. I am sure of that. But I will go further, and offer on behalf of every one on this side of the chamber who laughed when I corrected his -statement, an ample apology.
– It is not necessary.
– I am extremely sorry that I corrected the honorable sena tor’s statement, and if I in any way annoyed him, I apologize for myself, as well as for others on this side.
Amendment agreed to.
– Upon this clause I propose to test the opinion of the Committee as to whether or not the penalties imposed by this Bill are excessive. I ought to have- submitted an amendment on clause 4, but in the hurry at the commencement of our proceedings I overlooked the fact that that was the proper place in which to move one. Therefore, I do so now. I invite the Committee to consider this question. Without in any way desiring to limit the power of a Commission to compel witnesses to give evidence necessary for the purpose of their inquiry, it will be admitted that there may be an honest doubt as to whether a question asked of a witness is .relevant to the inquiry being made or not. It is not every layman who is competent to determine whether he is under a legal obligation to answer a question put to him. In the circumstances, ^500 is an excessive penalty to impose upon any person, who, without any desire to restrict an inquiry by a Royal Commission, and believing that he is merely asserting his own rights as an individual, tells the Chairman of a Commission that he declines to answer a particular question put to him because he does not believe it to be relevant to the inquiry. I move -
That the word “ Five,” line 6, be left out with the view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Three.”
A fine of ,£300 is certainly a sufficient maximum penalty for the offences, if they can be so regarded, which are now under review. It must be remembered that there is later in the Bill a provision that, in the event of a witness repeating an offence, he may be subjected to a penalty of from £500 to £1,000. I am dealing here with the case of a witness guilty of a first offence, and not with a man who purposely wishes to obstruct the work of a Royal Commission. A man who desires to do that will not stop at a first offence. I am dealing with the ordinary man, who, in good faith, says to the Chairman of a Commission, “ I think the question you are asking is outside the compass of your inquiry, and, therefore, in my own interests, I feel justified in declining to answer it.” A maximum penalty of ^300 would be ample for such an offence.
– Would not the usual practice be followed of holding such a question over for further consideration ?
– That would only be postponing the imposition of the penalty.
– It does not follow that the penalty of £500 would be imposed.
– The object of putting in these maximum penalties is to give the Court some indication of what is in the mind of Parliament as to the penalty which should be imposed for the offence dealt with. I am pleading now only for what honorable senators opposite have urged time and again, and that is for a penalty which will be reasonable rather than savage. It cannot be shown that the efficiency of this Bill will be impaired in any way if we revise these penalties, and make them conform to the idea of what is reasonable, which, I am sure, is in the mind of every member of the Committee.
– We have already, in a previous clause, agreed to a penalty of£500.
– I have explained that I had overlooked that.
– I know that the honorable senator mentioned that, but it is there anyhow. What I do not like is that Senator Millen, and other honorable senators opposite, should be continually talking of these maximum penalties as if the Court had no option but to impose them. Senator Millen knows as well as any one else that the Court will be able to inflict a penalty which, in its judgment, will be adequate to meet the offence. The penalty imposed might be £1, £10, or £20, and under the Bill up to . £500 if, in the opinion of the Court, such a penalty should be imposed. What difference would it make if the maximum penalty were£300 rather than £500 in the case of certain persons who may offend against the provisions of this Bill? A penalty of £20 might be much more severe upon one culprit than a penalty of . £500 on another. The Court must take into consideration the severity of the penalty upon the culprit.
– Is the payment to be adjusted according to his capacity to pay?
– No ; but his capacity to pay would qualify the penalty.
– Which is the same thing.
– We do not desire that the Court should be so hampered that it must limit the penalty when it would know that a fine of£300 would be of no more consequence to one offender than a fine of 5s. to another. Honorable senators opposite have shown their desire to be fair to trusts and monopolies, such as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but we know that institutions of that kind would be prepared to pay large sums of money to avoid answering some questions which they might be asked. It is in order that the Court may have the necessary latitude to impose a penalty to meet the offence that a maximum penalty of £500 is proposed. It is proposed later in the Bill that these penalties may be repeated, and it does not matter how wealthy a corporation may be, before the Court is finished with them they will be glad to answer all the legitimate questions they may be asked, whether their answers reveal the way in which they have been treating the public or not. I see no difference, in the circumstances, between the penalty proposed in the clause and that suggested by the amendment.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South. Australia) [3.10]. - Some remarks which have fallen from the Vice-President of the Executive Council urge me to repeat what I said yesterday. I said that I was not here as an advocate of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in any sense, and that my view of the matter was entirely apart, as I had hoped that the view of the Government would be, from any consideration of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company or any other body against whom proceedings were intended to be directed with the object of destroying a supposed combine or monopoly.
– There is no intention to destroy any body.
– I also took very good care to make it clear that I was just as anxious as the Government were, at the proper time, and under proper circumstances - apart from any feeling of irritation created by the existing circumstances - that there should be more ample powers of examination for the ascertainment of facts by means of Royal Commissions in connexion with monopolies or anything else. When I heard my honorable friend say a few moments ago that honorablesenators on this side, in their fairness towards the-. Sugar Company, took the views which they had been expressing, it occurred to me that the converse of that is true, and that he states his views in his unfairness towards that company.
– No, in my fairness to the general public.
– I think it would be a good thing if my honorable friend would abstain from these taunts when he is arguing a simple question. I do not think it matters two pins whether the’ maximum fine is made £200 or ,£300 or £1,000. In that respect, and to that extent, I rather agree with my honorable friend. The introduction of this enormously increased penalty - ten times the amount provided in the Act - is a pointed indication that this legislation is specially directed at the pockets of a wealthy corporation. From that point of view it amounts to an indication to the magistrates, and is an inducement to them to discriminate, and to make this a kind of class punishment, which it ought not to be.
– They will temper the wind to the shorn lamb.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON.Whether they do or not my honorable friend indicates to the magistrates that the penalty ought to go up, within the limit provided in the Act, not according to the character or seriousness of the offence, but according to the depth of the pocket of the offender. The Government have entirely misunderstood the situation. I defy any one to name a case in which the mere refusal of a witness to answer a question, because it is not relevant to the inquiry, justifies a penalty of even £5. The Commission say to the witness: “ This is a question which we regard as relevant, ‘ ‘ and the witness says : “ I do not take that view, and with great respect, I decline to answer the question.”
– Whom would you have to be the judges?
– The Bill has withdrawn that power from the Commission ; they cannot impose a penalty. That is the extraordinary position. If the Commission should finally decide that the question is relevant, and punish the man, they may say, as a Judge would say : “You will be imprisoned till the rising of the Court, or till you answer the question.”
– Only yesterday you were grumbling because, the Court did get some little power.
– I do not think that my honorable friend has attentively read the Bill. In the case I have mentioned, why should the witness be fined more than a nominal sum to indicate that he is wrong? The Government have made this matter ridiculous, because if the witness is recalcitrant, and will not give the information, under a subsequent clause the Commission can impose a penalty, with a minimum limit of £500. The first offence is a venial thing. The Commission cannot order the witness to answer the question, but have to lay an information before the High Court, or a Court of summary jurisdiction in order to have the matter determined. But if there is a persistent refusal to answer the question, or some suggested defiance of the Commission, that is an offence for which they can punish him in proportion to the wickedness of his refusal.
– There seems to bs an assumption on the other side that the payment of this fine will release the witness from the necessity of answering the question.
– It will not. Really, my honorable friends opposite are behaving like a lot of children in a nursery when they try to legislate about things which they do not understand.
– Are you in favour of the clause under which, for a persistent refusal, a witness can be fined from ,£500 to £l>°o°?
– I do not think that a fine of ,£500 would make any difference, but it is consistent - that is to say, it is a fair thing on a second refusal that the witness should be severely punished. I admit that as a principle, quite irrespective of his pecuniary resources. I certainly am not going to force any amendments upon the Government. If any mischief has arisen which it is proper should be remedied, it is in the proceedings which were necessary under the provision for a £$0 fine in the Act to determine whether or not the witness had a reasonable excuse for not attending. The proceedings appear to have been dragged out for a very long time, and, of course, in the meantime the work of the Commission has been suspended. But the multiplying of the penalty by ten times will not get rid of that mischief. If the witness does not answer the questions, the infliction of the penalty will not help the Commission, because they will have to take proceedings for an offence under the Act, just as they have to do now under the provision for a £50 fine, before either magistrates or the High Court, and there may be just the same scandal, if scandal it is, in prolonging the inquiries and hanging up the Commission then as now. The High Court is greatly occupied with other things, and possibly might not be able to entertain a case. It would be ridiculous nonsense to take a matter of this kind in the first instance before the highest tribunal in the land. It ought to be dealt with by the magistrates, and if a case is taken before them, what possible guarantee does’ the increase of -the penalty give that the proceedings will be expedited by one hour? From these two points of view, and not with the view of lessening the power of the Government to get the information, I suggest that my honorable friend should reconsider the whole thing.
– It becomes our duty to look carefully into this matter, especially if the Government, for some reason or other, think that they must increase the penalty enormously. We will assume that a witness is asked a question which may look very innocent. If he is an expert, he may know that, upon his reply, a great deal, if not the whole of his case, may depend, and he may think that he ought not to answer the question. If the Commission wish to consider whether they should or should not ask a certain question, they have the power to retire in order to deliberate. Why should we not give to a witness the right of retiring straight-away and considering whether or not he should answer a question ? Every layman here must be familiar with the ordinary procedure of a Court. A counsel gets up and asks an important question. . Frequently the counsel on the other side jumps up and says to the witness, “ Do not answer the question,” and his answer is not taken. The counsel who raises the objection gives his reasons, and then the counsel who thinks that the question is relevant, and should be answered, gives his reasons. The debate on this important point is con ducted before a Judge, who decides ultimately, and the witness may have time to make up his mind. Again, in a Court, except in some cases of privileged communications, a witness may disregard the advice of his counsel, and answer a question. If the Judge holds that it ought not to be answered it will not be answered. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether, in view of the great penalties which may be imposed, he will accept an amendment giving an opportunity to a witness before a Royal Commission to withdraw for a time, in order to consider his first decision not to answer a question, or to consult with counsel before he gives a final refusal?
– That permission is always given by consent. The Chairman of the Commission does that.
– Has he the power?
– I do not think so.
– As Chairman of a Royal Commission, I have given leave to a witness to withdraw.
– Only the other day a witness before a Committee appointed to inquire into a disputed election asked to be given an opportunity to decide whether or not he would answer a question which was put to him.
– That was a matter of grace. It should not be a matter of grace. That is my contention.
– It is a pity that this clause should be retained in its present form. The VicePresident of the Executive Council has affirmed that the Government have decided that it is desirable and necessary - nay, even that it is fair - to vest Royal Commissions with power to impose this high penalty. I am perfectly certain that he knows he is on utterly unsound ground when he attempts to maintain that proposition. Why, he is actually supporting the creation of a new criminal code. Can any one who believes in justice accept the proposition that when a man who has been brought before a Criminal Court, has been found guilty of an offence which entails punishment by imprisonment, the Judge ought to have regard to the effect of that imprisonment upon him ? Do we expect the Judge to say “ Six months’ imprisonment in the case of this man means much more than does six months’ imprisonment in the case of another man”?
– What did the honorable senator’s Government do in respect of the sea-carriage of goods?
– I do not know, but I strongly suspect that it has no reference to my present remarks. The offence with which we are now dealing is that of a man who, upon being asked a question, says, “ I am of opinion that that question is not relevant to the inquiry.” What does the proposal of the Government mean? It means that if the representative of a wealthy corporation says, “ In my opinion, that is not a relevant question,” he will be punished to the tune of ^500; but if a poor man says, “I am of opinion that the question is not relevant to the inquiry,” a much less penalty may be inflicted upon him.
-Colonel Cameron. - And it may be the same question.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council to see what a labyrinth he will land himself in if he does that. Ought a wealthy man to have a better knowledge of the relevancy of a question than a poor man? If any man, rich or poor, says, “ I will not answer that question because it is not relevant,” the proper procedure should be to inflict upon him a nominal fine. That fine should be inflicted by a Court. But if, after a Court of competent jurisdiction had said to him, “We hold that you were wrong in refusing to answer the question put to you, because, in our opinion, it was relevant to the inquiry, and you must therefore go back to the Commission, and answer it,” the witness still declined to answer it, he ought to be subjected to a heavy penalty.
– That is provided for in proposed new section 6e.
– That is not quite correct, because it might be a second refusal to answer a second question.
– It might be, but it might also be what the Vice-President of the Executive Council has stated. That would be the real offence. Why should we cling to the desire to impose a penalty of ^500 on one man because he holds a perfectly honest opinion, and why should we hope that if a poor man holds a different Opinion from a Commission as to what is relevant to its inquiry, he will be let off with a small fine?
– It is like putting opinions up to auction.
– I quarrel both with the spirit and intention of the Government in their attitude towards this matter, because they have said quite openly concerning the first offence - which is merely one of opinion - that they desire to have the right to punish the wealthy man to the tune of ,£500, and to let the poor man off with a much lighter penalty. Such a proposition is absolutely indefensible.
– The poor man might be punished more by the payment of 5s. than the wealthy man would be by the payment of £500
– If the representative of this tremendously wealthy sugar company held that a certain question put to him was not relevant, and that consequently he was not obliged to answer it, would Senator Givens, merely because he was the representative of that company, impose a heavy penalty on him? It is unthinkable that the honorable senator would not give fair play to every class in the community upon a mere matter of opinion. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council wishes to punish recalcitrant witnesses, he can do so. The penalty provided in the principal Act is ample.
– - My honorable friends opposite seem to be obsessed with the notion that this Bill is aimed at the rich men, and that we desire to impose ferocious penalties on them out of a spirit of revenge. The Bill doei not aim at anything of the kind, nor doe the provision which we are now discussing. The sole object of the measure is to make Royal Commissions effective, and to injure that the taxpayer shall get the information which is necessary whenever these Commissions are appointed. There is no question of ferocity or revenge at issue. Honorable senators are aware that Royal Commissions have continually been hampered owing to lack of sufficient power either to require the attendance of witnesses, or to compel them to answer questions. We have been told by honorable senators opposite that we wish to impose one penalty on the rich man and another on the poor man. Both Senators Millen and Clemons stressed that point.
– Did not the honorable senator say so?
– I interjected whilst the honorable senator was speaking that it might be a greater penalty to exact 5s. from one man than it would be to take ^500 from another man. A fine of 55. might deprive the former of the necessaries of life, while a fine of ,£500 might not require a wealthy man to forego a single luxury of life. But if my honorable friends are distressed over that aspect of the matter there is a simple way out of the difficulty. Let us abolish the monetary penalty and substitute imprisonment for it.
– A rich man might be able to go to gaol for six months without the bread and butter of his family being interfered with, whereas the poor man could not do so.
– My honorable friend is very much concerned about, the poor man. but it is rather significant that his magnificent diatribes in this Chamber are always on behalf of the wealthy man. If we had in the Bill a penal clause, which imposed imprisonment in lieu of a monetary fine it could be applied all round. Would that be more acceptable to my honorable friends?
– But it is proposed to punish a witness merely upon a question of opinion.
– We know that the wealthy person who comes before a Royal Commission usually has the benefit of the opinion of the most eminent counsel at his disposal. Even if counsel be not allowed to appear openly, he is usually at the witness’s elbow all the time to prompt him. Although counsel were not allowed to appear officially before the Sugar Commission, we know perfectly well that they were constantly in evidence taking notes-
– When the Tobacco Commission was sitting the Tobacco Trust” had their counsel present, and continually referred questions to them.
– That is so. So that ft is not a question - as Senator Clemons has argued - merely of opinion, because wealthy witnesses will probably have the most eminent legal advice beside them, all the time that they are giving evidence. If” they can afford to pay £500 for the services of counsel, surely they can afford to pay that amount if they refuse to answer a question which ‘is put to them by whom ? Not by a partisan Commission, because we must presume that the Commissioners appointed will be impartial inquirers. I would point out to Senator Millen, who smiles derisively at my statement, that it will not be a prosecuting counsel who asks that question. It will be a member of an impartial Commission. The Commission should have no desire beyond getting at the actual truth. They do not want to enter upon a fishing inquiry all round the country, asking questions which have no bearing upon the subject-matter under investigation. Our experience of Royal Commissions in the past has been that witnesses have had ample consideration. The only Royal Commissioner whom I remember was violently accused by a certain section of the press of bullying and bouncing witnesses was Senator Clemons.
– I can stand that.
– I-am not making the statement on my own account, but am repeating what was stated by certain newspapers.
– Will the honorable senator allow me to say in answer that, while I was a member of the Commission referred to, I never found that we required more powers to get evidence out of witnesses.
– That argument has been replied to by Senator McGregor, who pointed out that witnesses before the Tariff Commission really had nothing to hide, but that their interest was to lay their cards on the table.
– I dissent from that view entirely.
– In the case that we now have in mind, that of the Sugar Company - because it is useless to pretend that we have not that case in mind - there is a huge monopoly, whose whole interest it is to cover up its proceedings, to refuse to let the public have any inkling as to how its business is conducted, what its profits are, and the nature of its business methods. Unless we are able to devise means which will compel those people to let the light of day into their workings - to let the people- know what is a matter of vital concern to them, how these monopolists treat their customers, and how they treat the people who are producing and working for them - we shall never be able to get at the facts. This Bill is designed to put into the hands of any Commission which may be appointed to inquire into any matter of that kind, some surer means by which they will be able to compel the attendance of witnesses, and to compel the witnesses to disclose the facts within their knowledge. As to these so-called excessive penalties, I would remind Senator Clemons that every Judge has power to commit for contempt of Court any witness who refuses to answer relevant questions. Within my own recollection, several persons have been sent to gaol for no other offence than that, iri a case where they have been called as witnesses, they refused to answer questions. When imprisoned, they have had no redress whatever. In this instance, we are simply imposing a monetary penalty on a witness who refuses to answer questions put to him by an impartial Commission, which should have no desire to injure the witness, but merely to illicit the facts in the interest of the public. Who are to be supreme in this country? Is it to be the big combines, the people who control the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, or the Parliament of Australia? That is really the question. When a Royal Commission is appointed, the reason is, presumably, because it is desired to get certain facts regarding matters of public interest. We have the public interest on one side, and the interest of this monopoly on the other. The people must be paramount. We cannot allow a Commission appointed by the Government of this country to be flouted and turned into a laughing-stock, to have its hands tied, because of the lack of effective powers. The penalties are none too stringent. I would remind the Opposition that if any particular question is decided to be not relevant, the witness affected escapes. There is no punishment.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - There should be none then.
– I do not want a witness to be punished under such circumstances. He is only punished when he refuses to answer a relevant question, and deliberately flouts a Commission. A man who does that flouts the people whose representatives appointed the Commission, and ought to be punished. If honorable senators want the Bill to operate equally with the poor man as with the rich, let them propose a penal provision instead of a monetary penalty, .and I, for one, shall be inclined to support them.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [3-45]- - I think we are all agreed that if the Commonwealth Government appoints a Royal Commission, steps ought to be taken to make it effective. We ought to give it power to carry out the duties imposed upon it. But, at the same lime, I think that we are not assisting in the attainment of that end if we impose penalties that may fairly be looked upon as vindictive - penalties that may be inflicted to one extent on one man, but to a lesser extent on another man, who may have been guilty df the same offence.
– A fine of £500 would mean less to the honorable senator than £5 would to me.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - I doubt that very much; but, even if it were so, is that a reason why, if I refuse to answer a question, I should be fined ^500, whilst the honorable senator, for refusing to answer a precisely similar question, should be fined only £5 ?
– Why should it cost Senator Givens ,£5 to hold a certain opinion, and Senator Gould ^500?
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - Exactly. The whole idea in imposing penalties is to have, such as may reasonably be expected to be effective for the purposes for which the penalties are imposed. If it is a mere question of relevancy that is in dispute, a small penalty will be quite sufficient to make it plain to a man that he has made a mistake ; and if it is sufficient, there is an end of the matter. If the penalty is not sufficient, the offender may be prosecuted for a second offence, which certainly will not be of the same character as the first. By all means let there be larger penalties for the second offence, but it is not a fair thing to make them so heavy in the first instance. When a magistrate has before him a direction by Parliament, that in certain circumstances a fine of ,£500 may be inflicted, he naturally takes into consideration that, in the opinion of Parliament, the offence in question was sufficiently serious to necessitate a heavy penalty. It is only reasonable that when Parliament speaks by its Acts, Judges should follow out what they conceive Parliament intended to be done. A penalty of ^25 may be quite as effective as a fine °f £2>5°° for the purpose in view, but the Court will see that a heavy maximum fine is prescribed, and may, therefore, be inclined to impose a larger penalty than necessary. We are told that we are dealing to a great extent with a particular company. It may be that affairs in connexion with one company had directed special attention to the state of the law. But this Bill is not really being passed to deal only with one company. It will operate in regard to offences committed by witnesses called before any Royal Commission. I should like to say in passing, that I do not believe honorable senators will find that an attempt will be made by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to hide a single transaction that the Sugar Commission may desire to inquire into. The whole difficulty arose in consequence of the Commission refusing to allow a witness to read a statement which had been prepared, in consequence of which certain persons thought that they had not been treated fairly.
– Does the honorable senator think that that individual was justified in persisting in conducting the proceedings of the Commission in his own way.
– My opinion is that when a witness is called before a Royal Commission, it is his duty to answer questions that are put to him and are pertinent to the inquiry. 1 do not say that there was justification for a witness absenting himself, because he thought some one else had been treated unfairly. But I do say that the full statement that had been prepared was of such a character as would have given the Commission a great deal of information regarding the working of the company. If the Commission, after hearing it, thought that the statement was not full and ample, they could have examined the witness further. I think that honorable senators have treated the company unfairly by saying that it is a combine, and has been acting injuriously to the public. I do not know what the company has done.
– The honorable senator ought to know. He is a member of the company.
– Yes, if the honorable senator wishes to know, I have some shares in it. It commenced in a small way, and has become singularly successful.
– I must ask the honorable senator not to pursue that line of argument. We are dealing with penalties which may be applied by Royal Commissions generally.
– The company consists of something like 2,000 shareholders, the great bulk of whom do not hold more than twenty-five shares each. That, however, is entirely beside the question. I agree that if there is a determination by persons not to give evidence before a Royal Commission, that determination should be broken down. Persons should be compelled to give evidence on matters pertinent to the inquiry. If a witness is asked a question that he does not consider to be relevant, it is proper that a Court should determine whether it is relevant or. not. If it is held to be relevant it becomes the witness’s duty to answer the question, and I would not shield him from any consequences of continued refusal. I point out another peculiar thing with regard to penalties. We find that if a penalty is imposed, and the money is not paid, periods of imprisonment are prescribed, the duration varying according to the amount of the penalty. The period of imprisonment for a penalty over £50 and not more than £100, is three months; for penalties up to £200, six months; for penalties over £200, one year. It is singular that although it is prescribed in one clause that a man who shows recalcitrancy shall incur heavier penalties up to £1,000, the alternative is only three months’ imprisonment. So that the Government have regarded a period of three months’ imprisonment as sufficient to punish a man who refuses a second time to answer questions, and yet a person who does not pay a penalty of £500 for a first refusal, has to go to gaol for a year. Personally, I believe that if a per7 son were taken to Court, and were shown that he must answer a question considered pertinent to the inquiry, a milder form of punishment would be sufficient. We shall find that the law will be regarded as vindictive. I put it to honorable senators that it is undesirable to impose maximum penalties so high that they will have the appearance of vindictiveness, although I quite agree that persons who persist in not answering questions which are relevant, should be subjected tomeasures which will make them do so. I believe that once our people get a decision of the Law Courts they will be prepared to abide by it. If they know that they can be fined for a certain offence they will not run their heads against a stone wall. I believe also that if a man knows that he may be subjected to a fine of £20 if he does not do a certain thing, he will do it as readily as if he knew he might be fined £100.
– I said yesterday that I have no quarrel with the penalties recoverable in the Courts for offences against this Bill. I see no reason fo’r the amendment. We have to bear in mind what the maximum penalty of £5°° is provided for. If the clause under consideration be passed as amended,, the section will read -
If any person appearing as a witness before the Commission refuses to be sworn or to make an affirmation, or to answer any question relevant to the inquiry put to him by any of theCommissioners, he shall be guilty of an offence.
Obviously that includes, not merely a bond fi.de refusal on the part of a witness who honestly entertains the conviction that he is not bound to answer ‘a question, or that the question is not relevant, but also the other extreme case - a witness conscious of the fact that the question put to him is relevant, realizing that he is bound by law to answer it, and yet perversely, wilfully, and obstinately refusing to answer it. It is quite clear that the penalties in these ;two cases should not be the same. I have sufficient confidence, at any rate, in our. superior Courts to believe that whether a man be rich or poor, supported by a corporation or standing on his own, if he can establish to the satisfaction of the Court that there is in his refusal to answer a question no wilfulness, perverseness, or obstinacy, but a bond fide assertion of a right which he believes he has, the Court will fine him only a small amount. We might have the case, on the other hand, of a man having the support of a large financial institution to whom a fine, unless it were of a very substantial amount, would be of no great consequence. He might wilfully, perversely, and obstinately refuse to answer a relevant question, and it is necessary that in such a case there should be power to impose a very heavy penalty. It is because these offences may embrace all degrees of guilt that it is necessary to have so extreme a range of penalties, from a nominal penalty of 5s., it may be, up to the maximum of £500. I can quite conceive that in certain circumstances a fine of £500 would not be too much for an offence under this clause, and would not be felt by certain institutions. We have to bear in mind that there are such institutions in our midst, and that their interests may possibly be affected by inquiries conducted by Royal Commissions. We must provide for penalties which will be adequate to deter the authorities of such institutions from committing offences against the law. The object of imposing penalties by legislation is to deter people from disobeying the law, or to compel them to conform to it. The prospect of a fine of £5 might act as a deterrent in the case of a poor man, whilst the prospect of a fine of £500 might not have the same deterring effect upon the representatives of a large financial institution. Holding these views, it will be seen that I am not prepared to support the reduction of the penalty from .£500 to ^300. I believe that in no circumstances will anything like the maximum penalty provided for be imposed unless there is a. flagrant defiance of a Commission, and a refusal without any shadow of any justification or excuse to give the evidence asked for. I direct the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to the fact that in clause 10 provision is made for the prosecution of an offence, and an alternative procedure is provided for. In the case of an offence which is not an indictable offence, and the offences we are now considering are not indictable offences, a prosecution may be instituted by action, information, or other appropriate proceeding in the High Court by the AttorneyGeneral in the name of the King, or, alternatively, it may be instituted by information or other appropriate proceeding by any person in a Court of summary jurisdiction. If the Attorney-General takes action, he must do so in the name of the King, and in the High Court, but if any private person chooses to take action, he may prosecute the accused person on information or other appropriate proceeding in a Court of summary jurisdiction. I really think that we ought not to invest any two Justices with the power to impose penalties up to ^500. I hope, therefore, that before we come to clause 10 the Vice-President of the Executive Council will consider the advisableness and practicability of submitting a provision to the effect that Justices, in imposing penalties for offences under this Bill, shall be limited to a certain maximum of, say, £50. If it is desired to impose a penalty of more than £50, the only Court that should entertain the information should be the High Court. Certainly, a Court of summary jurisdiction should not, in respect of these offences, have the same power to impose penalties as the High Court. If the course 1 suggest were adopted, minor offences would naturally be prosecuted before Justices, whilst the graver and more serious offences, in which it was proposed to establish bad faith and wilful, perverse, and obstinate conduct on the part of the defendant, would be taken to the High Court. I think that where there was reason to assume that a person charged with an offence under the Bill was actuated by proper motives, and not by a desire to wilfully flout a Royal Commission, or to disregard the law, the prosecution should take place in an inferior Court, where the costs, in the event of a conviction, would be proportionately small. But, if there is a wilful and flagrant abuse, and a contemptuous attempt on the part of the individual to disobey the law, he might be dealt with in the High Court; any defence he might have could be sifted, analyzed, and determined upon by our highest tribunal, and the penalty imposed upon him, in the event of conviction, such as would be adequate to meet the offence. It would naturally follow, also, that, in such a case, the costs involved would be very much greater than in the case of a minor offender prosecuted in the Courts of lower jurisdiction. 1 hope that the VicePresident of the Executive Council will recognise the anomaly which will exist in the Bill if we pass clause 10 as it stands. If we had some assurance from the Government that Courts- of lower jurisdiction would not be empowered to impose the maximum penalty provided for, there would not be so much need to discuss whether the penalty under this clause should be £500 or a lesser amount..
– I cannot assent to much of the reasoning of Senator Keating. I hold that very severe penalties are not in accord with the tendency of modern legislation. If a witness obstinately and persistently refuses to answer a question which is pertinent to the issue which a Royal Commission is inquiring into, there is not a single member of the Committee who would not agree that he ought to be punished. If the matter inquired into by a Royal Commission affects wealthy trading corporations, they may not care whether the penalty provided under this Bill is £1,000, £10,000, or .£50,000. When the Standard Oil Combination was before a State Supreme Court of the United States of America, a fairly heavy penalty was inflicted upon it, but does any honorable senator believe that the Standard Oil Company cared one straw about the penalty? Does any one here believe that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company would care one straw whether the penalty provided was £25 or .£506? That is another reason why honorable senators should not rely upon the efficacy of severity of punishment.
– They will make the fine ,£5,000 if you argue in this way much longer.
– I am not responsible for any misuse which the Chamber may make of my argument. In the case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the position seems to have been that one of the witnesses thought that he had a bond fide reason why he should not answer a question in the circumstances in which it was put to him, and that he, on behalf of a powerful corporation, was not thinking sp much of defying the Commission as of testing the question as to whether he was fairly dealt with. I think that this consideration largely influenced the company. At first, they thought they were right, and took the risk of a fine being imposed. But now that a magistrate has inflicted a fine, and it is clear that their representative had broken the law, the company will obey the law.
– They have said so.
– It is not the severity of the punishment which will affect a big corporation or strong men, be they rich or poor. I protest against the dangerous tendency of increasing the severity of the punishment unless the strongest reasons are given, because, just as Parliament is influenced by public opinion, so commercial and industrial concerns are subject to the same pressure. If public opinion is fairly against a company or corporation, that is a more powerful influence than is any penalty or imprisonment. I support my leader’s amendment, because i* is consistent with that principle.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 1 -
After section six of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted : - “ 6a. Every witness who has been summoned’ to attend a Royal Commission shall appear and’ report himself from day to day until he is released from further attendance by the President or Chairman of the Commission.”
– It will be noticed that it is proposed in this clause to insert in the Act a number of new sections, to follow section 6. I propose to meet the argument of a great many parliamentary representatives and others that a jury should have a say in the decision as to the guilt or innocence of offenders. Beginning with proposed section 6j, and ending with proposed section 6n, I shall be prepared to introduce the word “indictable” before the word “offence.” That will do away with any objection which may be in the minds of any honorable senators with respect to offenders being dealt with without the benefit of a jury to try their cases. In all these provisions, a heavy imprisonment is prescribed’.. The Government think that, in cases where imprisonment of a serious character is provided, the offenders should have the benefit of trial by jury. I, therefore, ask you-, sir, to submit the clause in parts.
– I shall put the clause in parts. The first question will be that proposed section 6a, with the introductory words of the clause, stand part of the Bill.
– - The proposed section provides that a witness must be in attendance day by day until he is finally told by the Chairman that he need not come any more. With the desire of improving the Bill, I ask the Minister to insert the words “ unless excused, or “ before the word “ until.” If this amendment be made, the Chairman of a Commission may say to a man, “ I will excuse you from attending for two or three days, as you will not be wanted.” But as the provision stands, he will only have the option of releasing the man when he is finished with him, though, obviously, a week or a fortnight may elapse before the witness is wanted. I hope that the Minister will accept my suggestion ; but if it is not acceptable to him, I shall not press it.
– I do not see any very serious objection to the amendment, which I will accept, if it is moved by the honorable senator with the addition of the words “ by the President or Chairman.”
– The Minister can put in the additional words if he likes, but they are really in the provision now.
– No; those words refer to a release by the President or Chairman.
– I doubt whether it is necessary to add the words ; but if the Minister prefers to repeat the expression I do not mind, though it will make the provision a little redundant. I move -
That after the word “ day,” second occurring, line 5, the words “ unless excused by the President or Chairman of the Commission, or” be inserted.
Amendment agreed to.-
Proposed new section and covering words, agreed to.
Proposed new section 6b - (1.) If any person served with a summons to attend a Royal Commission as a witness fails to attend the Commission in answer to the summons, the President or Chairman may, on proof by statutory declaration of the service of the summons, issue a warrant for his apprehension.
– In my second-reading speech I expressed “the view that it would be a great hardship if no provision was made in the Bill to defray the expense§ of a person who was summoned to attend a Commission, perhaps, in another State. It is immaterial to me what form of words is used, so long as provision is made that a witness shall be tendered reasonable expenses. A resident of Melbourne can afford to attend a Commission sitting in this State; but witnesses may be summoned from Queensland. A man in Queensland cannot always afford £1$ or £20 to come down here, and he will fail to attend, because of the want of money. I thought of asking the Committee to insert after “ witness “ the words “ after reasonable expenses have been tendered “ ; but I am willing that the amendment should be made wherever it may be thought advisable. I do not wish to cavil or haggle over the matter. I shall be satisfied if the Minister will make the amendment in any shape he likes.
– If Senator Sayers will refer to proposed new section 6g, he will see that it provides for the payment of a witness’s expenses. This question has already been raised with respect to the tendering of travelling expenses to witnesses who may live at some distance, and the AttorneyGeneral has given an emphatic promise that, in the regulations which will be made under that provision, the matter will be taken into consideration, and no witness will be required to come from any distance without these expenses being tendered. I may point out to the honorable senator that if expenses were not tendered to a man in Brisbane, it would be a reasonable excuse for his failing to attend here, and he could not be punished. If honorable senators will refer to proposed section 6g they will see that the question of expenses will be dealt with by regulation, and where no regulation exists, the Chairman of the Commission may authorize the payment of such sum as he deems reasonable. It is only by means of a regulation that it can be decided what are “ reasonable expenses,” and a scale will be framed which will suit every circumstance. I think it will be seen that, unless we put a very long schedule in the Bill, we could not provide for every contingency such as Senator Sayers has indicated. I know that he is taking this action because he does not desire that any person in the Commonwealth shall be put to inconvenience, or run the risk of being arrested or punished for a thing which he really could not help. I can assure honorable senators that that promise, having been given by the Attorney-General, it will be faithfully carried out.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [4.25].- Under this proposed new section the only condition which has to be fulfilled before a warrant can be issued, is to satisfy the President or Chairman of a Commission, by statutory declaration, of the service of the summons. No provision is made in regard to the tender of expenses. Turning to the clause under which the expenses may be prescribed, I find the following words -
Any witness appearing before a Royal Commission shall be paid a reasonable sum for the expenses of his attendance in accordance with the prescribed scale.
So that he will not be entitled to the payment of any expenses until he appears before the Commission. I need scarcely point out that a regulation cannot override the Statute. But we may overcome the difficulty by declaring in this proposed section that “ the President or Chairman may, on proof by statutory declaration of the service of the summons, and of the tender of reasonable expenses, as prescribed, issue a warrant for his apprehension.” Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council accept that amendment?
– No. I have given the assurance of the Attorney-General, and that satisfied honorable members in another place.
– Under the provision as it stands, the President or Chairman of the Commission will need no evidence whatever of the tender of expenses to justify him in issuing his warrant for the apprehension of a witness. Whilst a regulation may be made, as suggested by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, it cannot override the Statute, and if the President or Chairman of a Royal Commission issues a warrant for the apprehension of a witness who has been duly summoned, and that witness be brought before the Court, he will have no right of action for illegal arrest, because he has not had any expenses tendered to him.
– No Chairman of a Royal Commission ever asked a witness to travel a long distance without first tendering him his expenses.
– I am merely speaking of the position as a matter of dry law, and of the interpretation which I am convinced would be placed on the Statute by the High Court.
, - In addressing myself to the second read ing of this Bill, I drew the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to the omission from this proposed new section of the provision which it is now sought to introduce. I also expressed the hope that in Committee he would be prepared to supply that omission. I had intended to move that after the word “ summons,” the following words should be inserted, “ and the tender to such person of the* prescribed expenses.” There is no necessity for me to point out that it is quite possible, no matter how far Royal Commissions may roam throughout the Commonwealth, that witnesses will be summoned to attend their sittings who will have to do some travelling. Following the procedure which has been adopted by Courts of law, these witnesses should be entitled, on service of the summons, to that portion of their expenses which represents the actual cost of travelling to and from their place of residence. The balance of their expenses might be received subsequently. But in ordinary Courts of law a witness is entitled, on the service of the summons, to what is known as “conduct” money. If he does not get that, the Court will not attach him for contempt or impose any penalty upon him for non-attendance. In the case of Royal Commissions, it is quite reasonable to assume that witnesses will have to travel as great, if not greater, distances than they have to travel to attend various Courts - Supreme and local.
– Why was not this objection raised when the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was under consideration?
– I am not responsible for not having raised it. The fact that it was not then raised does not disqualify anybody from raising it’ now. If we supply the omission here, and there is a corresponding omission in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, that is a reason why we should also supply the omission there. If reference be made to proposed new section 6g, it will be seen that it reads -
Any person appearing before a Royal Commission shall be paid a reasonable sum for the expenses of his attendance in accordance with the prescribed scale.
That provision, I contend, will not enable the Government to carry out the expressed intentions of the Attorney-General. I submit that view with all respect, but with the greatest confidence. In the first place, a witness will not be entitled to expenses until he has appeared before the Commission. That proposed section does not provide that a witness shall be en- titled to expenses upon being summoned. It is the appearance before the Commission which qualifies him to claim expenses. But in connexion with our Courts of law, it is the mere fact of his being summoned that entitles him to his expenses. A witness may be summoned to attend a Royal Commission, but may not appear before it. There may be some reason for dispensing with his evidence. In such circumstances, he will not be entitled to his expenses under this provision. The qualification for expenses ought to be the service of a summons upon a witness, and not his actual appearance before a Commission. Then, again, all that may be prescribed under the Bill is the scale of expenses. It will not be competent for the Governor-General in Council to prescribe that payment shall be made to a witness prior to his appearance before a Commission. The Bill does not provide for that. It will only be competent for him to prescribe the scale itself - the schedule of expenses.
– Might not a prescribed scale provide for travelling expenses ?
– It may prescribe the measure of expenses, but it will not prescribe the time of payment. This is the proper place to provide for the time of payment, which, I contend, should be when a witness receives a summons. I think that the Vice-President of the Executive Council will be well-advised if he accepts the amendment which I suggest.
– There is no such limitation in proposed new section 6g as the honorable senator suggests. There is nothing to prevent the Attorney-General, by regulation, paying expenses to a witness before he has appeared before a Commission.
- T say that the provision only empowers the GovernorGeneral in Council to prescribe the amounts to be paid to witnesses.
– There would be nothing inconsistent in the Governor-General in Council proclaiming a regulation such as I have indicated.
– There would be. The witness must first appear before the Commission.
– That is a very narrow reading to place upon the provision.
– It is not. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has already pointed out that if a witness were not tendered his expenses at the time he was summoned to appear before a Commission, that would be a reason for not punishing him for non-attendance. But here it is provided that, if a witness is summoned, and does not appear the moment the service of that summons is proved, he may be apprehended. I hold that, in addition to proving that the summons was served upon him, the Chairman of the Commission should be satisfied that the witness was tendered a reasonable sum as conduct money for his attendance. In prescribing the expenses, it will be competent for the Governor-General in Council to provide - as is often done in relation to expenses affecting witnessing in statutorily created Courts - that so much for travelling expenses, so much for actual attendance per day, and so forth, shall be paid.
– Has not the honorable senator overlooked section 8 of the Act?
– That section only provides for a scale. It does not provide regulations for the payment. Over and above that, we have in proposed new- section 6g the provision that any witness appearing before a Royal Commission is to be paid a reasonable sum for attendance. The amendment would tend to bring section 8 of the Act and proposed section 6g into harmony. Why should a man be apprehended under a warrant unless it is proved, not only that he was served with a summons, but that the authorities did their duty in providing him with the means which the law says shall, sooner or later, be given to him? Why should he be’ placed in a worse position than a witness appearing before a Court? If the Government are going to resort to the extreme course of apprehending a witness merely because he does not attend, is it too much to ask that they shall also take care to furnish him with the means to enable him to attend? The Government admit that the witness will have to be paid sooner or later. Surely it is a very small matter to ask that payment shall be a condition precedent to arrest? What I propose will not impair the effectiveness of the Bill, but will make it certain in its effect by insuring, absolutely the very thing the Vice-President of the Executive Council says that it is the- desire of the Government to carry out. It will leave no doubt as to the scope of the regulations that may be made under proposed section 6c, or under clause 8 of the Act. I, therefore, move -
That after the word “ summons “ the following words be inserted : - “ and the tender to such person of the prescribed expenses.”
Senator McGREGOR (South AustraliaVicePresident of the Executive Council) f_4- 45]- - I have already given an assurance that the regulations will provide everything that has been demanded in regard to the payment of the expenses of witnesses. This matter must be looked at from various points of view. Senator Keating is always endeavouring to make everything as explicit as possible, and he imagines that when his ideas are carried into effect, that is an end of all things. But let us look at the position of a witness who may be summoned to appear before a Royal Commission. Say that the witness lives at the end of Collinsstreet, Melbourne, and is summoned to attend at Parliament House in this city. If Senator Keating’s amendment were inserted in the Bill, even that witness would be justified in not appearing if he were not tendered a 2d. tram fare. Witnesses may be called from all quarters, and it is only by elastic regulations that all contingencies can be provided for. If you lay down a general principle in the Bill, applicable to every witness, you do not know how it will operate in certain cases; but if you leave the matter to regulations, the different circumstances of various witnesses can be satisfactorily provided for.
– The Government could give preference to unionists in that way.
– The honorable senator is very much frightened about preference to unionists. If a non-unionist in Port Mackay were summoned to attend in Brisbane, Sydney, or Melbourne, and his expenses were not tendered.- he would have a good defence for not appearing. I have admitted that already. We need not be alarmed as to what will happen, either to unionists or to non-unionists. But, in some cases, if we summoned a witness and tendered him his expenses, he might take the money, come to Melbourne, and then skip away in a boat. There would be no surveillance over him, and the very object for which he was summoned would be defeated. It may happen that, in some circumstances, it may be necessary to bring a witness from St. Helena, in Moreton Bay - a person whom it might not be wise to have at large. When we consider all these cases, it must be apparent that it is not desirable to have a hard-and-fast provision in an Act of Parliament which might defeat the very object of the measure. Every justice will be done by regulations. I am satisfied that the Attorney-General, and his legal advisers, are quite as likely to know what provisions should be inserted in respect of witnesses’ expenses as any one of us.
– If the regulations are not satisfactory they can be disapproved of by the Senate.
– Of course they can be. I would take the legal opinion of Mr. Garran on a matter of this kind as readily as I would take the opinion of Senator Keating or Senator St. Ledger. I do not suppose that the Attorney-General’s advisers have any sinister motive, and we have a right to rely on their legal knowledge as to what it is advisable to do in this respect.
– - Senator McGregor practically says to us, in regard to Senator Keating’s amendment, “Regulations will prescribe what you desire, but for the Lord’s sake do not put it in the Bill !” It is not a matter of conflict between the AttorneyGeneral and his advisers and the legal senators. The conflict is one of common sense. We are told that we should not make a hard-and-fast rule. How is it that the law of the land has made it a hardandfast rule that every person who is brought as a witness to give evidence in a Court shall have his expenses tendered to him? Otherwise. *you cannot touch him if he disobeys a subpoena. That is an inflexible rule. Every citizen in the land is entitled to be protected by it. A man can refuse to give, evidence on the ground that his expenses were not tendered to him. If I, as counsel in a case, called a witness, that witness could walk into Court and stop dead at the witness-box, where he could say, “ I decline to go into the box, because my expenses have not been tendered to me.” In such a case, the Judge would say, “ Yes, I cannot compel the witness; the law says that he is to be paid expenses for coming, for staying here, and for going back home again.” All that Senator Keating is asking for is that we should make it clear that the law as it now applies to witnesses before all our
Courts shall apply to witnesses summoned to attend a Royal Commission. There is in this amendment no deep-laid scheme designed to weaken the provisions of the Bill. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said that the matter can be provided for by regulation, but why should we not put it beyond all doubt by the insertion of the simple words proposed by Senator Keating !
– I thought the amendment so reasonable that the Government would at once accept it. I have known witnesses to be put to a great deal of trouble to attend ordinary Courts. I remember one case of cattlestealing “which was tried at Roma, and most of the evidence in that case had to te obtained from witnesses who had to be brought from South Australia. Without this amendment, witnesses may be very hardly treated. We have been told by the Vice-President of the Executive Council that what Senator Keating desires can be provided for by regulation, but Senator Keating, on the other hand, tells us that the Bill does not empower the Government” to do what he desires by regulation. Surely it is not too much to ask that the Bill should provide for the tendering to a witness of his reasonable travelling expenses before he can be arrested under a warrant for non-attendance. If we make that provision in the Bill, as Senator Keating proposes, the Government will be able by regulation to say what, in different circumstances, will be regarded’ as reasonable excuses. In the ordinary practice of our Courts, it is sufficient to tender a shilling as expenses to a man whose evidence is desired, and who is within the precincts of the Court. The Government might, by regulation, deal with such matters. They might provide that, within a certain radius of the place at which a Commission sits, the tender of a shilling as expenses shall be sufficient, and that if a witness has attended from a distance of 50 miles, or 500 miles, he shall be paid so much for travelling expenses. I believe that a witness who refuses to give evidence before a Royal Commission should be punished, and punished severely. I have no wish in this matter to protect any corporation that may be doing an injustice to the public. But I do think that any witness whose evidence is desired by a Royal Commission should be tendered his reasonable travelling expenses before he can be arrested for nonattendance. I have often said that I do not believe in government by regulation. There has been a tendency of late years to give too much power to the Government of the day to make laws by regulation. There has already been a considerable outcry against this tendency. It is the duty of Parliament to make the laws, and the duty of the Government to administer them. Nowadays, the practice is for Parliament to pass -a skeleton Act, and leave everything else to the Government to be decided by regulation. The intention of Parliament may be defeated by this practice. A strong Government may become arbitrary if wide powers of administration by regulation are allowed them. I do not blame the present Government any more than any of their predecessors for this tendency to make laws by regulation, but I am entirely against it. It seems to me that the Government are assuming a very great responsibility in this matter, and if we allow this proposed new section to go without such an amendment as has been proposed by Senator Keating, the result may be great hardship to many persons summoned as witnesses before Royal Commissions.
– In ordinary business, we do not pay a man before he does his work.
– In the ordinary Courts, of law, no witness can be arrested under a warrant unless his travelling expenses have been tendered to him. I am sure that if honorable senators ‘opposite were on this side, they would readily support the amendment. I have not the very great respect for Royal Commissions which honorable senators opposite appear to have developed lately, though I can remember the time when they were as ready to condemn them as I have been. If a R0y .1l Commission requires the evidence of a certain person, it is not unreasonable to provide that he should first be tendered his travelling expenses. Senator Guthrie desires that the matter should be left to regulation, but I am quite sure that he will not in every case approve of government by regulation. I again express my surprise at the refusal of the Government to accept the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new section agreed to.
Proposed new section 6c agreed to.
Proposed new section 6d -
Nothing in this Act shall make it compulsory for any witness before a Royal Commission to disclose to the Commission any secret process of manufacture.
– A highly technical matter is involved in this provision. Those who know something about the working of woollen mills and tobacco factories are aware that there are certain chemical secrets or methods of chemical control, and so forth. I suggest to the Government that they can make the meaning of this provision clear without impairing its strength. The expression “ any secret process of manufacture” is not very clear, and for that reason I ask the Minister to agree to the addition of the words ‘ ‘ or the results or records of technical or chemical control of manufacture.” I worked in a raw sugar mill for a considerable time, and, therefore, I know how the chemists in the mill checked their work from time to time, how the sugar of one mill managed to get an advantage over the sugar of another mill in the market, and how they improved the methods of cheapening production. I move -
That the following words be added : - “ or the results or records of technical or chemical control of manufacture,”
– I feel certain that Senator Chataway wishes to improve the Bill, but I would point out that every addition we make will, instead of extending the meaning of this provision, narrow it. The more we define the more we shall limit the provision. It is framed for the purpose of protecting manufacturers who have secret processes. Now, these processes arise in different ways. They arise from manual labour, from chemical action, and from other means which may be adopted to increase or improve production. But these are all covered by the provision, and the more we try to tinker with it the more we shall limit it. Therefore, in the interests of the manufacturers themselves, I ask the honorable senator not to persist with his amendment.
– I do not think that the Minister has really followed my point. He says that it is in the interests of a manufacturer that we should make it possible for his secret methods of manufacture to be exposed.
– If the Minister does not mean that, I do not know what he does mean.
– Be not exposed.
– The Minister says that the secret process of manufacture need not be exposed. But I would point out that technical or chemical methods are employed which are not covered by the expression “ secret process.” If the Minister will give me a positive assurance that the term includes a list of figures, showing a record of certain observations and examinations, and so forth, there is no necessity to make the amendment I have proposed.
– It includes everything which is of a confidential or secret character in the process of manufacture.
– My honorable friend makes that remark, but it is hard to take him seriously. I think that it was only yesterday that he explained that be did’ not want one part of the Bill to be in harmony with another part. His statement that a secret process includes certain records of chemical observations is one which I believe would not be borne out before a Royal Commission intrusted with the powers contained in this measure.
– Is that not tending to a process?
– There is nothing in this provision about tending to a process ; it refers to “ any secret process of manufacture.” I ask that a witness shall not be called upon to disclose not merely a “ secret process of manufacture,” but also the secret records of chemical observations in connexion with the manufacture.
– That is all right; they are all provided for.
– Unfortunately, if the matter goes before a Royal Commission, and the honorable senator is quoted, a Royal Commissioner will say Very much as the honorable senator said yesterday about the Leader of the Opposition, “Who is Senator McGregor, any way?” We shall get exactly the same retort there, and the Commission will insist upon bringing out what are probably the mainsprings of a man’s business - one of the things from which he is getting an extra profit - namely, from carefully compiled chemical records. There is no business in which chemical observation goes further than it does in the tanning business. It plays a large part, too, in half-a-dozen other businesses. I know that it does in a raw sugar mill. It will be absolutely unfair to empower a Commission to demand from persons, not the prices which they charge or the wages which they pay, but the inmost secrets which are supposed to be protected from public observation, and give them out to the public for their competitors to deal with. There is nothing here to prevent a Commission from breaking even such an Act as the Patents Act. A man, for instance, has a secret calculating machine.
– Any person can go and see a patent on paying the fee.
– That may be perfectly true. I think that the Government will show their fairness if they adopt my amendment so as to make it quite clear that the phrase “ secret process of manufacture” includes the results or records of technical or chemical control of manufacture.
– I want to point out that Senator McGregor destroyed his argument by the statement with which he followed it up. First, he affirmed that the more we put in the more we shall limit the scope of the Act, and then he said that everything which Senator Chataway contended for is already provided. If it is, then the words proposed to be added cannot limit anything. If, on the other hand, their insertion would limit, their exclusion would shut out what Senator Chataway desires to have included. The amendment cannot include and shut out at the same time. Is it right, by giving publicity to a chemical process, the result of the observations of years, to take away from a man that which may be the very essence of his business? The unfairness of such a proceeding is recognised by the Bill, because it exempts from disclosure what is termed “ any secret process of manufacture.” But that is not the whole thing to be considered. We must have regard for the good- will of a man’s business. It will be tantamount to the destruction of his business if he is required by a Commission to disclose his methods of production. It certainly ought to be provided here that if a man is compelled to place information before a Commission it shall be submitted privately, and shall not be made public, and by reason of that publicity placed in the hands of trade rivals.
– I think that there is a good deal more than Senator McGregor understands in the contention of Senator Chataway. There are certain chemical and scientific processes which are secret, and are not capable of being patented, and if they were patented the Minister of Defence has shown quickly how the world might get hold of them, and the object of the Act be defeated. I shall give an instance which is probably familiar to every honorable senator. The manufacture of iron for conversion into steel depended upon a proper use of manganese at a certain temperature of the iron - that is, before the Bessemer steel process was invented. There happened to be in the north of England a man who* discovered by accident a secret in connexion with the matter, and wherever he “went, through the possession of his secret - by being able to use manganese in the furnaces at a certain time - he was able to secure his own price, and the firms by whom he was employed had a monopoly. They were able to control the manufacture of a certain class of iron. It was very easy afterwards, when the chemists got to work, to drop on to what he discovered, possibly by accident. Why should a man in a case of that kind be compelled to disclose his secret? Then, again, the process of manufacturing indigo dyes from tar was discovered ‘ by a chemist in England. The Germans heard about it, and ultimately it was patented, and, as a result, the British manufacturers lost some of the trade in serges. If the secret process of manufacture alluded to in this proposed section includes - as the VicePresident of the Executive Council affirms - what Senator Chataway is asking for, what objection is there to accepting his amendment? For instance, a man might be asked, “ How is it that you have a monopoly in iron? You are sweating your workers, and we want to know how you manufacture your iron.” Why should he be forced to disclose his scientific formula? Most of the young students in our universities are daily endeavouring to discover scientific formulas. The adoption of the amendment can do no harm.
– - I wish to point out to the Government, who have a cast-iron majority behind them, that in the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill, which is now before the other Chamber, there is a provision which goes very much further than does my amendment in the direction of protecting trade secrets. I would remind honorable senators that it is by no means an uncommon thing for a Select Committee, at the close of a session, to be converted into a Royal Commission. Clause 16 of the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill provides -
If a witness appearing before a Committee so requests, any evidence given by him relating to a professional or trade secret, or to the profits or financial position, of himself or any person, shall be taken by the Committee in private, and shall not be disclosed or published without the consent of the person entitled to the non-disclosure.
That provision applies to a witness giving evidence before a Select Committee. But the moment that body is transformed into a Royal Commission, J:he same witness may be summoned to appear before it and obliged to disclose his trade secrets, if they are not connected with -any manufacture; his professional secrets, because they will not be connected with his process of manufacture; as well as his profits and financial position. He will not have the right - as he had when he appeared before the Select Committeeto demand that he shall be examined on these points in private. The Parliamentary Witnesses Bill provides for the imposition of a penalty of £500, or three months’ imprisonment, upon any person who discloses the evidence of a witness who has tendered it on condition that it should be regarded as strictly private. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has already said that he does not want these clauses to harmonize. If he did he would insist that the penalties which may be inflicted upon witnesses, and the information which may lie demanded from them by Select Committees, should be the same as the penalties which may be inflicted upon witnesses, and the information which may be demanded from them by Royal Commissions. There is nothing sacrosanct about a Royal Commission. There is no reason why persons outside of this Parliament should be more capable than a similar number of members of it, or why they should be more careful, because, if the latter make a mistake, they may be called upon in Parliament to explain their action. But an outsider cannot be carpeted in that way - he can only be abused through the press or by honorable senators from their places upon the floor of this Chamber. Yet a Royal Commission is to be given greater powers under this Bill than is a Select Committee, and a witness appearing before it is not to receive as much protection as he receives from a Select Committee. In my amendment, I have omitted all reference to the imposition of a penalty if confidential evidence be divulged by anybody, also all reference to a witness being called upon to disclose his profits, or the financial position of himself or any other person, though provision is made for all these things in the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill, which is a Government measure. I merely ask what is a fair thing, namely, that we should protect a witness from being compelled to disclose his manufacturing records, and his chemical or scientific formula. If he is obliged to reveal his chemical and scientific formulae, his trade rivals may see them, copy his methods, and possibly ruin him.
– All that Senator Chataway desires to insure is that a man shall reap the reward of his own brains and technical knowledge.
– That is provided for in the Bill now.
– Some of these manufacturing processes are oftentimes very simple, though known only to the manufacturer himself. In connexion with the manufacture of cotton, I recollect that, some years ago, in a certain place, one operative was very much more successful than any one else. When somebody inquired of him the secret of his success, he replied : “ Chalk your bobbin.” That was a very simple thing, but it enabled him to get very much better results. Why ‘ should a man like that be compelled to reveal his methods for the benefit of his competitors? It does seem to me unreasonable for the Government to say, “ We will not accept any amendment no matter whether it would have a beneficial effect or otherwise.” The amendment suggested by Senator Chataway would not weaken the Bill in any way, and I hope, therefore, that it will be accepted.
Proposed new section agreed to.
Proposed new sections 6dd and 6e agreed to.
Proposed new section 6f -
A Royal Commission may inspect any documents, books, or writings produced before it, and may retain them for such reasonable period as it thinks fit, and may make copies of such matter as is relevant to the inquiry, or take extracts from them.
– The Parliamentary Witnesses Bill, which will shortly be brought under our consideration, gives a certain amount of protection to witnesses who are required to disclose their private affairs. But. in this instance, a Royal Commission is given power to inspect documents, books, or writings produced before it, and to detain them for such period as it thinks fit. There are only three or four words in the proposed new section to which I take serious objection. I object to the power sought to be given to a Commission to order the production of books, documents, and writings, and retain them indefinitely. A Commission may call for a man’s ledgers, and may retain them for, perhaps, two or three months. How is a man to carry on business when his ledgers are in the possession of a peripatetic Commission? It is obviously impossible. The clause may be amended in a comparatively simple way, which will leave it just as effective for all legitimate purposes. I need hardly remind the Committee that it was sworn in evidence by Mr. Hall, in Sydney, that evidence taken some six weeks previously had not yet been written up and sent to the printer by the shorthand-writers. Under this provision it would be possible for a Royal Commission to send for a business man’s books and papers, and retain them until extracts from them could be copied, checked and forwarded to the printer. They might remain in the possession of the Commission for six or eight weeks. That is unreasonable and unfair. I therefore move -
That the proposed new section be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following : - “ 6f. A Royal Commission may inspect any writings, books, or documents produced before it, and may have access thereto while in the custody of the owner, and may make copies of such matter as may be relevant to the inquiry.”
Question put The Committee divided.
Majority … ..5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– This seems to me to be a very severe provision, and I think we might amend it in an important respect.
– We have just taken a vote on the question that the proposed new section be struck out, and it has been decided that the words shall stand as printed. It will now be in order for an honorable senator to move an amendment to add words, but not to omit any.
– Previously, in proposed new section 6d, we decided that only a partial security should be given to a witness as to the disclosure of secrets. I wish to insert words here to provide that, whilea Royal Commission shall be entitled to get all the information it can, a witness shall have an assurance that evidence as to his professional secrets, trade profits, and financial position shall not be made public. Is that asking too much?
– Yes. It would defeat the object of such inquiries as those conducted by the Harvester, Sugar, and Tobacco Commissions.
– I am astonished to hear that. In the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill there is a provision which leaves it optional for a witness to have his evidence taken in private and to be kept private. To tell me that it will defeat the object of a Commission to respect the trade secrets and private affairs of a business man is to set up a bogy. By what principle of equity or justice can we demand from a man information of a private or secret character, and make it available for every newspaper reader? I am surprised that the Minister should have thought” this to be a matter which might be dismissed in such a ready fashion. I move -
That the following words be added to proposed new section 6f : - “ Oral evidence touching the trade affairs or profits or financial position of any person and the examination of books, papers, and documents touching the same matters shall, if the witness or person so requests, be taken in private. Such oral evidence and the contents of such books, papers, and documents shall not, without the consent of the witness giving the evidence or producing the books, papers, and documents or of the person affected be communicated by any commissioner except to the GovernorGeneral in the Commission’s report, but the subsequent publication thereof shall be in the discretion of the Governor-General.
An amendment of that kind, whilst securing from general publication evidence given regarding secret, professional, or trading affairs, would not prevent its becoming known to the members of a Royal Commission. The only restriction upon the Commission would be that, instead of publishing the information, they would take the evidence in private, forward it with their report to the Governor-General, and it would then be for the Governor-General to determine whether it was desirable or not to publish it. This, I consider, is the least we can do if w.e wish to extend justice and fairness to those whose trade secrets we intend to probe to the bottom.
– - I hope that these words will not be added. If some of the particulars referred to in the amendment were kept from the public, the object of the appointment of Royal Commissions might be altogether defeated. Is it the object of a Royal Commission to take evidence for its own benefit, or for the benefit of the Government? It is appointed in the public interests. All the evidence taken by a Royal Commission should be’ taken in public. A witness should only be given protection when asked to disclose secret processes of manufacture. There is no other matter in connexion with which any one is entitled to refuse to give evidence. Why should an individual or a company, supposed to be making exorbitant profits at the expense of the public, be allowed to refuse to give evidence to enable the community to discover whether the general suspicion with regard to his or their operation is justified ? If we were to hamper Royal Commissions in the way proposed by the amendment, the object of their appoint.ment would, in many instances, be defeated, and their effectiveness for the protection of the public interests destroyed. I hope the majority of the Committee willrecognise the danger of accepting such art amendment as Senator Millen has proposed. The publication of evidence taken by a Royal Commission may be left to the good sense of the Commission, but to bind them down in the manner proposed by Senator Millen would not be in the interests of the community.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [6.0].- The Vice-President of the Executive Council must admit that, under the amendment, the publication of any evidence taken by a Royal Commission would still be left in the hands of the Governor-General. A Royal Commission would not itself have the right to make public information given concerning the matters referred to, but the evidence taken would be sent on with the report of the Commission to the GovernorGeneral, and he would decide whether, in the interests of the public, it should be published or not. Ample protection would be afforded the public in the responsibility of the Government of the day. If they saw fit to decide that the evidence taken by a Commission should not be published, they would have to justify that decision if any attack was made upon them. If, on the other hand, they felt that, in the interests of the public, the evidence of this kind secured by a Royal Commission should be published, all they would have to do would be to authorize its publication, and it would at once become public property.
– The honorable senator desires to throw the responsibility, upon the Government
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD.- I remind Senator McGregor that the Government assume the responsibility of appointing a Royal Commission in the first instance.
– Does the honorable senator think that it is fair to spring all these amendments upon the Government without notice, and without a hint of them during the second-reading debate?
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - The Vice-President of the Executive Council might very easily have the matter postponed for further consideration. He must be aware of the feeling in both Houses of this Parliament against making any man’s private affairs public property, unless in the interests of the public they should be known. I do not think that in the circumstances the honorable senator can regard this amendment as having been sprung upon him. The Government might very fairly have expected some amendment of this character, although I admit that it would have been better if it had been printed, and time had been given for its consideration before it was proposed. Surely the Government will not say that because notice of this amendment was not given, they will refuse to consider it. It is a very reasonable amendment. I can imagine business people objecting very strongly to it, although it is a material modification of the proposed section. If agreed to, it would make the Bill a little less objectionable than it is to many people,, and the Government might consider that, it is just as well to induce people outside to believe that they are getting at least a fail deal in the legislation carried in this Parliament.
Senator VARDON (South Australia) [6.5]. - It should be borne in mind that this Bill will apply to all Commissions that may be appointed in the future, and not merely to a particular Commission already in existence, and inquiring into the affairs of a particular company. This clause provides that a Royal Commission may not only call upon a man to produce books and documents, but may retain them. I mentioned, on the second reading, that, after the word “ retain,” ‘the words “ under seal” should be inserted; but, through a misunderstanding, I have been unable to propose the insertion of those words. I have no desire to justify what may be done by any trust or combine, but I point out that a man may be asked to produce his books, and must leave them with the Com mission. This may be very inconvenient to him, as he may require the books in carrying on his business. That, however, is not the only difficulty. The books left with the Commission will be open to inspection at any time, and the owner of them should be given some protection. When his evidence is taken, and extracts are made from his books, there should be a seal put upon the books, which should be broken only when the Chairman of the Commission calls for them again. As I have not the opportunity to propose the amendment NI have referred to, I am inclined to support the amendment submitted by Senator Millen.
– If I thought there was the slightest chance that the amendment would be carried, I should be inclined to press its acceptance. I do not know whether the Vice-President of the Executive Council has the slightest notion of my reason for. supporting the amendment. If there are in Australia any commercial institutions preying unfairly on the public, I yield to no one in my desire to lay the hands of the law upon them. So far, we have nothing more than a suspicion against them. There is not much evidence against any one of them, and there is certainly nothing which could be called proof that they are dealing unfairly with the public. The object of this Bill is to provide machinery to investigate the question whether these predatory companies exist or not, and if they do. the conditions under which they are operating, and how far the public may be affected by their operations. I do not say that we should not begin to be vigilant in providing machinery for inquiries in that direction; but I certainly differ from the Government as to the Court which shall be given the use of that machinery. I object to give any of these powers to a Royal Commission. I say they should be intrusted to a judicial tribunal. The necessary machinery should be included in Acts of this Parliament, the administration of which will be left to the ordinary Courts of law. That is my main objection to the powers of a Royal Commission which are so widely extended by the provision as it stands. We ask for a guarantee that when a Royal Commission is conducting an inquiry it shall be limited, to a certain extent, on the lines on which inquiries are limited in a Court. When such inquiries come bofore a Court they are, so to speak, under judicial surveillance. I object strongly to the general tendency of this provision. This is, and ought to be, a matter under the direct control of the Law Courts after we ha%’e legislated. I think it is a reasonable request that all financial operations which a company regard as secret should, up to a certain limit, be’ held sacred. That is not to exclude them from the region of the inquiry. If the Commission get evidence of a financial character under a sort of seal, they are not limited in their general findings. Without wading through the evidence taken by a Royal Commission, every one of us turns first to the findings. The amendment of my leader in no way affects, or could affect, the finding of a Commission, which is almost like the finding of a jury. When the finding of a Commission comes to be examined, or to be the subject-matter of certain action, if the Parliament desires to find out whether it is well, founded, the evidence can be produced, and the public, through Parliament, are amply protected. If this kind of inquiry be forced into important matters of finance, such as operations and private arrangements, there will be a temptation to defy the Commission, and probably the Commission may be put to a great deal of trouble, and the Government to an enormous expense. If, however, this limit be put in, every representative of a company can be told that, so far as its financial or private matters have hitherto been regarded as more or less sacred, they will, up to a certain extent, be guarded. That will remove one very great objection to producing documents and giving explanations. There is going to be trouble over the provision. The Government may congratulate themselves upon getting this power, but they are almost challenging trouble. There are some persons who are never happy, but are always, looking for trouble, and the Government’ will prepare trouble for themselves if they do not accept some modification of this kind.
Proposed new section agreed to.
Proposed new section 6g - (i.) Any witness appearing before a Royal Commission shall be paid a reasonable sum for the expenses of his attendance in accordance with the prescribed scale. (2.) In the absence of a prescribed scale, the President or Chairman of the Commission, or the sole Commissioner, may authorize the payment of such sum as he deems reasonable.
– In my second-reading speech, I pointed out how this provision differs from the corresponding provision in the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill. Clause 20 of that Bill reads -
Every witness appearing before either House or before a Committee to give evidence shall be entitled to be paid such witness fees and travelling expenses as the President, Speaker, or Chairman, as the case requires, thinks fit to allow in accordance with a scale prescribed by the Governor-General.
The present Bill provides that a witness before a Royal Commission shall be paid a reasonable sum for the expenses of his attendance. Apparently a man appearing before a Royal Commission can only get his expenses, but a man appearing before a Select Committee can get his witness fees and his expenses. I am not going to press the matter.
– Do you not think that it is the same thing?
– Why deal with the matter differently, then? The Government ought to endeavour to use the same phraseology. If the two Bills do not harmonize in other respects, at any rate they might be made to harmonize in this matter. It ought to be provided that the man who is hailed from Melbourne to Thursday Island to give evidence before a Pearl Shelling Commission shall get not only his ordinary expenses, but, like a witness before a Select Committee, what are called witness fees. This is only a blunder in the drafting, I admit. I hope that the Minister will think it worth while to consider my suggestion. On the last occasion when I moved an amendment, no Minister had the civility to get up and reply to me. I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council will have the civility to take a note of these remarks, and have them brought before the Minister in charge of the Bill in another place.
– I am sure that there has been no suggestion made to which I have not paid attention. There are suggestions which the Government have taken notice of, and probably will give effect to. Every other suggestion will be reported to the AttorneyGeneral, who really is the Minister in charge of the Bill.
Proposed new section agreed to.
Proposed sections 6h and 61 agreed to.
Proposed new section 6j -
Any person who practises any fraud or deceit, or knowingly makes or exhibits any false statement, representation, token, or writing, to any person called or to be called as a witness before any Royal Commission with intent to affect the testimony of that person as a witness, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty : Imprisonment for two years.
Amendment (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the word “indictable” be inserted before the word “ offence.”
– For a very long time the Opposition have been labouring with some persistency, not merely with regard to this measure, but with regard to others, to delete some of their most obnoxious principles. Our efforts have not generally met with any measure of success. It is satisfactory that on this important matter, to which attention has been drawn by several speakers on this side, as well as in another place, the Government have at last thought well to depart from their obvious desire to break down the principle of trial by jury. I am naturally pleased that even at this late hour they have hesitated to carry out the proposal which was evidently in their mind. I hope that by adopting the suggestion of the Opposition they will make it clear that in the future there will be no attempt to put in the hands of a single Judge that power which hitherto has been regarded as properly vested in a jury, and a jury alone.
– Hear, hear.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new sections 6k to 6n similarly amended and agreed to.
Proposed new sub-section 6(O) agreed to.
Senator PEARCE laid upon the table the following paper : -
Public Service Act 1902-1911. - Promotion of F. A. Piggin to position of Clerk, Third Class, Accounts Branch, Central Staff, Department of Home Affairs.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 until 8 p.m.
.- I move -
I believe that the motion will meet with the approval of nearly every honorable senator. All it seeks to affirm is that a reward shall be offered for the discovery of a payable gold or mineral” field in the Northern Territory. Experience teaches us that if, as the result of offering a substantial reward, a payable gold or mineral field were discovered there, it would do more to attract population to that Territory than would anything else which we could devise. We know that the discovery of gold at Gympie practically saved Queensland from a great financial trouble. That State would have been benefited if it had paid almost any sum for the discovery of that field. Then Chatters Towers and the gold-fields in the Palmer district were opened up, and these attracted thousands and thousands of people there. I recollect one period when there must have been 30,000 or 40,000 in the Palmer District and in Cooktown, all drawn there by that magnetic attractor - gold. Then I need scarcely point to what the gold-fields have done for Western Australia. They have raised it from a State which was comparatively unknown to one of great prominence. I venture to say that if we offer a substantial reward for the discovery of this precious metal, there will scarcely be a square mile of the Northern Territory which will not be prospected. I do not wish to lay down any hard-and-fast lines in this connexion if the Government will accept the motion. But my own idea is that we should offer a reward of£10,000 to be paid at the end of one year after the discovery of a payable gold or mineral field, if there be 1,000 people then upon it; and that if at the end of two years there be 2,000 inhabitants upon it, we should grant the successful prospectors an additional sum of £20,000. In these circumstances we should not be required to pay away any money until it had actually been earned. The dutiable articles which would be consumed upon such afield would return far more in revenue than would be represented by the reward, in addition to which the country would be opened up. Unless a mineral field of a payable character were discovered, the Commonwealth would not be called upon to part with a single penny. The Government might also offer smaller rewards for the opening up of fields of less magnitude. I merely ask the Senate to affirm the principle which is embodied in the motion, because I am convinced it is one to which the people of Australia will cheerfully subscribe. I know quite a number of persons who would be prepared to go into the Northern Territory and prospect it thoroughly if a substantial reward were offered for the discovery of a payable gold or mineral field there. If the Government choose to offer a larger amount than I have suggested, I shall raise no objection. It is not always the discoverer of a gold-field who derives the greatest benefit from it. Very often persons come after him who do better than he has done. The offer of a substantial reward would induce any number of young men - good bushmen - to go out and prospect the Northern Territory. All I ask is that, in the event of their search proving successful, the Government should grant them substantial recognition. I have no desire to labour this question, because I am informed that time is precious. I recognise that the proposal is one that does not call for the delivery of long speeches. I hope that the Senate will approve it.
Debate (on motion by Senator McGre gor) adjourned.
Bill received from House of Represen tatives, and, on motion by Senator McGregor, read a first time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed, vide page 2209) :
Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Application of Act).
– I desire to ask whether the VicePresident of the Executive Council has considered the suggestion which I made at an earlier stage, namely, the desirableness of limiting the amount of fine or penalty that justices may impose? It will be seen that, for any but indictable offences, two methods are open for dealing with the transgressions of an offender. Proceedings may be taken by the Attorney-General before the High Court in the King’s name; and the other method is by information, or other appropriate proceedings, by any person in any Court of summary jurisdiction. Some of the penalties run up to £500 as a maximum. I suggest that, as far as prosecutions before justices are concerned, a limitation should be imposed as to these penalties. If a person has committed a grave offence, for which there is no shadow of justification, the High Court might be invoked by proceedings instituted by the Attorney-General. But it is highly undesirable that justices should have equal powers with the High Court in the punishment of such offenders, especially when the penalties run up to such large amounts as they do under this Bill. An offender who had transgressed inadvertently, or in perfect good faith, on the belief and assumption that he was entitled by law to resist either attending or answering a question, might aptly be cited before justices, where the penalty would be lower, and where the costs would be much lower, than if he were brought before the High Court.
– This question has already been discussed, and I have intimated that the suggestions made will be brought under the notice of the Attorney-General. Up to the present the Government have endeavoured to accede to the wishes expressed by some honorable senators regarding the amendment of this Bill. The matters as to which we have not been able to agree to amendments will be considered by the Attorney-General.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
– Before the Bill is reported, I desire to say that during the second- reading debate a good deal was said on the subject of contempt. It is a very important matter in relation to this Bill. At this stage, I shall content myself by saying that some of the provisions are most undesirable. We have made repeated attempts to amend the Bill, with some success, I am glad to say; and as the Vice-President of the Executive Council has intimated that he has gone as far as he can go in respect to accepting amendments, I shall notobject to the report stage being taken, but express the hope that the honorable senator will bring under the notice of the AttorneyGeneral the criticisms made in respect of the point to which I have alluded.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill passed through its remaining stages.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill which seeks the ratification by Parliament of two alterations in the Naval Agreement Act 1902. It is practically a measure to ratify an agreement which has been arrived at by the Admiralty in regard to the Squadron, by which the second-class cruiser Encounter becomes available to us for the purposes of a training ship on the Australian station. Negotiations with the Admiralty have been proceeding for some time with a double purpose in view. We have been asking from time to time for a considerable number of specially trained men, petty officers and others, for the manning of our training ships, and the Admiralty have acceded to our wishes with great liberality, especially as we have been, to some extent, inconveniencing them. On the other hand, we had no up-to-date ships - with the exception of the destroyers, which are not suitable for the purpose - in which to train crews, so as to have men available to man the Fleet Unit. There was some difficulty in carrying out the arrangement for the training of crews under the old Naval Agreement. That difficulty arose from the fact that a different rate of pay was given to our men serving in the ships from that given to the men under the British naval ratings. This led to friction and dissatisfaction, and it militated very considerably against recruiting. It became obvious that if that system were continued we should not have anything like a substantial number of men to put into our ships when they arrived in Australia in 1913. His Excellency the Naval CommanderinChief originated the idea that we might obtain a loan of one or more ships of the Australian Squadron in which to carry on recruiting for ourselves. We should thus have the full crew of a ship paid at the one rate, and it was thought that this would possibly have the effect of stimulating recruiting. With that end in view negotiations were continued, and the Admiralty asked that certain vessels on the Australian station, which were tied up here under the Naval Agreement, should return to England, and intimated that they were willing to hand over to us the secondclass cruiser Encounter, with officers and a nucleus crew, with the understanding that we should be entitled to deduct from the naval subsidy the proportion represented by the upkeep of the vessel. They asked that the Challenger and two of the thirdclass cruisers should be returned, and we asked that a ship which the Admiralty had on the China station should be returned to the Australian station. This constituted the official agreement arrived at between the two parties, it being understood that the agreement on our part was made subject to the ratification of Parliament. Honor- able senators are aware that I have circulated an amendment which I intend to propose, which reads -
The provisions of this section shall extend to authorize any arrangement already entered into for any of the purposes mentioned in this section.
It will be seen that the Bill makes provision to authorize the making of further arrangements if necessary. That has been decided upon because it is obvious that the Australian Fleet, now building, will not come out here as a unit, but in sections. The intention of the Government is that the cruiser Melbourne shall come out first. The battleship Australia, and the cruiser Sydney, will afterwards come out together, making a call at South Africa on the way. The two submarines will probably come out via Suez at a still later date. The desire of the Admiralty is that as our ships arrive the Australian Squadron shall be correspondingly reduced. We do not believe that Parliament has any desire to hamper either our own arrangements or those of the Admiralty, and in order .to meet the convenience of both parties we are seeking the approval of Parliament for a reduction of the Australian Squadron maintained by the Admiralty on the Australian station as our own Australian ships come out to take their place.
– From time to time on these lines?
– Yes. The idea is that when the Melbourne arrives one of the second-class cruisers now on the station shall return to England, and when the battleship and the cruiser Sydney arrive other ships of the Australian Squadron will be returned, and in this way the Squadron will be gradually reduced. On the completion of the negotiations the Admiralty expressed their appreciation, and said tha* our action in releasing the Challenger had been a great convenience to them. These ships contain a large number of highlytrained men. It takes many years to bring men up to a high state of training, and as the Admiralty are turning out new ships they require to have in each a nucleus of these highly-trained men. The arrangement which has been come to has been of substantial benefit to both parties. Ir has enabled us to secure the Encounter, and we now have some 200 recruits on board that vessel. We are taking other recruits into the Williamstown Depot, the idea being to keep them there for a few months, and then send them on a training cruise in the
Encounter. We shall have fresh drafts from time to time trained in the same way, and we shall be able by the adoption of this course to secure a. far larger number of men to man our own ships when they arrive than we should have been able to secure under the old Agreement for the training of men in the ships of the Squadron. In the circumstances, I am sure a very few words are needed from me to obtain the hearty ratification of this Agreement by Parliament.
– Has there not been some re-adjustment of the financial part of the Agreement?
– I have already said that we are entitled to deduct from the naval subsidy payable under the old Agreement the proportion represented by the upkeep of the Encounter. This is estimated at £25,000.
– We practically get the ship for nothing.
– That is so; but we relieve the Admiralty of the payment of the officers and nucleus crew, whom we pay at Australian rates of wages. I think that the new Agreement is a satisfactory one, and I trust it will meet with the hearty concurrence of the Senate.
– I do not desire to detain the Senate for more than a moment or two in referring to this Bill. The arrangement which the Minister of Defence has outlined is one which will commend itself to honorable senators, but there is one aspect ofthe matter to which I should like to direct attention. I think it is well to say that this is another instance of the very great consideration which the Imperial authorities are extending to Australia in her efforts to start upon a naval policy of her own. I do not think it should pass without notice. I am sure that honorable senators will recognise it, but I should like to place it upon record, and to show that this further act of kindness does not pass without official notice as far as the Senate is concerned.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The Governor-General may, from time to time, arrange with the Imperial Government for the reduction of the Naval Force to be provided under the Agreement on the Australian station, and for any reduction in the amount of the subsidy payable under the Agreement by the Commonwealth, and for any alteration of the Agreement to give effect to any such arrangement.
Amendments (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That the following words be inserted at the beginning of the clause: - “The Naval Agreement Act 1903 is amended by adding, after section 3, the following section : - 4 (1).”
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ (2) The provisions of this section shall extend to authorize any arrangement already entered into for any of the purposes mentioned in this section.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill passed through its remaining stages.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Unfortunately, many Bills authorizing the construction of works and buildings were only presented at a very late stage in the session, and a very large proportion of the money voted was not spent on account of the limited time at the disposal of those who were responsible for carrying out the works and buildings. The time was too short, the facilities at the command of the Departments were too limited, and, consequently, many of the works were not carried out. When the end of the financial year arrived the unexpended money went back into the revenue, and had to be revoted by Parliament. It must be recog-. nised that this year the Government have done all they possibly could to bring the general Estimates before Parliament as soon as possible. They have endeavoured to bring that portion of the Estimates relating to works and. buildings before both Houses in time to enable the Departments to carry out as much of the authorized works as is possible before the end of the financial year. I have no desire to occupy the time of the Senate at too great length, but, representing the Treasurer here, it is my duty to tell honorable senators the amounts which are to be expended, and, in a limited sense, to indicate the manner in which that is to be done. In the past we have heard a great deal about the construction of an Australian Navy. Even to- night the Minister of Defence has introduced and carried a Bill to enable the Commonwealth to make such arrangements with the British Admiralty as will be of benefit to both the Commonwealth and the Mother Country. It will be interesting to honorable senators to know what was done last year, and what is being done this year, in the way of providing funds for carrying out the policy with respect to an Australian.Owned Navy. Last year the amount spent upon naval construction was £1,108,171. “.There was a larger sum voted, but that was the amount which we were able to spend before the close of the financial year. As a very large sum of money was voted, and put into a trust account, we have at our disposal, and propose to spend this year, £1,196,829 on the construction of the Australian Fleet. Seeing that we have been able to do this without applying to any other part of the world for financial assistance, it speaks very highly of the resources of the Australian people, and their willingness to take their part, not only in providing for their own protection, but in rendering the protection of the Empire more effective than «ould be made possible in any other way. With respect to the other amounts which have to be spent, of course the Home Affairs Department is really the spending Department of the Government. They have necessarily to spend very large amounts in carrying out works, and buildings, and repairs, and improvements which must be effected if we intend to keep our properties up to an efficient standard. Under the Home Affairs Department proper ^151,372 will be spent. If honorable senators will refer to the papers which have been placed at their disposal, they will find that this sum is to be distributed over the States, and, it might be added, in very reasonable proportions, when we come to consider the necessity of the works which are to be carried out. Last year the amount spent by the Home Affairs Department on similar works was .£128,617. The Department will also expend £50,000 on works and buildings for quarantine. This money is also distributed as the necessity for quarantine arises in the different States, and it will be found, on reference to the papers, that it is fairly distributed. The amount spent last year was £13,302. I :think that, as far as quarantine is concerned, the Commonwealth is not grasping the nettle with a tender hand, but is setting to work in an effective manner. I hope that the country will support the Go vernment in doing all they possibly can tq secure the safety of the people against diseases brought from foreign parts. In connexion with lighthouses - a Department which we took over very recently - we intend during this year to spend £15,000.
– At what do you estimate the receipts?
– That has nothing to do with the vote for works and buildings, but when the Estimates proper are under discussion, if the honorable senator puts that question, the information will be supplied. Last year, as I have said, there was nothing spent on lighthouses. I feel sure that every party in politics desire to make the coast of Australia as safe as possible, and if that cannot be done without the expenditure of substantial sums, I am sure that we shall all willingly agree to this item.
– With unattended lights.
– We shall do the best we can.’ As regards the Trade and Customs Department, the vote for repairs and additions to offices is not so great as is the vote in connexion with other Departments. There is proposed for expenditure through the Home Affairs Department £2,478. Last year only £101 was spent. The moderation of the Trade and Customs Department’s requirements shows that, in the past, it must have been kept fairly well up to date. With respect to defence, it is proposed to spend through the Home Affairs Department £609,099 on buildings, defence, acquisition of land at Liverpool for training, and other matters of that kind. This money is to be spent in the different States. Last year there was spent £232,120. If will be seen that, so far as defence is concerned, the Government are not endeavouring to spoil the ship for the sake of a ha’porth of tar. In connexion with post-office buildings, we propose to expend £400,275 during the year through the Home Affairs Department. Last year the expenditure was £149,407, although a larger amount was voted. The total amount to be spent on works and buildings under the Home Affairs “Department - less £236,577, which it is anticipated may not be expended during the year, although liabilities may be incurred - will be £991,647 this year, as against £525,887 last year.
– That is nearly double.
– Taking the full figures, it is more than double. The Department have become alive to the requirements of the Commonwealth, and, if we are prepared to go on with the developmental works which are really necessary, we must spend a much larger sum this year. Of course, if hard times should come upon the Commonwealth, we would not be in a position to spend the money. When the country is in a condition of prosperity, and works are required for the effective and economical carrying on of its business, we ought to spend money in that direction, because the expenditure is really justifiable.
– And save when times are bad.
– Spend when you get money, because when you cannot get it you cannot spend.
– If, in times of prosperity, we provide the necessary works and buildings to carry out the policy of the Commonwealth, it ought, I think, to make us all grateful to Providence, and every other instrumentality, that has enabled us to do that.
– Should you not save a little in times of prosperity for the lean years that may come?
– That is the way in which to make provision for lean years. It is not by putting our money in a bank, and leaving it there for the moth and rust to corrupt that we shall make provision for the future. It is by doing to-day the work which may be necessary for carrying out our business in years to come that we shall render the best service to the country. The Post and Telegraph Department has authority to spend very large sums in perfecting the telephone, telegraph, and postal systems throughout the Commonwealth. The Department earn a large revenue, and it is necessary that they should have money to expend in effecting telegraph and telephone improvements. During this year, we intend to spend £830,000, as against £129,869 expended last year. Here, again, honorable senators will recognise that, whilst we are enjoying prosperity, we are doing what the people of Australia have for years been crying out ought to be done. We know that in the earlier years of the Federation the Commonwealth returned to the States millions of pounds which it was not constitutionally obliged to return– millions of pounds which ought to have been devoted to bringing our Post and Telegraph Department up to date. In the Treasury, we propose to expend1 small amounts upon the Printing Office and in connexion with stamp printing - upon the former, £2,000 and upon the latter, £2,400. Last year the expenditure upon these items was £1,059 and £2>4r5 respectively. For some time, honorablesenators have been asking for more effective accommodation for rifle clubs than has hitherto been provided. Under that beading, we propose to expend £17,829 this year, as against £11,400 last year. For military stores, we ask Parliament to appropriate £544,450 this year, as against £561,696 expended last year. For naval works, &c, a further sum of £318,050 isprovided.
– Does that include the cost of the construction of cruisers?
– No. It is intended to cover naval works, suchas are being carried out at Westernport, Jervis Bay, Port Lincoln, and Cockburn Sound. In the Department of External. Affairs, it is proposed to expend £58,540 during the- current financial year, as against £23,125 which was expended last year on the development and administration of the Northern Territory. In connexion with the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie railway a sum of £3,580 is set down, as against £401 last year.
– Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council tell me what is the cost of the fixed establishment - that is to stay, the staff - of the Northern Territory?
– Of course, that does not appear upon these Estimates. When we come to consider the general Estimates, I shall be pleased to supply the honorable senator with the information. But I cannot say, from1 memory, the exact amount which is being expended in connexion with administration. The honorable senator can easily understand that it would be impossible for one to carry all the figures in one’s mind. The total amount to be expended upon works and buildings is £3,985,921, as against an expenditure last year of £3,565,498. That amount includes naval expenditure, which does not come out of the year’s actual revenue, but which was provided by a Trust Fund largely made up of the surplus of last year. Apart from the expenditure upon the construction of the Fleet, it is proposed to spend upon works and buildings this year £2,789,092, as against an expenditure last year of £2,415,327.. I am sure that honorable senators have every reason to congratulate themselves and the country upon the fact that we are enjoying so much prosperity that we are able to provide such a large sum to carry out necessary works connected with the maintenance and the development of the Commonwealth, without having recourse either to additional taxation or to the money market. I know that every honorable senator is a patriot who believes in the progress of his country ; and, therefore, I confidently submit this Bill for their consideration, “knowing that they will do all that they can to provide the money necessary to carry out these works of development.
Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1st August, vide page 1561 (on motion by Senator Pearce) -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- This Bill, I understand, has nothing to do -with the actual matters which are to be submitted in the referendum, but merely provides the machinery by which that referendum shall be taken. s Consequently, it is not of a very important character. It embodies no new principles, but merely affirms those principles which were given effect to in the Electoral Act of last year. I have no desire to discuss that Act ; but there are certain sections of it to which I am strongly opposed. I refer more particularly to the abolition of postal voting, which, I fear, will permit of an open door to corruption. The abolition of the postal vote inflicted a great wrong upon many people in this country. At the last general election, nearly 30,000 electors availed themselves of that privilege; and while some of them will doubtless exercise the franchise under the new Electoral Act, a great many will be deprived of it. I know of a number of persons who have assisted to build up this country and who will be robbed of the franchise under that Act ©wing to their inability to leave their dwellings. I imagine that the Government would have been better pleased if it had not been necessary for them to take another referendum upon the questions which were submitted to the electors last year. After the crushing defeat which they then sustained, one would have thought that they would have been content to move along smoothly rather than to run the risk of marching to that Sedan which has been prophesied for them by one of their own party. However, the forces behind them have signified their desire that the questions shall again be submitted to the electors, and the Government have agreed to adopt that course. We have been told that on the last occasion the people did not understand the questions which were remitted to them for their decision. Probably, with the changes which have been made in the Electoral Act, and which the Government doubtless consider to be in their favour, they imagine that they will win the next referendum. But, to do that, they will need to get a very large vote indeed, seeing that on the last occasion their proposals were rejected by a majority of 259,000. I affirm that they will experience very great difficulty in inducing the electors to change their minds. The statement that the people did not understand the questions submitted to them is a reflection upon their intelligence. I think that they understood them only too well, and probably they will understand them better at the next referendum.
– What about the Werriwa election?
– The Honorary Minister has referred to the Werriwa election, and there are one or two features in connexion with that election to which 1 should like to direct attention. The most important of these is the very long period that elapsed between the occurrence of the vacancy and the issue of the writ.
– I do not think the honorable senator is in order in discussing the Werriwa election under cover of this Bill.
– When this Bill was under discussion previously, nearly the whole of Senator Gardiner’s speech was occupied by traversing the Werriwa election, and I thought that I might be allowed to make some reference to it. I was attacked for having written a letter to Mr. Conroy, one of the candidates.
– I cannot remember that Senator Gardiner attacked the Honorable senator, but certainly if Senator McColl wishes to reply to anything which was said about himself in an earlier part of the debate, he is at liberty to do so.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Senator Gardiner’s speech was largely devoted to the Werriwa election. He interjected when I was alluding to the postal vote, and afterwards spoke on the matter, and alluded to Senator McColl’s letter.
– If anything was said that Senator McColl regards as an attack upon himself, ‘ he can reply to. it.
– The time occupied between the creation of the vacancy and the issue of the writ was sixty-one days. On no previous occasion exceptone was the interval anything like so long. The longest interval on record was in connexion with the Wakefield election, sixty-four days, but it has to be remembered that the Christmas and New Year holidays intervened in that case, and therefore it was impossible to issue the writ earlier. In other instances, the intervals were twenty-nine and thirty days. It is my opinion that the Werriwa election was gained by the party opposite in consequence of a number of votes being transferred to that constituency in the time which elapsed between the creation of the vacancy and the issue of the writ. That time was undoubtedly occupied by getting electors put upon the roll.
– Many votes were recorded which would not have been available if the writ had been issued within the proper time?
– I think it is not right that there should be such great delay in the issue of a writ. It ought not to be within the discretion of an individual - the Speaker or any other person - to fix any time he pleases. Senator Gardiner, in the course of his speech, referred to a letter which I wrote to Mr. Conroy, one of the candidates for the Werriwa seat. I am not ashamed of that letter. I told Mr. Conroy that he could make whatever use he liked of it. He saw fit to publish it, and I had not the slightest objection. Senator Gardiner twitted me with having supported a Free Trader against a Protectionist. I did not know when I wrote the letter that the Labour candidate was a Protectionist. In fact, I did not know until a week or two since. But Senator Gardiner is a strong Free Trader, who looks upon Protection as anathema. He supported a Protectionist, and yet he twits me with having written a letter to a Free Trader. His attitude is scarcely fair under the circumstances.
– I have nailed my flag to the mast of New Protection.
– I will not delay proceedings upon the Bill any further. It is merely a machinery measure, identical in most paragraphs with the amended electoral law of the Commonwealth.
– I have merely risen to save myself from the possibility that my silence might be taken for assent to proposals contained in this Bill. I confess that it does not appear to me to be very necessary that we should discuss the measure at length, seeing that it deals principally with consequential’ amendments in the law proposed as the result of the action taken by Parliament last year in amending the Electoral Act. It was quite essential that whatever the main electoral law of the Commonwealth might be, the machinery necessary for ascertaining the will of the people at a referendum should be in conformity with it. I quite recognise that whether that machinery be good, bad, or indifferent, it must be the same both for an election and the referendum. For that reason, while not taking any action now in opposition to this proposal, I wish it to be clearly understood that the objections raised last year against the Electoral Bill apply in the main to this measure. Those objections are, in fact, just as strong, just as potent, just as enduring, as they were when we voiced them twelve months ago. We regard some of the provisions of the amending Act as grave inroads upon the unchallengeable rights of the electors. Electoral facilities have been seriously curtailed, but having decided to curtail them in regard to the ordinary electoral machinery, I recognise that they must be curtailed in regard to referendum machinery. I do not wish it to appear that the opposition which was manifested to the curtailment of ordinary electoral facilities do not apply equally strongly to referendum facilities. We havenot changed our attitude one iota.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 to 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 -
Part VIII. of the Principal Act, including sections 35 and 36, is repealed, and the following part and sections are inserted in its stead : -
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [9.20].- Under this clause, a return of expenses in connexion with a referendum is required tobe made. I do not know what value there can be in having a return of expenses as to the matters mentioned here. What is the value of the proposed new section regarding returns to be furnished by newspaper proprietors? It is proposed that the proprietor or publisher of a newspaper shall snake a return setting out the amount ‘/f matter in connexion with any referendum inserted in his newspaper in respect oi which payment was made, the space occupied by such matter, the amount paid 4o him, or owing, and the names and addresses of the associations authorizing the insertion of the matter. Inasmuch as there is no limitation of expenses in connexion with a referendum, I really do not see why these returns should be required. If some weal benefit were to be obtained, there might be some object in it. Suppose that some association spends ,£20,000 in sustaining * certain attitude in regard to a referendum. There is no law to prevent that feeing done.
– It would be very interesting to know whether certain combinations spend £20,000.
– Suppose the Australian “Workers Union spent £20,000 on a referendum campaign. Of what earthly use would that information be to the Pastoralists Union? It is undesirable to place these restrictions on individuals, where there is no necessity to do so. It can only ;gratify a certain amount of curiosity.
– This clause iis identical with a section in the amended ^Electoral Act. It has to be remembered that the next referendum will be carried out -at the same time as the general election, –and it is to be presumed that the parties on either side will be identical. The value of the clause in regard to a referendum is arguable, but seeing that we have it as applied to elections, we require it here for the -sake of uniformity.
-There is a good reason for the clause in regard to elections, because the expenditure of candidates is restricted. .
– That was not the only reason. The other reason was that party newspapers, under the guise of news, published matter to assist a candidate in his election, at his expense, and that expenditure did not appear in the ordinary returns sent in by candidates. Under the amended Electoral Act, that expenditure must, in future, be declared, and it seems to me to be logical to apply the same rule in the conduct of referenda. There is nothing new, therefore, in this proposal”. The question whether such a provision should :be included in the Electoral Act is arguable, and there is a difference of opinion upon it ; but as such a provision is con,tained in the Electoral Act, it is, I think, logical that it should be applied to referenda.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [9.26].- I fail to recognise the logic of the Government’s proposal. Where we say that a candidate for election shall not spend more than a given sum in contesting a seat, it is. necessary that we should be in a position to verify his statement of his expenses by records obtained from other sources. If it be true that newspapers publish paragraphs which are paid for as advertisements, there should be some method of ascertaining the amount which a candidate expends in that way. But there is no limit to the amount which may be expended in connexion with a referendum. Political parties or organizations may spend as much as they please in connexion with the referendum without invalidating the result. But if a candidate for election spends more than he is permitted to spend under the Act, that will invalidate his return. That is a direct reason for such a provision in the electoral law which does not apply to the taking of a referendum.
– It is very well known that I am utterly opposed to this clause, and also to the corresponding section of the Electoral Act. It appears to me that it can in neither -case serve any public purpose, “how.ever useful it may be for purposes of plat-i form oratory. I indorse what has been; said by Senator Gould, but I should like to put forward this view: If the Government have pledged themselves, as I think they have, to a class of legislation with regard to our ordinary electoral machinery which is a monstrous interference with the’ ordinary decent rights of citizenship, and serves no public purpose, it does appear to me that they are bound to introduce the same hardship and absurdity in the legistlation under which ‘ referenda are’ to be taken. There would otherwise be a considerable amount of confusion as to What people will have a right to do. In the popular mind, there is a close relation between a vote cast at a polling-booth for the election of a member of Parliament and a vote cast in connexion with a referendum. I admit the force of the contention that there may be some reason for the corresponding section of the Electoral Act, inasmuch as a limit is put upon the candidate’s expenses. There is no* such limit in connexion with a referendum. But I decline to recognise that this provision is introduced in either case for any purpose at all, except it be to harass the press. The Government, having set out to do that in the Electoral Act, are certainly logical in seeking to enact a similar provision in the legislation for the conduct of referenda. Although 1 am utterly opposed to this provision, I admit that the Government are consistent in their course of folly and injustice in reproducing in this Bill a provision which they have already inserted in our electoral law.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Standing Orders suspended and Bill passed through its remaining stages.
Senate adjourned at 9.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 August 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1912/19120815_senate_4_65/>.