5th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– In the Melbourne press the Minister of Defence is reported to have said that he had placed the matter of the movements of the Fleet entirely in the hands of Admiral Patey. I desire to know if that is a ‘correct statement of his intention, and whether Admiral Patey is to have the distribution of the ships? Is not the Naval Board to be consulted as to their movements)
– I have not seen the. statement which SenatorPearce says is attributed to me in the press. Theoretically, and as a matter of fact, the Naval Board has the power to direct the itinerary of the vessels. It appears to me, however, entirely desirable that in this matter Admiral Patey, charged with the efficiency of the Fleet, should have a free hand as to the places to which he shall direct the vessels and the ‘ purposes for which they . shall go there. I am not aware that I have made that statement to any representative of the press. It is the attitude which I contemplate taking up.
– Is that policy tobe continued, or is it only just for this particular occasion?
– It will be continuous until’ circumstances call for a revision of it.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence whether it is his intention to follow the usual practice in connexion with the Imperial Fleet, and that is for the Fleet to visit Hobart towards the end of January, so that it may participate in one of the biggest aquatic carnivals of the year. Is it his intentionto send the Australian Fleet on a visit to Hobart?
– From what I have just said in reply to Senator Pearce, the honorable senator will see that I do not contemplate sending the ships anywhere. It seems to me that Admiral Patey, who has been charged with the responsible duty of training the men and the ships, should be given an entirely free hand as to- where he shall take them for that purpose.
Senatorrae. - Would that mean taking them to the North Sea, if he thought fit?
– No, because that would be outside the Australian station.
– What I mean is, will the Minister do what I ask after consultation with the Admiral ?
– Any representations from places such as Hobart, expressing a desire to have a visit from the Fleet, would, I venture to say, be considered by Admiral Patey in making his dispositions.
– I desire to know whether a request of that kind should be addressed to the Admiral or to the Minister of Defence.
– I think that the proper course will be to submit such a request to the Naval Board, who, no doubt, will forward it to Admiral Patey. I wish to make it clear, even at the risk of reiteration, that it does appear to me extremely desirable that the gentleman charged withthe working of the Fleet should have a free hand as to what he shall do in regard to it; that it ought not to beleft to Ministerial desires.
– Or to the Naval Board ?
– Or to the Naval Board. Because, after all is said and done, Admiral Patey will be responsible for the efficient working of this war machine.
– If circumstances per- mit the Fleet will go to Hobart in accordance with the usual practice, I presume?
– In, the interests of expedition, will the Mmister of Defence obtain for the Senate, before the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill is brought forward, particulars of the itemised amounts, which he proposes to expend on the Naval Bases? At present, the various sums are lumped together in one amount.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether he has . noticed nr to-day’s Age certain remarks by the VicePresident of th’e Executive Council in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank ? It is reported that Senator McColl made a speech at Bunyip.
– That is a country district.
– It is a country district well out in the bush, but a report of the speech has got into the Age. I do not propose to read the whole of the report, but only the part to which I want to refer. Senator McColl is reported to have made these remarks -
The Commonwealth-. Bank had’ a debt of £46,000, and that was one of Labour’s pet schemes. The Governor of the bank had supreme power, and was using it lavishly. One building which Mr. Miller was having erected in Sydney would cost£200,000.
I should like to know whether that statement represents the voice of the Ministry, and whether it is their intention to repeal the Commonwealth Bank Act in order that this autocrat and this lavish expenditure may be abolished ?
– The question, sofar as I have been able to follow it, israther complex. Dealing with the first part, let me assure the honorable senator, at whatever risk it may mean to myself, that I have not read the newspaper hi question to-day. With regard to questions without notice, I put it to the honorable senator that, unless they come within the category of urgent public business, it is desirable that notice should be given of them in due form. If he will put a notice on the business-paper, especially of that part of the question which deals with the attitude of the Ministry towards the Commonwealth Bank, he will get a fully considered answer, which at present I do not intend to attempt to give.
Drill Days - Imprisonment of Cadet
– I should like to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether, it is a fact that cadets are at present forced to drill on statutory holidays and half -holidays ; and, if so, whether the Minister will direct that this apparent injustice shall cease, and will substitute other days of drill?
– I am not able to answer the question without notice, except to say that I have made no change in the system from the arrangements that were in force when I went to the Department.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether he recollects having made a statement in reply to a question by me regarding the treatment of a -cadet named Victor Yeo, whose release from gaol was ordered. Has the Minister since heard that the cadet in question was not released when ordered ? In view of that fact, and of other matters connected with the case, will the Minister have an inquiry made into the whole of the circumstances?
– I have a recollection of the case mentioned by Senator Rae. The facts were these: The youth was incarcerated as a defaulting cadet. The matter was brought under my notice after he had served the major portion of his sentence. He had, I think, speaking from memory, served a period of twenty days. I directed that steps should be taken to release him. Those steps were taken, but some little delay was necessarily involved, because the matter of liberating a person from incarceration is not under the control of the Defence Department. Steps had to be taken, first of all, through the Commonwealth Crown Law. Department, and then through the State legal authorities. Then the direction had to be communicated to Broken Hill. A Saturday and Sunday intervened, and I understand that there was an interval of four or five days between the decision which I gave and effect being given to it. That lapse of time meant that the boy completed his term of incarceration.
– Was he not re-arrested immediately afterwards?
– No; he was not.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister of Defence to the following paragraph published in the Sydney Sun.
” MADE IN JAPAN.”
White Ensign Worked in Tokio.
It is difficult to imagine a large party of British and Australian naval and military officers sitting at tables decorated with miniature flags of the Royal Navy that had been made in Japan. Yet at the Sun office there is a miniature white ensign - the flag of Great Britain’s Navy - with the imprint, “ Made inJapan.” It is mounted on a yellow and black stick. The flag was taken out of a handsome- floral decoration in which red and white Australiangrown roses made up the design of a ship at last night’s banquet.
And the Australian Government was paying for these things.
I wish to ask the Minister whether he has seen this paragraph, and whether the statements in it are correct I should also like to know whether at future functions, the decorations for which are paid for by the Australian taxpayer, he will see to it that Australian workmen are given an opportunity of making the floral and flag decorations which are used?
– I have not seen, the paragraph quoted by Senator McDougall, nor do I know anything of the facts alleged in it.
– Will the Minister make inquiries and let the Senate know whether the statements are correct or otherwise? They are a reflection on the present Government, and upon this Parliament.
– That is not a question.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether he is yet able to make a statement in regard to the suspension of ‘ Captain Hughes Onslow, Second Member of the Naval Board, and whether any inquiry into that officer’s suspension has been held, or is to be held ?
– I anticipate that before the week closes I shall be able to make a statement about the matter referred to by Senator Pearce.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether, in- view of the fact that a motion has been carried in the Senate affirming the principle of establishing a Commonwealth line of steamers between Tasmania and the mainland, and that a similar motion is now under consideration by the other branch of the Commonwealth Legislature, the Minister will defer signing the Tasmanian mail contract until the other branch of the Legislature has expressed an opinion on the desirableness or otherwise of linking up Tasmania by means of Commonwealth-owned boats ?
– As far as the Government are concerned, they have decided the terms of the agreement in reference to the matter mentioned. Their views in regard to the principle involved are well known, and they do not intend to depart from them.
– In view of the fact that a number of public bodies in Tasmania have carried resolutions in opposition to the proposed mail contract between the Commonwealth Government and the shipping companies, will the Government recognise the wisdom of delaying the signing of the contract until such time as those public bodies have had an opportunity of placing their representations before the Government?
– I should say that, from the point of view of the Government, the “ wisdom “ alleged is scarcely visible. In regard to representations, the information that has reached the Government shows that divergent views are held. The Government would have to look at half-a-dozen different views if they were inclined, or desired - which they are not - to change their own.
Appointment of Mr. W. B. Griffin
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs whether he will inform the Senate as to the circumstances under which Mr. Griffin, the designer of the Federal Capital, has been engaged by the Commonwealth for a period of three years ?
– I have not the information by me, but X will endeavour to obtain it.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence whether he has any report to make to the Senate in connexion with an assault by military cooks at Toowoomba upon the representative of a Queensland newspaper, to which I have previously made reference?
– I have not yet received any report. I think that possibly it may be on the way here, and if the honorable senator will ask me concerning the matter again at the close of to-day’s proceedings I may be able to supply him with” the report then.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, without notice, whether he can give the Senate any information as to when the embargo placed upon Sydney in connexion with the smallpox outbreak in that city will be raised ?
– I have no dofinite information on the matter, but I may say that it will not be raised until the responsible medical officers recommend that that can be safely done.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is there a report recently to hand re the desirability of erecting post-office buildings at Wyndham, Western Australia, and, if so, what is the nature of the recommendations?
– The answer is -
The Deputy Postmaster-General, Perth, has furnished the following information : - “ The Engineer for the Northern Public Works Department, who recently made an inspection of the Wyndham Post Office quarters, reported that he considered same unsuitable for the climatic conditions, and thought that a reconstruction should be given early consideration. In the meantime, minor repairs and renovations were recommended, and a requisition has been submitted.
The present postmaster is a married man, without family, and the building, with the repairs and renovations proposed to be made, is considered sufficient for present requirements. The question of the erection of a new building will be inquired into when the District Inspector next visits Wyndham, which will probably be in May next.”
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers are- 1.On6th August,1913, the Note Issue Department of the Bankof England held gold amountingto£37,520,030 againstits note issueof £55,970,030. The proportion of gold to notes was67per cent.
Senatorde Largie. -The honorable senator is comparing private banks with a State Bank.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Isit the intention of the Government to introduce legislation this session to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act?
Thefirst step which the Government proposes totake isto consult the State Governments with a viewto placing the SavingsBank on a basis which will prevent duplication, and at the same time meet the requirements of the people.
– Arising out ofthe answer given to the question, I would ask whether the Honorary Ministerhas quite apprehended it. The honorablesenatorhas referred only to the Sayings Bank operations of the Commonwealth Bank. Doesnot the question refer also to the other operations of the b ank?
– The answer to the question, asput bySenator Needham, is thatthe first Step, which the Government propose to take is to consult the Stateauthorities with a view to prevent duplication ofthe Savings Banks.
– And what is the second step?
– No second step is suggested bythe original question, but I do not hesitate to tell Senator Henderson thatif other steps require to betaken there will probably be more than a second step.
– I should like to put my questionin a more pertinent form. Is it the intention ofthe Governmentto amendthe Commonwealth Bank Act inany wayaffecting the business of the bank other than Savings Bank business ?
– In answer to the honorable senator’s question I have only to point out that a good deal will depend onthe result of the firststep which the Government propose to take. In any case, the Government do not intend to indicate which course they will take until they are satisfied that they can take the first step safely and advisably.
– Arising out of the answer given by the honorable senator I would ask whether the Government, who condemned the Commonwealth Bank Act, lock, stock, and barrel, propose to introducelegislation amending the provisions of the Act affecting business of the bank other than Savings Bank business ?
– I can give no further answer to that question than I havegiven in answer to the originalquestion. I have intimated what is the first step theGovernmentpropose to take, and have said that much will depend upon that.
– Arising out of the answer to the question I should like to ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether it is the intentionof the Government to consult the State Governments on every actionthey are likely to take to alter Commonwealth legislation ?
– I do not think the question can be asked seriously, or that the honorable senator expects an answer to it.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Isthe continued existence of the Savings Bank section ofthe Commonwealth Bank a matter entirely within the control of the Governor of the Bank, or has the Government any power to close the SavingsBanks or transferthem to State control without the enactment of an amendment of the Commonwealth Bank Act?
– The answer is-
Under the existing law, the matter is within the control of the Governor of the Bank.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Will he lay upon the table of the Senate copies of correspondence with respect to the engagement of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice toreport on Naval Bases?
– Yes. I laythe paper on the table now.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
MINISTERS laid on the table the following papers -
Defence Act1903-1912. - Regulations amended, &c.
Statutory Rules1913, Nos. 251, 252, 253, 257,264,265, 266.
Lands Acquisition Act1906. - Land acquired under, at -
Boomi, New South Wales - For postal purposes.
Bulli, New South Wales - For defence purposes.
Toowoomba, Queensland - For defence purposes.
Tuggeranong, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital purposes.
Naval Defence Act1910-1912. - Provisional Regulations. - Statutory Rules1913, No. 250.
Public Service Act1902-1911 -
List of Permanent Officers of the Commonwealth Public Service as on 30th June, 1913.
Appointments and Promotions -
Department of Trade and Customs - J. F. Ramsbotham, as Director of Lighthouses, Lighthouse Branch.
Department of Home Affairs -
Postmaster-General’s Department -
J.J.Richards, as Postmaster, 2nd Class, West Maitland, New South Wales.
Telegraphs and Telephones Special Works Account Act1911. - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council, dated 24th September, 1913.
Uniform Standard for Foods and Drugs : Report of the Commonwealth and States of Australia Second Conference.
-laid on the table -
Return to Order of the Senate of 26th September,1913 -
General Elections, 1913 : Number of Contested Elections, Polling Places, and Scrutineers.
Return to Order of the Senate of 2nd October, 1913-
Tasmanian Timber purchased by Commonwealth Government.
Return to Order of the Senate of 2nd October, 1913-
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway : Contract Prices for Supply of Sleepers.
Return to Order of the Senate of 26th September, 1913 -
General Elections, 1913 : Votes Recorded, &c.
– Is it competent for me, sir, to ask you a question in regard to the business of the Senate ? Some time ago a motion was carried in this Chamber affirming that certain papers relating to the Defence Department should be laid on the table of the Library. So far there has been no compliance with the terms of that motion.
– The fact that papers are to be laid on the table of the Library does not come within the cognisance of the President. I am informed that the order of the Senate was sent 0.11 to the proper authority, but I have no official knowledge of whether the papers in question have or have not been laid on the table of the Library.
– May I be permitted to mention that the direction of the Senate in this matter has not been ignored ? The papers referred to were partly in the Defence Department and partly in the Department of Home Affairs, and ithas taken some little time to put together the file, which, as Senator Pearce will readily understand, has now assumed enormous dimensions. I. anticipate, however, that they will shortly be laid on the table of the Library.
– This appears to be an opportune time to point out that the work of the Chinn Select Committee has been much hampered because of the very slow manner in which the Government are supplying it with papers. The Senate empowered the Committee to call lor all the papers connected with the case. Yet we have asked for quite a number of papers which, up to date, have not been supplied.
– Is this a speech or a question ? I was pulled up the other day, Mr. President.
– The honorable senator must not reflect on the Chair.
– I have no intention of doing so.
– When a somewhat similar question was raised by Senator Pearce, I thought the time an opportune one ‘to bring under the notice of Ministers the dilatory manner in which papers are being supplied to the Chinn Select Committee. I do not hold honorable gentlemen opposite responsible for the delay, but I hope that they will bring this matter before their colleagues, with a view to having the papers supplied at the earliest possible moment.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator
MCCOLL) read a first time.
– I move-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay._
The desire of the Government in submitting the motion is to expedite the business. It is not intended, however, to do more than move the second reading of the Bill to-day. The measure is urgent, and we wish to push on with its consideration without interfering with the right of honorable senators to discuss its provisions.
– I am rather surprised at being taken on the hop, as it were, in this manner. No doubt, Senator McColl had intimated to me that it was his intention, to take this course. I hope that the members of the Opposition will raise no objection to the motion on an occasion of this kind. The Government have evidently made a very serious blunder in administering the affairs of the Commonwealth, and consequently it is only our duty to do all that we can in the interests of its people to assist them in getting out of that difficulty. On many occasions here I have heard whines, and even boisterous objections, raised to a suspension of the Standing Orders. I recognise - and I have always recognised - that it is a very serious matter to suspend the Standing Orders, which were made for the purpose of carrying out the business of the Senate in a legitimate way.
– How long is it since you found that out ?
– I also admit that there are serious occasions, and then it behoves the members of the Senate to consider the position seriously. To my mind, this is one of those occasions, and I hope that the members of the Opposition will assist the Government, and prove to the country that all the statements made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, with respect to obstructive tactics by the Opposition in the Senate and another place, were misrepresentations, . of which he ought to be ashamed. I shall support the motion.
– I rise simply to say that I shall support the motion. I am very pleased to think, in connexion with sugar legislation generally, that the sugar crop of Queensland this year will be a record one, and that, too, in spite of all the calamityhowling which was indulged in during the last campaign by gentlemen associated with the Liberal party in our State.
– I do not intend to oppose the motion, but to set a goo’d example to Senator Gould. How often has he held up his hands and eyes in holy horror at an attempt to suspend the Standing Orders ! I was under the impression when this motion emanated from Senator McColl that he would be just as loyal in support of the rules as he has been hitherto, but I find that he is giving a loyal support to his quondam leader, who was put up momentarily by the Minister of Defence.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Why should I not?
– It is somewhat remarkable to find trained and experienced men like my honorable friend on one day opposing a motion of this kind, and on the next day tacitly supporting it, while at the same time he and his colleagues go throughout the States, and say that the Labour party in the Senate with our large numbers are obstructing the business. Here we are to-day, I suppose every one of us, anxious to put business through - eager for work, but no work to be done. Still the Government tell the people that we are obstructing business.
– Why should we want to suspend the Standing Orders if we have no business to go on with?
– May I amend my statement by saying that it is very refreshing to know that at last we have one little Bill to put through the Senate ? I am also very pleased to know that Senator McColl on the floor of the Senate is much different from what he is on a platform before a body of women.
– Order ! That has nothing to do with the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– You are not at Bunyip.
– No; but Senator McColl was at Bunyip. I find that he is much different here from what he was there.
– Order !
– I am glad to find that at last our honorable friends on the other side realize that we are not here to obstruct business, but to assist them. I shall support the motion.
– I do not intend to oppose the motion. As a matter of fact, I have just been doing a good turn for the Government by going round and telling my colleagues that we would have to supply an absolute majority of the Senate, as they have not sufficient on their side to suspend the Standing Orders. I felt some umbrage at the request of Senator McGregor. When he spoke to me I said, “ What! To put up a majority for a Government who have been crying out in the country about the unreasonable opposition which the Labour party are offering them seems rather a curious request to make.”
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - It was a novel position.
– Yes. I felt as though I was being made a whip for the Government who have been whipping the Opposition before the public.
– They have nobody to whip.’
– They have a whip, but nothing to whip.
– I guarantee that you have often wished that you were in that position.
– I never had to use the whip, because a gentle remark to my honorable colleagues was sufficient to get them to comply with a request of Senator McGregor. I think it is our duty to give the Government an opportunity to do something, because it is nearly time that something was being done. If it requires a suspension of the Standing Orders to drag the Government out of the dilemma into which they got by proclaiming the repealing Acts before the time was ripe, it ought to be done. I hope that honorable senators on this side will remain, so as to make the absolute majority required to secure a suspension of the rules without notice, and thus enable the Government to bring on this one little pet lamb.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I think that as the two Bills are intimately related to each other, it would be an advantage if they could both be discussed at the same time. I suggest that before moving the second reading “of this Bill the other measure should be presented and read a first time, so that the two measures could be discussed together on the second reading of this one
– It is entirely for the Senate to say whether it will consider the two Bills together or not.
– We have not got the other Bill yet.
– It is proposed that the other Bill shall be read a first time presently. It is not for the President or Minister to coerce honorable senators. What is suggested can only be done by their unanimous consent.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator. McColl) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator McColl) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Rill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– The question is that the motion be agreed to.
– Is a division demanded? There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators’ present, I declare the motion carried.
.- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I ask if it is the pleasure of the Senate that the two measures shall be discussed at the one time.
– On a point of order, sir, was not a division called for?
– I think a division was called for.
– I” heard only one “ No “ ; I put the question, “ Is a division demanded?” and there was no response to that request. It is too late now, after a decision has been given, to revive the question.
– I ask whether it is the pleasure of the Senate that we should discuss the two measures together?
– On a point of order, sir, might not honorable senators be provided with the Bill which the honorable senator is now proposing to discuss before he proceeds-
– That is not a point of order.
– It is a very pertinent point anyhow.
– It is a very important thing, I admit.
– If we are not- provided with the Bill, how can we know what the Minister is talking about?
– I find that copies of the Bill are not yet ready for distribution. If it be the desire of the Senate, I will move the second reading now, and then the debate can be postponed till a later stage.
– I object to any further procedure on this Bill until copies of it are before honorable senators.
– Tlie honorable senator cannot object at this stage, because the Senate has passed a resolution suspending the Standing. Orders to enable the second reading to be taken. The Bill is now before us, and if Senator McColl is prepared to proceed with the motion for the second reading, that is a matter entirely for himself. It will, however, be for the Senate to determine afterwards whether the debate upon the measure shall’ or shall not be “postponed.
– Legislation regarding the sugar industry has occupied a great deal of the attention of the Commonwealth Parliament of late years’. From 1901 to 1912, no fewer than thirteen Acts were passed by the Federal Parliament dealing with the question; whilst in the Parliament of Queensland, between 1880-1913, eight Acts were passed. The amount of legislation shows the importance of the question, and also indicates that the changing conditions of the industry necessitated fresh measures from time to time. It is an important industry, and also a peculiar one. In the early stages of its history in Australia, it was contended that sugar could not be grown except under coloured labour conditions. Many persons held that white labour was not competent to conduct the industry on account of the climatic conditions prevailing where sugar-cane is grown. For many years, there had been a strong desire for the. establishment of a White Australia policy. Effect- could not be given to that desire if we were- to continue to allow one of our greatest and most important industries to bo carried on entirely by coloured labour. It has, however, since been proved beyond a doubt that, in the large area where the industry has been conducted, the white man can grow sugarcane in a profitable manner.
– Does the honorable senator say that that has been proved beyond, a doubt?
– I think it has been proved satisfactorily; and- I shall be able to adduce the proof later on.
– That is a welcome admission.
– It is a great industry, because it affects the production of an article which is largely used all over the world, and which is an important commodity of commerce. Australia can take credit to itself that, as far as I am aware, this is the first country in the world wherein it has been proved that sugar-cane can be grown by white labour.
– We took a long time to prove that to you.
– Until Federation was accomplished, the sugar industry was entirely under the control of the- States, but with the advent of Federation various important questions arose,- the effect of which was to bring’ the industry within Commonwealth control. One of those questions was that of coloured labour, which was being dealt with by the Department of External Affairs. Secondly, there was the Tariff question. These two intimately related questions brought the industry under the- purview of the Commonwealth, which has had to do with it ever since. The industry in Queeusland is carried on in a belt of country ranging from the 16th to the 30th degrees of latitude. Sugar-cane is grown over an area of 1,000 miles in length, and about an average of 80 miles in width, upon the Queensland coast. The sugar area consequently occupies a great portion of the Queensland littoral. Last year the acreage under production in Queensland was 141,652. The quantity of cane crushed was 994,212 tons,, yielding 113,060 tons of sugar. The yield per acre was 1 ton 1 cwt. 3 qrs. :3 lbs. In New South Wales, the area under cane was 14,283 acres. Strangely enough, the yield of sugar per ton of cane was higher than in Queensland. We find that 1-40,114 tons of cane yielded 16,723 tons of sugar. In Victoria, no sugarcane is grown, but a beet sugar industry has been established for some years, and is making a little headway. Last year there were 572 acre’s under crop> which yielded 477 tons of sugar - a yield of li ton 1 cwt. 1 qr. 2 lbs. per acre. The consumption of sugar in Australia last year amounted to 226,484 tons - an average of 1-09. 22 lbs’, per head. The quantity grown, in Australia, 130,2’60 tons, left’ a -shortage to be obtained elsewhere of 96’,224 tons: I am glad to> say that, as Senator’ Maughan mentioned a little while ago, the. present year is expected to be a record . one. Last’ year the yield was- poor. It- is expected that- the yield Joi- this year will be 220,000- tons, which means that, we shall almost overtake the consumption- of Australia-, and be practically providing ou-r own sugar for ourselves. Of course, it is- recognised by every one that this industry could not exist in” Australia without Protection. It requires Protection, because the sugar lias to be grown in competition with the lowest-paid labour in the world. Consequently a duty of £6 per ton was placed upon sugar coming to Australia from out side. Many may ask- whether the industry is worth the expenditure which has been; incurred upon it. I think it is- for the following reasons : It is- true that- the industry is carried on at a cost- to’ the Commonwealth of over £1,000,000, and that- this year the cost will probably be nearer £1,500,000-. But at the same time we have to recognise that by means of our White Australia policy we obtain a higher standard of work and of wages for the industry than would otherwise be- possible, and we must bc prepared to pay for those benefits. It is as well that I should enumerate the advantages that we are getting for this great outlay. First of all, we are- getting an article which is entirely grown and manufactured by our own people: In the next place we bring’ about an enormous amount of land settlement both in the sugar-growing districts and in the. inland districts adjacent to them, that would not be cultivated except for the industry. We are getting better social conditions in Australia, and we are excluding undesirables from this country. We are also affording protection to a part of Australia which is really our danger zone, because it is the pa-rt which is nearer to the great Asiatic countries than any other part of the country It is a portion of Australia that could not be settled by white people except for the sugar indus- try. We are obtaining scope for the employment in the industry of some 26,000 white men. In fact, there are very feW coloured people engaged in it - only some- 5 or 6 per cent, of the employes are coloured people at present - and after this year there will be none at all. By encouraging, the industry we are placing a barrier to the invasion that might possibly take place unless these sugar districts were occupied, and consequently we are in a measure securing our national existence. Great as the amount spent may be, there has never been any indication that the people of Australia as a whole desire the duty on sugar to be repealed. They are prepared to pay it cheerfully, in order that the advantages* which I have enumerated may be secured. The duty, as I have said, is £6 per ton on sugar; raw or refined. In addition to -that there is a bounty of £3 per ton paid by the Commonwealth on the delivery of cane at the mills. We do not wait until the sugar is extracted from the cane, but we pay on it when the cane is delivered. Roughly speaking, the average quantity of sugar produced is 1 ton from 9¼ tons of cane. When the bounty of £3 per ton was given, an Excise of £4 per . ton was imposed. The bounty and the Excise were levied together, in order that the White Australia policy might be inaugurated and in order that every inducement might be afforded for the employment of white labour in the industry. During the year 1912 there was an agitation in Queensland for the abolition of the bounty and the Excise. During the twelve years the amount received by the Commonwealth in import duty was £3,050,609, and the amount received in Excise was £6,191,570. The amount paid in bounty was £3,750,312. Taking these figures, the Commonwealth in those years gained £5,491,867.
– : Out of the industry?
– Yes, including the import duty and the Excise. The object of Parliament in imposing the Excise and the bounty was, first, that the industry might be carried on by white labour. That policy has been entirely successful. Last year it, was urged that, our object having been practically accomplished, because only about 5 per cent, of coloured labour is now employed in the industry, the bounty and Excise were no longer required. The cost of administration comes to over £7,000 per year. Moreover, many of the growers considered that the regulations under which the bounty and Excise were imposed were irksome. The bounty, of course, is paid at the mill when the grower brings in his cane, but the Excise is not paid until the sugar goes out of the mill for consumption. According to the Royal Commission which reported on this question, the net amount of duty obtained is not £6, but £5 5s. By doing away with the present system, the Commonwealth will obtain the full £6 per ton. Another result of doing away with the bounty and Excise is that the growers will get 2s. 2d. per ton more for their cane than they previously received. In response to a demand which was general throughout Queensland, the State Government approached the Federal Government last year, and made the offer that they would exclude coloured labour from the industry altogether, and would be prepared to establish a Wages Board, so that the workers might be sure of getting fair payment for the work which they did. No reply was sent by Mr. Fisher, the then
Prime Minister, until the 5th December. The reason for the delay, as far as I can understand, was not any desire on the part of the Government not to proceed with the question, but to wait for the report of the Royal Commission to be sent in, in order that its recommendations might be studied. The report was not presented until the 2nd December. The Commission recommended the abolition of the bounty and Excise. Accordingly, the ‘ Fisher Government induced Parliament to pass two measures, abolishing both bounty and Excise. Those measures’ were assented to on the 24th December, just before last session closed. The session of the Queensland Parliament had ended previous to that, and nothing more could be done until that Parliament passed a Bill.
– Was it not provided that’ the Commonwealth Acts should be suspended until a proclamation was issued ?
– Yes; the measures were only to be brought into force by proclamation, on the Queensland Government carrying out certain conditions.
– The honorable senator did not say that at Bunyip.
– I protest against that interjection. It is disorderly, and is not relevant to the subject. The reply of the Prime Minister at that time to the Premier of Queensland was -
Referring to subject of vour letter of 5th September, 1912, I have now honour to inform you that the Commonwealth Government will introduce Bills during the current session of Parliament to abolish the Sugar Excise and Bounty Acts, which shall be brought into operation by proclamation upon the States concerned passing an Act to -
confer upon the Commonwealth Parliament the power to legislate in respect of the employment of coloured labour, and regulation of wages and conditions of labour; or
abolish coloured labour in the industry, and establish tribunals for the regulation of rates of wages and conditions of labour; such legislation, whether by Commonwealth or State, to adopt the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Sugar Industry as to minimum rates of wages and conditions of labour.
Since December of last year, as honorable senators are aware, there has been a change of Government in the Commonwealth. The new Government took office on the 24th June, and held their first Cabinet meeting on the 26th June. I direct particular attention to those dates, because it will be seen that they lost no time in endeavouring to carry out the promise of the previous Administration, in order to have this question settled. In order to show how anxious the present Government were to meet the desires of the Queensland Government and those interested in the sugar industry, I propose to read the telegrams which passed between the two Governments on the subject. On the 27th June, the day after the first Cabinet meeting of the present Government, the Premier of Queensland sent the following telegram to the Prime Minister -
Sugar Bill introduced last Tuesday. Second reading next Thursday. Do you desire any amendments? Millaquin company sold out three months ago last season’s sugar. They are now refining this season’s sugars, and will be ready for marketing few days. Strongly urge issue proclamation without delay. Such proclamation to apply to this season’s output cane and re- fined sugar. - Denham.
Then there was the following telegram : -
Adverting your letter 25th June, policy was settled last December. Variation in procedure all now sought, as proclamation will nearly precede legislation. Terms and sufficiency of Bill may be determined by your Government. So much hangs upon your Government. I urgently urge immediate proclamation. - DENHAM.
In addition to that, the Queensland Farmers’ Parliamentary Union sent this telegram -
Meeting of Queensland Farmers’ Parliamentary Union, consisting of twenty-four members, representing farmers’ electorates, passed resolution this afternoon urging immediate action abolishing sugar Excise and bounty. First payday new season at hand. If abolition not completed farmers lose heavily. - Swayne, Secretary.
Senatorde Largie. - The honorable senator is trying to put the blunder of the Government on to Mr. Denham now. is he?
– I do not know what that has to do with the question..
– It has everything to do with it. The honorable senator is making an apology for the Government, and is trying to put the blame on the Premier of Queensland. Why do not the Government shoulder their own burdens ?
– Order ! Senator McColl has asked that he should be allowed to proceed without interruption.
– A reply was sent to the Queensland Farmers’ Parliamentary Union to say that the matter was receiving earnest consideration. On the 2nd July, Colonel Rankin sent the following telegram to the Prime Minister -
Sugar-growers anxiously awaiting issue of proclamation abolishing Excise and bounty. Fully expected this would have been first act Liberal Government. Fisher promised immediate relief by equalization, and would have validated his promise by Bill. Present conditions infinitely worse. Millers contemplate shutting down pending definite determination. Situation serious. Reply. - Colin Rankin.
A reply was sent by the Minister of Trade and Customs to say that the matter was being fully considered. On the same date - the 2nd July - -the Premier of Queensland sent this telegram -
Your predecessor only withheld proclamation Excise Bounty Acts until Queensland Parliament passed certain legislation. You have Government’s promise to pass Bill embodying that legislation amended in any manner your Government would prescribe. Does this assurance satisfy you, or do you require Bill to be passed before you issue proclamation? Kindly indicate precisely what hinders your action. - Denham.
To that, the Prime Minister replied on the 3rd July-
In view pf circumstances under which the Act was passed, Government suggest legislative provision for continuance of existing conditions of employment or such other conditions of employment as may be agreed on between the parties during the interval between proclamation and determination of industrial boards.
On the 4th July, the Premier of Queensland telegraphed -
Acknowledging with thanks your urgent wire of yesterday, beg to state sugar cultivation and Sugar-growers’ Bills passed second reading and committee stages, and will be read third time Tuesday next. A Bill will be introduced without delay to give effect to your suggestion that present conditions of employment continue and prevail during interval between proclamation and determination of industrial boards. Trust proclamation will be issued without further delay. -
The Government desired, before issuing the proclamations, which would practically settle the matter, that the conditions of labour and wages laid down by the Royal Commission, and which had been indorsed by Mr. Tudor, the late Minister of Trade’ and Customs, should be continued. We did not wish to leave anything to chance, and the Queensland Government were therefore urged to pass legislation fixing the conditions laid down until an agreement had been arrived at by a reference to Wages Boards. In reply to a telegram to that effect by the Prime Minister, the Premier of Queensland sent the following telegram on the 10th July -
Bill, copy of which sent to vou yesterday’s post, will be introduced this afternoon. Makes provision respecting wages, rates, and employment - conditions in sugar industry pending awards thereon under Industrial Peace Act. Bill provides for 48 hours’ week and £2 8s. without keep, or £1 16s. with keep for adults ; £1 4s. with keep for youths 16 to 18 years and old, infirm, non-able-bodied men and full-bred aborigines, and 16s. with keep for youths under 16; half-caste aborigines, full rates for adult labour. Keep valued at 12s. per week where not included tn remuneration. At the option of employes more than 48 hours per week can be worked at following rates : - Minimum of ablebodied adults, IS. for one hour; youths, 16 to iS years, 8d. ; youths under 16 and full-bred aborigines, 6d. Measure thus incorporates Royal Commission minimum and Tudor’s rales for youths. Trust in view of this you will issue necessary proclamation this week.
That was referred to the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs to see whether the conditions required were being complied with, and an answer was received from Mr, Lockyer to say -tha* they were. On the 11th July, the following telegram passed from the . Prime Minister to the Premier of Queensland -
Telegram received ; anxious to assist growers at earliest possible date. The necessary proclamation ‘has been prepared, and everything now in readiness on our part. ‘On receipt of urgent wire that three Acts assented to proclamation will be issued. Urge you do all that is possible expedite, as very desirable to complete immediately it is possible.
So that it will be seen that no time was lost by the present Government in doing everything possible to expedite the settlement of this question. I may say that the legislation passed by the Queensland Government fully covers what was required. They passed a measure stipulated by “t’he Fisher Government, prohibiting the employment of coloured labour in the industry, and another measure fixing the wages agreed upon until Wages Boards came to a determination on those matters. These measures were first -
An Act to Prohibit the Employment of certain Forms of Labour in the Production of Sugar and for other incidental purposes.
That Act provides that coloured labour in the sugar industry shall be absolutely done away with, and that farmers carrying on the industry with coloured labour at the present time shall be compensated for the loss incurred by doing away with that form of labour. The next measure passed was -
An Act to Insure the Due Administration of “ The Sugar-growers Act of 1913,” by making Temporary Provision with respect to the Rates of Wages and Condition of Employment in the Sugar Industry until such Matters have been dealt >with by Awards undei “ Industrial Peace Act of 19,12.”
And there was a further measure entitled
An Act to provide for the Prompt Payment to Sugar-cane Suppliers of a part of the Valueof the Cane.
By the abolition of bounty and Excise, as- I said before, the growers are to receivean extra amount of 2s. 2d. per ton fortheir cane, and the object of the lastmeasure referred to is to secure to them that extra payment.” These measureswere assented to by the Governor of Queensland on the 25th July, and oni the same day we .issued the proclamation: repealing both bounty and Excise. It has been held that the Government werecareless in this matter, and I wish toput the facts plainly before the Senate, in order to show that the Government omitted nothing which could fairly havebeen done. Telegrams were sent to every one in charge of mills, requiring an,’ accurate account of stocks in hand at. that date, and the names of the owners of the stocks, so that we might knowexactly what amount of Excise duty had1 to be paid on the stocks in hand, and theparty from whom it would be collected. Everything possible was done to securethe carrying out of the promise of theprevious Government, and we acted inn the best interests of growers, manufacturers, and workers.
– Was this after Mr. Tudor had called attention to the matter in the House of Representatives?
– No; it was before that. I happen to .know personally that these matters were arranged for long before this, because, while the Min:ister of Trade and Customs was in Queensland, I was in charge of his Department,, and the Comptroller-General informed me> that, as soon as Mr. Groom returned, the proclamations would be issued.
– If the honorablesenator knew so much about it, why were; the proclamations issued?
– We had to issue> the proclamations.
– It was not necessary for the Government to do anything of the kind.
– We had to do so, or break faith with the Queensland Government and the growers of cane. I have read telegrams from the Queensland Government and those interested in theindustry, which speak of the urgency of’ the matter, and Mr. Fisher’s promise was that these proclamations would be issued at once.
Senatorde Largie. - When the Queensland legislation was earned into effect.
– The promise was that it would be issued at once, as soon as the Queensland ‘Government passed the measures -they had agreed to pass. Nothing was said about holding over the issue of the proclamation.
– Did the honorable senatornot read some telegrams asking that the proclamation should be issued before the legislation agreed upon was passed by the State Parliament?
– That is so, and the Government declined . to comply with that request, because , the arrangement was that the proclamations should issue only after the measures passed by the Queensland Parliament had been assented to. As soon as the Queensland Government’s part of the bargain had been complied with, the obligation was upon us to fulfil our part of the bargain. If we had issued only the proclamation affecting the bounty, and postponed that affecting the Excise, we should have been guilty of a breach of faith with the Queensland Government and those interested in the sugar industry.
– The Government made a nice mess of it.
– We have not made a mess of it, and such statements are not correct. They are made only for party purposes, and with a view to showing that the Ministry have not done their duty. I say that we have done our duty, and that we also have reserve power to compel this money to be paid.
– Can the Government make sure that it will be paid ?
– Yes. But there has been no unwillingness exhibited by those who are chiefly concerned to pay the amounts which they owe.
– Then why this legislation ?
– I ask your protection, sir, from the interjections of Senator de Largie.
– On more than one occasion, the Vice-President of the Executive Council has requested that he should be allowed to proceed without interruption. I would remind Senator de Largie that . all interjections are disorderly.
– We hav-e been told that we should have withheld the proclamation of the abolition of the Sugar Excise Act, and that we should have proclaimed only the Act which abolished the bounty. That would have involved a breach of faith on our part, with the Queensland Government under an arrangement made with it by the previous Administration. Mr. Fisher himself stated at Brisbane -
He pledged himself in Parliament that the proclamation would be issued when Mr. Denham passed a legal statute according to his promise, and he could not set that aside. The Federal Government had carried out their part of the undertaking, and they were now ready to make their portion of the Act operative so soon as Queensland had completed their part.
If we “had merely proclaimed the abolition of the bounty, we would have had no power to make the owners of sugar in bond -take that sugar out of “bond. They might have left it there as long as they . pleased, and possibly the Excise would then have had to be paid by those who did not hold the stocks. I repeat that an accurate account was taken of the stocks in bond in order that the right people should be called upon to pay the Excise. No other course could have been taken consistent with fair play, and with the promise which had been made by the late Government. The stocks upon which Excise will be charged are those of sugar made from this season’s cane, delivered before . the 26th July of the present year. These amount to about 36,000 tons of refined sugar. In addition, there are 3,500- tons of raw sugar, or a total of 39,500 tons. At £4 per ton, the Excise chargeable . upon this quantity amounts to £158,000. But this amount includes about £8,000, which had been paid prior to the 26th July.
– May I ask the honorable gentleman for a little information ?
– I draw your attention, sir, to the ruling which you have just given.
– Order ! There is, no point of order involved.
– I understand that £150,000 worth of sugar was released’ from bond by the issue of that proclamation. Does the Vice-President of the Executive Council consider that that was a good business proposition?
– It was not released from bond, and the Government were bound by the agreement made by their predecessors. I am not going to say that the Labour Government were to blame. The whole thing was done in a hurry and to meet the necessities of the position. But the parties responsible for this trouble are quite willing to pay the amounts which are due by them. We had to incur whatever risk there might be or to break faith with the Queensland Government, and stop the payment of the additional 2s. 2d. per ton to the growers. But, as a matter of fact, there was no risk in this matter, because if the persons interested proved recalcitrant, this Parliament could enact legislation compelling them to pay it. Moreover, many of these persons, being registered companies, could pay the money only under Statute. However, it is idle to cry over the matter at this stage. When the Sugar Bounty Abolition Bill and the Sugar Excise Repeal Bill were passed by Parliament, the late Government did not consider the matter in all its bearings, otherwise they would have inserted a provision to meet the difficulty. The quantity of sugar in bond, I repeat, at the time the Acts were proclaimed was 39,500 tons in cane, and 6,208 tons of beet. This sugar will yield an Excise of £158,000. The total bounty paid under the repealed Act was £114,000, and the sum required to pay the additional 2s. 2d. per ton under the Bounty Bill will be about £36,000, making a total disbursement of £150,000.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council tell us how the amount of 2s. 2d. a ton is arrived at’
– It represents the difference between the bounty and Excise. The bounty payable was £4 per ton, and the Excise chargeable was £3 per ton. When both were abolished, the mills agreed to pay the difference between those amounts, which represents 2s. 2d. per ton to the growers. The Queensland Parliament passed the necessary legislation, which was assented to on the 24th July last. The Sugar Growers’ Employes Act provides that persons engaged in the industry shall receive a minimum wage of 8s. per day of eight hours, and the Sugar Growers Act directs payment to the growers by the mill-owners of the additional remuneration equivalent to the amount of the Excise, namely: - In No. 1 district, 9s. 8d. per ton of cane; in No. 2 district, 9s. 2d. per ton of cane; in No. 3 district, 8s. 8d. per ton of cane; and in No. 4 district, 8s. 2d. per ton of cane. It was morally obligatory on the part of this Government to carry out the promise which had been made by their predecessors. Otherwise, we should have been charged with a breach of faith. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company and some of the mill-owners in the Mackay and Bundaberg districts had promised that, if the Excise and bounty were abolished, they would give the growers the full advantage therefor, namely an additional 2s. 2d. per ton. This necessitated an adjustment being made, and, accordingly, the payment of the bounty vas temporarily suspended. On the 2nd August the Collectors of Customs in Queensland and New South Wales were instructed to communicate with each millowner, and ascertain the method proposed to be adopted in recouping the growers the amount of Excise on sugar the produce of cane delivered prior to the abolition of the Excise and bounty. Owing to the diversity of opinions among the millowners, it was then decided ‘ by the Government to take action to collect the revenue, and to make the necessary adjustment as between the mill-owners and growers. On the 13th August verbal instructions were given for the drafting of the present Bills, and written instructions were given on 16th August. The remarks which were made in another place were not made till some little time later. It is necessary to bring the Bill into force on a date to be proclaimed, instead of immediately, so that meanwhile the Department may be in full possession of information as to the exact quantity of excisable sugar. Clause 2 seeks to reimpose a duty of 4s. per cwt. upon sugar, and paragraph a covers all sugar made from cane delivered this season up to and including 25th July last. On this cane, except a very small proportion, namely, about 4.6 per cent, grown by black labour, the bounty at the old rate has been paid. The Excise on sugar is - except as to a negligible quantity - paid by the refining companies, and it is the intention of the Government to collect the Excise under this Bill in such a manner that no hardship will be inflicted. By arrangement with the refining companies, each will pay a proportion of the Excise due, with the result that the Excise will be paid by those who would have paid ib had it been continued in operation. The provision in paragraph b is intended to cover sugar in bond on 25th July last, which was made from the previous year’s cane, about 3,000 tons. It also includes 450 tons of beet sugar, which were in the Maffra factory on that date. It is but equitable to charge this Excise, since the cane and beet from which the sugar was produced received the bounty under the former Act. Clause 3 is merely a formal one. In regard to clause 4, I wish to say that extreme care is necessary in determining the exactquantity of sugar which shall be charged Excise under this Bill. Reports have been obtained from all the State Collectors of Customs as to the quantities in their respective States. These show that they total about 39,500 tons. The figures are now being verified, and when such verification is complete, which should be within a few weeks, the quantity will be gazetted - the Act, of course, having by then been proclaimed. The course outlined in this provision is considered to be preferable to the mention in it of the quantities on which Excise is due. In regard to clause 5, it will be realized that the sugar which is actually excisable Under clause 2 cannot now be identified. Doubtless the greater portion of it will have passed into consumption. It will, therefore, be necessary to charge the Excise on the first sugar which is cleared after the proclamation of this Bill. As already explained, arrangements have been made whereby each of the parties responsible for the Excise will pay his proper share. Clause 6 provides that when Excise has been paid to the extent required under clause 12, the Excise duty shall cease to operate. This provision will obviate the necessity of passing another Act to repeal this one. The object of clause 7 is to impose upon sugar manufacturers the obligation of passing entries and paying duty - in short, to make it clear that the machinery clauses of the Excise Act 1901 are operative for the purposes of this measure.
The Sugar Bounty Bill provides for the payment to the growers of the amount by which the average rate of Excise per ton of cane or beet exceeds the average rate of bounty per ton of cane or beet for the cane or beet delivered this season prior to the repeal of the Excise and bounty, so as to give the growers the full benefit of the abolition of the Excise and bounty as from the beginning of the season. Clause 2 provides for the payment of a bounty to every grower of whitegrown sugar on all cane delivered for manufacture between 1st May and 26th July, and on all beet delivered for manufacture between 1st January and 26th July. Under clause 3 the bounty is not payable to a grower in cases where the Minister is of the opinion that bounty would not have been payable under the Sugar Bounty Act 1905-12 if that Act had not been repealed. The rates of bounty are - For cane, 2s. 2d. per ton; for beet, 2s. per ton.
That is a brief explanation of the provisions of the Bills, and in Committee it can be elaborated, if necessary. I think I have shown that the Government did all that was necessary, and acted fairly in the matter. The statements that we ran the risk’ of losing the money have no foundation. Even supposing that those who have to pay the money were unwilling, and tried to get out of that obligation, there was always the reserve power of legislating to make them pay. I move the second reading of the Bill relating to the Excise duty.
Debate (on motion by Senator McGregor) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McColl) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Senator McGregor) adjourned .
Motion (by Senator Pearce, for Senator de Largie) agreed to -
That the Committee have leave to extend the time for bringing up the report to this day four weeks.
Debate resumed from 2nd October (vide page 1741), on motion by Senator Clemons -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– It is with a certain degree of pleasure that I rise to continue the debateon the second reading of the first Bill - that is, apart from Supply Bills - -which has been introduced here by the Government. A great deal has been said during the last few weeks with respect to the obstructive tactics of the Opposition in the Senate. We have been told by the Prime Minister himself that the Opposition in the Senate is like a man ready, with a knife to do desperate deeds, if any legislation is brought here.
– On himself?
– I do not know whether the honorable gentleman was going, to commit harri-karri, or to obstruct the business of the country. The Vice-President of the Executive Council will admit that, on several occasions - at Bunyip and other important localities in Victoria, where, I suppose, he thought that no record would be made - he has stated that the Opposition here have obstructed business in the past, and he supposed that they were going to- do it in the future.
– I never reflected onthe Senate in the way of imputing obstruction; not once.
– So far as the Senate is concerned, no obstructive tactics have been indulged in.
– Hear, hear ! That is right.
– On every occasion the utmost consideration has been shown to the Government with respect to carrying out their business in the Senate, even to keeping a quorum or suspending the Standing Orders.
– We dislike it intensely.
– We dislike all these things, but, on account of the weakness of the Government, we are prepared to “dry-nurse” them, or “ dry-farm “ them, or do anything we possibly can to assist them to carry, out their business. Even a simple measure like the Audit Bill was not introduced into the Senate, although it could easily have been brought here, passed, and sent to another place. Many similar Bills could have been introduced here, expedited, and sent to the House of Representatives, and would, no doubt, have readily been passed there. Nothing of that kind has been done, and consequently no- Minister, no supporter of the Government in the Senate, no supporter of the Government outside of Parliament, has any right to reflect in the slightest degree with respect to the conduct of the Oppo sition here regarding the business of the country.
– Yes; I have.
– We counted him out.
– The Minister himself is perfectly satisfied with our conduct.
– You will always find an imbecile in every crowdof intelligent people, and he is always making remarks that would justify an application for medical examination.
– Rub it in to the Ministerial supporter over there.
– The Ministerial . supporters are so few that they are bound to make remarks just to let the country know that they are alive.
– That last one, especially.
– Two principles are contained in this Bill. To one of them I do not think the Government will get any serious opposition from this side. I refer to clause 2, which provides that’, in the future, the Treasurer shall, by warrant, have power to pay for services rendered to the- Commonwealth during the month of July. The Bill was brought in to another place as a matter of urgency. It was brought in after the real necessity, so- far as” this financial year is concerned, had passed away. The month of July was passed and gone before the Bill1 coii’ld have come into operation. It was to provide for inconveniences such as have been experienced in past years with respect to.the business of this Parliament. We have often been compelled to meet- much sooner than the business of the country” made it really necessary in order to pass Supply early in July, so that no inconvenience should be suffered by the public servants-, or the caterers- for puhlitf requirements. This is a- piece of legislation which, to my mind, is only extending in one respect the term of the- financial year from the 30th June to 31st- July. Until the 30th June of next year, there will be no necessity for the Bill to come into operation. Even by legislation before the close of this session, we could ma’ke an appropriation for the month of July of- next year. But if the proposed’ amendment of the- Audit Act is carried, there will- be no necessity for any provision of that kind to be made.
– It is like a chip in porridge, doing neither good nor harm.
– It, is like most of- the- legislation I have heard of coming from any non-committal Government. It is neither worthy of serious consideration nor of serious opposition, and the seriousness of it to the public is of no consequence, for they are not affected to any great extent. The next portion of the Bill, however, presents rather a different aspect to me, and, I believe, to the whole of the senators on this side. It has been indicated by the Treasurer that the purpose of claus© 3 is to empower a regulation to be made under the Audit Act to enable the Governor or the AuditorGeneral, or some undefined authority, to bring into existence a Supply and Tender Board. I do not think that any honorable senator on this side has any serious objection to such an institution. Most of the States have, in connexion with supplies and for contract purposes, Supply and Tender Boards. There are two ways in which such a board can be formed - by regulation, or by enactment. As regards the Commonwealth, to my mind, the proper method of creating a Supply and Tender Board is by a special Bill. Seeing that there was no objection, I do not see why the Government’ should not. have adopted that method of carrying out the intention embodied in this Bill. If honorable senators will turn to the Audit Act, and examine the functions and the powers with which the Auditor-General is clothed, and can clothe his officers, they will see that it is all for the purpose of looking after the revenue and the expenditure of the Commonwealth Department by Department.
– Not to engage in trade, though.
– If, as is proposed in this Bill, a regulation were made for the creation of a Supply and Tender Board under the Audit Act, it would be under the Auditor-General, and he and his officers would audit the accounts and transactions of a body constituted under the. Act, under which they themselves existed. I think that honorable senators ought to see the inconsistency of such a position. Section 45 of the Audit Act sets out the work of the Auditor-General. The purposes for which he and his officers are appointed are shown to be to look after the financial affairs of the Commonwealth, to see that the accounts and books are properly kept, that all expenditure has been authorized by Parliament, and that every item of revenue is faithfully and honestly collected. The Audit Act was passed to define those duties.
– It is questionablewhether this Bill is in order.
– Any Bill on the subject is in order that Parliament, chooses to pass. But whether it is wisefor Parliament to permit such actions asmight be carried out by any Government under this Bill is entirely another ques-tion. If honorable senators will alsolook at section 71 of the Audit Act they will see that it embodies the power tomake regulations. Every one of the existing powers contained in paragraphs a to e of section 71, sub-section 1, dealswith the principles laid down in section 45. This Bill is for the purpose of glv, ing a further power under section 71. It proposes to insert paragraph /, enabling regulations to be made affectingthe purchase, custody, control, and issueof public stores. What in the name of wonder has that to do with auditing ? What has it to do with the Auditor-General and his officers ? It may have to do with the establishment of another Department, of the Commonwealth Service? It may have to do with Home Affairs. But it cannot have anything to do with auditing. Therefore, clause 3 of the Bill will meet with the opposition of every honorable senator on this side, and not because we wish to prevent the Government from calling into existence a Supply and” Tender Board, as I think it would be a good thing in the interests of the Commonwealth to have a board of such a character.. There may be in the various Departments some amount of overlapping in the purchase of goods and materiaL It might be -advantageous to have the purchase of all stores controlled by one board. That would obviate overlapping. A Supply and Tender Board might make for greater expedition, efficiency, and economy. If a Bill for that purpose were brought down by this or “any other Government I am sure that every honorable senator on this side would give it serious consideration. But we shall do all we can to prevent such an anomaly as the establishment of such a board by regulations made under an Audit Act.
– As far as the first part of this Bill is concerned it may be termed a measure to extend the financial year of the Commonwealth to thirteen months instead of twelve. A little experience of administration will show that there’ is a necessity for that, in view of the fact that this is a Parliament which has to be brought together from the four corners of a great country like Australia. No reasonable person can object to that portion of the Bill. But I intend to back up Senator McGregor in his opposition to the establishment of a Supply and Tender Board in such a manner, and in such a measure, as is here proposed. Such a board may or may not be a good thing to establish, but it ought not to be instituted by regulation. I can imagine, how Senator Clemons and Senator Millen if they were on this side of the Chamber would protest against ‘the proposal to establish a Supply and Tender Board under cover of regulations having nothing whatever to do with auditing. The Auditor-General has been deliberately set apart by Parliament from the administrative affairs of the Commonwealth. It is his duty to watch over the expenditure of public funds. The duties of a Supply and Tender Board would be concerned with administration. The board would be continually in touch with, the administrative Departments of the Commonwealth. It would have to be if it was to fulfil its purpose.
– I think the honorable senator is overlooking section 45 of the Audit Act.
– I have not overlooked the section ; I intend to quote from it. Section 45 provides that -
The Auditor-General or such person as he shall Appoint may, whenever he thinks fit, and shall, whenever required so to do by the Treasurer, inspect, examine, and audit the books and accounts of any accounting officer and of any other person in the Public Service.
Then the six paragraphs of sub-section 2 provide that the Auditor-General shall inspect, examine, and audit the books and accounts of every accounting officer; that he shall ascertain whether the whole of the revenue, and all other collections, have been duly collected and accounted for; that he shall investigate and examine all contracts, accounts, invoices,&c. ; that he shall ascertain -
The quantity, description, and price of all stores purchased on account of His Majesty, and all stores supplied for the use of every Department of the Public Service.
Under that sub-section the AuditorGeneral is not concerned with the purchase of stores, but ascertaining the quantity, description, price, &c, of stores which have already been purchased. For instance, the Defence Department purchases quantities of cloth. It is not sufficient for the Auditor-General simply to see the vouchers and receipts for the cloth, but he has to be satisfied that the Department has either used that cloth and can show that it has used it, or that it has the cloth in stock. Paragraphe of the section provides that the Auditor-General shall - >
Examine whether the proper quantities of all such stores are remaining in stock in the proper store or building.
That is subsequent to the act of administration, and not during administration. Next, the Auditor-General is to -
Make and sign and forward to the Treasurer a report of the result of such inspection, investigation, examination, audit, and comparison, and as to the manner in which the books, accounts, and other papers aforesaid and stores shall have been kept.
One has only to read section 71 of the Act to see how out of place would be clause 3 of this Bill. Section 71 provides that -
The Governor-General may make regulations (not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act) for carrying out the provisions of this Act, and in particular for -
the collection, receipt, custody, issue, expenditure, due accounting for care and management of all public moneys and the guidance of all persons concerned therewith ;
the more effectual record, examination, inspection, and audit of all receipts and expenditure, and the keeping of all necessary books and accounts;
prescribing the necessary forms of all books and documents whatever required under the provisions of this Act or the regulations;
requiring officers holding positions which, in the opinion of the Treasurer, ought to be guaranteed to contribute to the guarantee fund;
providing for the control and management of the guarantee fund.
To that section it is proposed to add the words -
Practically under a simple line affecting regulations, the Government propose to provide for the whole process by which the Public Service purchases and supplies stores. The thing is preposterous. The matter is of such importance that a board to deal with such powers should be the subject of an Act of Parliament. How are the members of the board to be appointed ? Who are they to be ? Are they to be under the orders of Ministers? How far are they to be under the control of the permanent heads of Departments? All these things should be set out in a separate Act of Parliament. Is it proposed that they shall be appointed by the Auditor-General ? Are they to be his servants ?
– Whose servants are they to be? Are they to be the servants of a Minister? Are we to leave it to the Government to say whose servants they shall be? The matter is too important altogether to be left to regulation. The constitution of a Supply and Tender Board is fully worthy of a Bill.
– Who is responsible for the administration of the Audit Act?
– The AuditorGeneral, I should think. He has been placed in an independent position by Parliament.
– He appoints his own officers.
– These regulations are to be made by the Governor-General.
– The AuditorGeneral will neither make the regulations nor the appointments.
– I am well aware that the Governor-General in Council will have to make the regulations, and that the officers will have to be appointed by the Public Service Commissioner; but I do think that an important matter of administration of this character should not be dealt with by regulation. It should be kept entirely separate from the Audit Act, because the Audit Act deals with a condition of things entirely subsequent to the affairs with which the Supply and Tender Board willbe concerned. The board will have to deal with the purchase, custody, and control of stores, whereas the Audit Act deals entirely with a time after the purchase has been completed, and after control has been exercised. I wish it to be understood that I am not opposed to the creation of a Supply and Tender Board, but I am not prepared to give any Government power merely by regulation to bring such a board into existence.
– The honorable senator has been prepared to sanction the existing state of things, which gives no opportunity to Parliament even to look to the regulations affecting the purchase and control of stores.
– The AuditorGeneral certainly ought to have power to look into matters concerning the purchase of stores after the purchase has been completed.
– We propose to increase his opportunities under this Bill.
– The Government propose, under this Bill, to give him a voice in the purchase’ of stores.
– We do not.
– He will have a say in the purchase of stores.
– He is not to be any of the things which have been supposed.
– What, then, is the meaning of the words enabling regulations to be made -
Regulating the purchase, custody, control, and issue of public stores.
The meaning seems to me to be plain enough. The Treasurer, in explaining the meaning, said that it was proposed, under this new provision, to appoint a Supply and Tender Board. Does Senator Clemons say that that is not the object? If so, he should have said so in making his second-reading speech. We have to take it that that is the proposition, and that the Supply and Tender Board will have duties which are entirely different from those hitherto discharged by the Auditor-General .
– Under paragraphs d and e of section 45, the AuditorGeneral already has control over stores.
– Yes, after the purchase of them has been made; and I agree that the Auditor-General should have the same control over a Supply and Tender Board as he has now over the Public Departments. After we have the board established, the Auditor-General would supervise its affairs. I shall support Senator McGregor in voting to delete that clause when we get into Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section seventy-one of the Principal Act is amended by inserting in sub-section (1.) thereof, after paragraph (e), the following paragraph : - “ and (f) regulating the purchase, custody, control,. and issue of public stores.”
– I do not suppose that honorable senators opposite wish to reject clause 3. without clearly understanding what they are doing. I venture to- say that they are under a good deal of misapprehension with regard to it. I wish to explain exactly what is meant by the clause. Honorable senators have asked what the Auditor-General has to do with stores. I remind the Committee that the Auditor-General has a duty with regard to stores, just as he has with regard to funds.
– We said so.
– One of the preliminary objections to the clause was made on that ground. I can pass that by. The next objection is that the clause is not in conformity with the Audit Act. It was Senator McGregor who, in objecting to the clause, endeavoured, to convince honorable senators in, his speech on the second reading of the Bill that this is an entirely inappropriate clause for an Audit Bill. If the honorable senator’s contention on that point is sound, two of the most important sections of the existing Audit Act come entirely within his description, and should not be included in that Act. If those sections are properly included in the Audit Act, clause 3 is a fit and proper clause in a Bill amending the Audit Act. I am glad that I need not labour that point.
– The honorable senator should make the position clear.
– If I secure an admission, I do not intend to labour the point which is admitted. Sections 45 and 71 of the Audit Act cover exactly the same field as that covered by clause 3 of this Bill. They touch directly upon the matter of regulating the control, pur- chase, and issue of public stores.
– No, supervising.
-What is the difference ? If the honorable senator had read the sections of the Audit Act to which I have referred, he would know that the phraseology is almost identical with that of clause 3 of this Bill. I do not think that he can for a moment contend that there is anything in the wording of this clause inappropriate to an Audit -Bill, in so far as it describes certain operations. The next criticism was that it was the intention under this Bill that the Auditor-General should be invested with a certain power over Supply and Tender Boards. There is nothing in the Bill to indicate that there is anything in the mind of the Government which would justify ‘the suspicion expressed on the other side.
– It is. because there is so little in it that the Government may do anything, under it.
– Let me explain precisely what there is in it. There is nothing in the clause which in any way gives the Auditor-General any of the powers suggested. The clause prescribes certain conditions which must be complied with before the Auditor-General may pass, certain accounts, and especially accounts concerning- stores. It is. a method which Parliament, in my opinion, ought to adopt of prescribing clearly to the Auditor-General what he must do - when he is justified in passing any accounts, with respect to stores, and when he is not justified in doing so.
– That is provided for in paragraphs d and e of section 45. of the Audit Act.
– It is not provided for to the full extent covered by this clause. May I remind Senators McGregor and Pearce that in the Commonwealth to-day we have practically- in operation Tender and Supply Boards. Within the last few years the operations of the Commonwealth have very largely increased, and we engage in very large transactions for the purchase of goods and the supply of stores, and for this purpose we are using various Tender and Supply Boards ofthe different States. Senator Pearce is aware that that is exactly the position. We require to give some sort of Federal status to these Tender and Supply Boards which to-day are used by us occasionally, but which are really under the control of the State Governments.
– The provision is in the wrong place.
– No, the clause is not in the wrong place. Let me remind the honorable senator that a similar provision appears in several of the State Acts. I assure him that, in my opinion, there could be no Bill in which this clause could be more appropriately included than an Audit Bill.
– I have heard the honorable senator object many times to legislation by regulation.
– I shall take up that point also, but I wish before honorable senators reject this clause to let the Committee know exactly what the position is. The Attorney-General and the
Government have given this matter full consideration, and surely nothing sinister can be imagined in the introduction of this clause in the Audit Bill. After consultation, we were deliberately of the opinion that this is an appropriate provision to introduce in an amendment of the Audit Act. I have explained that in ;the original Audit Act exactly similar provisions to clause 3 of this Bill will be found in sections 45 and 71. If such provisions are appropriate to the Audit Act, this clause is certainly appropriate to a Bill intended to amend that Act.
– But the honorable senator must see that there is a very great difference between the purchase of goods and the auditing of the purchase of goods.
– This is a provision requiring that the purchase, control, and issue of public stores shall be matters considered by the AuditorGeneral, or which ought to come under his scrutiny.
– Yes; they should come under his scrutiny.
– Precisely. The words of this clause do not convey any indention that the Auditor-General should ^conduct the purchase, control, and issue of stores.
– Surely they do.
– They do not. It is not merely the business of the AuditorGeneral to look at a set of figures, but also to look at the goods, and see that they correspond with the payments made for them. In other words, it should be hia duty to audit stock. What we prescribe is that the Auditor-General shall be told by regulations, which will have to be submitted to Parliament, the proper method to audit goods as well as money, to ascertain whether stocks correspond with accounts of purchases and issues. That is the main object of this clause.
– Does it prescribe the conditions under which purchases are to be made?
– No; not so far as the Auditor-General is concerned. I have admitted that one of the objects of the clause is to provide, where it may seem desirable, Federal Tender and Supply Boards to take the place of the State Tender and Supply Boards which we now make use of. We have passed several Acts the chief object of which was to gradually acquire direct control of State facilities and services which we previously used. There is no other purpose in this Bill, so far. as Tender and Supply Boards now being used are concerned, except that, by way of regulation, we give the Federal Parliament, which appropriates the money, an opportunity, when and where it seems desirable, to deal with the purchase and supply of goods directly through its own servants.
– If the revision of accounts is desirable, it is necessary to institute a Tender Board before you can repise their accounts.
– If the honorable senator cannot understand that we must have this provision before we can have our Supply and Tender Boards, I am unable to help him.
– The honorable senator says too much, or the Treasurer says too little.
– I have no wish to conceal anything. I have taken up the different points urged against tlie clause by honorable senators opposite, and have done my best to meet them. The final objection to the provision is that I have complained before now of legislation by regulation. As honorable senators are aware, I sat on the other side in this Chamber for a very long time, and I admit that I often objected to legislation by regulation; but I do not think that it is possible to introduce into a Bill everything that is necessary to meet this particular provision. If this clause is agreed to, it will have to be given effect very largely by way of regulation. It is said that this is not the kind of Bill in which such a clause should be included, but if it were included in any other Bill we would have to take advantage of the right to make regulations to give effect to it. What are regulations? Honorable senators are afforded abundant opportunity to check them, and there is plenty of vigilance in the numbers I see opposite to insure that any regulation which this Government may lay upon the table of the Senate will be closely scrutinized. If we pass this Bill to-day, honorable senators opposite will not incur any risk whatever - assuming that they exercise the slightest vigilance - of anything being done in connexion with the auditing of public accounts, or the constitution of Supply and Tender Boards to which they may object.
– We want the establishment of Supply and Tender Boards to be provided for in a separate Bill.
– I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will withdraw his objection.
– Oh, no!
– Then I must recognise the force of numbers. If we create Supply and Tender Boards under a separate Bill, it will still be necessary to provide for regulations under thar, Bill. Thus, I shall then be called upon to meet precisely the same contention that I ‘have to meet to-day. “Unless we take to ourselves power under this Bill to frame regulations - regulations which will always be under the supervision of the Senate - we cannot possibly provide for all contingencies that may arise. Let me instance the Postal Department or the Defence Department. I venture to say that every honorable senator who knows the enormous expenditure which has been going on in those Departments year after year will recognise that it is quite possible that much good may be accomplished by establishing in connexion with each of them a Supply and Tender Board.
– We can consider the question from that stand-point.
– Under the Audit Act, it is impossible to foresee all the contingencies which may arise. It may be that we may wish to establish our own Supply and Tender Board, or it may be that we may want to set up a special Supply and Tender Board to deal with the supply of stores for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department all over Australia, or only in one State, and the same remark is applicable to the Defence Department. In the absence of that amount of elasticity which is conferred by regulations, it is impossible to provide for all contingencies that may arise from time to time. If honorable senators think it is wise that we should have power to deal with these matters, if they think it prudent to lay down strict conditions which must be complied with before , the Auditor-General is empowered to pass accounts, and if they are of opinion that we should have Supply and Tender Boards in various States and” for various Departments, they ought to agree to this clause. I hope that the opposition to it will not be persisted in. The Bill is one which ought to commend itself to honor able senators opposite, and I did not think it would be necessary for me to speak upon it at such length in Committee.
– I am sorry that we have to come into conflict with Senator Clemons over this clause. But all that lie lias said regarding the duties and authority of the Auditor-General is already provided for under section 45 of the Audit Act. That section provides for the inspection and audit of books and accounts. It also makes provision for the audit of goods and material with a view to determining what quantity of stores has been purchased, what quantity has been used, and what quantity still remains in stock. I repeat that these things are all provided for in the Audit Act at the present time. That being so, if there is any intention on the part of this Government, or of any other Government, to establish a permanent Supply and Tender Board or Supply and Tender Boards, or provisional Supply and Tender Boards, the method of establishing those bodies should be clearly defined-‘ in a separate- Bill. The powers of such bodies should be prescribed, the number of persons composing them should be stated, and .their duties’ should be specified. Then, if there be anything of which we can conceive which has not been set out in such a measure, provision should be made to cover it by regulations. But to empower the Government to institute Supply and Tender Boards in the different ‘ States by means of regulation is too vague a power to embody in an amending -Bill .such as that which is now before us. That is the reason why I am opposed to the clause. If a separate Bill be introduced, providing for the creation of a- Supply and Tender Board, or for supplementary Supply and Tender Boards, and the authority of those boards is clearly defined, it will receive the serious consideration of members of the Opposition, and I have not the slightest doubt that it will be passed, providing that it properly safeguards the public interests. I am opposed to this clause because it confers an undefined power. It is all very well for Senator Clemons to argue that we shall have an opportunity of watching the actions of the Government, and of closely scrutinizing any regulations which they may frame. But I would point out to him that a Labour Government may again be in power in the near future, and if only a few members of the party opposite were present, when such regulations were tabled, he will readily see that effect might be given to very injurious regulations. If a Bill is to be passed constituting Supply and Tender Boards, we ought to know exactly the powers which it confers, and we should then have a better opportunity of watching any regulations which might bo framed under it than we can possibly have under a Bill of this description.
– I ‘have listened very attentively to the explanation of the Honorary Minister, in the hope that he would put the position in such a light that I would be able to support’ him . I am very sorry to say that it is clearer to me now than it was previously that the clause under consideration requires to be struck out. What, is evidently the intention of the Government should be incorporated in a separate Bill. Nobody can read this clause without concluding that the powers sought to be conveyed by it are rather vague and ambiguous. Under it, the Auditor-General would be in a position, after a Supply and Tender Board had been constituted, to give instructions as to where purchases of materials should be made.
– I assure the honorable senator that he would not.
– Any regulations must be authorized by the Executive.
– Exactly ; and the Executive will call into existence boards which will regulate the purchase of stores. I take it that the regulating of the purchase of stores -will be one of the great matters over which Parliament will require to exercise the closest supervision.
– May I remind the honorable senator that this clause is intended to amend section 71 of the principal Act? If he will read the clause in conjunction with that section, he will see that the Auditor-General will have nothing to do with the purchase of stores.
– No doubt the Honorary Minister is quite clear as to the meaning of the clause, but, unfortunately, I am not. It is because I am not clear as to what will be its effect that I am opposed to it. Upon such an important measure I would gladly have supported the Government, recognising the position that they occupy, had I been able to do so. In view of the growth of Commonwealth expenditure, and particularly of the expenditure of the Defence Department, I should welcome any noncontentious piece of legislation which was designed to protect the public interest. But I think it would be well if the Honorary Minister agreed to strike out this clause, with a view to introducing a separate Bill providing for the constitution of Supply and Tender Boards.
– If our interpretation of the powers which are sought under’ this clause be not correct, I would like the Honorary Minister to explain its meaning. If it will achieve something for which the present Act provides-
– I never said that.
– Then why have we not been favoured with a clear statement of the meaning of the clause ? if it be not intended to empower the purchase of stores, what is its meaning? During the course of his remarks, the Honorary Munster showed quite clearly that his heart is not in the provision, the adoption of which he advocates.
– I think it is a good clause, and ought to be in the Bill.
– Whether we understand the intention of the Government or not, there can be no misunderstanding what is the contention of the Opposition. Several speakers on this side have said that they are not against the idea of creating a body to control the purchase of Government supplies, but that it ought to be constituted under a special measure, not under cover of an Audit Bill. The Audit Act is intended for quite another purpose, and that is to see that goods for the Government are purchased properly, and not to give power to a Department to purchase goods. I agree with Senator McGregor and others that a great deal of economy may result from the appointment of a Supply and Tender Board, but we do not want to see a clause passed empowering a regulation to be made to create such a body. I know that the Post and Telegraph Act would be greatly improved if such a power were given to the PostmasterGeneral. At present, the purchase of stores for’ the Post and Telegraph Department is in the hands of the Home Affairs Department. We have had a good deal of complaint against the Home Affairs Department as regards the roundabout way in which . things have to be done. To explain the system: the Home Affairs Department has to be notified by the Post and Telegraph Department that the latter wants certain stores, and then a certain amount of red-tape has to be indulged in before the business is actually done. It may be that the Post and Telegraph Department could better control the purchase of its own stores. If we had . a proposal to amend the Post and Telegraph Act to enable the Department to purchase its necessary supplies, I do not know but that it would be accepted on this side. But to ask us to amend the Audit Act for that purpose is quite another proposition. I object to accept the assurance of the Minister that a regulation must be published and issued to honorable senators before any action can be taken. That, to my mind, is a very dangerous way of proceeding, because in ordinary circumstances honorable senators have quite enough to read in the shape of Bills and other papers without closely scrutinizing the hundred and one regulations which are always being distributed. I, for one, seldom read a regulation, simply . because I have not the time. If power is given in this clause to the Government to make an important regulation under which they may create a Supply and Tender Board, the regulation may escape the scrutiny of any honorable senator. The matter is too important to be dealt with without due consideration. If we believe in the principle of a Supply and Tender Board, let it be embodied in a separate measure, and dealt with on its merits, but do not let such a body be brought into existence under a regulation. I shall vote against the clause.
– I was sorry when the Honorary Minister did not see clearly that the two positions endeavoured to be brought in are directly antagonistic - that is, the purchase of goods and the auditing of the accounts of those purchases by one and the same individual.
– The AuditorGeneral will not purchase a pennyworth of goods under the Bill.
– Who will?
– Who purchases them now?
– That is only a subterfuge on the part of the Minister to get away from the main point at issue. The Supply and Tender Board will be directly under the Department of the Auditor-General, and to say that he will not purchase any goods is to state only half the truth. He certainly will not go personally to make a purchase, but it will be made under his Department, and he will audit the accounts of his departmental purchases.
– No. This clause provides that purchases made by the Commonwealth shall come under a proper scrutiny of the Auditor-General.
– The object of the clause is to give power to the AuditorGeneral” to purchase, to control, and to> have charge of- goods. The Audit Act directly concerns that officer. Nothing could be clearer than the fact that he himself will be in law, and, perhaps, infact, the purchaser.
– You might as well say that he is Treasurer, or that he imposes taxes.
– I want to point out to the honorable senator that this position has been set up, not in the Senate only, but elsewhere. The Treasurer has stated unmistakably that this clause gives power to constitute a Supply and Tender Board.
– And that he intends to do it.
– Yes, and it will be directly under the Auditor-General’s Department. What will follow? The Auditor-General will have charge of the Supply and Tender Board while auditing his own accounts. That is absolutely destroying one function by creating another. Nothing could be clearer than that.
– Nothing could befurther from the fact.
– The position whichthe honorable senator was trying to provewas that, because there is power in the clause to overlook certain things, therefore there is power to make a certain regulation, and that will bring the Supply and Tender Board into operation, and the Auditor-General will not be in it. That officer will be there all the time. He will be the head and chief offender if any wrong is committed. There will be no one to supervise what he has done. The proposal is entirely foreign to an Audit Bill, because it has to do with commerce. The Government might very reasonably ask the Senate to constitute a Supply and Tender Board. The Minister has given a very strong reason why such a Board should exist. He has shown unmistakably that there is overlapping. He has shown that not only will a Supply and Tender Board be more efficient, more economical, and more just, but that to establish the board under a regulation is the most disastrous thing which could be projected. As an old politician, he must know that legislation by regulation is not only the most roundabout and red-tape way of proceeding, but the most dangerous and ineffective way.
– He has undoubtedly said that.
– The Minister would say it were the political conditions reversed. I can quite understand how things appeal to him now. We are reasoning, not against the institution of a Supply and Tender Board per se, but against’ its creation by an insidious method. There is nothing clear or definite as to how much power is to be taken, the way in which the board is to be conducted, or how it is to be controlled. But we have simply a bald statement that, under cover of the clause, such a body is to be established. I think that we might expect the Government to be honest enough to stand out in the daylight and show us how much they intend to do, what powers they want to take, how many persons will constitute the proposed board, and under what law it will operate. But they want to leave it entirely to the Auditor-General.
– Not to have the operations of the Supply and Tender Board audited.
– The honorable senator by his interjection proves by demonstration the absolute need’ that there will be for supervision. His remark lets daylight into this matter. He sees in a twinkle how absolutely necessary it is that the Auditor-General should be above all trade transactions, and should be able to audit the accounts.
– So he would be.
– Has the honorable senator got back into darkness? Has he once more plunged into a Serbonian bog? Here the Auditor-General is to be the purchaser and the auditor.
– He is not to be the purchaser. The Bill does not enable him to purchase.
– All I can say is that in the honorable senator’s secondreading speech, and in the speeches made elsewhere, the Government have failed in their duty in not clearly stating what is the purpose of the clause, and the radius within which it is intended to operate. We are entitled to that information, and until it is given, I intend to vote against the clause.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [5.50].- Honorable senators on the other side seem to be in a little doubt as to what they are called upon to do. Let me first point out what effect the regulations will, have, and how they are intended to be brought into existence. Section 71 of the Audit Act provides that regulations may be made by the Government not inconsistent with the provisions of the Act. Clause 3 extends that provision by empowering the Governor-General to also make regulations for -
Regulating the purchase, custody, control, a id issue of public stores.
Every regulation, whatever it may be, has to be consistent with the general provisions of the Audit Act. The regulation made under this provision will indicate the way in which the Supply and Tender Board is to be conducted and carried out.
– Why put it in the Audit Act?
– Let us assume for the sake of argument that the Act on which the regulation has to be founded does not give the power to appoint a Supply and Tender Board. Then honorable senators need not be alarmed about the regulation which may be made, because it must be consistent with the Act. Honorable senatorson the other side say that this Bill wilt empower the Auditor-General to deal with the purchase of the whole of the stores, but that is not so. It does not provide that the regulations are only to be administered by the Auditor-General, but assuming that it is legal under the Act to create a Supply and Tender Board, this provision gives power to the GovernorGeneral to make regulations to provide for the details in connexion with such ari appointment. Who would appoint theboard? It would not be the Auditor-. General. Who would make the regulations ?
It would not be the Auditor-General. The appointment would be made by the Executive Council, and the regulations would indicate the methods in which the appointments were to be made. I think that when honorable senators come to look at the matter in that light, they will see at once that there is no great danger to be feared. Any regulations will have to be laid on the table of the Senate, and it will be open to either House of the Parliament to dissent from a regulation, and so put it on one side.
– Was the Tariff Board appointed by the same process - by regulation ?
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - No. The members of the Supply and Tender Board will be appointed in a particular way to discharge certain duties, and then the AuditorGeneral will come along, and when he is dealing with the accounts, he will say, “ There are regulations under which you ought to have purchased stores in a particular way or taken special steps before you made any purchases.” If the board has gone astray, that fact will be embodied in his report, which will be laid before both Houses, in order that they may know that there has been a breach of the regulations which its members virtually sanctioned by not objecting to them. In that way honorable senators will know what is being done by the board. Assume, for the sake of argument, that we appoint a Supply and Tender Board, apart from the Audit Act altogether, and say that all purchases are to be made under special conditions. Assume that some purchases are not made under those conditions. Has the AuditorGeneral authority to call attention to that fact if he is not empowered under the Audit Act? I think he would be going beyond his duties. He would be confronted by the position that the Government had appointed the Supply and Tender Board, and that he was not instructed to supervise the way it carried out its duties.
– Everything is provided for under section 45.
– It is true that under paragraphs d and e of that section the Auditor-General has to obtain particularsof supplies purchased. But now it is proposed to enable regulations to be made dealing distinctly with the purchasing of goods. The Bill does not enable the Auditor-General to make the regulations. Suppose the Government were to appoint a Supply and Tender Board to-morrow. Unless there were a regulation, the AuditorGeneral would be unable to point out how the board carried out its duties. He would have no power to comment upon whether things were done rightly orwrongly. The regulations made under this provision would amplify his powers. Parliament appoints an Auditor-General for the protection of the public against possible maladministration of public funds by Ministers or their officers.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the appointment of the board should be made quite apart from the Audit Act?
– There may never be a board of the kind.
– The Treasurer says that there will be.
– I think, personally, that it is important that there should be a Supply and Tender Board, whether it be constituted departmental lly or by Statute. Although honorable senators opposite may think that the board should be appointed by Statute, that is no reason why they should say that if the appointment is not made in their way they will give no power to appoint at all.
– The appointment is not to be made in accordance with sound practice.
– Practice is made by what Parliament puts into our Acts. We often have to take a rough-and-ready means of attaining a desirable object, although we might prefer to have legislation passed in the most perfect form imaginable. I believe that we shall be conserving the interests of the public by agreeing to a provision under which we shall obtain a stronger control over the expenditure of public money than we have had hitherto. I believe that it has become necessary to have a check of this kind. Honorable senators opposite should not turn down the proposition, even though they may think that it would be more desirable to deal with the matter by a special Act of Parliament. In my judgment, it is not possible to do any harm to public affairs by accepting a provision enabling a Supply and Tender Board to be established departmentally. On the contrary, it will enable a better control to be exercised over public expenditure.
– I do not want honorable senators opposite to vote without thoroughly understanding this question, and if I have hitherto failed to explain it I do not mind taking up a. little more time. First of all, I put it seriously to the Committee that, whatever else this clause does, it restricts the powers of Ministers. There is no question of that. It restricts Ministers in the power of purchasing goods and spending money. If honorable senators opposite oppose it on that ground, they must do so with the full knowledge of what they are doing. They are deliberately saying, “ We do not want to impose any check on Ministers.’.’
– We want to do it in a different way.
– The clause gives power to Ministers to make regulations without any restriction.
– At the present time any Minister can spend large sums of money on the purchase of goods without any check upon him. We have indicated clearly that we think it desirable that there should be closer supervision by a special authority in regard to the control and purchase of stores! -We say, further, that the regulation should be so framed that the Auditor-General himself will see that the purchasing was carried on under conditions which make for the financial safety of the Commonwealth.
– Why not bring in a Bill for the purpose ?
– I do not know why we should. Even if we did, it would have to be a Bill to amend the Audit Act. We should have to import into it a power for the Auditor-General to check the purchase and control of stores. He would have to see to it that the quantity of stores balanced the money expended. That is a necessary part of the AuditorGeneral’s duties. Somebody said something just now to the effect that under the Audit Act we already have power to issue regulations. But we could not do all that is desired under the present Act. We desire to add words giving power to make regulations dealing with the purchase, control, and issue of public stores. This power is wanted to make the Bill useful. This ought net to be regarded as a party matter. It makes for an improvement in our methods in handling, purchasing, and controlling stores. We think it a right and proper thing that the Auditor- General should be called in for such a purpose.
– Not to purchase.
– He would not have to purchase. The name of the Auditor-General does not appear in section 71 at all. He has nothing to do with purchasing. The honorable senator might just as well say that power is given to the Governor-General, or to the manager of the Commonwealth Bank to purchase. We are not seeking to enable the AuditorGeneral to purchase a thing. The reason it is proposed to include it in the Audit Act is that we want the Auditor-General to check purchases, and see that proper conditions are complied with in the buying and controlling of stores. If the Committee reject this clause, the effectwill be to retain in the hands of Ministers a power which, in my opinion, it is most desirable should be exercised by a more expert person. I say that to pass this clause will be to restrict the power of Ministers, and to secure for the Commonwealth proper control over the purchase and issue of stores by means of the Auditor-General. With regard to the purchase of stores, a regulation is desirable in order that, possibly, we may have small, and, perhaps, temporary departmental boards for the purchase of goods of which they have expert knowledge. No one who has been a Minister of the Crown will deny that Ministers are called upon at times to purchase tilings which they are not competent or well qualified to purchase. Some goods are required for a Department, at times, of which even the officers of the Department are not the best judges in the interests of the Commonwealth. If honorable senators pass this clause, the Federal Government will be given power to avail themselves -of expert assistance in these matters, and the work of the Tender and Supply Boards will be checked from A to Z by the Attorney-General.
– Hear, hear; we are with the honorable senator in that.
– What disturbs mc is that while honorable senators say they are with me, they will not pass the clause. They object to a provision the object of which they approve. They ask that we should drop the clause from this Bill, and introduce it in another Bill.
– Hear, hear.
– It would have to be introduced in another amendment of the Audit Act.
– Not at all.
– It would be impossible to give effect to all that is contained in clause 3 of this Bill unless it was made a part of the Audit Act.
– There is a consensus of opinion as to the desirability of the principle embodied in this clause, and it is simply a question of whether it should be inserted in this Bill, or another Bill should be introduced to give legislative effect to it. It is objected by honorable senators opposite that the matters dealt with in clause 3 do not properly come within the scope of an Audit Act. I find that the comprehensive title of the existing Audit Act is
An Act to make provision for the Collection and Payment of the Public Moneys, the Audit of the Public Accounts, and Protection and Recovery of Public Property, and for other purposes.
These other purposes must, of course, have a distinct relation to the Audit Act. I must admit that there appears to be a general power in the Audit Act which ought to be particularized by clause 3 of this Bill. A regulation is an attempt to particularize a power which already exists in the Act under which the regulation is framed. I find that paragraph d of section 45 of the Audit Act provides that one of the duties of the Auditor-General sh all be to -
Ascertain the quantity, description, and price of all stores purchased on account of His Majesty, and of all stores supplied for the use of every Department of the Public Service, and whether any person in the Public Service has requisitioned for or obtained any stores in excess of the reasonable requirements of his office.
I admit that, in a general way, that gives the Auditor-General a power of control over the purchase of stores. By the passing of clause 3 of this Bill, it is not intended to impair that power in any way, but only to particularize it.
– Does not the power to particularize exist under the Audit Act, as well as under any other Act?
– In clause 3 of this Bill, the Government are asking for no power inconsistent with the provisions of the Audit Act. It is intended only to make more clear the power of the AuditorGeneral in regard to the purchase of goods. He has already a general power of veto and control given him in the words of paragraph d of section 45, requiring him to ascertain whether any person in the Public Service has requisitioned for or obtained any stores in excess of the reasonable requirements of his office. The institution of a Supply and Tender Board by virtue of clause 3 of this Bill, which it is intended shall be a part of section 71 of the Audit Act dealing with the framing of regulations, will be distinctly complementary to the powers already exercised by the AuditorGeneral, and will in no way derogate from those powers. If such a board were set up under this clause, no member of the Committee could contend that anything of a pernicious nature had been inaugurated. The object of the clause is merely to particularize, by way of regulation, a power already vested in the Auditor-General in general terms by section 45 of the Audit Act. I support the clause as it stands.
– The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat has argued in a circle, like a puppy chasing his own tail. He says that the object of a regulation is to particularize the powers given under an Act in a general way. He has quoted a section of the Audit Act which, he says, gives the general powers provided for in clause 3 of this Bill, and he argues that it is, therefore, competent for the Government to frame regulations to particularize those powers.
– It may be so. A Judge might construe the Audit Act to mean that the Auditor-General already has the power provided for in clause 3 of this Bill.
– We might just as well be frank in this matter. We know that this is an effort to sneak in powers under the cover of the words of clause 3. As was stated by a Minister in another place, if this clause be passed, it is the intention of the Government to constitute a Public Supply and Tender Board. That will be a most important body, charged with the function of buying stores and materials for the Government in a general way. A body possessing such functions should be appointed under a measure dealing with that matter alone.
– If the board purchased goods in excess of requirements, the Auditor-General could come down on them, nevertheless.
– Just so. If such a measure were passed into law, there would “be nothing to prevent the Auditor-Gene- ral exercising’ all the powers which properly belong to him. But we have a right to object to such an important matter as the appointment of a Supply and Tender Board being sneaked in under a provision of this kind.
– We could not possibly do with only one Supply and Tender Board.
– Then the opportunities for patronage would only be further incr eased.
– No, they would not.
– There must either be one Supply and Tender Board, or a number of such boards.
– How does the honorable senator suppose that stores are purchased at the present time?” There are a number of such boards now.
– I am aware that purchases are made through State Supply and Tender Boards, and that in some cases a competent official is authorized to purchase for a particular Department, and is, of course, held responsible for what he does. The object of this clause must be to confer some power which is not provided for under the Audit Act as it at present exists. But the Act as it stands gives ample powers to protect the revenue, so far as one who is not a lawyer can judge. Senator Bakhap has referred us to paragraph “d of section 45, which requires the Auditor-General to ascertain whether an officer has requisitioned for goods in excess of the requirements of his office.
– That is a very strong veto power.
– I think it is. That is a power which the Auditor-General can exercise under the existing Act to protect the Commonwealth in the purchase of stores. The general power given the Auditor-General under the existing Act is sufficient for the protection of the revenue.
– The object of a regulation is to facilitate the operation of an Act.
-Senator Gould knows that, if only a regulation is required1 to facilitate the operation of the Audit Act, in this respect the Government already possess the power under that Act to frame the necessary regulation.
– No. They can only frame regulations as prescribed by section 71 of the Act.
– Any regulation consistent with the Act may be framed for the more effective carrying out of. its provisions.
– That is not so. The regulations are limited to the powers. given under a particular section.
– Clause 3 is unnecessary for any purpose other than the constitution of a Supply and Tender Board.
– Section 71 of the Audit Act reads -
The Governor-General may make regulations (not inconsistent with the provisions of this- Act) for carrying out the provisions of this Act-
– Go. on.
– I wish to refer to, this before I go on. I have no desire to. avoid reading the whole section. The. Act, confers general powers upon the AuditorGeneral, _ and section 71 gives the power to make regulations to carry out those powers.
– It says, “ And in particular for.”
– That is a limitation. You cannot go beyond it, as a matter of law.
– Even at the risk of indulging in a kindof blasphemy I consider that we can. Does Senator Gould mean to argue that, because the clause specifies certain things, it must, necessarily exclude all other things?
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - The High Court has said so, but, perhaps, it does not know as much law as does the honorable senator. If the words the honorable senator has read are sufficient in themselves, why are other words added ?
– Merely to insist that a certain thing shall be done. I take it that the section refers to regulations which are regarded as absolutely essential.
– Will the honorable senator look at any other Act and’ compare the language of the proviso in it which relates to . regulations with the language used in section 71 of the Audit Act?
– Section 71 of the Audit Act provides -
The Governor-General may make regulations (not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act) for carrying out the provisions of this Act, and in particular for -
Then follow the matters in regard to which regulations may be framed.
– Precisely the same words appear in the Bounty Act.
– The honorable senator will not find the words “ and in particular for ‘ ‘ in any other Act unless they have a special meaning.
– Does the Honorary Minister contend that because certain matters are specified all other matters are necessarily excluded ?
– There is a very good maxim of law which I will repeat for the information of the honorable -senator. It is that the inclusion of one thing means the exclusion of others.
– I contend that the powers proposed to be conferred by this clause are too general to be intrusted to any Government unless we have a Supply and Tender Board constituted under a separate Act.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The Committee divided -
Ayes … … … 7
Noes … … … 17
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8p.m.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Tasmanian Mail Service: Contract with Steam-ship Companies.
– I move -
That the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1914, and the Budget-papers, 1913-14, laid on the table of the Senate on 2nd October, be printed.
I may be permitted to explain for the information of new members of the Senate the reason why this motion is submitted, because in the lack of such an explanation it may strike them as rather peculiar. In the first place, I desire to apologize to the Printing Committee, because the printing of these papers would, under ordinary circumstances, automatically have passed to it. But, as a matter of fact, this motion represents the continuance of a custom which has grown up here during the last few years - a custom which lias for its object the bringing of the Budget-papers and Estimates before members of the Senate at an earlier period than in the ordinary course of events they would have an opportunity of considering them. The Estimates - as honorable senators know - come before the Senate in- the form of an Appropriation Bill, and owing to the length of time which must elapse before that measure can reach this Chamber, the information contained in the Estimates and Budgetpapers is necessarily somewhat stale. Some years ago, therefore, it was decided that in order to give, honorable senators an opportunity of taking these matters into their consideration at an earlier stage than is provided by the Appropriation Bill, a motion similar to that which I have moved should be submitted. But I venture on this occasion to depart from the practice which was adopted by Senator McGregor, and, I believe, by his predecessor in office, of making a speech’ upon the Budget itself in submitting this motion. I think that a more appropriate time for the delivery of such a speech is when the Appropriation Bill is engaging our attention. So far as I am concerned, therefore, I venture to intimate thafT while I move this motion in order to place before honorable senators all that is contained in the Budget and the Estimates, I shall defer any statement that I may have to make upon those matters until the Appropriation Bill is before us.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 8
In division :
– The rule is that an honorable senator must vote in accordance with his voice.
– Then I vote with the “ Ayes.”
– The honorable senator cannot cross the chamber now.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Perhaps I have been the unwitting cause of a little amusement in the chamber. I had no intention of allowing this opportunity to pass without referring to a matter of vital importance to the State I represent. I could have been in my place a few moments ago, but I thought that, following the custom, the Minister in charge of an important motion would have spoken longer than he did to-night. The only question to which I wish to address myself is one of paramount importance to Tasmania. In fact, I do not know of any question that has come before the Senate for some years which has been of greater importance to Tasmania than that of the contract for the carriage of mails between the State and the mainland. My reason for speaking to-night after the question was so thoroughly threshed out here at our last sitting is that there may yet be time for the Government to make better conditions in the interests of the people of Tasmania than will be the case if the agreement, as outlined by Senator Clemons, is adhered to. I know that it is of no use to discuss the question of whether the Government should have adopted a resolution carried by the Senate in favour of a Commonwealth owned and operated line of steamers. That question has been thoroughly threshed out here. A motion has been carried in two successive sessions, but we know that the present Government are opposed to State activities in that direction, or, if not opposed to them, prefer private enterprise in that regard. I do not intend to discuss the principle. There have been opportunities for that purpose in the past, and there will be similar opportunities in the future. Seeing that the Government, through their representative here in charge of the Post and Telegraph Department - I refer to Senator Clemons - has said that they have definitely decided on a certain line of policy, I am going to put it to the representative of Tasmania, who happens to be the representative of the Government here, that it is not yet too late, perhaps, if they use all their influence, to make a couple of alterations in the agreement he outlined. The alterations of the agreement, which I think might still be secured to the immense benefit of Tasmania, and incidentally to the benefit of the mainland are, firstly, a reduction in the present fares andfreights, and, secondly, an increase in the time in which the extra steamer, during the summer months, is to be run. My reason for referring to the matter tonight is that at any moment the agreement may be signed. I put it to the representative of the Government whether it is not worth their while to try to still further improve the agreement on the lines I have indicated. As it stands, we are to have three boats a week between Launceston and Melbourne all the year round, just as we have now, so that does not secure any very great advantage.
– We have not the same running by any means in the winter.
– At present we have in the winter months two boats, the Loongana and the Rotomahana, running three days a week.
– Three inconvenient days.
– That does not matter. I candidly admit that there is to be a big improvement, in the class of boats, but still in the winter months - which causes all the grumbling in Tasmania - we have three boats a week leaving Melbourne and Launceston, and two boats a week leaving Melbourne and Burnie. The new agreement lays it down that there must be another vessel of the Loongana type to take the place of the obsolete Rotomahana during the winter months. At present the Loongana does all the running through the summer months. Under the new agreement there will be very little improvement in the number of mails per week.
– Practically the same service, but better boats.
– There will be a better service, because the boats will certainly be a guarantee that the mails will not be delayed so often as they are by reason of the employment of the Rotomahana.
– There will be a much better mail service.
– There will be a better mail service, but not a much more frequent one. All the representatives of Tasmania know that it has been the hope of that State for a long while that, as regards the mail service, it should be placed in the same position as other States.
– The Tasmanian ideal is to have a daily service.
– Tasmania should have a daily mail service. I want to be absolutely fair in this matter. I doubt very much whether it would pay to run a daily mail service yet across the Strait.
– It would not pay.
– Before the new agreement is signed, there is still a possibility of having it vastly improved upon. According to Senator Clemons, it binds the Shipping Combine not to increase the present fares and freights during the currency of the contract, except with the permission of the Postmaster-General. We might argue that there might be a PostmasterGeneral who would be easily induced by the combine to believe that it would only be fair to allow them to raise the freights. Senator Clemons might say that that is a very unlikely contingency.
SenatorClemons. - I do.
– Even so, it is a contingency which may arise under the contract by which the two companies are to get £15,000 instead of £13,000 for carrying the mails. Even if that is not a likely contingency, it is a possible one.
I submit that the fares and freights were quite high enough prior to the increase which was made only a few months ago, and that the Government should attempt to get the combine to agree to reduce the fares and freights, particularly the fares, to the standard of a few months ago - that is, before the last increase of 15 per cent, was made. I am sure that I have Senator Bakhap’s approval of that suggestion, because he was Chairman . of a Select Committee appointed by the Tasmanian House of Assembly only last year. Its report, which was presented on the 12th December, contains a number of paragraphs which stress the fact that Tasmania is suffering very largely because of her geographical isolation from the other States, and that it badly requires an improved mail service. One paragraph reads as follows -
Freights and fares between Tasmania and the mainland have been markedly and. substantially reduced during the last quarter of a century; but recently passenger fares have been increased’
That was prior to the 12th December of last year - and it is. probable that they are, nowadays, too high to permit of the tourist traffic to Tasmania attaining its full stature.
That was the opinion expressed by Senator Bakhap last year. If the Select Committee unanimously decided, as the honorable senator has informed me, that the charges were then so high that the tourist traffic, which means a great deal to Tasmania, would’ not attain its full stature last year, what chance has it to get the tourist traffic it ought to get, or would get, seeing that there has been a further increase of 15 per cent, in the fares since the date of the report ? That is, I think, a very strong point in favour of my argument that the Government should at least make one more attempt before the PostmasterGeneral signs the agreement tying Tasmania up to the combine for the next seven years under the present extortionate charges.
– Does the honorable senator consider that he is quite justified, in view of the evidence, in using the adjective “extortionate”?
– I do not know that I need pick my words. It is generally held by those who ought to know better than I do that the charges since that increase of 15 per cent, are rather extortionate. I might quote the chief newspapers in Tasmania, which certainly by no stretch of imagination can be said to have any leaning towards the Labour party. They are bitterly opposed to us, but for a long time past they have held that the charges are too high. When the increase was made a few months ago, at about the time of the small-pox outbreak in Sydney, the Launceston Examiner stated in its leading columns that it was a remarkable increase to make. This newspaper said -
Merchants and manufacturers are complaining of the further increase in Inter-State freights by the shipping companies. In the past the practice has been to make a small advance of 5 per cent, or less, but this latest jump is one of 15 per cent., making a total of 20 per cent, in the last six months. Business men regard the increase with alarm, and state that it will seriously affect the Inter-State trade. Even if it does not lead to the curtailment of imports and exports it will necessitate higher prices being charged for goods with a corresponding upward tendency in the cost of living.
In another part of the article it was stated -
The shipping companies said that the advance has ‘been necessary because many vessels are running practically empty, owing to the outbreak of small-pox, but they do not say that these rates will be reduced when the conditions again become normal. It also seems peculiar that the advanced rates apply, not to cargo shipped on vessels trading to the infected city, but to goods consigned to any port in Australia from Geraldton to Cairns.
That passage was quoted in the Senate a few weeks ago by Senator Long, but it 1 is worth while to repeat it. Here is a newspaper which is always barracking for private enterprise as against Commonwealthowned enterprise. Yet it says deliberately that this total increase of 20 per cent, during the last six months is not fair to Tasmania.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to say that that is correct ?
– I quote the Launceston Examiner as the authority. We know, at all events, that there was an increase of 15 per cent. I submit that if the charges can be brought down under this agreement to the level of those which existed before the last increase of 15 per cent., we should, at any rate, be able to feel that we had done something for Tasmania. I am quite satisfied that the representative of the Government would like to do that if he could.
– I should like to bring’the charges down 50 per cent.
-I am putting -the question whether there is not room for further negotiations!,:; .
– Does not the honorable senator believe’* that. I do my - utmost to bring charges down in every possible direction?
– I am quite (prepared to believe that -Senator Clemons, as a Tasmanian senator and a member of the Government, has done his -best; but I also believe that if the . Government would use . its strength there would be a chance of getting a further reduction. .
– It would mean . a larger subsidy.
– I believe that I should be on pretty sound ground if I advocated the payment of even a larger subsidy for the purpose of securing a reduction in freights and charges. That, however, opens up a bigger question. How absurd it is for the Government, having such a splendid chance in its hands, to throw away that chance simply because it will not under any circumstances give encouragement to Commonwealth enterprise. There, is no other way of linking Tasmania to the mainland than by a steam-ship service. There is no possibility of bringing other steamers into the field as long as the Combine has a monopoly of the trade.. I would even go to the length of advocating a further increase of the subsidy in order to - obtain a service with rates more commensurate with the services rendered.
– Would Tasmania pay the increase ?
– I do not know that other States are called upon to pay for the carriage of their mails over State railways. But it all comes back to the question that the Government has- a blind and foolish opposition to a Commonwealthowned service, simply because that amounts to State Socialism. Seeing that the Government are determined to do nothing but pay a subsidy to private enterprise, I maintain that they should hold back the signing of the contract until further representations have been received from Tasmania. Two questions were asked by Tasmanian senators this afternoon on the subject. In reply to Senator Ready, the Minister said that he did not think it advisable to hold back the signing of the contract until repre- 1 sentations were received from Chambers of Commerce; and, in reply to Senator
Long, a similar negative answer was made. I can assure the Senate that this is a pretty live question in Tasmania to-day. It is not a party question. All sections, even the Chamber of Commerce, which is not a supporter of the Labour party, are of opinion that this is not a good contract.
– Would the honorable senator mind reading a letter from the Chamber of Commerce’?
– If the Chamber of Commerce has altered its opinions recently, I am, at all events, sure that a number of the gentlemen comprising that body have been foremost among those decrying the present conditions, and objecting to the new contract.
– Mr. W. A. Whittaker, a prominent member of the Manufacturers’ Association, in evidence before Senator Bakhap’s Commission, advocated Commonwealth-owned steamers.
– It is a wellknown fact that merchants in all parts of Tasmania consider that freights and passenger fares are too high. The tourist traffic has developed largely in recent years, and it is hoped will go on developing. But that traffic certainly will not develop as it ought to do unless we do something reasonable in the matter of reducing fares. When the charges were 15 per cent, less than they are to-day, the Parliamentary Committee reported that the tourist traffic had no chance of attaining its full dimensions under conditions then existing. Senator Clemons has asked me to read a letter received from the Chamber of Commerce. I was under the impression that the Chamber, as a body, was not favorable to the new contract.
– I found the letter on my table this morning.
– I will read it-
Senator the Hon. J. S. Clemons,
I am directed by the Executive Council of this Chamber to convey to you an expression of their appreciation and thanks for the very satisfactory results achieved in the new contract for the conveyance of mails between Launceston and Melbourne.
I am, ,
In spite of that letter, it is a fact that a number of the members of the Chamber have,, for a long time past, been growling about the charges. And, after all, what is the meaning of the letter? It merely implies that the Chamber of Commerce recognises that Senator Clemons, as a Tasmanian senator, and a member of the Government, has done his best to bring about a more satisfactory condition of affairs. Will Senator Clemons tell me that any one of the members of the Chamber of Commerce would not back up my argument that the charges are inordinately high, and that the service might very well be improved ?
– I cannot see how the company can make a loss on these conditions.
– The cost of running steamers is higher than it was some years ago.
– Until the traffic largely increases, as I hope it will do, the company certainly will lose under this contract; but I hope that the traffic will increase.
– I have stressed the opinion of prominent Tasmanians that the tourist traffic ought to be encouraged. The development of it is a very important question in Tasmania. It is proposed, under the new contract, that there shall be three boats per week leaving Melbourne, and three leaving Launceston, and two boats per week leaving Burnie, and two leaving Melbourne for Burnie, all the year round, and that during two months of the year, to cater for tourist traffic, there shall be an extra boat between Melbourne and Launceston running by way of Burnie. The extra boat is to be of the Loongana type, but she is only to run two months out of the twelve. That is the one improvement which the new agreement gives to Tasmania.
– One of the improvements.
– It is almost the only improvement. It is the only one as far as mails are concerned.
– It is not the only one as far as mails are concerned.
– The new boat will, of course, be better than the Rotomahana.
– Ten times better.
– There is one thing I should like to see done, and there is a chance of getting it done by the insertion of a clause in the agreement. Why should not the new boat run for four months out of the twelve instead of two?
– The honorable senator knows the answer.
– The answer is, I suppose, that it is only during two months of the year that there is any great necessity for the extra boat. But my experience is that the tourist traffic begins early in December, and runs right up to the end of February.
– The answer to that is that, if it would pay, the Union Steamship Company would run the boats, just as they run to Devonport when they are under no obligation to do so.
– I do not see why the company should have any objection to being bound under the contract to run the extra boats for four months instead of two, seeing that the Commonwealth is to be bound for seven years to pay a subsidy of £15,000 instead of £13,000, as at present. If the two alterations I suggest could be made before the agreement is signed, the result would be very beneficial to Tasmania. I appeal to Senator Clemons, as a representative of that State, to make a . still further effort to induce the company to make these alterations. I say that even if they were made, the Government would still be entering into a very bad bargain in the interests of Tasmania, as compared with the position of affairs which would be brought about if the service were conducted by a Commonwealth-owned line of steamers. It is of no use to labour that point, because the Government are determined in their opposition to that proposal. I am afraid that they arrived at the determination to resist that proposal because they felt that, long before the proposed contract with the Union Steam-ship Company expires, there will be a Government in power in the Commonwealth who will favour the establishment of a Commonwealth-owned line of steamers. If such a Government came into power within the next two years, they would find their hands tied in this matter by the fact that this agreement with the Union Steam-ship Company would still have five years to run, and they would be unable to devote the subsidy which will have to be paid to the Union Steam-ship Company under the agreement to meet the expense of carrying the mails on their own steamers.
– The answer to that is that the last Government, with greater power in this Parliament than any other Government ever had, remained in office for three years and did nothing in that direction.
– The honorable senator is aware that there were grave doubts at the time as to whether the Federal Government have constitutionally the power to act as common carriers.
– I never heard the suggestion of a doubt as to the power of the Government in the matter.
– The honorable senator’s memory, has failed him, because I was present with him on a deputation when the question cropped up as to the constitutional power of the Government to do more than establish boats for the carriage of its mails.
– Did it take the late Government three years to discover that they had not the necessary power ? Senator O’KEEFE. - At that time the then existing contract had some time to run, and one of the reasons why the late Government only gave the company a brief extension of that contract was in order that, after the Federal elections, they might have a chance to put into force their policy for the establishment of a Commonwealth-owned line of steamers.
– They prolonged the present condition of affairs too long.
– We know that the late Government proposed big things, and did them, and were pilloried for them all over Australia during the elections. If they had added this to the list of their big national achievements, they would have been pilloried to a greater extent than they were. Owing to the fact that they were not returned with a majority in another place, that policy of the late Government is dead until such time as the electors of Australia get another interval of sanity, as no doubt they will in the course of the next few years. When they are again returned to power, the Labour Government will have the establishment of a Commonwealth-owned line of steamers between Tasmania and the mainland as a part of their policy, but their hands will be tied by having to pay a subsidy of£15,000 a year to the Union Steam-ship Company under the proposed agreement for a number of years.
– The honorable senator -wishes to rope those who are in favour of a Commonwealth-owned line of steamers between Tasmania and the mainland into an indorsement of a policy of Commonwealth-owned steamers trading to the Old Country, and to every part of the world.
– There are quite a number of paragraphs in the report submitted by the Select Committee of which Senator Bakhap was chairman advocating that the State Government of Tasmania should take up the question and apply to the Government to know what subsidy the Commonwealth Government would be prepared’ to pay the State for conducting this service.
– I am not ashamed of the report. The recommendation is on record.
– Exactly. I cannot, understand why Senator Bakhap, after being an advocate of a proposal of that kind,, or in the alternative that the Federal Government should conduct this service with a Commonwealth-owned line of . steamers, should now be opposed to the proposal root and branch.
– Have I spoken on this matter at all?
– Only by way of interjection. I should be glad to welcome the honorable senator to this side as an advocate of the establishment of a Commonwealth-owned line of steamers, but I remember that it is only three weeks since he voted against the motion submitted by Senator Ready.
– I should vote against such a motion again.
– The honorable senator had to do so. He has to vote as he is told.
– I ask that that statement be withdrawn. I absolutely repudiate it. I deny the statement that rny vote is controlled by anybody.
– I ask Senator McDougall to withdraw the statement to which exception has been taken.
– I will not withdraw it.
– I insist upon the statement . being withdrawn.
– Senator McDougall must withdraw the statement in an unqualified manner.
– I withdraw it without qualification, but it is correct all’ the same.
– Only as late as- 12th December last Senator Bakhap wasin favour of a State-owned line of steamers to conduct the service between-. Tasmania and the mainland; but I admit that he has a right to change his opinion, and three weeks ago he voted in the opposite direction. I think that is not an. unfair way of putting the matter.
– It is an absolutelyunfair way to put it. I voted against a. motion which contained several propositions.
– I am prepared towithdraw anything that is unfair to the honorable senator,, and I will say only that he voted against Senator Ready’s, motion. This is beside the question, because the Government have ‘declared’ their adherence to the principle of private enterprise in these matters. I ask Senator Clemons to believe that I do not raisethis as a party question. I consider that the matter might still be considered by the Government, with a view to securing; better conditions under the proposed contract.
– I have been working hard at this matter for three months, and if I could have secured far greater improvements than the honorable senator has suggested, I should have been only too glad to do so ; but I found that there was a limit to what could be done.
– In the early partof the session we were told that a<n increased grant would not be given to Tasmania, or, at all events, that the matter of the Tasmanian grant would not be reopened.
– No; honorablesenators were not told that.
– I do not profess to quote the exact words of the answer given to a question put in the Senate, but the effect of it certainly was that the Government had no intention of reopening the matter. Still, wiser counsels prevailed, no doubt at the instigation of Tasmanian representatives who support the present Government, and an increase ia the grant -was -made. It is quite on the cards that, if the Government delay the signing of this contract until the re– presentations referred to have been received from Tasmania, and the matter can be threshed out in another place, they may be able to induce the Shipping Combine to concede better terms than they are prepared to concede now. I hope that Tasmania will not be bound for seven years under the terms of the agreement as stated by Senator Clemons some three weeks ago.
– It was very largely with a view to expedite the proceedings of the Senate at the time, that I refrained from making any contribution to the debate on the motion submitted by Senator Ready.
– The reason I did not speak was that I wanted a division to be taken at once.
– Every one knows that the numbers were a foregone conclusion. With the strength enjoyed by the Opposition in this Chamber, Liberal senators may be regarded all the time as being in the net of the retiarius. It would not have mattered if the debate had been prolonged for a week; the result would have been the same. Had I thought it worth while, I might have analyzed the motion submitted by Senator Ready. I could have shown how ingeniously it was drafted, and that it was designed to commit ali those who were in favour, in certain circumstances, of. a Commonwealth-owned service between Tasmania and the mainland to support a Commonwealth ownership of lines of steam-ships trading to the Old Country and elsewhere. Once an honorable senator voted for that motion, his vote could bo construed as lending support to the principle of Commonwealth - owned steamers, not merely trading between the States, but between the Commonwealth and all foreign countries. I am not one of those- who are frightened of the term “ Socialism.” I regard all these matters which are termed “ Socialistic “ at times, from the point of view of expediency. As Senator O’Keefe has done me the honour to read from the report of a Committee of which I was chairman, I may be allowed to quote a little of that report, for which I was largely responsible. This is a very important matter. It is probably one of the practically live questions in” Tasmania, and we can well understand that the people of that small State are geographically so isolated that the matter of communication with the larger
States of the mainland is of first im- *portance to them. It was in recognition of the existence of a great deal of feeling on this matter that the Tasmanian House of Assembly, at my instigation, consented to the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into this very vexed and many-sided question. Honorable senators may run away with the idea that it is a matter which is capable of a very simple solution. But if men with judicial minds commence to investigate it, they will find that it is of a much more complex character than they had anticipated. Senator O’Keefe is certainly right when he says that it is by no means a party question in Tasmania. It is a question of the first importance to the inhabitants of that State, irrespective of their political colour. The Select Committee, which was appointed, committed itself to the view which was put forward by the Honorable George Collins, a strong Liberal, who is responsible for a very great deal of good work in Tasmania. Indeed, he may well be regarded as the Sir Henry Parkes of that State. The Committee reported -
This point of view is best demonstrated by an illustration drawn from the evidence of the Honorable George Collins, in which the witness states, in effect, that if the slenderest isthmian connexion existed between Tasmania and Vic toria, long ere this a railway would have been constructed to connect the two communities, and that a train would leave Launceston and Melbourne daily for alternate destinations. The conclusion is then advanced that as this service is physically impossible of achievement there should be a daily steamer service each way in lieu thereof.
Had Tasmania been merely an elongation of Wilson’s Promontory I venture to say that the contention put forward by Mr. Collins would have been realized in the form of railway communication.
– Owned by the State ?
– Yes. As that is physically impossible honorable senators must not run away with the idea that the public men of Tasmania, without exception, are opposed to the establishment of a Commonwealth or State-owned service. But when we come to deal with marine matters we are dealing with matters which are substantially different from a railway proposition. It is well known that the State has the power to prohibit competition with State-owned railways. But no State-owned steam-ship service, between Tasmania and the mainland, can eliminate all competition with itself in the same way as it could eliminate competition in the matter of a railway service. So that the question of profit at once enters into consideration. Of course, a whole generation of people has grown up since 1888. But in that year I came from Tasmania to the Exhibition in Melbourne, and I distinctly remember having to pay £4 10s. for a return ticket. Will Senator O’Keefe tell me what is the present “ extortionate “ charge, as he calls it? It is substantially less than it was then.
– If the honorable senator is going to institute that comparison he might go back only two or three years.
– If the honorable senator has read this report, and the evidence upon which it is based, he will find that there has been a substantial reduction of fares within the past twenty years. There has been a little reflex action since. Owing to the increase in the working of steamer services - this increase has been reflected in the profits derivable from State railway services - it has been found necessary to increase fares and freights. Senator O’Keefe knows perfectly well that at its last meeting the Adelaide Steamship Company declared that it was impossible for it to pay a dividend.For the first time for many years in its history no dividend was declared, because of the fact that the increase in the cost of running -the service had so entrenched upon the profits earned that sufficient money could not be put by to enable a dividend to be paid. The facts are that the representatives of the steam-ship companies admitted that the trade between Tasmania and Victoria was profitable, but not particularly so, and Captain Evans stated that the trade between Tasmania and . New South Wales was not at all profitable, and that a profit was only shown by failing to make any allowance for depreciation. Captain Evans has been a Premier of Tasmania, and he is the manager of Huddart Parker and Company, one of the companies engaged in this traffic. Here is a question which I put to him when he appeared as a witness before the Select Committee of which I have spoken -
As a reasonable man- of course, the Committee know the company has to make its profits - you do not think the freights and fares charged are such as to unfairly handicap the public of Tasmania? - Taking them all round, I think they are very fair. The freight ques tion has been exercising the minds of the directors for some time past with the idea of increasing them even higher in the future.
You say they think it a commercial necessity? - It has been exercising their minds for some time. They have no desire to do it as long as there is a fair margin of profit between revenue and expenditure. We are, of course, hopeful that there will be no necessity for the rise; but that is the inclination.
Seeing that the companies are likely to incur odium by raising freights and fares, it is unlikely that they would adopt that course at this juncture without reason. It is a fair and judicial assumption that they would not get themselves into bad odour with the people of Tasmania by raising freights and fares if such action were not absolutely imperative.
– The honorable senator is a very trusting individual. They have a monopoly. What do they care for the people of Tasmania ?
– I may tell honorable senators that there were representatives of the Labour party on that Committee, and an equal number of representatives of the Liberal party, with myself as chairman. As the result of our deliberations, a unanimous report was secured. The Committee declared that the question which it had investigated was a very complex one, and that it found it more difficult to make practical recommendations than to listen to suggestions. It made five recommendations, as follows: -
There is a recommendation which in itself conveyed a warning to the shipping companies to be commercially just in their negotiations with the State and the Commonwealth.
– No doubt they were very frightened.
– Does the honorable senator know whether the Tasmanian Government adopted that recommendation ?
– Senator O’Keefe is well aware that the recommendations of the Committee were only presented to the Tasmanian House of Assembly in December last. Soon after a dissolution of that Chamber took place, a general election followed, and almost upon its heels came the general elections for this Parliament. Since the advent of the Liberal party to power action has been taken to give Tasmania an improved service.
– It is not the action which was recommended by the Tasmanian Government in the report from which the honorable senator has quoted.
– The honorable senator will admit that a good deal of water has run under the bridge since December last. Notwithstanding the fact that there is u widespread, not altogether justified, opinion in Tasmania regarding the tremendous profits that are alleged to be made by the Union Steamship Company, no Tasmanian investors can be found sufficiently plucky to put up the money to form, a company to compete with those who are alleged to be making tremendous profits. That matter was discussed by the Select Committee, and information was elicited from the witnesses. But, notwithstanding the fact that I have introduced the name of the Honorable George Collins as being an enthusiastic advocate for a daily service, I want to say, in justice to those gentlemen who have pronounced Liberal proclivities, and who tentatively have spoken in favour in the first instance of a Stateowned service, that they desire, in the interests of Tasmania, to see any nation alized or State-owned service absolutely controlled from the Tasmanian end. For it is to the Tasmanian people that this question is most vital.
– They do not mind the Commonwealth finding a bit of money, though.
– Why should not the Commonwealth find the money when we in Tasmania have to help to find the money for building a desert railway?
– Where is it?
– From. Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, if the honorable senatorwishes to know.
– That is not a desert railway.
– Have you ever seen the country?
– I have read dozens of reports about the country.
– You do not know anything about it.
– I know that it is in contemplation - unwisely, in my mind - to build a line across the central Australian desert. Honorable senators who talk about nationalizing steam-ship services of the Commonwealth at present- hardly think of what the nation has to shoulder. We have now one battle cruiser, which has recently come into Australian waters to defend our commerce, and these honorable gentlemen, who will presently realize the tremendous burden on the shoulders of the people - a necessary one, I will admit, in connexion with the scheme of Naval Defence - actually in the most light-hearted manner, talk of nationalizing all the ordinary marine services existing between the Commonwealth and other ports of the world, to start, of course, with Tasmania. I know my duty to the people of that State as well as any of those who assist me in its representation do, hut my sense of duty to those people does not blind me to my sense of duty in regard to those larger issues that the Parliament of the nation has to face. While we have only one cruiser on the seas to protect the large volume of Australian commerce, it would be quite premature, even admitting the expediency in certain circumstances of such a line of action, for the Commonwealth to embark upou the owning of all the services now existing between ports of the Commonwealth and other ports of the world.
– We are discussing this one line.
– My honorable friends refused to do that; they wanted us to support a motion which would have committed every honorable senator who voted for it to the principle of the nationalizing of the Commonwealth’s steamship services.
– Do you deliberately say here that you were not in favour of a State-owned line between Tasmania and the mainland ?
– In certain circumstances, I am in favour of a Stateowned line across Bass Strait.
– That is all that I charged you with.
– But if it is going to be of value to Tasmania - to which State the question is particularly vital - it must not be a Commonwealth-owned service, but a Tasmanian-owned service. I recognise the proper distinction there is between the actions of the Tasmanian Parliament and those of . the Commonwealth Parliament; and what I have been striving to do, I think with reasonable prospects of success, is to provide a Tasmanian administration, be it a Liberal or Labour one, with the money to enter into competition with the steam-ship companies, if, after a proper investigation, it comes to the conclusion that those companies are not acting fairly to the people of the State. I know that my remarks, although they are somewhat disconnected, and made on the spur of the moment, will be recorded and read by large numbers pf Tasmanian people. If the Tasmanian Legislature, in its wisdom, has decided to spend a very large sum in nationalizing the hydro-electric works, at the Great Lake - I am not questioning its wisdom, as it is responsible to the people of the State - if it really feels that the people of Tasmania are being unfairly treated by the combination who own the so-called ferry service, at a smaller cost than it has incurred in connexion with the acquisition of the hydro-electric scheme, it can build a boat, or a couple of boats, to enter into competition with those companies; and it will be in this happy position, that, if this service does i”-t pay. it will be able to sell the boats. If the Tasmanian people really believe that the proposed contract is unsatisfactory to them, it is absolutely within the scope of their Legislature, which has full power in this matter, to build vessels, and enter into competition with the companies.
– As the two companies would be subsidized, where would the State be? The State service would be crippled.
– Does the honorable senator so give away the case of .his party as to believe that the service would be unprofitable to the steam-ship companies without the subsidy of £15,000?
– That is not the point at all, as you know. Surely a service which has a subsidy of £15,000 would be in a better position than one which got no subsidy.
– No. If £15,000 alone is the margin between profit and loss on the part of the companies in connexion with their operations, then the service is, on the honorable senator’s own showing, not so profitable to them a’s is alleged by most of the members of the party opposite.
– That is trickiness.
– It is commonsense; it is finance.
– It is trickiness for you to twist what I -said.
– There would not be so much profit if there were two companies competing against each other.
– I remember when there was a freight and fare war - it is alluded to in the report of the Select Committee - between these companies. What was the result?
– A combine.
– The result was a combine of a sort. The companies had to put their heads together, and see how they could secure themselves from ruinous loss. They standardized the freights and fares, and, in the iniquitous sense of the word “ combine,” I venture to say that a combine does not exist, for in the evidence it was fully disclosed to the members of the Select Committee that, while there was an agreement in regard to the standardizing of freights and fares at what -was supposed to be a satisfactory profit-level, the companies competed most keenly between themselves for the trade which was available.
– Who paid for the standardizing ?
– I told the honorable senator that the standardized fares are considerably less than the fares of ^twenty years ago, when there was no allegation or suggestion of standardizing.
– Who paid for it?
– There are no Tasrnanian investors who believe that the opportunity for competing with the existing companies is so profitable as to be embraced at once. There was at one time the Tasmanian Steam Navigation Company, but it was absorbed by the Union Steam-ship Company. After a very ruinous competition - a competition which brought the companies right to the verge of financial death’s door, so to speak-
SenatorRae. - The strongest won.
-Yes, and let me tell the honorable senator that the fares and freights at present are considerably lower than they were when the strongest won.
– You are going back nearly a quarter of a century. Has not the world progressed in the last few years ?
– Will the honorable senator deny the truth of the illustration I instanced a few moments ago that one of the most important of these so-called parasitical, blood-sucking shipping companies of Australia was unable to pay a dividend the other day, because of the fact that the increase in the running cost of their services had absorbed practically all the profits earned ?
– Who lost the Yongala and the Koombana ?
– Is not that the very argument used to justify the increases of the freights and fares which have been made during the last year or two in the Bass Strait service? In appealing to judicially-minded men, it is absolutely certain that the companies, knowing that they would incur a lot of odium by an increase in freights and fares, would not take that step unless they found it was necessary to commercially fortify themselves in that regard. Here is another paragraph in the report which honorable members have done me so much honour by advertising.
– Read the lot; nationalize it.
– What is the use of a State-owned line from the Tasmanian stand-point, unless it secures lower freights and fares to its people? Seeing that honorable senators opposite do not want a State-owned line to be run at a loss any more than a privately-owned line desires to be so run, will they straightforwardly lay down the proposition that they believe that large profits are to be made on the scale of fares and freights, and that therefore an opportunity for the profitable running of a ,. State-owned service exists ?
– Did the companies give you any evidence ?
– Most decidedly. We took very voluminous evidence.
– Did they give you their balance-sheets ?
– No; because in Tasmania we had no power to get hold of the leading men in the Union Steamship Company, which is owned in New Zealand.
– The report states clearly that the Committee could not get the evidence.
– Their representative at Hobart - Mr. Eva - who gave most useful evidence, said that the service was profitable, but he would not like to say that it was very profitable.
– Could you expect him to do so ?
– I think that in this world there are some men who give their evidence without that mental reservation which the honorable senator unquestionably entertains
– You would not expect him to give his case away, would you?
– Does the honorable senator expect men on their oath to give false evidence? Is that his estimate of human nature? I have the honour of knowing these witnesses. I believe that, even if they were giving evidence without the formality of an oath, they would tell the truth. The paragraph I referred to reads -
If the State-owned line, besides insuring a more frequent service, did not cause a reduction in the amounts charged for passenger fares and cargo freights, the reasons for its establishment would not at any time carry much weight.
Will honorable senators opposite commit themselves to the statement that a Stateowned line across Bass Strait would insure a reduction in fares and freights?
– If there was a loss, of course it would have to be borne by the taxpayers, as, for instance, in Western Australia. You can have a steam-ship service if you like at the
Commonwealth or State expense between Victoria and Tasmania, which, will charge nothing for freights or fares, but the taxpayers must bear the tremendous loss which must ensue, and’ we could not have a multiplicity of national services run on these lines for the Nation must make its services pay, just as an individual or corporation must ‘do. The paragraph continues; -
This phase of the matter entails a survey of the commercial value of the Inter-State shipping trade. Naturally the most reliable information regarding this cardinal feature is in the possession of the companies now operating, and having in view the possibility of direct State action being advocated and recommended, your Committee thought it unfair to press for any detailed disclosures on this point from the shipping companies’ local representatives, who were examined as witnesses.
It is fair to those witnesses to say that they were frank enough. The Tasmanian House of Assembly has no power to call for reports of corporations operating in New Zealand -
Mr. Eva, Hobart manager for the Union Steam-ship Company of New Zealand, acknowledged that the Hobart to Sydney service “ was not unprofitable “ ; but stated that only rarely were the vessels in the trade exercised to their full passenger or cargo carrying capacity.
Captain Evans, C.M.G., Hobart manager for Huddart Parker Limited, has held the honorable position of Premier of our State for some years. He said in his evidence -
That the s.s. Westralia, trading on his company’s account between Hobart and Sydney, was a boat much better than those hitherto in the service, and was paying; but that a profitable result was shown only by not allowing anything for depreciation, and’ that the companies engaged in the shipping trade between Tasmania and the mainland had recently seriously considered the prospect of having to charge increased freights and fares, but were reluctant to take the step unless forced by trade necessities.
Is it likely that, if the trade were so profitable, these people would have alienated a certain section of Tasmanian opinion and would have refused to build a second Loongana, unless a paltry £2,000 per annum additional subsidy were paid to them ? Is it likely that these commercial men, whose whole-souled energies are directed to business, would have hesitated to proceed at once to order a second Loongana to increase and develop the trade if it were so highly remunerative to them ? Surely they would have regarded the extra money as a mere bagatelle. I venture to say that they would not have haggled with the Honorary Minister, who has had to. take an important share in these partly satisfactory negotiations. I call them only partly satisfactory because nothing short of a daily service will be wholly satisfactory. As a matter of fact, the companies regarded the trade in such a light that they would not consent to anything more than an engagement not to raise freights and fares without Ministerial permission. I think that I have investigated this matter as carefully and as impartially as any public man in Australia.
– Especially impartially.
– I am glad that the honorable senator’s sense of what impartiality is has at last been awakened.
– Does the honorable senator still believe that there is no room for a reduction of freights and fares consistently with earning a profit?
– I say at once that I should like to see freights brought down to 5s. a ton, and fares proportionately reduced. But my belief, after listening to the evidence taken in Tasmania, is that if the Commonwealth or the State Government entered into competition with the companies already operating, it is highly probable that the companies ;.nd the Commonwealth or State would operate at a loss.
– Answer the question fairly.
– I desire to see freights and fares substantially reduced, but I am not sure that it is commercially possible to reduce them and run the service at a profit. I am quite satisfied that if the Tasmanian Parliament is allowed to develop the schemes that it has on hand, and if we provide it with the money that is due to it from the Commonwealth as an act of justice, we can safely leave it to determine whether it will be expedient to build two boats to compete with the companies already operating in the service. Honorable senators opposite, assisted by the newspaper representing the Labour party in Tasmania, have already dangled speciously before the eyes of the Tasmanian people a motion passed in the Senate at the instance of Senator Ready. I can easily justify the action taken by my Liberal co-senators in voting against that motion. But I want to make it quite clear that voting for it not only committed its supporters to the establishment of a service, Commonwealth-owned, between the mainland and Tasmania, but committed them to the principle of the nationalization of all the marine services operating between the Commonwealth and all other parts of the world.
– Utterly untrue.
– Let the honorable senator read his own motion.
– The honorable senator does not understand it; that is all.
– I do not pretend to have attained the colossal understanding of the honorable senator, but at the same time I point out that his very speciously-worded motion was designed to commit everybody voting for it to the principle of the nationalization of all the marine services between the Commonwealth and the rest of the world.
– Why did not the honorable senator move an amendment ?
– Would the honorable senator have supported such an amendment? “Vainly is the net spread in sight of the bird “ ! The Premier of Victoria has recently made some remarks concerning the State-owned railways of this country.
– What is his name ?
– I believe that the name of the Premier of Victoria is known over even a larger area of the world than is that of the honorable senator who has just interrupted. For some time past there has been a surplus on the working of the railways of this State. That surplus has been substantially reduced.. What is the reason given for the reduction ? It is the increase in the cost of operating the service. Here lies a cardinal objection to the extension of the principle of State enterprise - that all profits are absorbed, and will continuously be absorbed, by the ever-expanding demands of those engaged in the mechanical operation of State services. If the Commonwealth established a service between Tasmania and the mainland, and that service was successful, the profit would not” result in a reduction of fares and freights, but would be absorbed by the ever-increasing demands of the employes.
– Why not? They are entitled to it, anyhow !
– The honorable senator thinks that they are entitled to the lot, and that the taxpayers are to be continuously called upon to shoulder any loss. In the light of what has happened in connexion with State railway services in New South Wales and Victoria, and of what will happen in connexion with State-owned services throughout the Commonwealth, I say that it is hopeless for the Australian people in the future to think of the extension of the principle of nationalization in the hope that it will result in a substantial reduction of the cost of nationalized services. In this matter I am an expedientist. I will not be frightened from supporting a proposition merely because’ it is called Socialistic. I admit that it may be desirable in some instances to institute State-owned services.
– The honorable senator will report in favour of the principle, but never vote for it.
– At no time during my political career have I ever been afraid to record my vote in favour of my expressed opinions. A few years is a brief period in the life of a nation, though a considerable item in the life of an individual. If we decided at once to establish a State-owned enterprise between the mainland and Tasmania it could not be consummated for some years.
– Eighteen months.
– How long did it take to build the Loongana ?
– The dockyards of the Old Country are overflowing with work at present.
– It took only twelve months to build the Loongana.
– Does the honorable senator say that it would be possible to build a ship in that time now ?
– Seeing that this is not a party question, if, at the expiration of the period of the contract it is found that the people of Tasmania are really suffering, in comparison with the people of the mainland States, from the exorbitant demands of the shipping companies, I venture to say that very few will be found to object to the establishment of a State-owned, if not a Commonwealth, service. But in the meantime we must be content with the present service. The Tasmanian Parliament, assisted and subsidized by the Commonwealth, can, if it thinks fit, establish a service to supplement the existing service - a thing which no business people in Tasmania would feel justified in doing. Knowing the difficulties that “have had to be overcome - and no one should know them better, seeing that I was the chairman of the Committee which exhaustively inquired into this matter in Tasmania - I venture to say, in conclusion, that a very great deal of credit ‘ is due to the Minister, Senator Clemons, for the substantial measure of improvement which has been effected in the signing of this new contract.
.- Now that the temporary whirlwind from Tasmania has subsided, perhaps his junior colleague will be granted the indulgence of the Senate for a moment, while he proves, out of the mouths of the witnesses who appeared before the honorable senator’s Committee, that the statements he has made are unreliable. I shall be able to prove from the wonderful document to which the honorable senator has referred that the people of Tasmania are dissatisfied with the existing service, and look for something better. They will by-and-by call Senator Bakhap to account for the vote he gave a few weeks ago in the Senate.
I am .reminded that I am assistant to Senator Bakhap. He says that he represents Tasmania, and speaks of those who assist him in the representation of that State. I am prepared to play second fiddle to any one on this or the other side who has done something; but I object to a man whose chief qualification is his verbosity, speaking of Senator O’Keefe, who has been a member of the Senate for nine years, and did more for Tasmania in three years than Senator Bakhap has done during the whole course of his political life, as his assistant. I have the same right to speak for the people of Tasmania as has the honorable senator.
– Who questions the honorable senator’s right?
– The honorable senator, in his high and haughty manner, spoke of those who assist him in the representation of Tasmania.
– And I assist them also, do I not?
– No doubt the honorable senator will later on tell the Senate that he got the extra £400,000 for Tasmania. He is the man who got the grant.
– I have evidence to prove what share I took in that matter.
– I understand that the honorable senator held up the Government at the point of the bayonet, and they were so frightened of him that, they decided to make the extra grant.
– The honorable senator threatened to resign.
– What an awfulcalamity that would be for the Senate. It was an easy matter for the honorable senator to threaten to resign, when heknew that there was a Liberal majority in each House of the Tasmanian Legislature who would re-elect him. Still, I have no doubt that the Honorary Minister shivered when he heard the fiercethreat of this honorable senator from Tasmania. Let us have some of the evidencewhich was taken by the honorable senator’s Committee.
– Let the honorablesenator read the verdict.
– I propose to read, some of the evidence on which the honorable senator based his verdict. I shall, ask leave to resume my remarks at a later sitting, because I intend to deal with thismatter fully. When Senator Clemons occupied a seat on this side of the chamberhe very vehemently decried the Shipping. Combine; but Senator Bakhap was neverbefore known to take such an active part, in whitewashing the Combine; and both honorable senators have tried to make theSenate believe that, so far as the Tasmanian mail service is concerned, “ everything in the garden is lovely.”
Senator Bakhap is totally out of touch, with public feeling in his own State. IF he went to Launceston business men who» are Liberal supporters, he would find that they have hundreds of complaints to make to him privately about the cormorant Union Steam-ship Company and the Huddart-Parker Company, who have combined to rob the people of Tasmania. Ifc is because honorable senators on the otherside misrepresent the State of Tasmania, and are out of touch with public opinionthere, that they make the statements to> which we have listened to-night.
– I have been more recently in touch with public opinion inTasmania’ than have the members of the honorable senator’s party.
– I propose to read some of the evidence taken by the Committee of which Senator Bakhap was chairman, to show who is most in touch with the people of Tasmania in this matter. The honorable senator’s assertion on the subject is not argument. In the report of the Committee, which was evi- dently written by Senator Bakhap, who was the chairman, I find this statement made -
Freights and fares between Tasmania and the mainland have been markedly and substantially reduced during the last quarter of a century ; but recently passenger fares have been increased, and it is probable that nowadays they are too high to permit of the tourist traffic of Tasmania attaining its full stature.
That is a frank admission that passenger fares are too high now. I propose to quote some evidence which was given to the Committee, not by Labour supporters, but by good Liberals. On the subject of freights, Mr. Clemons, one of the most prominent merchants of Devonport, said -
To give you one clear instance, the freight from Devonport to Newcastle on chaff is 33s. 6d. per ton. From Adelaide to Newcastle it is only £1. It is four days sailing between Adelaide and Newcastle, steaming all the time, and yet the freight is less than from here. Consequently our quotations have to be from 5s. to 7s. under mainland prices to get the business.
Iti other words, we have to pay a penalty of from 5s. to 7s. per ton on this produce going from Tasmania, yet Senator Bakhap would have us believe that there is nothing wrong with the shipping companies. Mr. Edwin Ingledew, who stood in the Liberal interest in Tasmania at the recent elections, speaking of the freight on chaff, said -
The existing rate now to Sydney is 18s. peT ton as against 12s. 6d. per ton from Adelaide to Sydney.
That is 50 per cent. more.
– But boats trading to Adelaide get back loading.
– That may be so; but the fact remains that the producers of Tasmania are heavily penalized. A freight of 9s. to lis. per ton is charged on potatoes, which represents an increase of over 40 per cent. But, of course, there is nothing wrong there.
– The Labour Government are putting up freights on the New South Wales railways. There is something wrong there, is there not ?
– That may be so; but it does not alter the fact that, in answer to the honorable senator’s impassioned defence and whitewashing of the Combine, there is clear evidence that the people of Tasmania are discontented with the service with which they are provided. So far as the evidence of witnesses connected with the Shipping Com bine is concerned, the honorable senator said, in his report - lt is fair to them to stale that they were frank enough, but they were not policy-directing, and could not have supplied complete information in. any case without permission, and assistance from the head office of the company.
The honorable senator also stated -
Naturally the most reliable information regarding this cardinal feature is in the possession of the companies now operating, and, having in view the possiblity of direct State action being advocated and recommended, your Committee thought it unfair to press for any detailed disclosures on this point from the shipping companies’ local representatives, who were examined as witnesses.
– Does the honorable senator say that that was an improper attitude for the Committee to take up ?.
– I do not say so. The honorable senator has said that it was not fair to force these people to disclose their profits. I can give this great champion df the shipping companies a little more information about the profits made by the companies. One of the witnesses who came before the Committee, and who was complimented on being the most efficient, reliable, and well-informed witness who appeared before them, gave some evidence on this point. I refer to Mr. Black. He stated that one boat, plying between Hobart and Sydney, earned £43,000 in one season. The expenses of the vessel amounted to less than £20,000, so that there was a profit of £23,000 on the running of that boat for twelve months.
– That has nothing to do with the contract.
– When we consider that the mail contract is the lever by which these shipping companies in combination ‘ control the trade of Tasmania, it will be seen that it has everything to do with the contract. I may inform honorable senators that fruit-growers of Tasmania sending fruit to Brisbane have topay freight amounting to 17s. 6d. per ton between Sydney and Brisbane, whilst Queensland fruit-growers shipping fruit, back to Sydney by the same steamers are charged a freight of only 9s. 9d. per ton. Is that not an indication of the way in which the people of Tasmania are beingexploited ? If we could once break upthis Shipping Combine by means of Commonwealthowned boats, or could induceanother shipping company to compete with the Combine, we should at onceeffect a material reduction of freights and! an improvement in the shipping conditions applying to the whole of Tasmania. Senator Bakhap knows that quite well.
The honorable senator has referred us to the authority of Mr. George Collins, M.L.C., who is stated to be the Sir Henry Parkes of Tasmania. When the honorable senator refers to him as an authority, I wish to inform honorable senators that it is commonly re- ported in Launceston that Mr. George Collins is an extensive shareholder in the Union Shipping Company. From that we have a reliable index as to the view he would be likely to take of this matter.
– The honorable senator should also tell the Senate that in certain circumstances, and if a better service could not be obtained from the companies, Mr. George Collins is in favour of a State-owned service. Why does not the honorable senator tell the whole truth ?
– Mr. George Collins took very fine care not to wax too warm on that phase of the subject. I never heard him “ dare to be a Daniel,” or come very much to the front, in support of a State-owned service.
– He is always in the front in support of anything which will better Tasmanian conditions.
– He is always in the forefront when it is a question of making a good investment. Senator Bakhap has said a great deal about the profits in connexion with this service, and I am in a position to still further confute his statements by quoting some reliable figures which I used in the Senate before, but which have never been challenged. I took the trouble for twelve months, while travelling backwards and forward’s to Tasmania, as a senator representing that State, to discover the average number of persons who travelled by the Loongana and the other boat running. I find that the highest number travelling by the vessel in any one week was 1,900, and the lowest 310. The average number of passengers carried during a week was 500 - 300 first saloon, . and 200 second saloon. The average receipts of the Loongana, from passenger fares alone, amounted to £1,370 per week, or £5,480 per month. Those are reliable figures, which have been carefully checked.
SenatorO’Keefe. - That average would be largely increased with a better service.
– That is so. That average was taken out in 1911 by myself, and I can vouch for the accuracy of the figures I have given. Senator Bakhap, in his brief for the shipping companies, did not favour the Senate with any figures to prove that they were not making profits. I propose to quote some figures for the purpose of showing that they are making big profits. I have obtained a reliable estimate of the expenses of working that- vessel. I did not go to Tom, Dick, or Harry for it, but to a man who has a special knowledge of the subject.
– The honorable Senator did not go to Captain Evans?
– No. I went to a reliable authority, who gave me a quotation which set down the expenses of working the Loongana at £3,000 per month. I told him that, as a layman, I thought the estimate was too low.
– The honorable senator should tell us who was his authority.
– I have another estimate which allows £360 per week for coal, £150 for food, £175 for wages, £275 for other expenses, and £125 for interest, which should not be overlooked, making a total of £1,085 per week, or £4,340 per month. It will be seen from these figures, which are not overdrawn, that the company is making, out of the passenger traffic on the Loongana and LauncestonMelbourne steamer service, a profit of no less than £13,000 or £14,000 per annum.
– What was the cost of the vessel in the first place ?
– About £80,000.
– What has the honorable senator allowed for depreciation ?
– I have allowed £125 per week for interest and depreciation.
– And the honorable senator has not taken the . cargo into consideration at all.
– Nor the mail subsidy.
– That is so. It is well known that the Loongana has returned to her owners over £100,000 since she has been in the trade.
– Why did they not build another Loongana at once ?
– If the honorable senator had a good thing on, would he do something which he was not obliged to do ? I have given facts concerning this service which cannot be disproved. I could give others. It is recognised in * shipping circles in Tasmania that when we proposed to establish a Commonwealth line of steamers, we did so primarily as a business proposition. The sum of £150.000 would build an improved Loongana. With the present subsidy we could build two Loonganas. We could give Tasmania a daily mail service, reduce fares and freights, and if the steamship companies entered into competition with us, the people of Australia would benefit by the reduced rates charged. Yet Senator Bakhap had the audacity to rise to-night and make a whitewashing speech on behalf of this Combine.
I wish to give one instance of how far-reaching is the influence of the Union Steam-ship Company, which in the matter of transport holds Tasmania in the hollow of its hand. A gentleman who is a friend of mine recently visited England on a holiday trip, and whilst there called upon the manager of the Federal Houlder Shire line of boats. His idea was to induce that company to engage in the InterState fruit trade between Hobart and Sydney. The general manager of the company listened to what my friend had to say with interest, and replied, “Yes, the proposition certainly looks good enough.” My friend then “said, “ There is a good thing in it for you, and I will guarantee to get you the trade,” and thereupon the manager answered, “ You call again to-morrow.” My friend did so, and upon seeing the manager the latter said, “ I find, Mr. Soandso, that the Union Steam-ship Company are engaged in the business of which you spoke, and I am sorry to say we cannot enter into competition with it.” My friend pressed for an explanation as to the reason, and the manager replied, “The Union Steam-ship Company is one of the biggest shareholders in our company.” That circumstance shows that the Union Steam-ship Company is able to influence freights even so far as the big liners of Great Britain are concerned.
I am not ashamed to stand up and break a lance for my State against this Combine. The Royal Commission on the Fruit Industry, of which I had the honour to be a member, found that an honorable understanding existed between practically every steamship company trading in Australia - an understanding under which the waters of one route were allotted to a particular line of steamers and the waters of another route to another line of steamers.
– The Select Committee of which I was chairman found that there was no such understanding in existence.
– I wonder it did not find that it was too expensive for us to found an Australian Navy, because we could not afford to pay for a Dreadnought. The fact is that, as far as the Tasmanian trade is concerned, no line of vessels will enter into competition with the Huddart Parker and the Union Steam-ship Companies. That is the position we are up against. We came to this Parliament with a business proposition which any company with the necessary resources would have jumped at. But what was the attitude adopted by the Government towards us? Are they willing to discuss the matter with us? The Postmaster-General, when asked whether the contract with the shipping companies for the carriage of mails between Melbourne and Tasmania for a subsidy of £15,000 per year had been signed, and, if not, whether he would hold it over until the House had dealt with the motion submitted by Mr. O’Malley in another place, replied -
The contract has not yet been signed, but the conditions have been agreed to, so that I think it would be very unfair to hold it over any longer.
I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Imprisonment of a Cadet.
Motion (by Senator Clemons) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I am very sorry that the Minister of Defence is absent, because I desire to address my remarks to him.
– I will undertake to say that the honorable senator will not suffer through the absence of the Minister.
– I wish to refer very briefly to the alleged treatment of a cadet named Victor Yeo, at Broken Hill. The circumstances surrounding this, case are such that I do not think the reply which was given to me this afternoon by the Minister of Defence was at all a satisfactory one. Doubtless he told the Senate all that he knew. I am a supporter of the principle of compulsory military training, and therefore have no desire to prejudice the operation of that system. But I was led to believe from debates which took place in this Chamber during the last Parliament that the later amending Defence Act provided that defaulting cadets, instead of being imprisoned, were to be detained in barracks, and that in’ no circumstances were they to be gaoled.
– In no circumstances ?
– Yes; that is so.
– If the information which has been conveyed to me is correct, this particular lad was not only committed to gaol for twenty-one days, but for the first seven days was fed only on bread and water. After his release he was again tried for refusing to put in the prescribed drills, and was again committed to gaol, where he was again fed on bread and water. His sentence expired while circumlocutory action was being taken by the Defence Department. I never did have much time for professional military people, and I am quite certain that if Senator Millen is content to take - as too many Ministers are in the habit of doing - a report as to what has been done from those who were the head and front of the offenders, from those who were practically doing it, or ordering it, he will never get anything but faked reports. Such reports are useless in political matters. The idiotic system, which is customary with all Governments during my experience, of calling upon the person who is practically accused of committing the wrong, for a report as to what has been done, and then taking’ that report for granted, does not satisfy me for one; nor do I think it should satisfy the democratic spirit of the Senate, ‘ whatever may be submitted to in a more Conservative Chamber. 1, for one, shall continue to make a “dickens” of a row over this kind of thing, unless I get some satisfactory assurance that when such reports are circulated, the men who are accused -shall not be applied to for their version of what happened, but that some inde pendent person shall be appealed to to report, and report fairly. I trust thatthe Minister- will take these remarks, not as a threat, but as a warning that, ‘ unless something more satisfactory is done than is disclosed in the answer I received from his chief, more will be heard of it at no distant date.
– I have no doubt that the actual prosecution, which ended in the cadet referred to being sent to gaol, never came under the notice of the Minister until the lad was really in gaol. When the case was first mentioned here, it came as a surprise and a shock to me, because of one of the reasons I stated for moving the second reading of the Defence Bill, on the 18th July, 1912. The Government of the day decided that they would so amend the Act as to substitute in all cases commitment to a place of military detention for gaol, as the alternative for the non-payment of fines imposed on cadets, and the instruction given by myself to the officer who represented the Defence Department was that the Attorney-General’s Department was to draft a measure which would have that effect. We were under the impression - I certainly was - that the Bill carried out that decision, and I told the Senate that that was the intention. On page 950 of Hansard, I said -
In this Bill it is proposed to make it imperative that the alternative for the non-payment of a fine for evasion of service shall always be commitment to a place of military detention, and not to a gaol.
I only wish to say, in justice to the lao3 Government, that we believed that the amending Bill - and I am certain that the Senate so believed - attained that end. On both sides that, was hailed as a reform which everybody thought should be brought about, and it did come as a surprise and a shock to me when I heard that a lad in Broken Hill had been sent to gaol. I hope that if it is found that the amending Act is not perfect in that respect, the Government will amend it. I am sure that they do not want to send lads to gaol any more than the late Government did, and if this case makes it plain to them that there is still open some means by which lads can be sent to gaol, I trust that the Act will be amended.
– Can we amend the Act to get rid of the barbarous magistrates who are a disgrace to the . country ?
– I do not think it is the wish of Parliament that cadets should be sent to gaol. It has been proved that military detention is far preferable to gaol detention, and . is a sufficient, deterrent.
– On behalf of the Minister of Defence, I wish to assure Senator Rae that there will be a thorough investigation of this case. I also, in addition to the Minister, will investigate the matter as thoroughly as I am capable of doing, and, if the information is of any use to him, in a sympathetic way, too.
– Thanks, very much. I hope you will.
– I agree with the honorable senator that, in these cases. there is a great difficulty - I know it only too well - in getting a perfectly independent report. That is one of the difficulties which always confront a Minister when he is making an inquiry of thissort. But if it can in any way . be got over, it will be got over, so far as I can bring it about. I shall make it ray personal business, to look into the law, and if, as Senator Pearce has . said, the amending Act was so drafted that the clear intention of both sides in the last Senate was not given effect to, I shall urge upon the Cabinet the desirability of amending the Act. in the direction indicated. I express my personal sympathy, and I will not stop, until I have got to the bottom of this matter, if that is possible.
– Thank you.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at10.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 October 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1913/19131022_senate_5_71/>.