4th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator DE LARGIE presented a petition from 176 residents of the State of Western Australia praying that the Senate will cause copies of Address-Petitions to their Majesties King George V. and Queen Mary on the subject of the resources and inducements of Australia, which bore the signatures of thousands of representative citizens, and copies of the Royal replies thereto, to be laid on the table of the Senate, and to be sent to the citizen deputed by the said petitioners.
– I was unable to catch the purport of the petition. I should like to be informed of its purport, because the Senate, knowing the purport, might wish to have the petition read.
– I intend to move that the petition be read.
– What is the purpose of the petition? How can we vote when we do not know what the document is about?
– If you are anxious to hear the petition read you will.
– Before I can say “ Yes “ or “ No “ I think that I am entitled to know the purport of the petition. I hope the honorable senator will forgive me saying that I did not understand what he was reading from the document.
– -No more did any one else.
– I think that a number of honorable senators are in entire ignorance of the purport of the petition. I would, therefore, ask, sir, that the Clerk might be instructed to read the purport, which I understand is indorsed on the outside of the petition.
– I am very pleased to accommodate my honorable friend on the other side. The petition is from 176 persons, being residents of the State of Western Australia. Is that perfectly clear ?
– Yes, but what is the purport ?
– The petitioners pray that the Senate will cause copies of Address- Petitions to their Majesties King George V. and Queen Mary on the subject of the resources and inducements of Australia, which bore the signatures of thousands of representative citizens, and copies of the Royal replies thereto, to be laid on the table of the Senate, and to be sent to the citizen deputed by the said petitioners. I move -
That the petition be read.
– What does all that mean?
– Am I entitled to speak, sir?
– This discussion is slightly out of order. The honorable senator had a right to speak when the matter was brought up, but after having allowed Senator de Largie to again read the purport of the petition, the honorable senator cannot speak now.
– After Senator de Largie has read the purport is there any necessity to have the petition read? I do not want to hear it.
– I want to see the petition printed, because I do not understand what it is about.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Petition read by the Clerk.
– The Standing Orders do not permit me to speak in moving that a petition be printed ; otherwise I should make what is sufficiently ambiguous a little clearer. I content myself with moving -
That the petition be printed.
– On a point of order, sir, I wish to call your attention to standing order 95, which reads -
No senator shall move that a petition be printed unless he intends to take action upon it, and informs the Senate thereof.
My point of order ds that Senator de Largie has not informed the Senate that he intends to take further action.
– I intend to take action.
– The point of order is quite right, and I understood Senator de Largie to intimate to the Senate that he intends to take further action regarding the petition.
– He did not make that intimation when he moved that the petition be printed.
– I rise to move an amendment. Why should we have a petition printed without consideration? I contend that from the mere cursory reading of the petition no honorable senator has had time to decide whether it is really worthy of being printed and placed on the records of the Senate. I move -
That the word “printed” be left out, with a “ view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ referred to the Printing Committee.”
The Printing Committee was appointed for the express purpose of preventing a large expenditure on needless printing, and the multiplication of documents. It would be a mere excrescence if we did not intrust the Committee with the work which if was appointed to do.
– I regret that I have to oppose the printing of any paper, but the petition has been read at the “request of certain honorable senators, who did not understand its purport when it was stated by Senator de Largie, and I doubt very much if any honorable senator understands its purport now. I listened very attentively to Senator de Largie in the first place, and to the Clerk in the second place, but in the petition I cannot see any relevance to any particular subject.
– The printing of the petition might make it clearer.
– Is the country to be burdened with the expense of printing documents in order to produce clarity? I do not think so. I can quite understand the position of Senator de Largie, who has received a petition from some constituents, and in accordance with their request has presented it to the Senate, and asked that it be printed. The same unfortunate lot might happen to any one of us, but I think that as a body we ought to decline to lend senatorial aid to the production and reproduction of publications of this character. I do not think that Senator de Largie, at the present moment, could explain to us what is the purpose of the petition.
– - Our Standing Orders are rather useful and illuminative on this point. Standing order 90 reads -
It shall be incumbent on every senator presenting a petition to acquaint himself with the contents thereof, and to ascertain that it does not contain language disrespectful to any Legislature.
I shall offer no other comment.
– Probably the petitioners have been labouring wider the delusion that the Senate consists of superhuman intellects or superhuman stupidity. In my opinion the petition is not intelligible to anybody in the chamber. I believe that this is the first time in the experience of a Parliament that petitioners with a grievance have not been able to make themselves intelligible as to what they want. I listened carefully to the reading of the petition, and heard many references to His Majesty the King. When petitioners bring in any matter which so frequently refers to His Majesty, that matter and its relation to His Majesty should be made perfectly clear and intelligible to us before we give a. verdict.
– I am sorry that there should have been an opportunity given for the expression of cheap wit when a petition is presented. I think that the preamble to the petition explains itself.
– What is your own opinion about it, now?
– Are they mentally “ all there”?
– Undoubtedly. They are quite as much “all there” as Senator Findley. It is generally considered that it is the privilege of the citizen to petition Parliament. I am somewhat surprised that those who have been so ready bitherto to parade their loyalty to the Throne should take this opportunity to poke fun at these petitioners.
– This is a question, not of loyalty to the Throne, but of the right of the people.
– It is not a question of the loyalty of these persons, but a question of whether the petitioners are to be permitted to exercise their undoubted right to petition the Senate.
– What do they want?
– What they want is that the inducements and opportunities of Australia shall be more extensively advertised in the Old Country, and with that wish they express their loyalty to the Throne and like sentiments. The one unique feature about the whole business is that it is only very rarely that honorable senators on this side have presented such a petition. The petitioners asked me to present this petition, and, if possible, to have it printed. I have complied with their desire, as I had a perfect right to do.It is a pity that a petition from people outside should be made the subject of so much frivolous and very cheap wit.
– The motion submitted to the Senate was that the petition be printed. Uponthat an amendment has been moved to refer it to the Printing Committee. J propose to vote against both motion and amendment.
SenatorO’ Keefe. - I rise to a point of order. I wish to ask whether the amendment is in order. I call attention to the fact that standing order No. 94 provides that -
The only question entertained by the Senate on the presentation of the petition shall be -(i.) “ That the petition be received “ ;(ii.) ” that the petition be read”; (iii.) “that the petition beprinted”; (iv.) (in the case of a petition against a return) “ that the petition be referred at once to a Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications”; or (v.) (in the case of a petition respecting any subject then under the consideration of the Select Committee) “ that the petition be referred to the Select Committee on . “
Senator Givens proposes that the petition should be referred to the Printing Committee for decision as to whether it should be printed or not. I submit that the amendment is not in order, because under the Standing Orders it is not competent for the Senate to refer a petition tothe Printing Committee. It is the Senate itself that must decide the question of the printing of a petition.
– The Printing Committee has already decided in scores of cases upon the printing of petitions.
– On the point of order, and in reply to Senator O’Keefe, I wish to point out that there is in the Senate an inherent power to deal with every question that comes before it, and that applies to the propositions set out in the standing order quoted by Senator O’Keefe. Each of the motions there referred to is subject, as is every other motion submitted in the Senate, to amendment.
- Senator O’Keefe has raised the question that under standing order No. 94 it is not possible for an amendment to be moved on the question that the petition be printed. I point out that there are only two questions: “That the Senate do now divide,” and “ That the debate be adjourned,” which cannot be amended. Standing order 133 says -
A question having been proposed may be amended - (i.) By leaving out certain words only ; (ii.) by leaving out certain words in order toinsert or add other words; (iii.) by inserting or adding words.
This question, like every other question put from the Chair but those to which I have referred, fs open to amendment.
– I have said that I intend to vote against the amendment and the original motion. No one will question the right of any citizen of Australia to petition this Parliament, or the Senate as a branch” of it. We have recognised that right in this instance by receiving the petition, and causing it to be read. We are now asked to go further, and put the country to some expense, small though it may be, in printing the very interesting document which we have heard read. I followed’ the text of the petition very closely, and have satisfied myself that I have grasped its meaning, though the chances are I may be wrong.
– I rise to a point of order. Standing order 134 reads -
An amendment to any motion before the Senate must, for purposes of record, be in writing, and be signed by the proposer.
As Senator Givens, in submitting his amendment, did not leave his seat, I assume that he has not complied with that standing order.
– The honorable senator is right, and Senator Givens will submit his amendment in writing. I remind honorable senators, however, that the Standing order referred to is not always insisted upon if the amendment submitted is one which can be grasped by the Chair arid put to honorable senators intelligibly.
– Those who signed the petition affirm that some time previously they presented an addresss to the Crown upon a matter which they regarded as of public importance. They further affirm that a reply has been received to that address, though by whom it is not stated. They say that, although the reply has been received in Australia, it has not been communicated to those who presented the address, and they ask this Parliament to step in and take some action to see that the reply shall be made public for the benefit of those who signed the original Address.
– Then why could not they say so in so many words?
– If they had done bo, my speech would have been unnecessary. In the circumstances, I ask why we should go any further in this matter. The only channel through which the Address referred to could have been forwarded to the Crown was a State Governor or the Governor-General, and naturally the reply would come through the same channel. If a reply has been received, and has not been conveyed to the persons presenting the Address, the matter is one in which, I think, we should take no part, and in which we could not creditably interfere. We should go no further with the petition, even to the extent of having it printed.
– I agree with what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition. Senator de Largie did only what was right in presenting a petition from some of his constituents. It is an old-fashioned custom to have a preamble to Bills, but this blessed thing appears to be all preamble. Hearing it read by the Clerk, I was reminded of a speech delivered by Senator St. Ledger to a meeting of the Women’s Liberal League after partaking of a free luncheon. In my opinion it would be useless to print the petition.
.- I hope the Senate will not prevent the petition being referred to the Printing Committee. I believe that every petition presented to the Senate since I have been a member of it has been considered by the Printing Committee, with a view to deciding whether it should be printed or not. I listened carefully to the reading of this petition, and I frankly admit that I do not know what the petitioners are driving at. But if it is referred to the Printing Committee they will make a report upon it, and the Senate will then have a further opportunity, should the Committee report against the printing of the document, of saying whether it should be printed or not.
.- Petitions presented to the Senate are usually referred to the Printing Committee for decision as to whether they shall be printed. I do not know what is in thu petition, or what is the prayer of the petitioners. It would appear that certain persons who sent an Address to His Majesty the King are desirous of receiving the reply which they say was made to that Address, and the question is whether they are entitled to receive it or not. In any case. I think the petition should be referred to the Printing Committee, and let them decide whether it is worth while to print it or not. If the Committee decide that it should not be printed, the Senate will have a further opportunity to deal with the matter.
Question - That the word proposed to he left out be left out - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the petition be referred to the Printing Committee.
– In view of the congested state of business, which will continue until the prorogation, I desire to ask whether some steps will be taken to supplement the reporting strength of the Hansard’ staff?I understand that the New South Wales Parliament is about to be prorogued, and it might be possible to obtain the services of some additional talent from the staff there.
-The reporting staff is under the direction of myself and Mr. Speaker. We are doing everything that it is thought advisable to do by the Principal Parliamentary Reporter. As we are not intimately acquainted with all the work that has to be done by the staff, his recommendations are submitted to us, and so far we have complied with every request that has been made to us by him.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether he is aware of the fact that what purports to be a summary of the Sugar Commission’s report was published in a Sydney newspaper yesterday, and appears in the Melbourne newspapers to-day; whether the summary is substantially correct; and, if so, how the report came into the possession of the newspapers before it was laid before Parliament?
– I understand that a report published in the Sydney Sun has been quoted by the Argus newspaper. When honorable senators obtain copies of the full report of the Commission they will become aware whether what has appeared in the newspapers is an exact copy or not.
– I should like to inquire how it is possible that any section of the report of a Royal Commission can appear’ in the press prior to its being laid upon the table of the Senate? Whether the report published is a true one, or whether it is garbled, how is it that any portion of it came to be published at this stage ?
– The honorable senator’s parliamentary experience should have made him aware that the press of Australia is wonderfully enterprising and imaginative. It is impossible for a Government, or even a Parliament, to come to any conclusion as to how the press manufacture their reports.
– I wish to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether the Government will take steps to ascertain whether there has been any leakage in connexion with the report of the Sugar Commission; and, secondly, whether they will make inquiries as to the means and methods by which such leakage occurred ?
– Every Government, and especially this Government, are desirous that confidential matters should remain confidential. When leakages occur, this Government, like every other Government, would be pleased to find out the guilty parties, and to treat them as they ought to be treated.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether he wili lay upon the table all the papers connected with the recent resignation of a number of men from the Australian Garrison Artillery?
– The papers will be laid upon the table this afternoon.
– I wish to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether the Government have given consideration to the advisableness of increasing the emoluments of the High Commissioner, on account of the increasing claims on his time and purse?
– The subject mentioned by Senator Walker has not, up to the present, occupied the attention of the Government; but I shall be pleased to bring his question before the Government, and see what can be done.
– I ask the Min ister representing the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the following telegram published in yesterday’s Argus, dated from Warracknabeal : -
The Mallee Land Board, consisting of Messrs. Selk and Gregson, sat at Warracknabeal on Wednesday. The Board is dealing with applications for 123 allotments, of Mallee land in the vicinity of Yattool, for which 670 applications have been received.
In view of the fact that there are so many more applications than there are blocks of land available, I wish to know whether the Prime Minister will consider the expediency of making public in Australia particulars as to large areas of land which are said to be available in the pamphlet recently distributed by the Government in Great Britain?
– The Government are aware of the fact that the honorable senator has stated. I may add that last year there were 1,400 applications for similar allotments.
– The Land Tax did not make land available for those applicants.
– When we make the tax more effective it will.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Federal Capital City : Photographs of a design and a perspective sketch submitted by the Departmental Board in connexion with layout.
Northern Territory.- Early Closing Ordinance, No. 9 of 1912.
Report of the High Commissioner on his Visit to Canada and the United States of America, dated 25th October, 1912.
Sugar Industry : Report of Royal Commission.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Sena tor Pearce) read a first time.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Has the Government entered into, or contemplated entering into, arrangements for a conference with the New Zealand Government with a view of taking joint action in matters of naval or military defence, or both?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is -
Yes, the Government does contemplate conferringwith New Zealand on these matters. , Informal communications on the subject have been exchanged.
asked the Min ister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the, honorable senator’s questions are - 1.28th March, 1912.
Bill received from House of Represen tatives, and (on motion by Senator McGregor) , read a first time.
Debate resumed from 27 th November (vide page 5971), on motion by Senator
That the Ordinance, No. 8, of1912, relating to Crown lands in the Northern Territory, be disagreed with.
– As the term of this Parliament is drawing to a close, and as we had a very exhaustive discussion upon a similar Ordinance to this some time ago, I am sure it will not be considered either necessary or advisable that I should enter into a categorical reply to all the objections that have been raised by Senator Millen. Every honorable senator must appreciate the diligence, perseverance, and knowledge exhibited by the honorable senator in dealing with the question. He has gone into it fully. In fact, he went into it more fully than was absolutely necessary. Many of the objections that he has raised were dealt with in the previous debate in the Senate. But, though I must admit that Senator Millen dealt very ably with the question, still I have come to the conclusion that if is a great pity that he was not on Mount Sinai when the Ten Commandments were first given to the world. They might have been very much improved as the result of his suggestions. When the Lord’s Prayer was given to the people, had he been present when the words, “ Give us this day our daily bread “ were under consideration, he would probably have tried to interpolate “ also butter, jam, or marmalade.” I make these remarks merely to show how, at the present day, the criticism of those who may be opposed in principle to any kind of legislation that is endeavoured to be enacted in the interests of the people may go to extremes in endeavouring to show that legislation either to be worthless or not so beneficial as those submitting it would like it to be. I will endeavour to deal with some of Senator Millen’s remarks very briefly, and to make it clear that the alarm which he expressed was entirely unnecessary. When dealing with clause 6, he went to some length in endeavouring to show that the sub-clauses were either unnecessary or were wrongly placed, and suggested that if he had had control of the draftsmanship, they would have been more explicit, and. would have carried out the intentions of the Government to a greater extent. I deny that. I say that everything that is contained in the clause, although it may have imperfections due to the defects of the English language, is, nevertheless, necessary to carry out the intentions of the Government; When Senator Millen tries to make out that paragraphs c and d should be consolidated, and that the words’ at the end should control paragraph c, he is under a misapprehension, because something may have already been done under the Ordinance, and we have a right to pay some respect to whatever has been done.
– That is all covered by paragraph a, which deals with -
The granting of any land in pursuance of any agreement or right in existence at the commencement of this Ordinance.
– Even so, before this Ordinance can go into effect, something else may be done which would control that. The clause is clearly explanatory of itself, and without being too critical, I may say that it carries out the intentions of the Government. Senator Millen asked, “Why not introduce a Land Bill?”
– Hear, hear. -
– I would say,, “Hear, hear” if Parliament had unlimited time, but any honorable senator with a long parliamentary experience will appreciate the difficulty of passing a. Land Bill dealing with such a vast area. as the Northern Territory contains. It would take months to pass such a Bill through the other House and the Senate. It might almost be as big a work as thepassing of the Navigation Bill.
– If it is a matter of time, why did you not deal with the Navigation Bill by Ordinance?
– We had seven years in which to do the work, and there was nobody suffering, so far as I am aware, so the same extent as Australia will suffer i n connexion with the Territory if some- steps are not taken for its settlement in the very near future. If we were to take a half, or even a quarter of the time, it has taken to pass the Navigation Bill, the Northern Territory would be lying idle, and we should have appointed our officers there in vain. The Government are anxious to get this Ordinance put through so that they may set to work at once, and endeavour to get the land settled. There axe only one or two objections raised by Senator Millen with which I intend to deal this afternoon. Referring to the classification of the land by a Board, and those upon whom that work will devolve, he wanted to know whether the classification was only to be carried out perfunctorily or thoroughly. I ask the honorable senator, with his great experience of land settlement, land legislation, land transfers, and land occupation in New South Wales, if it was ever possible at one fell swoop to classify the whole of the lands of that State. He knows that that was an impossibility, and although the classification may be done as thoroughly as is possible with that vast Territory, yet it is impossible to classify the whole of the lands before we commence to secure settlement.
– Under this Ordinance, you cannot grant a lease till you do classify.
– We do not need to classify the whole of the Territory. We place some reliance upon the gentlemen who have been appointed to classify the land for the purpose of occupation. They will classify the land that is probably required first for settlement. They will not go into the back-blocks to classify the land before they Rave endeavoured to accomplish the settlement of the land which is more accessible. Senator Millen knows, too, that if he were the head of the Government, or the Minister of External Affairs, he would not expect that the occupation of any portion of the Territory should be delayed till a thorough and complete classification was made. Surely he can see the absurdity of the position in which he would be placed if he attempted to do anything of that description. I have every confidence in the men who are carrying out the work. I believe that they will classify as thoroughly as they possibly can the land which is necessary in the immediate future for the settlement of people. Senator Millen also raised some objection to reclassification. The very pro vision for that purpose in the Ordinance will protect the Commonwealth and the Territory itself from any maladministration in the future with respect to land occupation. The honorable senator knows as well as I do that even in the best classification that could be made at the present time - that is, back from the land which is being immediately settled - a great area will be classified probably as farming or grazing country, or as first-class pastoral country, or as second-class pastoral country, or as third-class pastoral country, and that in a few years when population begins to flock to the Territory, that land will require to be reclassified. In classifying land what are the features to be taken into consideration by the Board? First, there is the quality of the land for the purpose of production, either agriculturally or pastorally. Next, there is its accessibility to any market which may be available for the produce grown. Some land which, in certain circumstances, might be agricultural land, will necessarily have to be classed as grazing and agricultural land, or as pastoral land, for many years to come, and the provision for reclassification in the Ordinance will guard” against any error which may be made at the present time. When I say error, I do not mean error in the sense of want of qualification in the classifiers, but as regards the land which is inaccessible at present even to them. Senator Millen also objected to the area of 38,400 acres which is allowed for farming and grazing purposes. He characterized that area as a mistake which, in any of the settled communities would be, so far as the Labour party is concerned, an object of envy, and of speedy subdivision. But we must consider the position which the Territory occupies at present and the inducements which we shall be prepared to offer to those who may be willing to go there for many years to come. Even if we grant a large area of that description for farming and grazing purposes, we are all hopeful that people will go to the Territory who intend to settle there and rear families, and that in a very few years 38,400 acres will be a very limited area as regards the children and grand-children.
– What is to prevent the grand-children from getting land for themselves, as has happened elsewhere?
– We always like to see the holding large enough to be capable of subdivision for a generation or two before we drive the chickens from under the control of the old parents.
– But you know that it never is subdivided.
– It will be subdivided, because this party will remain in power, and subdivision will go on steadily.
– Did you ever hear of Balaam?
– I have heard of a great many things, but it seems from the alarm which is exhibited by members of the Opposition, or the Fusion collection, that they are doubtful with respect to their own political salvation.
– Do you mind stating how you propose to bring about the subdivision of 38,000-acre blocks?
– If I had only time I could enumerate half-a-dozen ways. It could be brought about by the settlers themselves dividing the blocks amongst the members of their families The honorable senator must surely realize that if he were dividing a block of that size amongst halfadozen sons or daughters, it would not be such a monstrous thing after all; and, as many of them would be having less than the maximum area they could hold of that class of land, then each of them could have a share. The honorable senator will also realize that under the reclassification provisions, when facilities are given for communication, and all that sort of thing, the Government will have power to classify that land as agricultural land, and, consequently, the area will be still further limited.
– Will reclassification reduce the area?
– I am not talking about reclassification reducing the area.
– That is what you said.
– -The honorable senator knows that reclassification will not reduce the area until the expiration of the twenty-one years.
– It will then?
– It will then if necessary.
– That is what you call 3 perpetual lease.
– A family can subdivide a block then without any reclassification. There are many other methods of subdivision, including the sale of portions of the lease, with the consent of the Administrator. That can be carried out for the purpose of that subdivision.
– The imposition of a higher rent will tend to that.
– The imposing of a higher rent on reclassification, and the imposing of agricultural conditions for the whole area, will make it absolutely necessary for subdivision so far as the population of that part of the country is concerned. I do not need to labour that question further. When this Ordinance was before the Senate on a previous occasion great objection was taken because the area of a block was fixed at 64,000 acres. Now it has been reduced to 38,400 acres, and in the matter of the subdivision of the land, both agricultural, farming, and grazing and pastoral, we have paid some little attention to the method of survey in having a mileage area. That is why the area is not 38,000 acres, but 38,400 acres. Everything is being done to meet the objections which were raised previously to the larger area.
– What you mean is that it facilitates arithmetic, but not settlement ?
– We have not begun to settle the country. We cannot make a beginning until we get this Ordinance passed, and that is why I desire honorable senators to assist the Government in dealing with it to-day. Objections were also raised to the term which is allowed for mortgagees holding over the maximum area.
– No; they may hold under the maximum area.
– If they hold under the maximum area they can purchase it, as long as they do not hold any land themselves. It is only when they hold over the maximum area under mortgages that any difficulty can arise.
– They cannot purchase it under this Ordinance.
– They can do a great many things. The honorable senator seems to imagine that the Government and their officers are going to do everything they can to block settlement.
– Do you not intend to follow your own Ordinance?
– The officers are just as anxious as are -the Government that settlement should go ahead. The honorable senator offered some very serious objections in connexion with circumstances where the land comes into other hands by processes of law, and endeavoured to make us believe that it will prevent a father from selling his interest in a lease to a son.
– I withdrew that.
– Yes, the honorable senator withdrew his statement when Senator Symon pointed out that it was not the case, but not till then.
– Why do you want to follow it up after it has been withdrawn?
– If the honorable senator is thoroughly satisfied that it is only in connexion with the devolution of land to persons by assignment, or bankruptcy, or to trustees, I shall not say any more, because that is all that it provides for.
– It bars these people from holding the land.
– It bars people from holding more than the maximum area.
– No ; it bars them from holding any area.
– And it gives them three years to deal with the land.
– Any area.
– Will the honorable senator allow me to explain why provisions of this description become necessary in an Ordinance of this kind ? People who go to occupy the Northern Territory, and settle there, and make improvements, will nob have much money, and may have to go to somebody to borrow money. If the rules in connexion with the maximum area were strictly adhered to, no financial company or individual could lend money to a leaseholder if he held the maximum area himself, because, if he got it, he could not do anything with it. In the same way, if a company lent money on two or three or more leases, and exceeded the maximum area, they would be doing a very foolish thing, unless provisions of this description were in the Ordinance. These will give them a term of three years absolutely, and then the Administrator may extend the term if the circumstances warrant. So that everything is done to make it possible for the settler to get that financial assistance which he may require from anybody who is prepared to give it, and no injustice will be done to those who render that assistance if the lessees or the settlers fail in their businesses.
– Will the honorable senator point out a provision which permits the mortgagee to hold areas in excess of the maximum?
– If the provisions to which I am referring were not contained in the Ordinance, mortgagees could not hold over the maximum area, and it might be a dead loss to them. These provisions will give them three years in which to dispose of land in excess of the maximum area, and they may Be given a longer time with the consent of the Administrator. Senator Millen, in dealing with agricultural and grazing holdings, made a strong point of the necessity for conserving valuable timber upon such holdings. He was, at the same time, condemning regulations prescribing the conditions of leases, and thus lost sight of the fact that the necessity for the conservation of valuable timbers upon leases was one of the things which must have been in the minds of the framers of the Ordinance in making provision for these regulations.
– Why is that set out in connexion with one form of lease and not in connexion with another?
– We cannot put everything into every form of lease. The honorable senator is aware that a pastoral lease can only be used for pastoral purposes. It cannot be used for agriculture, or for the purpose of carrying on a timber industry in connexion with it. It was upon the agricultural and grazing leases that the honorable senator fixed his attention. Does he imagine that the officers of the Northern Territory will be such fools or asses as not to reserve any valuable timber areas for the benefit of the people of the Territory? If it be necessary to include valuable timber in an agricultural or grazing lease, there will be nothing to prevent the authorities prescribing such conditions for the lease as will give them control of the valuable timber upon the holdings.
– The honorable senator said the other day that such a condition ought not be included in the agricultural lease.
– The honorable senator objects in one breath to an area of 38,400 acres for an agricultural and grazing lease, because the holder might destroy a lot of valuable timber, and he is now objecting to the power contained in this Ordinance *:c. frame regulations prescribing the way in which valuable timber upon a lease shall be dealt with. He has endeavoured to find great defects where none existed. He has pointed to some defects in the Ordinance where “class a” has been referred to instead of “class 1,” and where a drafting or typographical error has been made, and the word “ reserved “ used instead of the word “received.” The Government and their officers thank the honorable senator for directing attention to these defects, in which there is no vital principle at stake. But I hope that trifling defects of that kind will not prevent the passing of this valuable Ordinance in order that something substantial may be done in the settlement of the Northern Territory. Senator Millen raised a cry on a previous occasion, which was joined in by supporters of the Government, against the granting of leases in perpetuity of large pastoral holdings. That objection has been met by this Ordinance, and the maximum area to be allowed in first, second, and third class pastoral lands has been substantially reduced. The honorable senator’s objections with respect “to medical examination, confidential information, and all that sort of thing, were exhaustively replied to when we dealt with this matter on the last occasion. I have endeavoured as briefly as possible to put the true position before the Senate. I hope honorable senators will accept -my assurance, given on a previous occasion, and given again to-day, that the Government regard this Ordinance merely as a tentative measure for the purpose of speedily doing something for the settlement of the Northern Territory, and that, as soon as it is possible, the Government will bring down a comprehensive Land Bill for the Northern Territory. In the circumstances, I ask honorable senators to curtail their remarks as much as possible, allow us to get this business out of the way, and proceed with other business before the Senate, in order that it may be possible to close the session within a reasonable time.
Motion (by Senator Vardon) negatived -
That the debate be now adjourned.
. -While I think that the criticism of the Ordinance by the Leader of the Opposition may have been justified in some particulars, it seemed to me in other respects to be carried to an extreme. I agree that this is a roost unsatisfactory way of dealing with land legislation. I recognise that the Ordinance now before the Senate remedies some of the most glaring evils of the first Ordinance submitted, and, for that reason, I shall support it. I do not believe that it is by any. means perfect, but I do not think that the evils which may arise under it will be so great, or the amount of settlement that will take place under its provisions so extensive, as to preclude our passing such a Land Act for the Northern Territory, at some’ not remote date, as will more justly deal with the many problems connected with its settlement. Honorable senators must recognise that there is not time at our disposal to give this Ordinance such exhaustive treatment and criticism as that to which it was subjected by Senator Millen. For that reason, I content myself with saying that I do not approve of all the provisions of the Ordinance. I recognise that it is absolutely necessary that we should have some Ordinance under which settlement may immediately take place, and I trust the Government to keep their promise in this matter, as they have done in connexion with other matters, and at the earliest date possible will bring forward a Land Bill for the Territory.
– I moved the adjournment of the debate just now because I understood that the Vice-President of the Executive Council had agreed with my colleague, Senator Symon, that after he had himself spoken there should be an adjournment of the debate to enable Senator Symon to address himself to the question.
– That was last week.
– If the VicePresident of the Executive Council has committed a breach of faith with Senator Symon, they must settle the matter between them.
– I would not do it wittingly.
– Senator Symon told me that he had made the arrangement I have stated, and I promised him that I would move the adjournment of the debate in order to give him an opportunity to speak on Senator Millen’s motion. I admit that it is time something was done in the Northern Territory. We have not been too expeditious in our efforts so far to open it up. So far as’ I can see, the making of official appointments at large salaries, and not in all cases of the most qualified persons, is all that has been done for the opening up and settlement of the Territory. I hold very strongly that this matter should have been dealt with by a Bill, and not by an Ordinance. The VicePresident of the Executive Council said just now that there is no time to deal with the matter by a Bill. But I fail to see why that should be so.
– It took the New South Wales Parliament thirteen months to get a land measure through.
– Land laws in every State have taken a good deal of time, but the objection raised by the VicePresident of the Executive Council is one which could be used at any time. I shall do nothing to prevent the Government having sufficient time to- deal with this question by Bill rather than by Ordinance. Senator McGregor seems to assume that this Ordinance is practically perfect, but, as a matter of fact, we know that its compilation has been largely a matter of scissors and. paste. It has been patched up by taking some provisions from the land law of one- State, and others from the land law of another State. To my mind, it is a long way from being perfect. I do not wish to discuss the details of the Ordinance which has been submitted to a very exhaustive criticism by the Leader of the Opposition, who has been replied to in a very lame fashion by the VicePresident, of the Executive Council. Evidently, there will be a State, or perhaps two States, of the Commonwealth comprised in the Northern Territory, and I point out that they are being started in a way differing materially from the way in which the other States of the Commonwealth began their career. As each of the other States was founded, its people were given the opportunity to make their own laws, and to work out their own destiny, and I fail to see why the Northern Territory should be handicapped in this regard.
– The honorable senator would not give its people responsible government at this early stage.
– I do not say that it is not right to deal with the Northern Territory at present in this tentative way, but I object to the mode in which it is proposed under this Ordinance to deal with the lands of the Territory. I have no objection to the leasing of lands in the Northern Territory, but I contend that the teases should be issued for as short a term as possible. Under this Ordinance” very large areas of country may be disposed of under perpetual leases, and that is something to which I entirely object. When the people of the Territory are given some form of constitutional government, they should, be in a position to deal with the lands in the same way as the people of the other States have been able to deal with lands within their boundaries.
– A perpetual lease can be altered.
– A perpetual- lease is a lease in perpetuity, and it cannot be cancelled without the cutting of a. contract.
– It is possible to alter anything by repudiation.
– I hope that Senator Millen does not insinuate for a moment that the present Government would be capable of repudiation. The honorable senator could not seriously suggest that. I know that wherever perpetual leases have been tried in the other States, they have not been long in existence before an agitation has been got up to have them altered by the insertion of a covenant of purchase.
– That could be done in the case of leases under this Ordinance if the majority desired that it should be done hereafter.
– I fail to see how you can cut a man’s contract against his will. If he is given a perpetual lease, that cannot be altered unless he is willing that it should be altered. I have said that where perpetual leases have been tried, there has very shortly afterwards been an agitation’ by. the lessee for the insertion of a condition of purchase. That being so, I think we should not handicap the people of the Northern Territory in the way proposed under this Ordinance. A perpetual lease cannot be altered without the consent of both parties, and I consider that it is absolutely wrong to lay down a policy of this kind in view of the fact that the time will come when the Northern Territory will be occupied by a sufficient population to justify the future residents there asking that it should be erected into a sovereign State, and, when that time comes, the people should be in a position to decide upon their own land policy. For that reason we should not permit perpetual leases to be issued.
– A fair appraisement of rent would settle the whole matter.
– I am against this Ordinance as far as perpetual leasing is concerned. If the matter had been submitted in the form of a Bill, which we could discuss clause by clause, we might have been able to alter the system, and adopt a less absurd one, so that when the time came for the people in the Territory to decide for themselves what they should^ do, they would have been at liberty to take advantage of a fair and reasonable system.
– I am very glad that notice has been taken of the severe and well-justified criticism of the Leader of the Opposition, who is regarded as one of the principal authorities on land law in Australia. .It is as well that the question of perpetual leasing should be considered. I disclaim any knowledge worth speaking about on the matter, but, as I said on a former occasion, so I say now, that, notwithstanding that the area of perpetual leasing has been considerably decreased, I must express my abhorrence of the whole system. Perpetual leasing is the bastard offspring of freehold, without any of its virtues and with every one of its vices.
– The honorable senator does not believe in freehold, then?
– I d.i. but this system is going to slop freehold to some extent. Senator de Largie has said by way of interjection that perpetual leasing can be corrected from time to time by the appraisement of rent.
– What I meant was that a fair amount of rent charged upon perpetual lease, and appraised from t me to time, would be a fair system.
– The system which the honorable senator favours was the one which proved a mistake for two centuries in Ireland. As a matter of history, nine-tenths of the land i” Ireland was held for many years on long leases, which were almost perpetual, inasmuch as they ran from 100 to 999 years. Such a lease was practically a perpetual least. The rent was from time to time settled as between the lessor and the lessee. In the Northern Territory the Government was the lessor, with the exception of a comparatively small area of freehold. Senator de Largie thinks that the appraisement of rent would do justice between the two. But the effect in Ireland was that the man who held the land bid up time and again in order to continue to hold it, so that he was bidding in an adverse market against himself all the time. That was the defect in the leasehold system. If the Northern Territory is going to remain a desert it does not matter much what we do, but if it is going to increase in population the same difficulties will arise in regard to perpetual leasing there as have arisen in older settled countries. It is one of the curses of the perpetual leasing system that the very safe guard which the supporters of it urge ia its favour has been proved by past experience to accentuate the evils which it was intended to cure.
– Is it not a fact that improvements were also charged for in the re-appraisements in Ireland?
– Certainly. I admit that the Ordinance which we have before us is an improvement upon the one which we previously discussed. Any one familiar with the history of land law knows that the question of improvements., and how their value should be apportioned between the incoming lessee and the outgoing lessee, was one of the great evils which attended the leasehold system in the closer settled countries of Europe. In i 860 or 1870 the evil was wiped away in Ireland, and a tenant was given the same rights with regard to his improvements as are given to an outgoing lessee under our system of land tenure all over Australia. If we create a perpetual leasing system in the Northern Territory, we shall simply create the evils which have cursed other countries. The Minister was, of course, quite right in urging that we should not regard this Ordinance with the same minute criticism as we would regard a system of land laws for a State. He has asked us to regard the new Territory as virgin territory, and the Ordinance as a tentative measure. But I submit that time will show that our criticism of both Ordinances was justified, and that the warnings to Ministers by Senator Vardon, who has had considerable experience in this matter, are worthy of being heeded. The experience of New Zealand should be some guide to us. It has been to show that the perpetual leasing system failed in comparatively small areas’!
– It did net fail. I know the country well.
– It failed as far as we can estimate the difference between failure and success by subsequent legislative enactments.
– The system was a striking success, but the greed of land-owners induced them to try to make out that it was a failure.
– How can the perpetual leasing system in New Zealand be said to have been a success when, after it had been in existence for some years, ihe policy was reversed by the people, who put in power a Government pledged to repeal the system in every direction? What happened in New South
Wales? A Minister who wished to stand by a plank in his platform in regard to the perpetual leasehold system found his party backsliding upon it, and he had the courage to resign office. The experience of the past, the experience of the present, and experience of conditions which are new existing justify us in pointing out the futility, as well as the danger, of obstinate persistence in the system of perpetual leasehold in Australia. I hope that past experience will not be repeated in the Northern Territory.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [4.54].- My colleague, Senator Millen, dealt with this matter so exhaustively last week that very little is left for one to say, more especially as there has been a failure on the part of honorable senators opposite to urge a single word in defence of the Ordinance challenged by the motion. The VicePresident of the Executive Council has given us very little information, and made no reasonable reply to the allegations of Senator Millen. When Senator McGregor found it necessary, in defending this precious bantling of his Government, to make remarks about what would have happened if Senator Millen had been present when the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s . Prayer were formulated, we can realize how utterly unable he was to deal properly with the question before the Chair. I am aware that we have passed a measure providing that land in the Northern Territory shall not be alienated. While it would not be competent so to amend this Ordinance as to get behind an Act of Parliament .containing the provision that lands shall only be granted on lease, still I realize that it is the duty of those who believe in freehold to point out emphatically that there is a very strong feeling in the public mind against the leasehold system. If Parliament, in the future, deems it advisable to make a change, we shall find ourselves confronted with a body of men holding land under perpetual leases who will claim to be compensated. We may have to compensate them by saying, “ Instead of holding your lands under perpetual leases, you may now hold them under a freehold tenure.” In face of that possibility, it would be far better that we should not grant leases in perpetuity. Are honorable senators opposite aware that evenreehold laland is held technically by virtue of a tenure from the Crown on the condition that the holder shall not be disturbed except under certain circumstances ? In old deeds a peppercorn rent used to be reserved to the Crown.
– According to that, there is no such thing as absolute freehold.
– In actual fact, there is not. A so-called freeholder holds through the Crown. This is not the time to enter into the question as to how the system of freehold became established. But it was always understood that services were to be rendered to the Crown for the lands. In early days this took the form of military service. Instead of following out the enlightened practice of giving a freehold tenure we are now providing that we will give a perpetual lease, with the condition that the rental shall be appraised from time to time.
– Is not the present age more enlightened than were the barbarous ages when freehold sprang up?
– That being so, we ought to avail ourselves of the experience we have gained. Need I remind honorable senators of what has occurred in New Zealand; that, after the system of perpetual leasing had been in existence for some years, there was so much agitation that it was deemed advisable to abandon it? In the same way in New South Wales leasehold tenures had to be converted into, freeholds to satisfy the people. It is all very well for honorable senators to come into a Parliament without having had practical knowledge of the working of land systems in the States. They have their theoretical ideas, by acting upon which they think they are going to bring about benefits to the community. But they are only following a course which was pursued years ago and abandoned. I predict that eventually this system will have to be abandoned for the Northern Territory. One of the great charms of a new land to men who emigrate from thickly-populated centres in Europe is the chance that they will have an opportunity, not only to carve out a means of a livelihood on new lines, but also to become owners of the soil. We should always recognise that sentiment in dealing with the occupation of the Northern Territory. Do honorable senators really consider that this Ordinance will give a reasonable opportunity to have that country developed at the speed with which it should be developed ?
– An objection to leasehold tenure in the Northern Territory comes rather late from the honorable senator, seeing that he approved of it in connexion with the Federal Territory.
.- The Federal Territory is in an entirely different position. One is a small area, whereas the other is a large area, and the circumstances of each are absolutely different. We have practically the whole of the Northern Territory to deal with as we consider best and wisest in the interests ofthe community. Senator Millen asked whether the Government are prepared to allow this Ordinance to be considered in Committee, in order that honorable senators may have an opportunity to freely discuss its provisions. I do not know how the Government regard the request. I cannot see in what way we could reach finality if we took that course, because, if we approved of the amendment of certain provisions, the whole Ordinance would have to be taken back in order that a fresh one might be submitted. Did honorable senators ever imagine that, under the cover of an Ordinance, we should be called uponto deal with a land law for the Northern Territory, comprising between 500,000 and 600,000 square miles - in fact, an area greater than that of the majority of the States ?
-Do you know that there are thousands of men in our State who will not convert from leasehold into freehold when they get the opportunity ?
– If that be so, it is probably because they cannot obtain the money for the purpose. When a man takes up land under a lease, he has no security to offer if he wishes to borrow money for effecting improvements. We have not a large number of men who will go to the Northern Territory with their pockets full of sovereigns. The majority of the men who will occupy the accessible parts will possess very small means, and to them the right to borrow, in order to develop their land, would be of immense assistance. In the circumstances, we have to accept or reject this Ordinance as a whole, just as we had to deal with the referenda proposals, and I wish that a similar result could be obtained. I feel that I shall be doing my duty to my constituents and to the people of the Common weaJth in recording my vote against the Ordinance. I do not deny that it contains very many good provisions, but I contend that the maximum of injury will be imposed upon the Territory by accepting the Ordinnce in its present form.
– I presume that the Government recognised long ago that if we are going to have nothing but leaseholds in the Northern Territory the land tax will not apply. There will be one part of Australia from which no land tax can come to the Federal Government.
– We can re-appraise the land.
– The land tax isonly imposed on freeholds. In New Zealand the lessees became so numerous that at last they petitioned Parliament to grant them the right to convert their holdings to freeholds, and possibly we shall have a similar experience in connexion with the Northern Territory. I desire to draw attention to the following provisions in clause 22 - (1.) Where any land leased under pastoral or agricultural lease in pursuance of this Ordinance has been mortgaged, and the mortgagee enters into possession thereof, he may remain in possession (subject to the term of the lease) for a period of three years from the date of entering into possession, and for such further period as the Administrator thinks fit to permit. (4.) If a mortgagee fails to assign or transfer the lease within three years after entering into possession of the land, or within such further period as the Administrator permits, the Administrator may by notice in the Gazette forfeit the lease.
Is it at all probable that any financial institution will care to have much to do with such a security? Is it fair to the leaseholders to say that they must have an inferior security to that of other persons ? I maintain that the provision that a mortgagee must be able to sell in less than three years will be a tremendous handicap to the borrower. Not only that, but the rates of interest which he will have to pay will be a serious handicap. Financial institutions, of course, prefer freeholds to leaseholds. From personal experience, I know that many a man shuts up his pocket at once when he discovers that it is leasehold security which is offered. I hope that the term of the lease will be extended considerably. I recognise that it may be extended by the Administrator, but we shall be at the mercy of one person. We do not know whether he will be a man of intelligence or not. According to what some honorable senators have said here, the Director of Lands was a defeated Labour candidate at one time.
– Order !
– Because he was a Labour candidate at one time, ‘is he wanting in intelligence?
– I think that the average Labour candidate is very acute, but he does not know everything under the sun. He does not know, for instance, all about the Northern Territory.
– I do not know that I need occupy the time of the Senate very long, because, without wishing to be discourteous to the Vice-President of the Executive Council, I must say that he did not make any effort to reply to the arguments which, to the best of my ability, I presented.
– I did that before.
– On a previous occasion the honorable senator said that the original Lands Ordinance was perfect, and the Senate, acting on that assurance, supported him. Now he comes down here and tells honorable senators, like Senator Barker, that this Ordinance, out of which much has been cut, is also a perfect one. I am very glad, indeed, that I submitted a motion on each occasion. By the criticism which we directed to the original Ordinance we saved the Territory and Australia from the greatest evil which could be inflicted upon them in the proposal to grant, under perpetual lease pastoral areas up to 2,000,000 acres. If the Opposition has done nothing else in this Parliament, it has justified its presence in both Chambers.
– That was the maximum area to which the Government might havegone, but it is not likely that they would have done so.
– The honorable senator need not think that he can find a refuge in the maximum area. There were three classes of pastoral leases provided for : 500 square miles, 600 square miles, and 1,500 square miles.
– The maximum.
– It is quite evident that the maximum of one area must necessarily have touched the minimum of another. If there is any third-class country in the Northern Territory, it is quite clear that there was a proposition to grant under perpetual lease areas in excess of r, 000, 000 acres. That is a proposition for which Senator Long voted. I wish it to be clearly understood what was the kind of land wisdom which guided the Government, and what kind of support was obtainable for that proposition. The Opposi tion is indeed to be thanked for having prevented Senator Long and the Government from carrying out that into which they were being led, either by too great an attachment to a doctrinaire belief in leasehold, or by a want of knowledge of the subject. Senator Long did all that he could to fasten upon the Territory that provision in theoriginal Ordinance. The Vice-President of the Executive Council made the remark that the Government would have desired to proceed by way of Bill but for the element of time. I have heard, in this and other Chambers, a good many statements, admissions, and even confessions, from gentlemen who represented the Government, but I have never before heard the representative of a Government say - nor do I ever expect to hear one again say - that while the proper course to pursue was to have submitted a Bill sothat the provisions could be examined in detail, the matter of time prevented that from being done. Parliament was called together for the despatch of business on the 1:9th June, and it was not more than a week or two before we were absolutely bankrupt for business, and the result was that, at the instance of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, we adjourned for .is month. Surely we could have been devoting that month with advantage and profit to the country in considering the terms of this Ordinance in the shape of a Bill.
– Oh, but there are two Houses in the Parliament, and they have been pretty busy down below.
– You have a majority in both Houses.
– There is the explanation of the whole thing. The Government is not trying to do what it owes to Parliament. With the knowledge that it has a majority in each House, it has; shown itself to be as contemptuous of itsown following as of Parliament generally. If the argument of time being a factor ispotent to-day, it will .apply next session, and in the session following. There is. never going to be a time in any Parliament in Australia when there will not be morebusiness than it can attend to. ‘
– You are on sound lineswhen you contend that the Government could have done more. I agree with you.
– The Opposition: does not profess to be here to help the Government to do things which it believesto be wrong. In this particular matter theOpposition pointed out roads which were; right, and offered to help the Government. There is not an honorable senator on the other side who, in his heart, can say that this Ordinance is what he wishes it to be. There is only one honorable senator from that side who has ventured to speak. He did not approve of the Ordinance, but he made a remark in justification of his support of the Ordinance which is the strongest condemnation that it is possible for an Administration to have. He said, “I am going to allow the Ordinance to go through, because I think so little will be done that they cannot do any harm under it.”
– I did not say that.
– I do not wish to do the honorable senator an injustice, but I took down his words.
– What I meant to say was that between the passing of this Ordinance and the bringing forward of a Land Bill no large amount of settlement could take place.
– When may we expect to get a Land Bill?
– I do not know.
– Clearly it cannot be until we meet after the next general election. It must be quite evident to honorable senators opposite that, if they come back with a majority, it will be to proceed with the enactment of some very radical measures, which will still further press this matter into the background ; or, if they do not come back with a majority, another party and another policy will be presented to the country. Senator Rae’s argument means that for over twelve months nothing is to be done in the Northern Territory in the way of settlement.
– I did not say that; I said that we could not expect thousands to setile at once under the Ordinance.
– The honorable senator is quite right. I expect very little to be clone in the way of settlement during the next few months. Although the Government have been in charge of the Territory for a very long while, there is not today one block of land available which they can invite a settler to take up. They have been too busy sending deer up to the Territory, to provide opportunities for the hard- worked officials to put in time as sportsmen, which it would have been better to devote to the consideration of the conditions which should have been provided for in this Land Ordinance.
– Did the honorable senator read the report of the Territory given by Mr. Campbell, the American, who visited it recently?
– I am glad that the honorable senator has reminded me of Mr. Campbell’s report, because he finished up by saying that no man will go there unless we give him security of tenure.
– He mentioned the progress which has been made since the Government have had control of the Territory.
– In what way? I read his report, and I noticed that he said that the Government are spending a lot of money in erecting buildings for Government officials. He did not, and could not, nor can Senator Lynch, point to anything which has been done to make a single block of land in the Territory ready for a settler. I am very glad to have been reminded ot Mr. Campbell’s report upon the Territory, because he has shown us what we must do if we wish, to settle it. He has made it as clear as possible that we must throw theories to the winds, and proceed by practical business methods. He said that he was one of many who would be glad to go to the Northern Territory, but he is not going there to take up land under the willothewisp tenure proposed by the Government.
– Freehold is a matter of theory as well as leasehold.
– It is not a question of freehold as the alternative to leasehold. It is possible to make a leasehold as secure and definite as any freehold. I explained in introducing my motion that I was not challenging the leasehold principle at all. I have left that on one side until the proper time comes to discuss it, but I do wish to make it clear that if, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council has admitted, we wish to attract settlers to the Northern Territory, we must put before them a clear and definite contract. I say the Government are jeopardizing the leasehold principle by the fact that under this Ordinance no man taking up land in the Territory will know the conditions under which he will hold it.
– He will hold it under the conditions under which men who have been there for the last thirty years have held land.
– If Senator Long will turn to the South Australian Act dealing with the lands of the Northern Territory, he will find that it sets out definitely all that can happen to a lessee during the whole term of his lease; but under this’
Ordinance no man will be able to tell for more than two years, with respect to pastoral lands, what will happen in connexion with his lease. We may give him a lease for ‘forty-two years, or in perpetuity, but honorable senators seem to forget that under this Ordinance we reserve the right to re-classify the land, and throw upon the lessee obligations which he did not dream of. With regard to town lands, the right is claimed for the Government to come in and re-appraise them whenever they think there has been an increment of value given to them.
– The honorable senator cannot compare thirty years’ administration with two years’ administration.
– I am not comparing thirty years’ administration with two years’ administration. What I say is that under this Ordinance no man will be in a position to say that he holds his land on the original conditions of his lease for more than two years. Even where we give a perpetual lease, we reserve the right, under this Ordinance, after two years, to take the land from the settler. If we wish people to settle in the Northern Territory, we should have an Ordinance which will make it abundantly attractive to the people of to-day to settle there, without tying up the people of the future. That could be done by making provision for terminable leaseholds for long periods, if honorable senators please, and at the termination of the lease we should provide that the leaseholder should have the right to secure a portion of his lease under a permanent tenure, leasehold if honorable senators please, but, as I should prefer, under a freehold tenure. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has made one or two important admissions that serve not only to justify the remarks I have made, but will stand as a warning against any one going to the Northern Territory who believes that the present Government are likely to remain in office for long. Admitting my contention with respect to the right of reclassification, the honorable senator said that it would reduce the area of a perpetual lease at the end of twenty-one years. I say that when we ask a man to go to the Northern Territory, and offer him 38,000 acres of country, or whatever the area may be, and tell him that he may hold it under a perpetual lease, we should at the same time, on the authority of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, inform him that we keep in reserve the right to cut down his area at the end of twenty-one years.
– Does the Ordinance say so?
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said so, and I thought that Senator Rae and some other honorable senators would accept the statement from the VicePresident of the Executive Council with less hesitation than from me. I say that it should be made known to the people whom we are inviting to go to the Northern Territory, that this perpetual lease is a mock and a sham, and there is no perpetuity about it, since it will depend on the will of the gentlemen for the time being charged with the administration of lands in the Territory. Under, this Ordinance, as interpreted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, the area of a perpetual lease may be reduced at the end of twenty-one years; and, in the case of some leases, by the imposition of more onerous, rentals, and agricultural conditions, it will be possible to bring about the subdivision of leases.
– Is it not possible for leased areas to be reduced in New South Wales for purposes of settlement ?
– By resumption, yes; but I am not dealing with resumption.
– I am referring to pastoral leases in New South Wales, the area of which can be reduced at any time.
– But the New South Wales Government do not try to fool the lessees of those areas by telling them that they are giving them perpetual leases.
– They know that their areas may be reduced.
– Only by resumption. Leases are issued in Queensland’ and in the western division of New South Wales for a term ot forty years, with theright of the Crown to resume one-eighth of the leased country if during the term of the lease it should be required for settlement.
– What is the differencebetween that provision and the one towhich the honorable senator is objecting?
– The difference isthat under this Ordinance the Government say to a settler, “We will give you a lease in perpetuity, and if we require toresume any of the land, we shall compensate you for it.” But as has been admitted by the Vice-President of theExecutive Council, they are at the sametime taking power under this Ordinance-, to reclassify lands held under lease, to- throw upon the lessees conditions- which they never suspected when they took up the land5,, and to dispossess them of portion, of the areas they professed to give them under .perpetual lease. A much more business-like method would have been to’ say to intending settlers in the first place, “ We shall give you a lease, of 38,000 acres for a fixed period “ - and I should have no objection to a fairly long1 lease in the Northern Territory - “ subject only to resumption for public purposes on the conditions on which, such resumptions usually take place.” We .should tell them further that a certain rent will be fixed for the term of the lease, and set out definitely all the conditions to which, we expect the lessee to conform during the whole term of his lease. We should further provide that when the lease expires, . whilst the bulk of the area will revert to the Crown, the lessee shall have the right to secure a reasonable area of his lease upon which to found a home.
– A living area?
– I prefer to say a reasonable area, because so much room, is left for debate as to the meaning of such terms as “ a living area “ or “a home maintenance area.” The leases should be terminable with the right of the lessee at the termination of his lease to secure a portion of his holding under a more permanent tenure. That is the policy which should have been adopted, and which I venture to say would have been adopted if the matter had been dealt with by a Bill. If the various clauses of this Ordinance had come under consideration in Committee, I am satisfied that some such policy would have commended itself to honorable senators. The Vice-President of the Executive Council was not well posted when he came to reply to the arguments that I have addressed to the Senate. As an instance in point, I refer honorable senators to the remarks which he made about the mortgage clauses. He said that, they only applied where a mortgagee holds land in excess of the maximum area. I say that where a mortgagee holds land under the maximum area, these, prohibitory clauses will still apply. If honorable senators will refer to clause 22 of the Ordinance, they will see that it reads -
Where any land leased under pastoral or agricultural lease in pursuance of this Ordinance has been mortgaged, -
I need not read any more, because the clause refers to “any” land.
– The- honorable senator misunderstood what I said. I said that if a mortgagee had a mortgage over land in excess of the maximum area, he- could not hold it.
– If that is the intention of the Government, it should be set out clearly in the Ordinance. There is nothing in it to show that it is intended to apply these provisions only where the mortgagee holds more than the maximum area of land allowed. It is distinctly provided that the clause shall apply where a mortgagee holds “ any “ land.
– The honorable senator means that he must dispossess himself of it?
– Yes, within three years. I wish to remind honorable senators that what I said about this clause was that it is a copy of a provision in a New South Wales Act, but that three or four words appearing in the New South Walessection have been left out of this clause; Using the different terms employed in this Ordinance, the New South Wales section would read -
Where any pastoral or agricultural lease granted in pursuance of this Ordinance devolves upon any person who is not eligible to hold under the Ordinance -
That was what was wanted. Some pr> vision was required that where a man already held the maximum area, he should not be eligible to hold an additional area for any length of time. But we have here a prohibition against the holding of any area by a mortgagee. If this provision is not altered,, the very person whom the Vice-President of the- Executive Council desires to help - that is to say, those who are in need of financial assistance - will be unable to get it, because under this provision each settler will have to find a separate mortgagee, since no mortgagee will give a mortgage over more than one holding. The result, as Senator Walker has pointed out, will be that no man will be willing to become a mortgagee of lands in the Northern Territory under this Ordinance. But, even supposing it to be desirable to agree to the clause as it stands, in other respects I ask honorable senators to consider whether three years is a sufficiently long period to give a mortgagee in which to realize upon his mortgage. That is the question to which I chiefly directed my remarks in submitting my motion, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council, in his reply, has not said one word about it. I have pointed, out that three years is the time given to- a mortgagee to dispossess himself of land which he is not eligible to hold under the New South Wales Act, in the case of settlement leases and homestead selections, in the comparatively settled districts of the State, and yet three years is all that the Government propose to allow mortgagees to dispossess themselves of lands acquired under a mortgage in this great untrodden country.
– The Administrator can allow them a longer period, if necessary.
– I know what that means. It is of no use to tell me, or to tell any financial institution, that our security must depend upon the “Yes” or “ No “ of the public official. If that statement be made to any financial institution, they will be very shy of advancing any money upon such a security. The element of uncertainty in such a matter may be laughed at, but it cannot be ignored. 1 have referred to the mortgage clauses to show that the Vice-President of the Executive Council, 5n his reply, did not attempt to deal with the objections I brought forward. I regret that the Senate has not had a full opportunity to deal with this important matter. I do so apart from personal or party reasons, and because I regard the future of the Northern Territory as certain to be very materially affected by the land policy imposed upon it. According as it is good or bad, so will the future settlement of the Territory be advanced or retarded. It is because I regard this Ordinance as a serious blunder and mistake in the initial stages of our efforts in that, direction that I took the action I have taken.
Question - That the Ordinance be disagreed with - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 7th November (vide page 512.3), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Bill toe now read a second time.
– One pleasing feature with regard to this Bill is that by means of it the Commonwealth Government impose upon themselves an obligation in relation to their servants, which every State Government in Australia has imposed upon itself. The measure reduces to statutory form a principle that prevails throughout the State jurisdictions, and which, to a large extent, is provided for in the United Kingdom. It is too late in the day to investigate socially or economically a principle which is now generally admitted, though not precisely in this form, as I shall show. But I may be allowed to express regret that while the Government are to be congratulated upon giving statutory effect to this principle they have not in connexion with it initiated a system of insurance. I am one of those who believe that in matters of workmen’s compensation, as well as in matters of pensions, the principle of insurance should be worked side by side, if not as an integral part of any such scheme.
– That is Socialism.
– I think that insurance is the highest form of individualism.
– Socialism is the highest form of individualism.
– My honorable friend can endeavour to reconcile the apparent contradiction in terms if he chooses.. One can see from the Bill itself that to a large extent it follows precedents set inother Australian legislation. It is largely based upon the English Act passed in 1906. But I wish to draw attention to a startling departure made by this Bill. Clause 4, sub-clause 2, paragraph e provides -
If it appears that the claimant has a claim for compensation for the injury under any other law in force in the Commonwealth or any other place, compensation under this Act shall only be allowed upon the claimant undertaking not to claim compensation for the injury under .any such law.
I do not think that such a clause is to be found in any other Workmen’s Compensation Act.
– I think it is.
– I throw out the suggestion, realizing that it may be wrong. But I want the point to be cleared up. In the English Act and in some State Acts an alternative is presented. I do not find that that alternative is allowed under this Bill. Let us see what it means. If a servant of the Commonwealth receives injury while engaged in Commonwealth service, he has to make a declaration that he will not seek a remedy under any other form of law. Say that he receives such a severe injury that the limitation of ^500 imposed by this Bill would be an inadequate compensation to him. I submit that he should be able to claim under the common law or in some other way in order to obtain the compensation to which he is entitled. Under the English Act and under the Acts of some of the States an injured person may elect whether he will take advantage of the opportunities given to him by the Government under a measure of this kind, or whether he will seek his remedy for higher damages by a different process. Why has a clear declaration of the right of an injured person to follow that course been omitted from this Bill, which has been introduced by a Labour Government professing at all times to be the guardian of the rights of workmen? In Queensland a man may elect how he shall proceed. He may say, “ .£500 will not compensate me for the* injury that I have received. I am advised that I have a strong case at common law.” That man can bring his action, and if he does not succeed in proving his case he can then claim compensation from the Government under a similar measure to this. I should say, however, that under this Bill the Commonwealth would be able to say to such an injured workman, “ You can only claim compensation from us on giving an undertalcing that you will not claim under the common law.” Why, if the injured man has misconceived his remedy, should he be debarred from making a claim upon the Commonwealth under this measure? Neither the English Act nor the New South Wales or the Queensland Act bars him in this way.
– I do not think this Bill does either.
– I want the point to be made quite clear. I will quote the English Act, 6th Edward VII., section 4, on the point -
If, within the time hereinafter in this Act limited for taking proceedings, an action is brought to recover damages independently of this Act for injury caused by any accident, and it is determined in such action that the injury is one for which the employer is not liable ‘in such action, but that he would have been liable to pay compensation under the provisions of this Act, the action shall be dismissed; but the Court in which the action is tried shall, if the plaintiff so choose, proceed to assess such compensation, but may deduct from such compensation all or part of the costs which, in its judgment, have been caused by the plaintiff bringing the action instead of proceeding under this Act. In any proceeding Under this sub-section, when the Court assesses the compensation it shall give a certificate of the compensation it has awarded and the directions it has given as to the deduction for costs, and such certificate shall have the force and effect of an award under this Act.
The effect of that section is this : Say that a man sues under the common law for ^1,000 damages, and that the case is dismissed. He is not sent put of the Court, but he may, if he chooses, appeal to the Court in this way : “ I have misconceived my remedy, and I wish the Court to decide whether I have a claim under the Workmen’s Compensation Act.” The Court is bound under the Act to consider the claim from that point of view, and if it finds that under the Act he can establish his claim for damages, it is bound to give him some damages, deducting therefrom the costs for having gone into another Court, and sought another form of remedy, instead of appealing directly under the Act. That provision is omitted, although the rest of the Bill follows closely the Imperial Workmen’s Compensation Act. When the Queensland Legislature passed a very comprehensive Workmen’s Compensation Bill in 1.905, it enacted a similar provision, which reads as follows : -
If, within .the time hereinafter in this Act limited for taking proceedings under this Act, an action is brought to recover damages independently of this Act for injury caused by any accident, a.nd it is determined in such action that the injury is one for which the employer is not liable in such action, but that he would have been liable to pay compensation under the provisions of this Act, the action shall be dismissed ; but the Court in which the action is tried shall, if the plaintiff or defendant shall so choose, proceed to assess such compensation, and shall, unless good cause to the contrary is shown, deduct from such compensation all the costs which in its opinion have been caused by the plaintiff bringing the action instead of taking proceedings under this Act, and shall enter judgment accordingly.
A similar provision is contained in the New Zealand Act and the New South Wales Act. Why was it omitted from this Bill? It may be that a clause which I have not yet noticed gives to the employe’s of the Commonwealth the same right which is given to a worker in the Imperial and State Acts. Paragraph e of clause 4 seems to me to bar the right, and is intended to exclude the employe from the advantages which the provisions in the Imperial and State Acts seem to have designedly given. If that be so, it is a blot upon the Bill. If that be the intention of the Government, it is not fair or equitable to its workmen. The Government’s profession of being the custodians and the guardians of the rights of the workers is blown to the wind, unless they can assure us that the employe of the Commonwealth is guarded and given the same privileges as are given to him under other Acts. The Imperial Act, as well as the State Acts, as it were, gives a man two choices. A man can elect to sue in another tribunal under the Commonwealth Act, but if he does not choose to do so - and in a case of severe injury he will be well advised not to make that choice - he has to run the risk that if he takes the matter into a Court he will stand to lose the lot if he cannot get a jury to give him a verdict.
– Can a workman’s rights at common law be taken away without a definite provision in the Statute?
– Certainly not. But suppose that a man has recourse to his common law remedy, goes into a Court, and it is a case of win or lose it all. The Commonwealth Government may ‘ then, it seems to me, say, “ You have no claim against the Commonwealth.” Of course, if we analyze its various provisions it may be found that possibly the Bill will not have that effect, but clearly it is open to the other objection, that it may not have that advantage. In these circumstances we ought to see that a workman under the Commonwealth shall have the same advantages as those which an employe has in every State under the Workmen’s Compensation Act. I do not think that he should have all the risk on his side. The Commonwealth Government ought to take a portion of the risk, and not, so to speak, to play with loaded dice before his eyes, and say to its workman, “ It does not matter what your injury is. A sum of £500 may or may not be sufficient compensation, but come to us for your£500, because if you go anywhere else under another law and fail you will get nothing from us.” Unless the VicePresident of the Executive Council can satisfy me that workmen under the Com monwealth are secured in the matter of compensation as generously as workmen are secured, I believe, throughout the whole of Australia, I shall certainly test the feeling of the Senate on the point by-and-by. Why should the Commonwealth be less liberal than* the States, who have given the workmen, so to speak, a double chance?
– He has a treble chance - common law, Workmen’s Compensation Act, and the Employers’ Liability Act.
– Under this Bill, how can a worker under the Commonwealth have three or two chances?
– Every public servant to-day has a right under the Employers Liability Act and at common law, and we have given him a third right.
– I doubt whether a workman can successfully sue the Commonwealth under a State law, unless the Commonwealth chooses to explicitly recognise the jurisdiction of the State law.
– If he has a claim for injury under any other law in force in the Commonwealth paragraph e will apply.
– I do not interpret parargaph e of sub-clause 2 of clause 4 as giving to the State law a jurisdiction over the employes of the Commonwealth. Under the Constitution our employes are above the State law as long as we choose to keep them in that position. Are honorable senators really sure that the principle laid down in D’ Emden v. Pedder may not prevail if a Commonwealth employe sues in a State Court under the State law ?
– Has he not his right under the common law?
– Yes, he has the right to sue the Commonwealth at common law until the Commonwealth, by express enactment, deprives him of that right.
– We have not done it, nor are we likely to do it.
– No. But suppose that a Commonwealth employe” takes his remedy at common law, sues the Commonwealth in a State Court, and fails. Then he can proceed under this measure.
– If you will read paragraph e you will see that it bars a man only if he has received any compensation. If a man sues at common law, and gets nothing, he cannot be said to have received anything.
– I shall read the provision -
The workman shall not be entitled to recover compensation both independently of and also under this Act; but subject to this paragraph this Act shall not affect any civil liability of the Commonwealth under any other law ;
If a man sues in another Court, and under another process, I think that the Court will hold that, in effect, he has broken that injunction.
– Read paragraphb. Senator ST. LEDGER.- It reads’ as follows -
If it appears that the claimant has a claim for compensation for the injury under any other law in force in the Commonwealth or any other place, compensation under this Act shall only be allowed upon the claimant, undertaking not to claim compensation for the injury under any such law;
In the Imperial Act, as well as in the State Acts, there is a special provision to make it clear that a workman does not lose all his chances if he fails when he goes outside the Act, but the object of paragraph b seems to be to prevent any employe, who has obtained£250 damages in a Court outside the Act, from afterwards suing the Commonwealth for the balance of£250.
– He cannot do that under the Bill.
– That is the effect of paragraph b, but it does not touch the other point I have raised. Suppose that a Commonwealth employe claims£1,000 damages, and does not get a penny, paragraph e leaves him without any remedy.
– I do not think it does.
– I am inclined to think that it does. Under the English Act, and under our State Acts, even if a jury found against a claimant, he might say that as there was no remedy at common law he would proceed under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, and see whether he could not get damages in that way. If a workman secured damages in that way. the Court would give a certificate of the costs which could be deducted from the amount of damages secured. Whilst the Commonwealth would be protected, the workmen would not be thrown destitute upon the world, but would have an opportunity of getting something. I cannot find any provision similar to paragraph e of the clause referred to in any of the Acts I have mentioned. I should like to know why it has been inserted, and why provisions of other Acts to which
I have referred have been omitted from this Bill. The Minister has the advantage of the advice of the Crown Law officials, and should be able to inform the Senate as to why paragraph e has been included in this Bill.
– Surely it is a reasonable provision.
– I admit that, but it does not go far enough. I agree that the Commonwealth should not be subjected to blackmail, and should be protected from the assaults of malingerers. We know that such legislation is fruitful of malingering. Improper claims have been in the past, and may, in thefuture, be manufactured in order to secure compensation, and it is right that the Commonwealth should be guarded against such claims.
– Is the honorable senator supporting or opposing these provisions ?
– I have stated as plainly as possible that I approve of them, but that in my opinion they are not sufficiently precise and direct, and do not go far enough. I have pointed out that it is singular that a provision appearing in other Acts of the kind does not appear in this Bill, and that paragraph e of this Bill is not to be found in any other workmen’s compensation law of which I have any knowledge. The provision in other Acts, which I say has been omitted from this Bill, is intended to give the workman a further remedy.
– The . honorable senator desires that he should have two strings to his bow?
– Why should he not? In every State Statute on the subject, he is given two strings to his bow, and Senator Lynch has said that in the State laws he is given three strings to his bow. In this Bill the Commonwealth Government gives a Commonwealth workman scarcely one string to his bow”; which would almost appear to be a satire upon the professions of “honorable senators opposite, who are always boasting of their desire to protect the rights of . the workers.
– If the honorable senator would use fewer words, and more ideas, he would realize that this is the best Workmen’s Compensation Bill which has so far been drafted.
– I have admitted that some of its provisions are good. It is. useless for the honorable senator to say that my explanation of the matter ls too full.
– Order ! I have allowed the honorable senator to debate the Bill for nearly an hour, and be has not yet touched upon the principles of the measure which are supposed to be discussed on the second reading. Hp has selected a detail of one of the clauses, and has addressed the whole of his remarks to that. I ask him. now to discuss the principles of the Bill.
– If I have not been discussing the vital principles of this Bill, then I can have no knowledge whatever of what a Workmen’s Compensation Bill means. We desire to know what compensation a workman in the employ of the Commonwealth will be entitled to under this Bill, and how he is to proceed in order to obtain it. The clause which I have discussed is vital to the Bill, and may be said to be the whole Bill.
– Order ! I direct the attention of the honorable senator to the fact that under the Standing Orders on the second reading of a Bill the principles of the measure should be discussed. The principle in this case is the advisability or otherwise of providing for compensation to workmen in the employ of the Commonwealth. In discussing it, the honorable senator has seized upon a detail contained in a paragraph of one clause, and has confined himself to that, while so far he has not discussed the principles of the Bill at all.
– I submit, with all respect to you, sir, that the clause to which I have directed attention involves a vital principle of the Bill, but in deference to your ruling, I shall not pursue the matter further. It is quite time that we made provision for the proper compensation of workmen in the employ of the Commonwealth. I have pointed out that a portion of this Bill would seem to deprive them of advantages which workmen generally are given under similar legislation. We should make it clear that workmen in the employ of the Commonwealth will not in this matter be placed at a disadvantage as compared with workmen who are not employed by the Commonwealth. There is another important point to which I might refer.
– I was under the impression, prior to the suspension of the sitting, that this Bill had been originated in the Senate, but I have since learned that it has passed through the other branch of the Legislature, and if the Government consider that it is perfect, I think I have discharged my duty by pointing out a very glaring omission from it. All the Workmen’s Compensation Acts in the States I know, have defined the word “ dependant,” and have extended the definition of it as far as possible. But in this Bill I notice that the term has been made to include mothers-in-law. T do not think the Vice-President of the Executive Council gave any explanation of the reason underlying that extension. I trust that in his reply he will do so.
– Of course, I agree with the main principle embodied in this Bill. But there appears to be one blemish in it which ought to be removed. I refer to the provision which is made for the dependants of men who have either been killed in the service of the Commonwealth, or who have died as the result of injuries so received. In the first schedule I find that -
The amount of compensation under this Act shall be- (a). Where death results from the injury - (i.) If the workman leaves any dependants wholly dependent upon his earnings a sum equal to his earnings in the employment of the Commonwealth during the three years next preceding the injury, or the sum of two hundred pounds, whichever . of those sums is the larger, but not exceeding in any case fire hundred pounds.
I would point out that when a family is’ deprived of its breadwinner, the loss in most cases cannot be compensated for by a payment “of , £500. Just imagine the position of a woman who is left a widow with a family of four children, aged 2, 4, 6, and 8 years respectively. Not only is she obliged to earn her own livelihood, but the whole burden of rearing her children till they reach an age at which they are able to provide for themselves is thrown upon her. Yet all the compensation that she will receive under this Bill is not less than£200, and not more than£500. I take up this position: That if a man is killed in the service of the Commonwealth, or if he meets with an accident which culminates in his death, or if he is permanently incapacitated, the country ought to be charged with the maintenance of his family until his children are able to provide for themselves, and with the maintenance of his widow while she lives, or until she marries again. In Germany, the Government provide pensions for the widows of such men as are killed in its service.
– But the men contribute to them.
– No doubt. But the amount of their contribution is very small.
– Ought we not to have a life assurance scheme as well as this Bill?
– I am not talking about that. If, for example, a man is employed in the Post and Telegraph Department, and is electrocuted in the discharge of his duties, a payment of £,200 or £500 to his widow is not anything like an equivalent for the loss which she has sustained. Permanent provision should be made for the children. The widow should be paid a weekly sum for each child until the children reach the age, say, of 16 years. It is incumbent upon the Commonwealth to see that the family of a man who meets his death in the way I have indicated is provided for. That is a duty which the people of Australia owe to every man who is employed by them. I intend to move an amendment in the schedule in the direction which I have indicated, and I trust that the Government will support it. Doubtless it will involve an additional expenditure, but, after all,- it is a mere matter of justice. If a man loses his life in the service of the country, surely it ought to be the business of the country to see that the suffering of his wife and family is reduced to a minimum. ‘ In the case of an individual who is permanently incapacitated, the hardship is even greater, because not only is he unable to contribute towards the support of his family, but he himself becomes an added charge upon his wife. Consequently, special provision ought to be made for such cases. I know of an instance in Queensland in which a husband in Government employment was permanently incapacitated. For years he languished on a sick bed, a drag on his wife and the other members of the family. I am aware that my proposal constitutes a new departure. It is something which has never been done in any English-speaking community. But we are not bound to follow the precedents established by other countries. We are making precedents of our own. Our legislation is based upon humanitarian principles. We are endeavouring to found our industrial and social laws upon the principles of equity and. justice.
– Preference to unionists included ?
– If the honorablesenator feels inclined to discuss preference to unionists—
– I regret verymuch that Senator Walker does not seem tothink this matter is of sufficient importance to demand his serious attention. But I can assure him that, when the bread winneris lost to a family, in 99 per cent, of casesthere is very great suffering and want. If a man is killed in the execution of his duty whilst in Commonwealth employ, the maintenance of his widow and family ought in. all justice to be a charge on the people o£ Australia.
.- - So far as the general principle of this Bill is concerned, it is certain to meet with as hearty a reception in this Chamber as it met with in the other branch of the Legislature. But there are one or two matters to which I think the time is opportune to direct attention. First, in regard to its financial provisions, it does seem to me that in connexion with a Bill of this kind it is desirable that the Government should make an annual appropriation, which would be in the nature of an insurance premium. Otherwise, if there should, unfortunately, be a series of accidents in one year, a great demand might be made upon the finances of the Commonwealth, and there might be no provision to meet it. I think that is distinctly undesirable. As insurance “companies and private firms can compute the amount likely to have to be paid, it ought to be possible for the Commonwealth Government to ascertain by an actuarial calculation what amount it is necessary to put aside each year for the purposes of this Bill, and there ought to be an annual appropriation on the Estimates for the purpose.
– I think there will be, as in the case of old-age pensions and the maternity allowance.
– The Minister merely says he hopes so.
– We may have a Trust Fund.
– Hopes are very satisfactory as far as they go, but they do not buoy us up very much. Am I to understand from that expression that it is the intention of the Government to appropriate annually a sum of money for this purpose? If so, I am satisfied. But if that is not the intention of the Government, I fail to see the point of the Minister’s interjection. I offer the suggestion for the consideration of the Senate and the Minister, believing that it would be a sounder financial proposition to make each year carry an appropriation for the whole service of the Commonwealth on account of this measure than to have to depend upon the ordinary revenue of the year to meet claims. Of course, there is one way in which the Commonwealth might meet the position. It might insure itself with some company. But I hardly think that, that method would appeal to honorable senators, nor do 1 think it advisable to resort to it. Another matter to which I should like to direct attention arises under clause 6. It is proposed that where the Commonwealth Government lets a contract for any work the workmen employed by the contractor shall be assured of the benefits of this measure. As far as private employers are concerned, there is no difficulty. But there are other contracts as to which a difficulty may arise. Take the contract with the New South Wales Government for the construction of vessels at the Fitzroy Dock. In that case surely something more is necessary. Under the terms of this Bill, if a workman engaged upon one of the naval vessels being constructed at the Fitzroy Dock is injured, he is to receive compensation. There might be some trouble in that case as to who is to bear the responsibility. We are dealing with a sovereign Government. I suggest that the Ministry should enter into correspondence with the New South Wales Government at once to ascertain in what position workmen are to be placed. Otherwise, the New South Wales Government may say that, as they entered into their contract with the Commonwealth Government before this measure was placed on the statute-book, they object to being saddled with additional obligations.
– The honorable senator need not worry about that.
– I think it my business to worry when I realize the possibility of difficulty being caused between two Governments, and an unfortunate man having to wait some months until it is decided which Government of the two is responsible for the payments due to him. The Bill appears to have been drafted without a full recognition of the different positions existing between permanent employes of the Public Service and temporary ones. At the present moment the permanent public servants are already, under departmental regulations, in receipt of allowances when they are ill. Is this Bill to take the place of those allowances? If so, the men who take advantage of it will lose substantially, because those who receive consideration under departmental regulations when they are ill may get more than is provided for under the Bill. One necessarily wants to know, therefore, whether the measure is to take the place of the regulations, or to supplement them. A further question arises. Now that we are dealing with public servants, why should there be any difference between permanent and temporary hands? But this Bill does make a big difference between them. If the departmental regulations are to continue side by side with this Bill, will the permanent hands get the benefit of sick pay, or, to put it more accurately, the advantage of full pay during illness, whilst the temporary hands will only obtain what benefits the measure extends to them? I have only to add that I hope it will not be very long before the benefits of the Bill are extended. I am looking forward to the time when we shall have a measure which will not only provide for those in the civil employment of the country, but also for those engaged in the Naval and Military services. Of course, I do not mean that a measure of this kind should apply to those fatalities which might happen if, unfortunately, a war broke out. But there are many cases of accident which occur when members of the Military and Naval Forces are employed in training. Only recently some lads who were training in a public thoroughfare in one of our cities were seriously injured. I understand that the Commonwealth Government did in that case place itself in communication with the representatives of the injured lads with a view of “granting some compensation. But I think that it is very much better to meet such cases with a definite provision in a measure such as this, which applies to all concerned, rather than allow the granting of compensation to depend upon, say, the pertinacity with which claims are pressed, or the sympathy of persons who may interest themselves in the case, or, it may be, upon the Minister in charge of the Department affected. It -would be better to make provision to meet all such cases by an Act of Parliament of this kind, so that every citizen throughout the country will have the same measure of consideration extended to him as his fellow citizen, wherever he mav happen to be.
– Senator Stewart seemed to think; from an interjection which I made when he was speaking, that I was not sympathetic towards this Bill. I wish him to understand that I am thoroughly sympathetic with its objects. I also think there should be some provision in the case of married men to compel them to insure their lives. Why should women have to depend merely upon the sum of money obtained under the measure in case of injury to their husbands? Insurance is an act of self-denial which every man employed by the Commonwealth should be encouraged to make. With regard to compensation to men employed upon Commonwealth contracts, I understood that it was the intention of the Government not to let out contracts, but that everything should be done by the Commonwealth itself. In Germany, and also in England, since the passage of Mr. Lloyd-George’s insurance scheme, the workman is compelled to pay a certain proportion, the employer a certain proportion, and the Government contribute a share, towards insurance. I think the time has come when we really ought to recognise our obligations in this respect. I agree with Senator Millen that it is our duty to look to the future, and sec how our obligations under this measure are to be met. An actuarial calculation ought to be made, and a certain amount should be appropriated for the purposes of the measure every year. Otherwise the Commonwealth may be embarrassed through having to pay an unexpectedly large amount in any particular year. I think that the Bill is an admirable one as far as it goes, though, in my opinion, it does not go far enough.
– I congratulate the Government on having introduced this Bill. It is perfectly right that the Commonwealth, as an employer, should stand on exactly the same level as any private employer, and undertake the same liabilities. The Bill, as its title implies, simply refers to workmen employed in the service of the Commonwealth. The definition clause states that “ Commonwealth “ includes “ any Territory which is part of the Commonwealth, and any autho rity under the Commonwealth.” I tate if that the Northern Territory will be included. But would the Bill extend to Papua ? It seems to me that it ought to do so. In some respects the Bill is more liberal than any of the State Acts are. I am not complaining with regard to that. An important point has been raised by Senator St. Ledger as to how a workman will stand if he elects to proceed against the Commonwealth under the common law. I do not know why the draftsman of the Bill did not adopt the wording of the English Act. As far as I can judge, a workman would not be prevented under the Bill from claiming under the common law, or any other law that would give him relief. The provision, however, is worded differently from any other Act with which I am acquainted. Paragraph e of sub-clause 2 of clause 4. provides that a claimant shaft only obtain compensation under the measure upon undertaking not to claim compensation under any other law in force in the Commonwealth. I take it .that the claimant may make his choice. If he things he can do better under the common law, he can take action accordingly; or, if there is any other law in force in the Commonwealth which he thinks would give him a greater amount of relief than that provided for in this Bill he is not prevented from seeking relief in that way.
– But if he fails to obtain relief under any other law, he cannot, after taking such action, claim under this Bill.
– I am not so sure of that. Suppose a workman were to make a claim under the common law, and were to get a farthing damages, would that prevent him from claiming under this Bill ?
– Yes, absolutely.
– I think that the meaning is that if he claims under this Bill he has to be satisfied with what is allowed to him. But I am not sure that he has to be satisfied with a verdict which he may get under any other Act.
– If he gets any damages, he will be satisfied.
– If the man is satisfied with what he gets under any other law, I suppose that he will not take a further step. I do not know why the draftsman did not adopt the wording of the provision in the English Act, and nearly the whole pf the State Acts, instead of drafting the provision in this form. If there is any force in the contention put forward by some honorable senators that a workman cannot claim under other laws, it ought to be made quite clear in this clause that he cannot do so. This measure will be quite as liberal - and it ought to be more liberal - as is any of the State Acts. I wish to call attention to paragraph c of sub-clause 2, clause 4 -
If it is proved that the injury to a workman is attributable to his serious and wilful misconduct, any compensation claimed in respect of that injury shall, unless the injury results in death or serious and permanent disablement, be disallowed.
What is the use of employing the term “wilfully” in this provision? No man wilfully causes an accident ; no’ man wilfully sticks his hand into a machine or gets it crushed or taken off. The whole provision, I think, might as well be left out, because we cannot peer into a man’s mind and say that he has wilfully done a certain thing. We have to assume that every man will look after his limbs and his health as far as possible. He may be careless, and his carelessness may result in a serious accident to himelf ; but we cannot say that he wilfully brought the injury upon himself. So far as that goes, I do not think that there is much value in the provision. I admit that it says, on the other hand, that if an employer is wilfully careless he will have to suffer in consequence of his carelessness. It does not seem to be worth while to make this provision, because it is impossible, I think, for a man to wilfully bring an injury on himself, or an employer to wilfully bring an injury upon a workman. There are one or two details which I wish to discuss in Committee, but, generally, I approve of the Bill. With regard to the increased amounts referred to by Senator Stewart, this measure is, I consider, a little more liberal than is any State Act. I think that to-da.y, when insurance is so easily obtained, either through a friendly society or an accident company, a man ought to make some provision for a case of this kind, and ought not to expect that, when he meets with an accident, the whole of his family shall come upon the State for a good number of years,. We ought to encourage the idea that a workman should strive to do something for himself, as it is only right that he should. At present I do not feel much inclined to support the amendment which Senator Stewart announced his intention to submit, but, generally speaking, I am very glad that the Bill has been introduced.
– I, also, am very pleased, indeed, to see this Bill introduced. And, if the circumstances of the Commonwealth would permit, I should like to see its provisions made a little more liberal than they are. It makes provision for Commonwealth employes who meet with an accident. Senator Stewart raised a very nice question, which I should like to see dealt with if the Commonwealth can see its way to do so; but I know that it is surrounded with a great many difficulties. It would practically mean that if a Commonwealth employe met with an accident, or died as the result of the accident, for a period of fourteen years it would have to support his youngest child. In view of the large number of accidents which take place, that might involve a very serious amount. I see no provision in the Bill to meet the case of a man in the employment of the Commonwealth who dies from a complaint which he has contracted. What is to become of the widow and children of that man ?
– We cannot deal with such cases in this Bill.
– The State Act deals with dangerous trades.
– A woman with four children will be in exactly the same position financially if no provision is made in the Bill whether her husband is killed or hurt or dies from’ the after effects as if he died from an ordinary sickness. I think that we should try to provide for all cases if we can. I recognise that it is a big contract to undertake, but when we start to legislate on the subject we should get down to bedrock. I believe that eventually the Commonwealth will have to take some step to see that every woman who is left with a family is provided for, perhaps by a small contribution from her husband, if only 6d. a week during his lifetime, supplemented by a contribution from the Government. This suggestion, of course, opens up a very wide field for discussion. We have thousands of pioneers who are all practically working in one way for the Commonwealth, because they are opening up the country and developing it. But this Bill makes no provision for such cases. I should like to see the Government bring down a comprehensive Bill which would cover the case of every person, and compel him to contribute a small sum weekly while he is at work. Something of this kind will have to be done, otherwise the case of one man in the employ of the Commonwealth will be provided for, while the widow of another Commonwealth employe if he dies through disease will be left totally unprovided for. A Commonwealth employe, for instance, who catches a cold and develops consumption will not be entitled under this Bill to any compensation, because his illness cannot be called an accident.
– No, that is a different thing.
– I am prepared to vote for the Bill, but I should like to see the Government at the beginning make a first-class job of this legislation. It is they alone who can estimate what funds can be put aside for this purpose from year to year. I ask them to consider if it is not possible in this measure to cover all cases? I consider that all widows should be put on the same footing. The widow of a Commonwealth employe in receipt of a salary of £150, who dies from an ordinary cause, will not be in as good a position to face the world as will the widow of a Commonwealth employ!! in receipt of a salary of £250 who meets his death by an accident.
– You are advocating life assurance.
– No. What I suggest is that a fund to meet all these cases should be created by a small contribution from every workman and a contribution from the Commonwealth. I believe that a fund for that purpose could be created without involving the Commonwealth in a great deal of cost if it were properly taken in hand.
– You would have compensation for all kinds of sickness as well as accident?
– And whether incurred in employment or otherwise.
– They are all citizens of the Commonwealth. I suppose that every Honorable senator knows of many a man who is working on theland practically for himself,but is at the same time opening up the Commonwealth, and that in many cases the public have to subscribe money to alleviate a great amount of hardship. Would it not be far better for the Commonwealth to establish a fund on proper lines, and to put all citizens of the Commonwealth on one footing? That iswhat I think should be done. The
Government are only dealing with this subject in a piecemeal way. We ought to try to make the measure as perfect as possible.I believe that if the Government can see their way to do something in the direction I have suggested they will have the support of a majority of the Senate. We should not pass a Bill this year only to find next year that it does not cover certain cases, and that an amending Bill is necessary. I would rather see the matter dealt with now thoroughly and finally.
– I intend to support the Bill, but I wish to direct the attention of the Government to what I regard as one or two flaws. In the first place, take the definition of “ Commonwealth “ - “ Commonwealth “ includes any Territory which is part of the Commonwealth -
That is definite ; we know exactly what it means - and any authority under the Commonwealth.
I am not sure as to whether that definition includes Papua.
– It does.
– I do not think it does.
– What is the meaning of “under the authority”?
– I think that it is intended to meet the cases of public servants who will be employed in erecting Commonwealth buildings in London. Those persons may, if they choose, come under this measure rather than under the Imperial Workmen’s Compensation Act. I think that paragraph c of sub-clause 2, clause 4, supports that view. If we are going to include the public servants of the Commonwealth in this Bill, why should we not at the same time include employes of the Government in Papua or in Norfolk Island, if that place be taken over by the Commonwealth, as has been suggested? Senator St. Ledger has raised a most important question, and has justified the amendments foreshadowed by Senator Stewart. A workman in private employ, if injured, can at the present time claim damages under the Workmen’s Compensation Act if his injury is the result of a pure accident, the blame for which cannot be attributed to any one. If the injury is due to negligence on the part of the employer or some one under his authority, or is dueto defective machinery or gear, the employe of the private employer has a right to sue for damages under the Employers’ Liability Act. But employers of the Commonwealth Government will not under this Bill be given that privilege.
– Because they will be able to claim damages under this Bill, which provides for as much compensation as they could claim under the Employers’ Liability Act.
– I question that statement very much. The compensation which may be claimed under the Employers’ Liability Acts of some of the States is unlimited, and is left to the Courts to decide. I believe that is the case under the Western Australian Act. But in that case the injured workman or his dependants, if he has died as the result of his injury, have the onus thrown upon them of proving that the injury was caused by defective machinery or gear. If there is wilful neglect the workmen in private employ may claim damages at common law, and in that case a jury would fix the compensation.
– But at common law the injured workman would get nothing if the injury were caused by a fellow employe.
– That is so. That was judge-made law, and was given effect to as statute law in the Employers’ Liability Act. But it was to overcome those difficulties that the Workmen’s Compensation Act was passed. The Imperial Parliament, in their wisdom, when passing the Workmen’s Compensation Act, preserved to injured workmen the right also to take proceedings at common law or under the Employers’ Liability Act. Under the English law if an injured workman fails in a suit for damages at common law or under the Employers’ Liability Act, he may take proceedings under the Workmen’s Compensation Act. An employe of the Commonwealth would not, under this. Bill, be given a similar privilege. If the Commonwealth is carrying on any work with defective machinery, and as the result a Commonwealth employe is injured, why should not he or his dependants be at liberty to take action under the common law or under the Employers’ Liability Act, and if they fail at common law because the injury was due to the negligence of a fellow -workman, or under, the Employers’ Liability Act because they could not prove defective machinery or gear, still, have the right to proceed under this Bill. If the workman is to be denied this privilege, I agree with Senator Stewart that the compensation provided under this Bill should be greater than it is. Paragraph e of clause 4 reads -
If it appears that the claimant has a claim for compensation for the injury under any other law in force in the Commonwealth or any other place, compensation under this Act shall only be allowed upon the claimant’s undertaking not to claim compensation for the injury under any such law.
I assume that the words “ any other place” are used to cover London, or any other place in which Commonwealth works are being carried out. For instance, they would cover Glasgow, where we are having our men-of-war built.
– We should not be liable for injuries to workmen in Glasgow.
– We should. The Bill makes the Commonwealth liable for injuries to workmen in the employ of the Commonwealth Government, even though they may be working under a contractor.
– Special provision could be made with a contractor.
– The Government would have, of course, their remedy against a contractor. Under the paragraph which I have quoted, a claimant has to enter into an agreement not to make a claim forcompensation under any other Act.
– So he has under every Workmen’s Compensation Act.
– No; he is not required to do so under the English Act, or under the State Acts..
– He cannot obtain compensation under two Acts.
– No; but he can claim compensation under more than one Act. If his suit is not successful under one Act, he can take his chance under another. If he makes a claim at common law, and is beaten on the question of common employment, and if he makes a claim under an Employers Liability Act, and fails to prove negligence on the part of his employer, he can still prosecute his claim under a Workmen’s Compensation Act. Why should we prevent a workman in the employ of the Commonwealth Government from obtaining relief under this Bill merely because proceedings to that end taken under another Act have failed? Leaving that matter, I come to deal with the question raised by Senator Sayers, which is not provided for by this Bill at all. The honorable senator really raised the question of compensation to the dependents of Commonwealth employes who die as the result of sickness following upon their employment in dangerous occupations. We have a cordite factory, and though I do not know the process followed in the manufacture of cordite, I should not be surprised to learn that it engenders certain diseases. We have a small arms factory in which a very great quantity of lead is used. In ship-building also a large quantity of lead is used.
– What for?
– The honorable senator must know that a ship must have drain-pipes, and that, as a rule, they are made of lead.
– Their manufacture is not an unhealthy occupation. A painter’s job is worse than that.
– We know that lead poisoning seriously affects painters. I know many painters who have had to give up the business because they have been affected by lead poisoning. In some of the State Acts, and in the South Australian Workmen’s Compensation Act particularly, special provision is made in the case of unhealthy occupations, and special diseases, with the occupations in which they are contracted, are set out in the schedule. For instance, I find the following
Anthrax - Handling of wool, hair, bristles, hides, and skins.
We have a woollen factory in which men will be engaged in all these occupations, and the employes of the factory will be liable to suffer from anthrax? I quote further from the schedule to the South Australian Act -
Lead poisoning or sequela. - Any process involving the use of lead or its preparations or compounds.
Mercury poisoning or its sequela. - Any process involving the use of mercury or its preparations or compounds.
Phosphorous poisoning or its sequela. - Any process involving the use of phosphorous or its preparations or compounds.
Arsenic poisoning or its sequela. - Any process involving the use of arsenic or its preparations or compounds.
We have clothing and saddlery factories, and may shortly be making leather, in the manufacture of which chemicals are freely used. We have entered upon the manufacture of certain articles, and if the occupations of those engaged in their manu facture is not healthy, we should deal with the employes as the State Parliaments in their Acts have dealt with employes engaged in similar occupations conducted by private persons. We should deal fully with this matter, though I should not be prepared to go as far as Senator Sayers suggested, because we are not in. this measure dealing with the whole of the population. The question of insurance against sickness will have to be dealt with by the Commonwealth at an early date. We are lagging behind in this matter. England has taken the lead, and probably before long the Government of the Commonwealth will find it necessary to follow upon similar lines, and will, I hope, improve upon the British legislation on the subject. However, that is not the question before us now. The terms proposed in this Bill are fairly liberal, but I do not think it goes far enough, and a workman or his dependants should be entitled to recover damages for any injury due to the fault of any Commonwealth authority.
– There is that now. His dependants can sue the Commonwealth under common law.
– And if they are unable to prove any defect, they receive no compensation whatever. Even Senator St. Ledger will admit that it is ability in Court which usually carries the day, and the Government, being able to pay for the very best legal talent to defend themselves, will have a better chance of winning than will the dependants of a poor workman in a case of that sort. I hope that provision will be made to give the dependants of workmen killed in Commonwealth employment, who obtain only nominal damages, the right to choose whether the same Court shall not try their case under the provisions of this Bill.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [9.3].- Like other honorable senators, I recognise that the obligation on the part of employers to pay compensation to their employes in cases of accident is so far accepted as a principle as to be beyond the region of serious discussion But I take it that under this Bill the Government desire to get rid of the possibility of any question being raised as to whether or not an action against them for compensation for injury sustained by a workman is maintainable. The theory is that, ordinarily, the Government are not liable to be sued by the subject, although it has been recognised for years that the subject should be entitled to apply to them for compensation. This Bill will effectually settle the question of whether or not the Government are liable if an action be brought against them for compensation. Then the question arises, Should the liability of the Commonwealth be similar to that of any ordinary employer, or should it be greater ?” I think that in a Bill of this character it will be quite sufficient if the Government accept the responsibility of an ordinary employer. But the question has been raised by Senators Stewart and Sayers as to whether we ought not to extend that liability. Personally, I think that that question ought not to be seriously considered in debating a Bill of this kind. In the first place, we have to bear in mind that whatever compensation is paid by the Commonwealth must come out of the pockets of the people. I do not suggest that that is a reason why the Government should treat any employe unjustly. But I do suggest that it is a reason why they ought not to pay more than the amounts which have been suggested as reasonable compensation for injuries sustained by employes of the Commonwealth in the discharge of their duties. A private employer is liable to pay compensation to the extent of three years’ wages.
– I accept the honorable senator’s statement. This Bill provides for a liability of £500, so that the Government are not failing on the side of generosity. “We must take into consideration the earnings of a man before we car* decide the amount of compensation to which his dependants are entitled. One man may be earning£1,000 a year, and another only £100 a year and the former may leave dependants who are in just as necessitous circumstances as are the latter. In the case of railway accidents, we know that at one time no limitation was imposed on the amount which the dependants of a man who had been killed might recover. If it could be shown that his earnings were£4,000,£5,000, £6,000, £7,000, or £8,000 a year, the compensation payable to them mounted proportionately. But eventually it was thought that that practice did not deal fairly with the people of this country. As a result, in nearly all the States a limitation has been imposed upon the amount of compensation payable in such circumstances. I think that the payment is limited to , £2,000. In this Bill the compensation payable has been limited, because the measure is intended to apply only to workmen who meet with accidents. If a man who is not a workman meets with an accident, his family have to do the best they can for themselves. He has no power to take action under any of the measures dealing with an employer’s liability. But if he is entitled to bring an action, he has to face the question of contributory negligence, which is a very serious one, and he has also to face the question of negligence on the part of a fellow-employe, which is a still greater difficulty.
– I can scarcely conceive of a position of that kind.
– Suppose that the honorable senator and myself were working together, and that the honorable senator was particularly careful, whilst I was particularly negligent. Suppose that, in consequence of my negligence, the honorable senator met with an accident which resulted in his death; until the Employers’ Liability Act came into existence his family were not entitled to any compensation. The Government say in this Bill, “ We do not want to be placed in a different position from that of the ordinary employer.” But they have not yet stated whether they are prepared to accept the ordinary common law liability.
– Does the honorable senator imagine that under this Bill it is possible - in the case of the injury or death of a workmanin Commonwealth employment - for the Government to avoid paying compensation to his dependents?
– Not under this Bill.
– Will the Government be responsible for the neglect of another workman ?
– They will be, though they might not be liable under common law. In a measure of this character, I do not see how it is possible to provide for the payment’ of compensation in the case of disease occasioned by the employment, and it may be questioned how far such a principle should be applied. If a man suffers an illness in the course of his employment, it may be his family ought to be compensated just as much as though he had suffered injury as the result of an accident. But we cannot consider that matter in connexion with this Bill. Senator Sayers pointed to the case of the hardy pioneer, who meets with a serious accident, and leaves his family in necessitous circumstances, or who, perhaps, dies of consumption. But I would point out that we can deal with such cases by means of an insurance system, under which every man in the community would be obliged to contribute a certain sum weekly. I hold that we should never take away from a man the sense of responsibility that he owes to his wife and family - the obligation which he feels he is under to make proper provision for them.
– What chance has he of making that provision?
– I am not arguing that matter.
– Then why introduce it?
– Many men who are earning a fair income could afford to put by a few shillings weekly for the purpose of life assurance. At the present moment, by means of a contribution of 6d. or is. per week to a system of industrial life assur.ance, a man. may make a certain measure of provision should accident befall him. If he takes upon himself the responsibility Of marriage, it is his duty, as far as he can, to make provision for his wife and for his children.
– What provision can some men make?
– We have no right to take away from any individual the sense of responsibility. I object to every one leaning up against the Government for support.
– The honorable senator has always done that.
.- That kind of thing takes the stamina and grit out of a people.
– That is rather a callous argument in connexion with this Bill.
– No, I recognise that it is quite fair that, when a man gives his services for a certain wage, if he meets with an accident he should be compensated. But no one can fail to realize the fact that great charges are being placed upon the Commonwealth under legislation which we have passed. There are, for instance, the obligations under the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act. I take no- exception to them. I supported them. But they inr volved a great liability. Then there isthe maternity allowance, as to which a great deal more might be said. Now we have thisWorkmen’s Compensation Bill, which, however, stands on an entirely different plane. I think it would tend to make men feel’ much more independent and responsible if they had to contribute some small sum to a fund from which they would draw benefit in the future. People allude to the German system and praise it, but they; always quietly ignore the fact that those who receive benefits under that system, have to make contributions.
– Does the honorable senator forget that he has been trying, to add to the responsibilities of the Commonwealth by claiming pensions for members of the Naval and Military services?
.- No, I do not. This Bill expressly excludes the Naval and Military services. I believe that under regulationsthey are entitled to certain compensationon account of accidents caused in their ordinary employment. If we had themisfortune to be involved in war, no doubt’ compensation would be allowed to the dependants of those who lost their lives or were seriously injured. The regulations provide for members of the Naval and MilitaryForces, but my desire is that their compensation shall be guaranteed to them byStatute law. It ought not to be at thewill of the Governor-General to makeregulations. Parliament is the properauthority to deal with a matter of thekind. With regard to the recovery of compensation, it has been suggested that it would have been very much better had’ this Bill followed the wording of theEnglish law. I quite agree with that, because the interpretations obtained under English law are of very great valueMoreover, when we adopt an English provision, we attain a certain degree of uniformity in law, which is very desirable,, and materially assists us in interpretation. I take the Bill to mean, simply, that if » man is entitled to compensation he has tomake up his mind whether he will obtainit under this Bill or whether he will takeadvantage of the common law or of any other law which is available. But, having made his choice of other means, hecannot turn round afterwards and say that he is entitled to compensation under thismeasure. If honorable senators turn to> clause 4 they will find that paragraph b of sub-clause 2 provides that a workman -shall not be entitled to. recover compensation both independently of and under this Bill. He makes’ his choice. I think that is fair. Paragraph e then provides that-
If it appears that the claimant has a claim for compensation for the injury under any other law in force in the Commonwealth or any other place, compensation under this Act shall only be allowed upon the claimant undertaking not to claim compensation for the injury under any such law.
What has the claimant to do? He simply says, “ I know that I have a right to compensation, and I am going to seek it.” If he seeks it under any other law than this, I do not think that he is placed in a disadvantageous position.
– Suppose he claims under the common law, and fails?
– If a claimant makes a claim under the common law, and fails, I do not think that he is entitled afterwards to claim under this Bill. He has made his choice.
– Suppose he claims under the common law, and gets nominal damages; can he then claim under this Bill?
– I do not think he can. It seems to me that that is all that we can reasonably expect. The Bill is on the lines of the Seamen’s Compensation Act, and it is just as well to keep kindred measures in line. When compensation is granted to the family of an injured individual material assistance is given. ‘ I am not complaining about that. But there must be some limitation, and it is very much better that all our laws dealing with kindred subjects should run on the same lines. Suppose that one man is employed under the Government and another by a rprivate employer, and both meet with accidents. Why should the man employed by the Government be entitled to a greater amount of compensation than the man employed by the private employer? If in the one case there is a. thousand pound limitation, by parity of reasoning, the same should apply in the other. There should be no distinction between the two. A question has been raised in respect to contracts. Senator Millen has mentioned the case of the Commonwealth Government’s contract with the New South Wales Government for the construction of vessels at the Fitzroy Dock. I doubt very much whether the Commonwealth Government are in a position to bind the New South
Wales Government with . respect to an existing contract. If they were in such a position, it would be unfair, because the State contracted under the existing law. It may be that the employe would have a right of action against the State Government in case of accident. If that is the case there is no difficulty. . The simplest plan would be, in regard to future contracts, for the Commonwealth Government to make an express stipulation that workmen should be liable to compensation under this Bill. If such a condition did not suit the State, it would not accept the contract. On the whole, I think that this Bill is framed on right lines, and that it is fair and reasonable. We should accept it, and pass it into law. If we are able to improve it in Committee, I shall be glad to assist in so doing.
[9.29J. - I must thank honorable senators for the very kindly manner in which they have received this Bill. I wish those who are excessively generous with respect to the misfortunes of other people - and I must admit that their feelings are most praiseworthy - to recognise what the object of this Bill is. This is a Workmen’s Compensation Bill, and not a. Bill to deal with the cases of widows and orphans, of sickness, unemployment, and all those misfortunes which haunt the human race. Therefore, it ought to be dealt with as a Workmen’s Compensation Bill.I have not the least doubt that the other legislation indicated by those honorable senators will very soon make its appearance in this Parliament, particularly so far as the present Government and its supporters are concerned, because it is our object to do all that we possibly can by beneficent legislation of this description to relieve all the misfortunes of humanity. I ask honorable senators, as far as they possibly can, to confine themselves at present to this measure alone. With regard to the different paragraphs of clause 4, a great deal has been said as to what will happen in the case of an employe” of the Commonwealth meeting with an accident; as to whether his rights under the old-fangled, and, I might say, belated and inhuman Employers’ Liability Act, and even under the common law, will be interfered with. Every honorable senator is acquainted with the results of the Employers’ Liability Act to the workers. Does any honorable senator seriously think that an employe of the Commonwealth who meets with a serious accident at any time will, when he has a measure of this kind at his service, ever think of making a claim for compensation under the Employers Liability Act? No.
– The cost of litigation is too much.
– But even if any Commonwealth employes are prepared to resort to the Employers’ Liability Act, though I think that it is not worth twopence to them, they will have that opportunity, because they are allowed an option under this measure. It will only be when they come to the Commonwealth, and say that they intend to proceed under this measure, that they will make an agreement not to sue for compensation in any other direction, or under any other law. They can, if they please, apply for compensation, first under the common law, and if they fail there, they will still have the opportunity to make an application under this Bill, if they are within the time limit, or show any reason why they should be allowed to do so.
– May I ask if you are sure about that through the advice of your Crown Law Office?
– Yes, I feel confident about it.
– I think you will find that the Courts will tell you otherwise.
– If any Commonwealth employes take advantage of any other legislation, and get a verdict, they will not be able to avail themselves of this measure, because it provides that they cannot recover compensation from two parties at the same time, consequently I have not the least hesitation in saying that no application for compensation will ever be made under any other legislation, once this measure is in force. Senator Guthrie has stated that, in some States, the law provides for unlimited compensation, and he cited Western Australia. On looking up the records of that State, I find that the limit to compensation is£400, andI believe that Senator Henderson will confirm my statement. In some of the other States, the maximum amount of compensation is£300. This Bill, however, provides for a maximum of , £500, and removes many of the difficulties which exist in connexion with such legislation in the different States, and even in Great Britain. As Senator Gould has pointed out, the clause which has been referred to so much is practically the same as that which appears in the Seamen’s Compensation ActIn paragraph a of section1 of the Workmen’s Compensation Act of Great Britain,. Senator St. Ledger will find a provision very similar to one provision in clause 4 of this Bill.
– Yes, I see that..
– Consequently, there is not such a difference in our legislation with respect to the position of an unfortunate employ meeting with an accident, as some honorable senators would: make it appear. I have no desire to exhaust the patience, or tire the energies of honorable senators, who probably have travelled a long way to attend here to-day, and when we pass the first two clauses of the Bill, I shall be prepared to report pro. gress.
Question resolved in the affirmative..
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed.
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Can the Vice-President of the Executive Council state to-night what will be the principal business for to-morrow ? E should like to know if he intends, as I hopehe does not, to move the second reading of the Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill to-morrow.
.- I should like to see the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Bill and the Loan Bill, which is a very short measure, carried through to-morrow. TheMinister of Defence has an amending Naval Defence Bill ; it contains nothing very contentious, and I hope that it also may be brought forward to-morrow. I do not intend to interfere with the consideration of private business to-morrow evening, but that will be the last opportunity whicht honorable senators will have for dealing with private business, unless, of course, some occasion arises when it can be taken. Last week, I sent round to see if honorable senators were prepared to come back. on Tuesday, and discuss private business, but there was no inclination to do that. I hope that on Tuesday next we shall meet for the consideration of Government business. I can assure SenatorClemons that I do not anticipate being able to move the second reading of the Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill till Friday morning.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 December 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1912/19121204_senate_4_68/>.