5th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to intimate to the Senate that I have received the following communication : -
The Hon. the President of the Senate.
Mrs. C. E. Frazer desires to express her high appreciation of the resolution of sympathy passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of her husband, and to convey her sincere thanks to the President and Senators for the kindness they have shown her in her bereavement.
– Can the Honorary Minister tell the Senate when that air of profound mystery that wraps itself round the Tasmanian mail contract is to be dispelled, and when the Senate is to be informed why the contract has not yet been signed, and when it will be signed ?
– Anything mysterious is objectionable to me, as I believe Senator Ready knows. As a matter of fact, there is nothing in the delay that has taken place in regard to the signing of the contract which is of any real importance. I will take upon myself the responsibility of saying exactly what the position is. The Government desire that the new service should come into operation at the earliest possible moment. The delay that must take place is due, as everyone knows, to the fact that the new steamer, to comply with the conditions set out in the contract, has to be built. The delay, so far as there has been any delay in the signing of the contract, has been due to the hope that in the course of a day or two we might have been able to get a definite statement from the people concerned as to the date when the new ship would be completed and delivered in Australian waters. As Senator Ready will know, that date could not be fixed by the contractors or the Government, or any one else, until the first step was taken of obtaining tenders from ship-builders in England that would specify the date by which the new boat was to be built. There is the whole of the mystery. It is a simple mystery in a little nut-shell. The Government have simply the one desire, to hurry the thing on and to put into the contract itself a definite date. There is the whole position, and there is nothing else to say.
– I desire to announce the receipt of the following message : -
The House of Representatives returns to the Senate the Bill intituled “A Bill for an Act to restore the provisions of the ‘ Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902-1909 ‘ wilh respect to Voting by Post,” and acquaints the Senate that the House of Representatives has disagreed to the amendments made in such Bill by the Senate for the reason shown in the annexed Schedule.
This communication is not in order, and cannot be received, because it is not signed by anybody.
– It is an unsigned communication, which the Senate cannot receive, and, therefore, it is not open for discussion.
– I do not want to discuss the communication, sir, but to ask you a question.
– May not an honorable senator ask a question on that communication, sir ?
– Let me hear what it is.
– I simply wanted to know, sir, apart from your ruling the communication out of order on the ground you did, whether it was in order for the other House to return the Bill to the Senate with a title different from that which we sent out of the Chamber?
– That is not a question which should be answered, because the Bill has not been returned to us at all. This is not a message from anybody.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer to the questions is - 1 and 2. At the time of Commander Brewis’ report the Western Australian Government had projected six new lights mentioned in that report. Of these, three are now in operation, and the apparatus has been ordered by the Western Australian Government for the other three. Eleven other lights were recommended by Commander Brewis, and these are now under consideration by this Government in view of the taking over of the coastal lights generally at an early date.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answer is - 1 and 2. It is in very rare cases that transfers of married men with large families from one State to another are approved, and then only in cases where it is clearly shown that the transfer is in the interests of the Public Service.
I understand that all cases of proposed transfers are carefully scrutinized before approval is given, but I will issue further instructions in the matter.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Bill returned with a message stating that the House of Representatives had disagreed to the amendments of the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Gardiner) agreed to-
That the Committee have leave to extend the time for bringing up the report to Tuesday next.
– Before the Orders of the Day are called on, I ask permission to make a short statement in reply to a question which the Leader of the Opposition was unable to submit last night, as to the business it is desired to complete before the close of this session.
– It will be remembered that last night, through an inadvertence - I had spoken in reply to the motion for adjournment - Senator McGregor was prevented from putting a question which he communicated to me privately afterwards. It had reference to the desire on his part, and I suppose on the part of the Senate generally, to be informed as to the business which the Government are anxious to have completed before this session closes, that information being sought with a view to enable an estimate to be formed as to when we can close the labours of the session. It is the desire, and one which I believe is approved by both parties in the other House, that the session should terminate on Wednesday next. I understand, though I have not seen the Prime Minister this morning, that that represents the result of an arrangement made between the two parties in the other House, whose members desire to close the labours of the session on the day I have mentioned. The list of business on the notice-paper seems rather long, but it is not so formidable as it appears. The majority of the measures are not likely to demand much of the time of honorable senators. Many of them, such as the Defence Bill, can be disposed of in a few minutes. The Bills that are to come from another Chamber are limited in number, and with, perhaps, two exceptions, do not represent subject-matter which need occupy attention for a long period. Looking at the measures to be dealt with, I am of opinion that if we adjourn at the usual time to-day, and meet on Monday morning, we can clear up everything, and be ready to pass the Estimates when they reach us. I have every reason to believe they will be here on Monday, and we can then proceed to discuss them.
– Where does private business come in ?
– We have abolished private business for this session.
– Do not leave that out of the reckoning. There are matters which will have to be discussed.
– The Senate can, if it chooses, depart from its Standing Orders. If there be one or two matters, such as the one which Senator de Largie evidently has in his mind, no doubt we shall be able to give time to them; but if we wish to rise on Wednesday there certainly will not be opportunities to dispose of all the private business on the paper.
– The honorable senator need not look at me.
– Senator Bae certainly has the habit of monopolizing the business-paper, if nothing else.
– If we finish on Wednesday, when does the honorable senator think that Parliament will meet again?
– “ Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.”. Senator Russell’s curiosity will be satisfied when the proper time comes.
– Let us have a summer session.
– Some would like Parliament to be perpetually in session. I have put before the Senate a business proposition, which will commend itself to honorable senators, if there be a general desire to bring the session to a termination, so that honorable senators may be enabled to return home in time for Christmas.
– How are we to go to Sydney to-night if the Senate is to meet on Monday morning?
– It is one of tha easiest things in the world for a New South Welshman to do that. I have often left Melbourne for Sydney on Friday and been back on Monday. As far. as the South Australians are concerned, I recognise that they are under a disability. There are two alternatives open to them. Perhaps the better course for them would be to allow the business to proceed in their absence on Monday morning.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - We cannot get back by Monday afternoon.:
– The other alternative is that they should not go to Adelaide to-day. Otherwise, we shall be compelled to sit on Thursday or tomorrow.
– The New South Welshmen cannot be back before Monday after- noon.
– Some honorable senators are like a lot of children in their talk about going home for the week-end.
– ll is the proper place for a large number of them. W.e have to recognise, as practical men, that ib is impossible to meet the convenience of everybody.
– Why not grant seven pairs to the Ministerial party, and so get over the difficulty?
– Why not dispense with the seven from this side altogether? I make this proposition so as to meet the convenience of the majority. Everything depends upon whether there is a desire to terminate the business on Wednesday next. I am satisfied that if honorable senators apply themselves to business we can close our labours on the day I have mentioned.
.- I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a little measure which can be disposed of in a very few minutes. It may be remembered that last year Senator Pearce, then in charge of the Defence Department, brought forward a Bill to amend the Act substituting detention in military custody for gaol, where a sentence of imprisonment was imposed for offences in reference to the enrolment and training regulations. It was discovered afterwards, that, owing to a slight defect in drafting, that amendment of the law covered =only certain offences, but not the whole of them. The result was that, with the best intentions in the world, its objects were not fully achieved. It was found that it was still possible for magistrates to send cadets to gaol for certain offences. The object of this Bill is to stop that little gap, which was left as the result of faulty drafting. If it becomes law, it will mean that no cadet can be sent to gaol for offences under the universal training regulations, but will, instead, be sent into military detention. That, I venture to say, is a proposal which will command the respect of the House, as did a similar proposition in the previous Parliament. A second amendment of the law made by this Bill is that contained in clause 3. This limits the period of detention which may be allotted to any defaulter to thirty days in any one year. It has happened that where a cadet has been proceeded against for a series of defaults - such, for instance, as failing to register, failing to present ‘ himself for medical examination, any default as to drills, and so forth - magistrates have imposed sentences which, in the aggregate, have amounted to much more than was intended. For instance, I have a case in mind wherein a magistrate sentenced a lad to thirty days for one offence, to thirty days for another, the two to run concurrently, and to an additional twenty days for a third offence, making a total of fifty days. It is obvious that if proceedings were taken for a repetition of offences in any one year, the penalties would pile up to a very serious extent indeed. It has appeared to me, as I hope it will appear to the Senate, that it is desirable to prescribe a limit to the period of detention which can be enforced against any cadet in any one year. That period I have put down at thirty days.
.- I trust that the Senate will pass this Bill expeditiously, because it is one of which I am entirely in favour, and which should, indeed, have been passed before. There is only one point which I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister. I believe that the time will soon arise when we shall have to have special magistrates in connexion with the Defence Act. The reason I make that statement is this : Under the present system unpaid magistrates throughout the Commonwealth deal with offences under the Defence Act. All kinds of decisions of the most conflicting, and sometimes of the most harsh, character are given. It has been found necessary, under the Old-age Pensions Act, to appoint special magistrates.
– A very bad system, too.
– That is a matter of opinion. What our experience would have been if we had had to depend upon the ordinary magistrates to deal with old-age pension cases, I do not know. The Minister might, during the recess, give consideration to the question of whether the paid magistrates who now administer ‘the Old-age Pensions Act could not also administer the Defence Act, so as to give a consistent reading to the Act, instead of the many conflicting readings, resulting often in very harsh decisions, which are now given by magistrates.
– This is a very short Bill, but honorable senators ought to have been afforded a clear idea as to what it really means. A most dangerous principle sometimes gets into a measure through honorable senators accepting the assurance of a Minister, made in all good faith, that there is no harm in it, and that nothing but a formal alteration is to be made in an existing Act.
– Has not the honorable senator seen the memorandum which has been circulated, showing exactly what this Bill will do?
– No. I have not. Another point to which I wish to refer is this:If this measure lessens the harshness which sometimes results from the peculiar interpretations placed upon the existing Act, it will do good. I agree with the reduction of the period of detention which may be inflicted in any one year. Indeed, if the period were made less than thirty days, it would be an improvement. This is an appropriate time to mention the fact that there is a good deal of unnecessary friction in the working of the Defence Act. It may be a matter of gratification to the Governor-General and others, when reviewing cadets and citizen forces, to notice the manly bearing of the troops, and their correct method of going through evolutions. But it is a cause of regret to many of us, who desire to see our defences become a success, to learn of the unnecessary harshness that has been introduced into its administration. When a complaint is made, the only sympathy one gets is to be told by some flippant officer, who probably never had to face any harshness in his life, that it is a good thing for the lads that they should be treated in this way, because it teaches them what they will have to endure in actual warfare. I have in mind several instances that have come under my personal notice, wherein a great deal pf harshness in the administration of the law has been displayed. Sometimes positive injustice and cruelty have been perpetrated. Much has recently been heard about the military encampment at Liverpool. I was assured by some who have- inside knowledge of what has gone on, that nearly all the trouble which arose occurred through the unnecessary harshness of the officer in charge, the man at the head of affairs. I find that in very many cases there is a tendency on the part of imported men to apply ideas of discipline which are modelled on those applicable to the standing armies of Great Britain and Europe. This breeds a spirit of discontent, which, in my opinion, will tend to militate against the success of our defence system, and may, indeed, lead to its breakdown. If this Bill will go any distance towards mitigating that state of things, I welcome it. No matter how perfect the Act may be, if we have unsympathetic, stupid officers in charge - pompous, overbearing, and arbitrary men, who deliberately try to inflict unnecessary hardship on the cadets in the name of discipline - there will be trouble.
– No Act of Parliament could avoid that.
– No, but criticism in Parliament is useful in calling attention to it. I trust that the Minister of Defence, and every man who occupies his position in the future, will not delay in getting rid of those who utilize their positions in that way. I am very much afraid that the tendency of the present Administration is to go in for more and more of the imported military official, the “ English Johnny “ sort of man. I hope that my suspicions are ill-founded, but I have a strong suspicion that the tendency of the Government is to increase the number of British officers employed in the service. It is, in my opinion, all fudge and nonsense to say that we must have a large number of these officers in order to provide the necessary training. The various volunteer systems in force for several years in the States were largely organized and conducted by imported military men, and there should be a sufficient number of capable men trained under those systems to give us all the help we need in inaugurating the new system in the Commonwealth. I think that too much reliance is placed on the supposed perfect knowledge and ability of the imported British officer. I hope that the Government, instead of increasing their number, will go in for giving Australians a chance which they have not hitherto had to the extent they should have had, and will not allow themselves to be influenced by the fetish and silly superstition that we can only get a man with brains by sending to England for him.
– I have no desire to delay the passing of this Bill, but I take advantage of the opportunity to reply to what the Minister of Defence said the other day when I asked him some questions in connexion with the trouble that occurred at the Liverpool camp. The honorable senator said that the trouble there was caused by only about half-a-dozen malcontents. I ask whether it was fair and just that a whole camp of thousands of lads and young men should be penalized as those at the Liverpool camp were because of the outrages and want of discipline of halfadozen men. The men attending that camp came away from it tired and disgusted with the service because of the attitude adopted by an officer, whom I shall not name. If these occurrences are repeated in the early history of our defence system, they will tend to break it tdown. Our soldiers should be given an idea that there is something to be gained by military training. Even in the Old Country, the home of the permanent soldier, the Territorials are never treated as the lads who attended the Liverpool camp were treated. The Minister of Defence deprecated remarks which might have the effect of breeding discontent amongst our citizen soldiers; but while I have no wish to do anything of that kind, it is only fair that. I should say that I do not think they are in every case receiving the treatment which they should receive at the hands of their officers. In my opinion, we shall never succeed in blending the two services together, and we should look more to our militia officers than we do. The officers are disgusted at the limited opportunities afforded for promotion. No matter how diligent a man might be, he could not attain a higher rank than that of captain That is unfair and unjust, and the authorities Would do well to take this matter into consideration in the near future.
– As an ardent and whole-hearted supporter of the principle of universal training, I welcome this measure in the hope that it will have the effect of doing away with many of the pin-pricks arising from the present administration of the Defence Act. I agree with the ex-
Minister of Defence that no system can be fool-proof, and in instances which have been brought under the notice of honorable senators personally, or through the columns of the daily press, injustice has been inflicted upon some of the trainees. I asked a question recently in connexion with the case of two lads named Size, who were incarcerated at Fort Largs, in South Australia. The Minister did me the courtesy to show me a copy of the report received from the officer-in-charge. I feel convinced that that officer gave the complaint sympathetic attention. I am not objecting to the Minister’s action in that matter, but only a few moments ago I received a letter from a gentleman who is taking an interest in the case, which is creating some discussion in the State. He informs me that the statement with which I was able to supply him, through the courtesy of the Minister, was purely an ex parte statement of the officer-in-charge, and has been denied by the boys incarcerated at Fort Largs. He makes a suggestion somewhat on the lines of that made by Senator Pearce, that there be a permanent civil commission appointed to go into the merits or demerits of these cases. No matter how fair an officer of the Defence Department may be, if his action or statements be criticised by a trainee or the mother of a trainee who has come under his ban, he naturally “ puts the best side to London.” I am satisfied that the universal training system is popular with the great bulk of Australian lads, but we should do what is possible to prevent friction in connexion with it, and the Minister of Defence might consider the suggestion which has been made. Senator McDougall referred to the trouble which occurred at the Liverpool camp, and I agree that we must take cum grano salis the accounts which have appeared in the press in connexion with that matter. I wish to refer to something that occurred in connexion with the camp recently held at Burrumbeet, 12 miles from Ballarat. According to the reports which have appeared in the press, a number of lads were marched on one of the hottest days in the season a distance of between 12 and 14 miles to that camp.
– With a little drummer lad in front of them.
– I have a great admiration and respect for that little drummer lad, but every member of the force may not possess the physical strength, stamina, and heart of that lad. I do not -want our soldiers to be mollycoddled or to be cotton-wool soldiers, but there is such a thing as asking lads who are not in a good physical condition to march a little too far on a hot day laden with a heavy knapsack, and various accoutrements. I call attention to the fact that some public bodies in Ballarat have complained that one lad was practically kidnapped off the streets by the officer in charge of a particular regiment, and marched off to the camp. The lad was in civilian dress, and, so far as I know, this action was taken without any legal authority whatever.
– The officer had legal authority under the Defence Act.
– It is a pretty severe law that gives any officer such authority.
– Truant officers have the same authority under the Education Act.
– A lad may be in the street, on an important message for his parents, and yet it appears that an officer of the Defence Force may practically arrest him, although he is in plain clothes, and march him off to a camp 14 miles away.
– He was marking a game of billiards in a billiard-room. That was his important occupation.
– Who does the honorable senator say kidnapped this boy ?
– An officer of one of the regiments.
– He was taken by a civil policeman. The officer went there merely for the purpose of identifying the lad.
– I am glad to hear the Minister say that. I have no wish to oppose the principle of compulsory training, but I hope that the Minister and members of the Senate generally will give all the assistance they can to remove the causes of friction, which may tend to break down that system.
– Why does not the honorable senator say something about the thousands who do their duty without complaint?
– I say all honour to them. I admire and appreciate their efforts to build up a citizen army for the defence of the Commonwealth, but I object to what I am given to understand is the attitude adopted by some officers in dragooning the trainees and kidnapping them from the streets. I think that that kind of thing should be prevented, while I admit that it is fair and just that those who do not perform their drills should be punished.
– I think we can say that our system of compulsory training has proved to be a great success. When we compare the number of those who willingly undergo the training with the number who neglect to perform their drills, the comparison is one we have a right to be proud of. I agree with Senator Pearce that there should be special magistrates appointed to look into cases of offences against the Act by trainees, because much discontent and dissatisfaction was aroused by the harsh decisions of many of the magistrates who dealt with the first offenders brought before them. Possibly that would remove, npt only a good deal of the friction, but a good deal of the feeling which is being exhibited towards the Act, because of the punishment which is being meted out to some of the trainees. It would be a marvel, indeed, if there were not- a few unruly ones amongst the large number of lads who are now undergoing military training. At the same time, the arbitrary manner in which some of these offenders are dealt with by Area Officers can never be justified. Some parents, it is true, appear to think that they have cause to complain of our compulsory training system, when, as a matter of fact, they have no reasonable ground for any such complaint. Quite recently a number of lads who had been taken out to drill were caught in a thunderstorm, with the result that they got very wet. One man with whom I conversed on the subject suggested that it was a terrible thing that the Department did not provide the lads with overcoats or umbrellas to protect them from the storm.
– They do not mind getting wet at a football match.
– No; they rather welcome it, because it gives an opportunity to the players to indulge in what is known as “ fast “ play. As one who presided for eighteen months over a Children’s Court, where the decisions of the magistrates are based upon the merits of each case, I hold that the justices who are called upon to deal with defaulting trainees should be clothed with similar power. Both honorary and paid magistrates possess certain traditions. They regard some offences as of a heinous character
– The honorable senator would smash up discipline.
– I do not thinkso. Our paid magistrates are brought up in a certain groove. They may view as serious the trifling act of a lad who has been practically tutored by his parents to object to the system of compulsory training. At one or two meetings which I have attended, I have heard the most outrageous statements made as to the way in which the boys are dealt with, andI have heard our compulsory training system denounced as conscription. The way in which our Defence Act was spoken of was enough to bring tears to the eyes of a stuffed Egyptian.
– Where was that - at the Freedom “League ?
– They are certainly very free with their facts.
– I thought it was the Liberty League.
– It is freedom and liberty combined. I have been told that the funds of this league are contributed by the Cadbury Cocoa people in England for the avowed purpose of destroying our system of compulsory training. Whether that is so or not, I cannot say. It would be satisfactory if we could learn whether, apart from objections by a section of our own people, there are outsiders who are contributing money in an endeavour to break down that system.
– Upon the whole, I appreciate the tone of the debate which has taken place on this Bill, and I am impressed with at least one of the suggestions that has been made. I would like to refer to one or two observations by honorable senators, taking them in the order in which they were made. Senator Pearce has suggested the desirableness of appointing special magistrates to deal with defaulters under the universal training regulation’s. I shall cer tainly give consideration to that suggestion. I may say that my own thoughts were running along lines not quite parallel, but leading in the same direction. It appears to me that a good deal of the trouble experienced under our compulsory training system is due, not so much to the magistrates as to the different officers who are charged with launching the prosecutions. What I had in my mind was not to attempt an alteration in respect of the magistrates, but to see if it were not possible to appoint in each State an officer whose special business it would be to deal with prosecutions.
– We have the Area Officers now.
– But the Area Officers vary as much as do the individual magistrates.
– Will not the special officer vary, too ?
– I do not wish it to be understood that I have finally committed myself to that course. It is true that the Area Officers vary, but the duty of the special officer which I had in my mind would be to instruct the Area Officers, and to supervise prosecutions before they were launched. Such a system would, at any rate, bring about uniformity. Unnecessary prosecutions would be eliminated, and in other cases a postponement might be granted, and an intimation made to the Court as to the sense of gravity with which the Department viewed those cases. I shall consider side by side with that the suggestion which has been made by Senator Pearce.
Senators Rae and Blakey each used a phrase which I think fell from their lips without any idea that it might be construed by those reading it in a different way from that which they intended. Senator Rae said that “ harshness is now being introduced into the administration “ of our compulsory training system, and Senator Blakey spoke of “ the pinpricks which now exist.” I do not suppose that either honorable senator intended to suggest that something was being done which was not being done previously.
– I should have said that it has been in existence all the time.
– I took the phrase down as Senator Rae uttered it, and it did seem to me that he intended to convey that harshness was now being introduced into bur administration. So far as
I am concerned, there has been no alteration in the system of universal training since my advent to the Defence Department. But when a large staff is created upon which serious responsibilities are thrown, it is inevitable that there will be occasional acts of indiscretion. Upon the whole, we may congratulate ourselves that those acts have been so few. Having said that, I do not wish the Senate to assume that we have reached finality. In my judgment, we shall never reach it. Experience will gradually suggest where we can remove some little weakness, and provide for some little improvement. It will be the duty of the Minister of Defence for the time being to be continually looking round with a view to seeing if he cannot eliminate friction from our compulsory training system, the success of which must rest on the goodwill of the people themselves. I do think that those who are friends, of that system should be very slow to accept as substantiated either press statements or statements which emanate from the few discontented lads in any unit. I do not mean to say that officers never do wrong. But it is strong presumptive evidence that the system is working well when we find that, out of 500 boys who are being trained under one officer, 495 are contented, and make no complaints, whilst the other five are discontented, and full of complaints.
– It is’ the other fellows who have the pluck.
– It may not be pluck. It may be crankiness. .
– If Senator Guthrie saw some of them, he would not say that.
– I was about to make almost the same remark. The greatest cure for those who are inclined to champion the cause of these defaulters would be to attend one- of the Courts when a batch of them is being presented.
– I have been there.
– I propose to refer to one case for the purpose of showing how a newspaper report is apparently accepted, even by a gentleman who professes to be a friend of the compulsory training system. Senator Blakey referred to a case of hardship at Ballarat, where the boys were required to march a distance of 14 miles.
– They were all over eighteen years of age.
– Yes; and the individual who led them was a little boy who, if he had not been in uniform, would have been in knickerbockers. The fact that that little lad could lead t» column without experiencing any discomfort is fair evidence that no hardship was inflicted upon them. In regard to the same camp, I wish now to deal with another statement by Senator Blakey to the effect that a military officer went into the town and kidnapped a defaulter. The information which comes to me is that there was a defaulter following the occupation of a billiard-marker in a saloon in Ballarat. He was required by the Court, and a policeman was sent to take him; but the officer who went with him went, not to act as arresting officer, but to identify the lad. It is easy to see that the journalists - they are after sensational copy, and that is why they occasionally come here - immediately listened to the grievance of the proprietor of the saloon, or the lad, or the lad’s father. But there was nothing to complain of. The real point to be borne in mind is that the cadet was a defaulter. The fact that a military officer went to the billiard saloon with a policeman to identify the lad is no evidence, I venture to say, of harshness.
– In what newspaper did that statement appear?
– I saw the statement in the Melbourne newspapers, and Senator Blakey quoted it just now.
– Was it the Age or the Argus?
– I remember reading the statement in the Melbourne newspapers at the time, and I immediately asked for a report on that, as I do on all similar statements in the press.
– I am surprised at the statement appearing in the Age.
– I ask friends of the system to recognise how easy it is for statements of this kind - idle chatter, as much of it is - to find publication through the press. It is, perhaps, the duty of the press to publish these statements, but it is not the duty of the friends of the compulsory training to accept them as evidence, or worthy of repetition, until some inquiry has been made. I do not wish the impression to go abroad that I am closing my eyes to the possibility of defects in the system; I am not. Whenever anything appears in a newspaper that suggests improper conduct, the first and regular step is to call for an inquiry. I am doing that now in regard to the matter to which Senator McDougall has referred - the camp at Liverpool. I think that before it is all over I shall be able to make a public statement, which, at any rate, will not be designed to cloak anybody, if anybody hascommitted a wrong. But my statement that half-a-dozen were at fault had reference, as the honorable senator may possibly recollect, to the alleged revolt at the bridge.
– But he punished the whole camp.
– I do not say whose fault it is. I am not saying whether the officer is in fault or not. Until I get further information, I prefer not to express an opinion; but, to prevent a misapprehension, I wish to explain that my reference to half-a-dozen being at fault - it was only a figurative reference - related to that much exaggerated riot at the bridge at Liverpool.
– It was not fair to punish the whole camp.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section one hundred and thirty-five of the principal Act is amended -
by inserting in sub-section (5.), after the words this section “, the words “ or either of the next two succeeding sections “ ;
by inserting in sub-section (6.), after the words “ and that “, the words “, in the case of a person committed to custody for an offence against sub-section (1.) of this section,”;
by inserting in sub-section (7.), after the words “ this section “, the words “ or either of the next two succeeding sections “ ; and
by omitting sub-sections (8.) to (10.) in clusive.
– According to the memorandum, showing the proposed alterations, section 135 of the Act now reads - (1.) Every person who in any year, without lawful excuse, evades or fails to render the personal service required by this Part shall be guilty of an offence, and shall, in addition to the liability under section one hundred and thirtythree of this Act, be liable to a penalty not exceeding One hundred pounds. (ia.) Every person who, being a person liable to training under this Part -
The Minister, I dare say, will tell me which clause of this Bill deals with the penalties provided in section 135 of the Act.
– On page 2 of the memorandum the alterations we wish to make by the insertion of words are setout in black type.
– I wish to move the reduction of the penalty in sub-section1A of section 135 from £5 to £2, because it is out of reason to exact a penalty up to £5. I know that I will be told that that is the maximum, but there is a great tendency on the part of some magistratesto impose the maximum. Then the expression in paragraph b of the sub-section “ commits a breach of discipline while ons parade “ is construed sometimes in a most flagrantly unjust and arbitrary manner. A tyrannically minded officer - and, unfortunately, there are such men - may construe the slightest act into a breach of discipline.
– But then the tyrannical officer has to be judged by the magistrate.
– The magistrate, as a rule, favours the view put forward by the officer. That is my complaint. The tendency is to exact the full penalty for what sometimes is very little more than an imaginary breach. The most trivial’ departure from strict etiquette on parade - for it is hardly more than that - is made an excuse for persecuting cadets, and I use the word “ persecuting “ advisedly. The most trivial things are takennotice of by the Area Officer, or whoever is drilling, sometimes-
– They must be a bad lot.
– There is a tendency in militarism to make bad lots, and to get bad lots on top. I do not wish to libel any set of men. While there are some very admirable officers, yet cases havecome under my notice where young ladshave been treated in the most flagrantly unjust manner for the most paltry alleged! breach of discipline.
– Why do you not bring up cases!
– Senator McGregor is like a number of other people here who are content to call themselves Democrats, but whenever a democratic proposal or test is made-
– There is nothing democratic in your argument.
– I am not arguing about Democracy, but about common sense and facts.
– But you said *’ democratic.”
– Of course I did, because any word is good enough to use when a frivolous interjection is made.
– It is humbug.
– No; I am speaking in the interests of the cadets. The most paltry and the most, ridiculous departure from what the officer in charge thinks is the strict rule of militarism brings the weight of his vengeance down upon some poor unfortunate lad, who is hauled up before a magistrate. As a rule, I do not feel very much fondness for magistrates. The typical magistrate is not too sympathetic an individual, and he generally goes up to the maximum fine.
– God help the Area Officer who had to deal with you.
– I was in the Defence Force when I was a lad in New Zealand, and I never had a complaint made against me. I am speaking quite seriously in urging that the penalty in section 135 of the Act should not be so great. The last clause of this measure limits the period of detention for the cumulative charges that may be brought against the most refractory lad to not more than thirty days. That means a big reduction in what may possibly have been inflicted under the Act as it stands. If the Government are going to reduce the possible term of detention, they should make a pro raid reduction in the possible monetary penalty. Monetary penalties do not fall on the boys, but on the parents, and, consequently, we should not make the Act any more harsh than is possible. It is undoubtedly harsh when, for a mere imaginary breach of discipline, such as talking on parade, a strong martinet may haul the lad up before a magistrate, and such cases are not unknown. Whether it is desired to increase the Commonwealth revenue or not, I do not know.
– Would you abolish the monetary penalty altogether?
– No; I realize that we must have some penalty of that kind; but £5 is too much, and, in my opinion, £2 would be quite enough, seeing that if a boy is guilty over and over again, the penalty may be inflicted over and over again. I know of cases where poor parents, particularly widowed mothers, have been put to great straits through having to pay penalties, or else lose the more or less valuable services of the offender. If I am in order, sir, I move -
That the clause be amended by . inserting before paragraph (a) the following : - “ (a I) by omitting from sub-section ia die words ‘ Five pounds,’ and inserting in their stead ‘ Two pounds.’ “
– I ask Senator Rae not to press the amendment at this juncture. I know of no reason now to suppose that unduly severe monetary penalties are inflicted.
– I have heard of several.
– Lately ?
– I have heard of cases.
– There was a tendency, perhaps, in the first instance, for magistrates who either took what, in my judgment, was a wrong view of the obligation imposed upon them, or did not quite understand what the Act provided, to inflict, perhaps, unnecessarily heavy penalties; but I cannot discover that there is any reason for that fear now. Personally, I have no great regard for a monetary penalty, but the alternative to that is confinement. There may be many cases in which a boy, or even his parents, would prefer to find a moderate monetary penalty than to have the lad sent into military detention.
– You know that £5 is a nasty hit to me, and lots of people are worse off.
– It is because the honorable senator would regard it as a nasty hit, that I am hoping that he will be a law-abiding citizen. There is nothing to warrant the alteration at the present time. I have not discovered any case of hardship, though if there are any they generally filter through to the Minister’s room. But it is always well to recognise that you may have to deal with extreme cases; and where it is necessary for the Court to exercise some firmness it is desirable that this penalty should be retained’.
. - I think there is something in the contention with reference to the fine of £5. It has sometimes been enforced in the past in hard cases, and will probably be again. I am aware that there is a provision that the penalty shall be governed by the condition of the parents of the offender, because ultimately the burden falls on them. But I point out that our defence system bears an appearance of harshness by reason of having these severe fines. If the maximum amount were £10 it might not be enforced, but the fact that there was a £10 fine imposable would conduce to arguments being used against the severity of our defence system. The lowering of the fine would not interfere with discipline, but it would remove a bugbear that exists in the minds of many people.
– We all deprecate, and desire to remove, anything like class distinction in our Defence Forces, but reducing the maximum line from £5 to £2 will have no such effect. We can well understand that a boy whose parents are poor will, if fined, have to go to detention, because his fine would not be paid. But if the boy were the son of a solicitor, a doctor, or a merchant, no matter what he did his father would be able to pay the fine. If the fine were reduced to £2 such a boy, if inclined to pay no regard to discipline, would be the more disposed to defy the law. Offences might be committed that would justify a magistrate in imposing the penalty of £5. If the fine were paid the boy would not go into detention, but if the fine were not paid the period of detention would depend upon the amount of the fine. I am afraid that our democratic friends who want to reduce the fine are only playing into the hands of those who have no democratic instincts.
.- If we are to make amendments in this Bill, let us do so on sound grounds. Some interjections that have been made seem to show that honorable senators are not all seized of what the Defence Act provides. ‘ I think I caught a remark from Senator Guthrie to the effect that if a fine was not paid distress followed. That is not so.
– It is.
– I have reason to be positive on the point, but if Senator Guthrie doubts my word he can look up the Act. It is true that under the original Act distress could follow from non-payment of a fine, but that was struck out when the Defence Act was amended.
– This Bill makes it clearer still.
– The fine can be recovered, not from the parent, but from the lad. How is it recovered? You cannot imprison the bo)’ for the debt, nor can you proceed by distress; and, therefore, unless the lad consents to pay the fine cannot be recovered. But the length of the detention that is given as an alternative to payment of the fine is governed by the amount of the fine. If an offender is fined the maximum amount the detention would be for a longer term than would be the case if the fine were less. If you are going to cut down the amount of the fine you consequently cub down the length of the term of detention. There have been cases in which a heavy fine was absolutely required. I can give a few from memory. There was one of a youth in a rear rank who kicked a youth in the front rank, so that his eye struck his rifle, and was seriously damaged. His sight was impaired for life. It is all very well to have sympathy with the boy who indulges in horseplay, but I reserve my sympathy for the boy whose sight was damaged. We should sympathize with those who suffer as the result of the insubordination of an inconsiderable ‘minority. I remember another case of a lad who threw a lump of rock through the window of a drillroom, and hit another boy on the head so as to stun him. Senator Rae, I suppose, would give hia sympathy to the boy who .threw the rock. I give my sympathy to the boy who received it on the head, and say that the other one deserved a fine of £5, or detention for the maximum period.
– If a cadet breaks the law he can be proceeded against in the ordinary way.
– No; under military discipline he can only be proceeded against under the Defence Act. I deprecate all this mawkish sympathy, this maudlin talk, which would exalt into heroes a lot of young larrikins who are a nuisance to those who are complying with the law, and who make it difficult to carry out the training scheme in a proper manner. That is the kind of individual who is the cause of others following a bad example, and bringing about a slackness in discipline. A number of lads of that kind in a company would corrupt the whole, lot. I have no sympathy with them, and I am not going to vote for an amendment which would make these ‘offences appear trivial. There have been, and there are, offences arising from insubordination of the character I have indicated which a stiff penalty is required to meet. The maximum penalty is only imposed in serious cases. In the majority of instances no action is taken. You will not improve the magistrates by lowering the fine. You do not put common sense into a magistrate’s head by making the penalty which he may inflict less than it ought to be in proportion to the offence. I am glad to say that the cases which severe penalties are required to meet are becoming more and more rare. But when they occur we should have the means of dealing with them.
.- The ex-Minister of Defence seems to me to be impregnated with a good deal of the old military Tory spirit, according to which there is nothing like thumping good penalties to secure good behaviour.
– The honorable senator’s Democracy is upside down.
– So is Senator Pearce’s at the present time. He accused me of trying to make heroes of these fellows. Only the most lively imagination could construe anything I said in that way. I never said a word that implied that- I had any sympathy with offenders as such, or any desire to elevate to the rank of heroes those who kicked over the traces. Senator Pearce may make up in imagination what he lacks in general logic. He says that because a magistrate might still under my amendment inflict a maximum fine of £2, that is an argument for leaving the maximum at £5. Though a magistrate may do an injustice under the penalty I propose, at the worst he could only inflict an injustice that would be £3 less severe than the injustice which might be inflicted under the existing penalty. I remind honorable senators that offenders who commit grave breaches, involving the destruction of property, or it may be the maiming of any person, can be proceeded against under the common law. I take the instance cited by Senator Pearce of a boy’s eyesight! having been injured. No one would have more sympathy than I with the victim of such an injury, but a boy indulging in horse-play, and attacking another from behind, might do so a hundred times without inflicting any injury at all. There is no evidence in the case cited of a malicious attempt to wound. A fine of £5 would do the victim of such an injury no good, and it would not prevent lads indulging In horse-play. The difficulty is that harsh or unfair magistrates may inflict a penalty out of all proportion to the offence, and, as Senator Barker has pointed out, by so doing make the Act itself unpopular by inflaming people’s minds with a feeling of resentment. Senator Pearce is great in expounding the benefits which have followed from evolution, but I remind him that there has been evolution in the matter of punishment in the administration of justice, just as there has been in industrial matters, and as punishments have been reduced, offences against the law have decreased. It has been found that harsh punishments, by creating feelings of resentment, are provocative of further crime.
– Then we have only to do away with all punishment to have no offences.
– Probably; and I hope we are working towards that in the future.
– The danger of that is that if we abolish laws we abolish lawmakers.
– Just so, and I should lose my job. No one knows better than does Senator Pearce that it is possible to reduce any argument, however logical, to an absurdity, and no one would be more ready to quote that if it suited his purpose.
– It- is impossible to make a law that will meet every case.
– I admit that. I am not trying to bring about an ideal condition of things, but to get as near to it as practicable. I do not suggest the reductio ad absurdum of Senators Pearce and Millen that we should abolish all laws, and legislators also, but I do say- that merciful consideration in the punishment of offences has the tendency to improve the behaviour of those who are in fault. I have sons who are being drilled, and not one of them has been subjected to. the slightest reproof for anything he has done, which goes to show that the breed is not too bad after all. I am not speaking with any personal feeling in the matter, but because instances of harsh treatment have come under my notice. Neither Senator Pearce nor Senator Millen has replied to the contention that a reduction in the terms of detention, as proposed, justifies a pro rata reduction in the fine. Monetary penalties and detention for the same offences should bear some relation one to the other.
– There is no reduction of the penalty for individual offences; it applies only to the cumulative effect of a series of offences.
SenatorRAE. - A man might commit twenty offences, for each of which he might be fined £5, and my contention is that if, as is proposed, there may be a reduction in the term of detention which may be imposed in respect of a number of offences, there should be a corresponding reduction provided for in the cumulative pecuniary penalty. The Minister has admitted that he is not particularly keen upon any money penalty, and I am, therefore, unable to see why he should object to the reduction of the fine which I propose. If in very few cases it is found necessary to impose the penalty of £5, we may assume that, as the system is continued, it will be found that a maximum fine of £2 will be as effective for the purpose in view as the maximum of £5 has been in the past.
– I should not have spoken on the Bill if it were not for something which fell from Senator Pearce. I do not wish to be placed in the position of one who is opposed to compulsory training. I have always supported it, and am as strongly in favour of it as is any one in Australia, but I wish to see it carried out to the best advantage. I have known of abuses that have occurred in connexion with it, and I brought before Senator Pearce, when he was Minister of Defence, instances in which boys had been absolutely badly treated. We have a number of boys engaged in the coastal trade in Australia. In some of the places where these lads are trained a. syllabus is issued under which one section of the Naval Reserve is drilled on the Tuesday, another on the Wednesday, and another on the Thursday. The boys to whom I refer may have only one day in port in the month, and it is impossible for them to attend the drills. They are obliged to put in a certain number of days’ drill in each year, and in order to do so have to leave their ships and employment, and forfeit their wages. These disabilities do not apply to boys workingon shore, who can put in their drills at night. It is right that breaches of discipline should be visited with punishment, but we had a case in Adelaide recently where an Area Officer assaulted twenty or thirty boys by knocking them round a room, and no punishment was inflicted upon him.
– He could be sacked.
– What of that, if he was not fined or imprisoned? In very many cases where breaches of discipline occur, the officers are responsible for them. The schoolmasters in our public schools have the power to inflict punishment, but we never hear of them exercising it. They create such a spirit of loyalty in their pupils that there are no breaches of the discipline of the school. Honorable senators must admit that much depends on the character of the officers who have charge of the trainees. Any penalty inflicted upon trainees should be of a nominal character, and not such as is proposed in this Bill.
– A penalty is not proposed in this Bill. There may be many defects in the law, but I have brought in a simple Bill to remove one, and I hope the honorable senator will help me to get it through.
– I am prepared to give the Minister all the help I can, but I say that the penalty now provided for is too heavy, and I shall support Senator Rae in the amendment he has moved.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Committee have leave to sit again at a later hour of the day.
– I would point out to the Minister of Defence that that motion cannot be moved, inasmuch as the Chairman has not reported that the Committee asked for leave to sit again.
– If, after the hard matter-of-fact proposals that we have been discussing, honorable senators had either the time or the inclination to allow appeals to be made to their imagination, I do not know of any Bill which would lend itself more readily to such efforts than that which is now before us. Anybody who takes the slightest interest in Norfolk Island will recognise that there is the glamour of romance about the whole of it.
– Sad romance.
– In some respects it is sad, I admit, but not in all. There is, I venture to say, ample material in the history of Norfork Island for the pen of a Robert Louis Stevenson. While I am not going to dwell upon that aspect of the matter, there is no reason why I should not appeal to every honorable senator to read - as I am sure he can do with great interest to himself - the early history of Norfolk Island. Its constitutional history is all set out in the preamble of this Bill, which has been written by a man who appeals even to this Senate - I refer to the Minister of External Affairs. In this measure we have adopted a procedure, which is a very welcome one, by inserting in it a long and interesting preamble which will tell any honorable senator who chooses to pay more than passing attention to it what has been the previous political history of Norfolk Island.
– A preamble mainly consisting of Orders in Council.
– The honorable senator cannot enter into the spirit of what I am saying. The preamble deals with much more than Orders in Council. It tells us, in a comparatively clear and concise way, what has happened to this island from a constitutional point of view-
– Taken from Orders in Council.
– No sooner do I wish to deal with the Bill in an absolutely non-party way than Senator Rae interjects something about Orders in Council. I appeal to him not to introduce party considerations into a Bill of this description.
– I have not done so.
– The reference to Orders in Council seems very much like it. Norfolk Island was discovered about 140 years ago. As the preamble states, its control has been bandied about between far and away the two most important States of the Commonwealth, namely, New South Wales and Tasmania. Tasmania formerly had control of the island, and in those early days she said, “ We will let New. South Wales assume control of it.” That State did so, and at a later period said, in effect, “ Excellent as our control of the island may be, we believe that Tasmania is able to manage it, and, therefore, we will hand it back to that Colony.” Still later, by a sort of reciprocal arrangement, the control of the island was again vested in New South Wales. The present position is that the Governor of that State represents the Commonwealth, and it is desirable that Norfolk Island should be placed under Commonwealth control, just as Papua has been placed under our control.
– It is a valuable asset when the New South Wales Government wish to get rid of it.
– It is an extremely pleasant little island, and it would conduce to the better behaviour of all of us if we had an opportunity for six months’ quiet reflection there. It would be a handsome investment on the part of the Government if some persons - I will not mention names - could be induced to take a six months’ holiday on Norfolk Island, especially between the months of July and December. The Bill contains similar provisions to those to be found in the Papua Act. There are one or two items in it which may be seized upon by my honorable friends opposite as subjects for debate, and, therefore, I propose to draw attention to them. First of all, there is the question of land tenure. Let me tell honorable senators what is the position in the island to-day. The total area of Norfolk Island is 8,500 acres, all of which, with the exception of 1,300 acres, has been alienated. As the island has been more or less developed for over 100 years, there has been in force there the usual process of selection. The result is that the 1,300 odd acres which have not been alienated represent the very poorest land. I mention this circumstance deliberately, because I wish to ask honorable senators opposite whether it is worth while to raise in connexion with this Bill the question of leasehold versus freehold .
– The honorable senator need not raise it.
– I am making a pathetic appeal to Senator Mullan and others not to apply their views in respect of leasehold tenure to these 1,300 odd acres of the very poorest land in Norfolk Island. Another matter which may be in dispute in the Bill relates to what we should drink, and where we should drink, if we lived on Norfolk Island. May I sum up the position thus : This is a Bill which has the approval of the best teetotaller in the Commonwealth Parliament.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - That is a high distinction.
– An honorable senator interjects that I will make Senator Pearce jealous. I will withdraw my statement, and say that the Bill has the final approval of the soundest teetotaller to be found in Australia - I refer to Mr. Glynn. I am not surprised at the chorus of approval with which that remark is greeted. I do hope that the question upon which I have just touched will not be made one of serious debate.
Sitting suspended from 1 to £.30 p.m.
– I recognise that, at this stage of tho session, it is impossible for a Minister, in introducing a Bill, to occupy the time, however concise he might be, which he would probably occupy with a fuller latitude. In these circumstances, I throw myself upon the mercy of honorable senators, if they feel inclined, and I hope that they will not, to accuse me of treating them abruptly. I have to risk that accusation, because I desire to save time. Moreover, I wish to set an example in the hope that it will be followed. This Bill contains two clauses, which are important to Norfolk Island. The first of them is clause 15. Norfolk Island presents a very strange example to men who care to dip into economic problems that engage the consideration of self-supporting countries, and the question of the balance between imports and exports. Here is a little island which to-day finds itself importing, as nearly as possible, seven times the value of what it exports. Yet it continues to exist.
– It lives on what it owes.
– It is a very interesting problem in economics how any country can go on living under those conditions. The Bill proposes to help that state of things. Clause 15 provides that no duties of Customs shall be chargeable on anything imported into Australia from Norfolk Island - that is, there shall be Free Trade from Norfolk Island to the Commonwealth - under certain conditions. The first condition is that the goods are the produce or manufacture of Norfolk Island; the second that the goods are shipped direct from Norfolk Island to Australia; while the third is that they are not goods which, if manufactured or produced in Australia, would be subject to any duty of Excise. I submit that, with these precautions, no man, whatever his fiscal views may be, can possibly object to the stimulus which such a provision will give to manufacture, trade, and production, chiefly, of course, to production in the island. Clause 16 of the Bill deals with the liquor traffic. I can best, I think, put that question before honorable senators by telling them shortly what the present condition is. The clause reads -
The manufacture, or, except in accordance with the provisions of the laws at present in force in Norfolk Island, the sale or supply of alcoholic liquor is prohibited.
There is a strong definite teetotal pronouncement; but it is proper that I should explain the alternative, which is embodied in the words - except in accordance with the provisions of the laws at present in force in Norfolk Island.
– It means that nearly everybody can get drink.
– The honorable senator is an impetuous man. I propose to read the conditions underwhich he alleges any one can get drink at present -
First, the Chief Magistrate has all discretion; and second, there can be no liquor issued for a longer period than one month.
– A man can get a renewal, though.
– The Chief Magistrate controls the quantity, and also the period of issue -
Here is the concluding comment of the Minister of External Affairs, in introducing the Bill in another place, on the regulations at present in force -
The effect of these regulations is to practically make the island a teetotal one.
I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I do not know any very great good or ill that is going to be accomplished by this Bill. It is like most of the measures we have had so far - not of any great vital importance. I was told by the Honorary Minister that I was raising a party issue, and I interjected that the political history he referred to was mainly a record of Ordinances. It was just an interjection dealing with the fact that the preamble, if it can be so termed, is a record of the way in which Norfolk Island has been bandied about from one power to another. I meant no party significance in my remark.
– I will withdraw my observation, and apologize.
– I do not know that the preamble matters, as far as that goes, except, of course, that it gives a little bit of history.
– It gives information.
– I thought it was an interesting explanation.
– I think that the “ swapping “ about of Norfolk Island had practically no effect on the islanders. They did not know the difference. If you could tow the island a little closer to Australia, there would be some practical good in annexing it. It strikes me that there is only one big point of difference between some honorable senators on this side and the Minister. I think it is regrettable that when the Senate saw fit to amend another Bill it should be abandoned. I do not know to what extent the Ministry are in earnest in bringing forward this measure, if they are not prepared to accept an amendment.
– This Bill has come from another place, but the last Bill was originated here.
– I do not know that that makes any difference in effect, although it might in fact. We know that every measure has to pass both Houses before it can become a law. I would like to know whether the Government are serious in introducing this legislation, because it appears to me that unless they can get all their way to a letter they are prepared to throw it overboard.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not in order in referring to the debate on another Bill, or to anything concerning another Bill. The question is that this Bill be now read a second time.
– I did not want to make more than an incidental reference to the fact. We do not know, considering how previous legislation was dealt with, whether we can expect the Minister to be in earnest with regard to this Bill.
– We are quite in earnest.
– I, also, am in earnest in wanting to insert a clause which was proposed in another place and rejected. I am not so particular about the clause relating to liquor, although I think it would be a good thing, from the point of view of a moderate drinker, or a heavy drinker, or a non-drinker, to have at least one part of the Commonwealth where there was no liquor, so that hopeless victims might be given a term there. It would not affect me, as I am an abstainer. I know of many excellent men in the community whose valuable talents have become entirely lost through their becoming unwilling victims to drink. Therefore, I believe that it would’ be an exceedingly good thing if there was one teetotal corner of the Commonwealth where hopeless victims could not get any drink.
– It would only apply to those who could pay their passages to the island.
– I would give free passages to the others. It is possible, however, that liquor might be introduced. I am told by those who have been on the island that it is practically as easy to get liquor there as it is where public-houses are run. I am told that it is smuggled ashore in quantities.
– Smuggling is another matter.
– We cannot help that. I have been told that the regulations in force do not prevent the free use of liquor by those who like to have it. Every ship that calls at the island smuggles liquor ashore. I am informed that the Anglican Mission, who own the bulk of the property, consume a fair quantity of liquor. I ‘do not know why the frock-coated gentlemen should be the only people who are to be able to consume liquor. It appears to me that they, above all others, should set the example of not having any liquor. Again, take the cablegrammers I suppose that a good deal of the fiction that we get through the cable is due to the men at the cable station being allowed free liquor. I quite realize that it would not be easy probably to trust the inhabitants with any self-governing powers in that direction which would be any more effective than the present Ordinances. What I do object to was the refusal, in the other place, to include a clause to prevent the remaining Crown lands on the island from being sold. It is immaterial to me when the Senate adjourns. I am not anxious for an adjournment.
– Others are.
– In my opinion, the interests of the country are above the interests of parties or individuals. While I could put in my time at home moreenjoyably than I could do here, I am not going to help to get through public business if the Senate has to swallow every piece of legislation in the form in which it is introduced. The Honorary Minister, dwelt on the fact that of the total area of the island only 1,300 acres were not alienated, and that that was land of poor quality. I can well believe it. Probably it consists of rocky eminences in the centre of the island. If it was only 1$ acres, if it was all solid rock, without an ounce of soil, I would be just as strong; in the contention that we should not sell any of the lands which remain the property of the Crown - that is, of the people. Therefore, I intend, if the Bill gets into Committee, to move an amendment to that effect, and it is absolutely immaterial to me how much time istaken up in the consideration of it. Asfar as I am able under the forms of the Senate, I shall certainly oppose tha Bill unless my amendment is accepted by the Government. If they will not accept it, I shall do all I can to delay the progress of the Bill, because I think that on every occasion we should assert a principle of this kind. I understand that the Anglican Mission own the bulk of thebest land on Norfolk Island, and that the remainder is land of a comparatively poor character. Nevertheless,. I think that we should assert a principle whenever there is an opportunity. The indorsement of the principle of this Bill might not affect many individuals in Norfolk Island, but it will be an indorsement of a principle in which many of us do not believe. We do not believe in parting with the fee simple of land anywhere. This island has a . considerable population, consisting principally of descendants of Bounty mutineers, who have amalgamated * with the native race. They will, in time, want more land upon which to earn a living. Therefore, I maintain that . we should not pay the slightest attention to the fact that only a small amount of land is left unalienated. The smaller the amount that is left the more valuable it will be, and the more reason there is for not allowing it to get into the hands of any one who wants to exploit the natives. The situation of the island - hundreds of miles from our coastline - offers few facilities for the inhabitants to spread themselves. We should be very jealous on that account of the possibility of the land coming into the hands of persons who may simply desire to exploit it for their own benefit, and to keep the inhabitants circumscribed within the area available to them for cultivation. I have never heard that there were any great demands for this Bill. I do not suppose that the islanders would be any worse off if it did not pass. The effect of it will be to extend the area of the Commonwealth by bringing under our jurisdiction an island which is now under the governorship of New South Wales. But I do not know that the inhabitants would suffer a grievous loss if the Bill had never seen the light of day. Nor do I know that the power, prestige, and glory of the Commonwealth would be much enhanced by including these few thousand acres under its rule. There would be no particular loss from the abandonment of this measure, nor would much be gained from the passage of it. Unless Ministers are prepared to adopt the principle ‘ that the remaining Crown lands shall be preserved to the people, I shall vote against its adoption. It has been argued that the area is so small that it will not afford a good example of the working of the leasehold principle. If that be so, it will involve no great sacrifice of principle by the Ministry to concede the point.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Perhaps the people do not want leasehold.
– We are not giving the people self-government in this Bill.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - When we do?
– Then the land will be theirs to deal with, whereas, if it is alienated, it will not be theirs, so that the honorable senator’s argument supports my point of view. If there be no sacrifice of principle on our part in allowing the land to be sold, there can be no great sacrifice of principle on the part of Ministerialists in accepting the reservation of the Crown lands from alienation. The peculiar conditions of the island, and the fact that it has a very small area under cultivation, demand consideration. The population is slowly increasing, and the people will in time want the remainder of the land, even if they do not want it now. I think, therefore, that the land ought to be preserved from the grasp of the exploiter and the monopolist.
– They cannot do much with 1,300 acres of poor land in Norfolk Island.
– I remind the Minister that 1,300 acres of land out of 9,000 acres is an enormously larger proportion than would be 13,000,000 acres in Australia. That is an additional reason why this land should be preserved. We know that in every civilized country in the world, as the best land gets appropriated, people have to do their best with the least productive land ; so that what at one time might be considered so poor as to be almost worthless will become very valuable as population increases and the pressure on the land increases with it.
– One person might take up the whole 1,300 acres.
– We have not been made so fully acquainted with the Government Ordinances about the land as with those relating to liquor. But the island is circumscribed, and what is left of the land ought to be preserved for the use of the native inhabitants. The historical records of which the Minister has spoken indicate, amongst other things, that years ago these islanders were living on Pitcairn Island. On account of the growth of their numbers and the pressure on the resources of the island, they were transferred collectively to Norfolk Island, where there’ was more room for them.
– It would be better to bring them all to the mainland, and abandon the island. - Senator RAE. - The island may be of some value as a cable station. The land question is at the bottom of all social questions. We now have an ‘opportunity to apply the leasehold principle by providing that the land left unalienated in Norfolk Island shall be kept for the use of the islanders, and not sold in fee simple. It may be said that there is no present intention to sell it. But if the Government will not accept a clause which will prevent its alienation, I am prepared to fight upon the details until they give in. If the result be the abandonment of the Bill, we shall hope for a more progressive measure ‘from another Government at a future time.
– The clause which deals with the matter in which the honorable senator is interested is clause 10, which simply provides that the GovernorGeneral may “ make grants or other dispositions of Crown lands.”
– I want to prevent that being done. Will the Minister consent to a prohibition of the Governor-General making grants in fee simple?
– I cannot answer that question at this stage.
– A lease may be as bad as a Crown grant.
– It may be, but there is this difference : I know that there has been land speculation in regard to leases, but, at any rate, the Crown cannot take land back when it has alienated it in fee simple.
– Oh, yes, it can.
– The Government can resume by giving compensation. That is to say, it can buy back.
– It can tax.
– I do not think that we should consent to giving land away for the sake of taxing it afterwards. That is dishonest in principle, and neither Henry George nor any one else ,can convince me that it is otherwise.
– You do not take it away; you only take away the communitycreated value.
– I want to preserve the leasehold principle, and am rather astonished that Senator Stewart should be fighting me from the back. I shall not enter now into the consideration of whether leases may be granted on improper terms.
– A lease allows opportunities for the monopolist, just as a freehold does.
– I want a clause to provide that the land shall not be alienated in fee simple. That is to say, I am fighting for the leaseholder as against the freeholder. Senator Stewart is arguing that a leasehold may be as dangerous as the freehold. I do not think that it is so. In any case, leaseholding is a principle for which we should fight. If the Minister will not consent to the amendment I have indicated, I shall feel obliged in Committee to put up a fight for it. Upon the Bill generally I desire to say no more.
– I am at a loss to understand the object which the Government have in view in bringing forward this Bill. I am not aware that they have given substantial reasons for it.
– I did; but I do not quarrel with the honorable senator, because he was not present.
– What is the reason?
– One of the chief reasons is that the island is doing no good, and another is that the Government of New South Wales have specially requested the Commonwealth to take it over.
– If the island were doing all right, New South Wales would not be willing to hand it over to the Federal Government.
– The honorable senator knows that that is not so. The Commonwealth has greater power for dealing with the island.
– We took over the Northern Territory at a time when there were heavy responsibilities connected with it. The people of South Australia had shouldered the burden for a long time, and apparently came to the conclusion that they had had enough of it. They thought that the burdens of the future ought to be shifted on £o the shoulders of the people of the Commonwealth.
– There is no financial burden here.
– Apparently, it is not what may be called an asset. If it were a good thing, I do not imagine that’ the Government of New South Wales would be extremely anxious that the Commonwealth Government should take it over.
– The surplus of revenue over expenditure last year was 10 per cent. The revenue was £2,500, and the expenditure £2,300. Those are the enormous figures.
– Leaving that aspect of the question for a moment, I wish to say that I am strongly in favour of Senator Rae’s proposal that no further Crown lands in Norfolk Island should be alienated. It is a fundamental1 and basic principle of the Labour party that we shall oppose the alienation of Crown lands. Whether the area be small or large, the principle is the same. Although we are told that only 1,300 acres are involved, nevertheless, it is our duty to do all we can to further the principle which I and every other member of the Labour party conscientiously believe in. There is another matter, which may appear very small, but which I should like honorable senators to consider. Clause 15 of the Bill provides that -
Duties of Customs will not be chargeable on goods imported into Australia from Norfolk Island if the goods (a) are the produce or manufacture of Norfolk Island ; and (b) are shipped direct from Norfolk Island to Australia ; and (c) are not goods which if manufactured or produced in Australia would be subject to any duty or Excise.
That means that the Government are prepared to do for the people of Norfolk Island what they are not prepared to do for the people resident in other Territories under the control of the Commonwealth.
– The Norfolk Islanders might produce sugar, and send it here free of duty.
– I proposed to refer to that. I am not aware of the total population of the island.
– The total population is 985, composed of 568 males and 417 females.
– Can the Minister say how many whites and how many coloured people there are there ?
– I doubt whether there are any coloured people in the ordinary sense on Norfolk Island.
– I wish to point out that if there are coloured folk on that island, and we permit the alienation of the 1,300 acres of land still unalienated there, persons interested in tropical or semi-tropical production may secure it, and employ cheap labour on the island in the production of sugar or other dutiable articles to be imported to the Commonwealth.
– What does the honorable senator mean by saying that they might employ cheap labour there? If we take over the island, we shall govern it by our own Ordinances, and will be in a position to control the labour question.
– Yes; and we know how it would probably be controlled. Will the Government accept an amendment of the Bill to provide that the same industrial conditions shall prevail in Norfolk Island as obtain in Queensland? We know that sugar or other tropical produce grown in Papua cannot be introduced into the Commonwealth free of duty.
– We can make an Ordinance applying to Norfolk Island in the same way as we do as to Papua.
– The Bill before the Senate definitely provides that no duties of Customs shall be levied upon produce grown in Norfolk Island and imported into the Commonwealth.
– Cannot this Parliament legislate to meet any case that may arise ?
– It may miss the opportunity to do so. I hope we shall get some assurance from the Government that tropical products grown in Norfolk Island by the labour of coloured folk there, and brought into competition with the products of the Commonwealth, will not be treated differently from imports into the Commonwealth from Papua.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message) :
– The House of Representatives, as honorable senators are aware, have disagreed to the amendments made by the Senate in this Bill. The first amendments in numerical order substitute in the title, and in clause 2, the words “ Two millions three hundred and eighty thousand pounds “ for the words “ Three millions and eighty thousand pounds,” and were consequential upon amendments carried in the schedule to the Bill. I therefore move -
That consideration of amendments Nos.1 and 2 be postponed until after the consideration of amendments Nos. 3 and 4.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out items a and 5, and make the necessary alterations in total of Schedule.
House of Representatives’ Message. - Amendments disagreed to.
– Honorable senators will remember that the amendment striking out item No. 2 was carried only upon a close division. Various reasons induced honorable senators to vote against the item, and amongst others, I should like to refer to one which was mentioned by Senator Mullan. The honorable senator contended that before the Senate could agree to the item, honorable senators should know something about the railway.
– The Honorary Minister had not the courage to bring down the proposal for the construction of the railway first, and we were being asked <o pass the money before deciding that we would build £he railway.
– I do not think the honorable senator can accuse me of any lack of courage in the matter.
– We should have had the Railway Bill first, that we might know the merits of it’.
– I hope that Senator Mullan will not accuse me rashly of any want of courage in the matter, and that he will give me an opportunity to offer an explanation.
– Why not submit the Railway Bill before the Loan Bill ?
– Why not give me an opportunity to answer? When Senator Mullan raised this objection before, I agreed that there might be something in it, but that it was not in the right place. Since then, what has happened with regard to the railway is that the Bill to authorize its construction has been circulated amongst honorable senators, and Senator Mullan can see from it what is proposed. With regard to the order of procedure, even Senator Mullan must admit that, unless we get the money required for the construction of the railway, it is of no use to go on with the Railway Bill. The order of procedure adopted was due to a desire to convenience honorable senators, and to get on with the business of the Senate. The Government have endeavoured to get the best advice they could on the subject, and they have been advised that the construction of a line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River in the direction proposed is desirable. Secondly, taking into consideration all that can be ascertained as to the features of the Northern Territory and future development there, the direction chosen is the right direction. Thirdly, the survey made is for the most economical line that could be built in that country, and will involve less cost than any of the other lines that have been suggested. To put the matter briefly, the line proposed runs practically as the crow flies from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. It was proposed in _ the last Parliament that this line should be constructed at a cost of £500,000, exclusive of the cost of a bridge over the Katherine River.
– Which the honorable senator estimated at the time at £170,000.
– I did not give that estimate.
– I can easily turn that up for the honorable senator.
– Senator Turley may do so, but he has misunderstood me. The fact is that when the Survey Bill was before the last Parliament two estimates were mentioned, one of £500,000 for the line, and another of £170,000 additional for a bridge over the Katherine River. I am meeting the Committee fairly by telling honorable senators that, in our estimate of £400,000, we exclude the amount required for the construction of the bridge over the Katherine River, which, so far as we are concerned, is estimated, as previously, at £170,000. Inasmuch as this question was thoroughly threshed out when the Bill was last before us, I do not propose to occupy more time, but shall content myself with moving -
That the amendment leaving out item 2 be not insisted on.
– Of course, there may be many points in connexion with the policy of raising loans and of railway construction which, at an earlier stage of the session, it might be very appropriate to discuss at length. But we have very little time to do a lot of work, and I think, therefore, that we ought to vote rather than talk. I would point out to honorable senators that, before introducing, for the consideration of Parliament, Bills to authorize the construction of public works, it is the invariable custom to provide the necessary money for those works.
– I have never heard of such a thing.
– If the money were not available to construct the line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River, of what use would it be to introduce a Bill authorizing that work? We cannot cavil at the action of the Government, which is precisely the action which the late Government took under similar circumstances. To attempt to raise an argument upon that question is simply an attempt to split straws. As we have made up our ‘minds on this matter, I think that we should get to a vote immediately. I ask honorable senators not to insist on the amendment, but to insist upon the amendment leaving out item No. 5.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [3.181. - As I had not an opportunity of speaking on the amendment when it was previously before this Chamber, I desire to say a word or two upon it now. I trust that that amendment, which was carried in a fit of aberration, will be rejected. As far as I can understand, two objections were urged to the Government proposal when the Bill was last before us. The first was that the Bill authorizing the construction of the proposed railway had not then been submitted for our consideration, and the second was that freezing works had not been established in the Northern Territory. The first objection has now been removed - the Bill for the construction of the line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River is before the Senate - and as this Government will not remain in office for ever there is no reason why freezing works should not be established in the Territory by their successors. In those circumstances, I intend to support the motion of the Honorary Minister.
– When the Honorary Minister was speaking, I interjected that when the Pine Creek to Katherine River Railway Survey Bill was under consideration in this Chamber he himself had estimated the cost of that line at £670,000. Upon turning up the Hansard report of the debate I find that, up till the time when Senator Clemons spoke upon the Bill, only an estimate had been given of the cost of that railway. He then stated that he had gone into a calculation, and he believed that the cost of the bridge over the Katherine River would be at least £100,000. The Minister who was in charge of the Bill thereupon informed him that the estimated cost of that bridge was £170,000. I was under the impression that it was Senator Clemons who had made that estimate, but I find that my memory has played me false. . I have not changed my opinion on this matter, and I do not intend to reverse the vote which I recorded last week. On that occasion it was not urged that honorable senators should vote against the item because the Bill authorizing the construction of the Pine Creek to Katherine River railway was not before this Chamber. The argument advanced was that, as fourteen months had elapsed since we passed a measure authorizing the survey of the line, and as 30 miles of that survey had already been completed, leaving only 26 miles to be surveyed, we ought to be put in possession of the fullest information as to the cost of the undertaking, and that it would- be wrong to sanction the raising of this money before we had sanctioned the carrying out of the work. I have always understood that the method adopted in the building of railways is first to obtain a survey of the country through which it will pass. That information is placed before Parliament. An estimate is then obtained of the cost of constructing the line, and that information is also laid before Parliament, whose members are thereupon asked ti> make up their minds on the matter. The procedure which is being followed1 here is quite different. . Without one atom of information, honorable senators are being asked to vote £400,000 for the construction of this line. When the Pine Creek to Katherine River Railway Survey Bill was before this Chamber, we were informed that the estimated cost of that railway was £500,000. Now the Honorary Minister tells us that it is believed that £400,000 will be sufficient to cover it. Believed on what? That is the information which we ought to have.
– All that information will be given when the Bill is under consideration. This proposal is not one for taking the money.
– I know that it is not. But, unless sufficient information is forthcoming to induce honorable senators to vote for the railway, it is idle toraise this money, which cannot be applied to other purposes..
– The complete information about the survey has not yet been received. Some of it has to be telegraphed.
– That is my .objection to voting for this item. If officials cannot carry out a survey of 26 miles in fourteen months, it is time that the projected work was hung up until the fullest information is available. That is the reason why I propose to cast my vote in the same direction as I did last week.
– Upon a former occasion one of my objections to this item was that the line to the building of which this £400,000 is to be devoted has not yet been authorized, and that we had no information as to the character of the country through which it would pass. It seems to me ridiculous for the Government to decide to raise money before there is any necessity to do so. The Honorary Minister has said that if we do not decide to build the line the Government will not raise the money. Then, why do we require to sanction the raising of the money? Would the late Government have been justified in asking Parliament to vote £1,400,000 towards the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway before it had approved of the building of that line? Had it done so the proposal would have been laughed out of the Senate.
– That is exactly what was done in the case of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway.
– Then it did not evidence good sense on the part of those responsible for that Act. The invariable practice is that Parliament should first decide that money is required for a certain purpose.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - This is merely splitting hairs.
– It is not. It is absurd to say that we should first raise £3,000,000, and afterwards decide what shall be done with it. I think that before we assent to this item we should authorize the construction of the line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. Yet the Bill dealing with that matter has been deliberately postponed until after the consideration of the message of the House of Representatives relating to this Bill. As Senator Turley has pointed out, a survey of the proposed line was authorized fourteen months ago, and it is only reasonable to expect that the result of that survey and a report on the nature of the country which the line will traverse would have been forthcoming.
– There were only 26 miles to be surveyed
– That strengthens my argument. I do not consider myself justified in sanctioning the raising of money for the construction of a railway through country the character of which has not been made known to honorable senators. Our financial obligations are growing daily. They are growing out of all proportion to the ability of the people to meet them. Therefore, it is essential that every proposal involving expenditure, especially loan expenditure, should be carefully scrutinized before it is adopted. In the present instance we are asked to. appropriate £400,000 to build a railway, and we have no guarantee that that railway will be worth anything. But I certainly will do, as I did on a former occasion,, oppose the passing of this sum of £400,000 for the construction of a railway which has not yet been considered by the Senate.
– I am opposed to the action of the other House for three reasons. My first reason is that I disagree with borrowing altogether. A second reason is that I disagree with the construction of a railway in the north until we have started to construct a line from the south. A third reason is that I disagree with the reasons given by the other House for disagreeing with our amendments. The first reason I will not elaborate. Taking my last reason first, the other House urge that they are not in a position to pay for this work out of current revenue. They ought to be. If they want to indulge in the luxury of railway construction in the far north before they have constructed the line from the south, if they have not the revenue available, there is iri this country enough wealth on which to levy to produce the necessary revenue. The arguments adduced by the two previous speakers certainly seem to me to be very sound. The position is that, after fourteen months having been allowed for making a survey of the proposed line, we have not the particulars on which to judge whether the construction of the line is justifiable, or whether the expenditure involved is reasonable. Consequently, we are asked to take a leap in the .dark by this Ministry of sound finance. This Ministry of “ all the talents,” who, above all other things, enlarged upon their determination to put their No. 14 boot down on extravagance, are proposing in the most essential thing for good government - a proper handling of the finances - that we should take a leap in the dark, and in a large, generous way splash about £400,000 of borrowed money to build a railway which might as well be a railway to Mars or to the moon, having regard to all the particulars that are available to vis. I shall be very pleased if any remarks I have made will have the effect of killing the Loan Bill. 1 wish that the whole Bill, lock, stock, and barrel, were dead, never to be revived. I am sorry that some honorable senators on my side are so inconsistent as to vote for a proposal which means squandering money quite as much as though it was expended on defence.
– Direct your ammunition on the other side.
– I am not going to use soft language to those who happen to be on my own side and throw vitriol on honorable senators opposite. I am strongly of the. opinion that it is a suicidal policy to commence to build this railway from the north. It has been urged that this line will be part and parcel of any system which may be adopted hereafter for linking up the southern States with the far north. But even if that be so - and I, of course, do not attempt to dispute it - I contend that the line will be a positive danger to Australia if we start its construction at the wrong end. I hold that if there is any reason for our military and naVal expenditure, it is the fear that the Northern Territory is open to invasion from coloured races lying to the north of Australia. If it is proposed to build railways to give possible enemies the means of conveyance farther south, that is not my idea of a sane national policy. I consider that the only sane policy is to start construction from Oodnadatta, and to proceed northwards vid the Macdonnel Ranges by whatever route may be adopted. Then we can advance our material for the construction of the line from where it is cheap at a much lesser cost than if we have to convey it round the continent and start building from the north southwards, conveying all the material from the most costly direction into the interior.
– “ They ought to do both.
– If the Government had an earnest desire to do both, I would not mind voting for any proposals which meant’ doing both, but if that is not their intention, then I should certainly say that every mile of railway constructed in the north will be a positive menace to Australia. It is giving the enemy, if they should ever land in the northern ports, a means of conveyance by which they can probably get agricultural and pastoral supplies from the south. If a landing were effected, it would be a very simple and handy thing for them to use the railway in order to get supplies.
– Suppose that this was a proposal to put on a piece of line at the Oodnadatta end, would you vote for it?
– No; but still, if I could give two to one votes against building from the north I would. That is an added reason. My reasons against borrowing are incontrovertible. But, apart ‘from the attitude of those who disagree with me in regard to borrowing generally, there are special reasons why money should not be expended in this way.
– Would you borrow money for the construction of a bridge to North Sydney?
– Not a “bean.” The fact that the States have already borrowed so much money is a very good, sound reason why the Commonwealth should not launch out on a similar policy. If we are going to spend borrowed money on wild-cat proposals of the kind indicated in this Bill, what does it mean? It means that we are not satisfied with a burden carrying an interest charge of about £2 2s. 6d. per head. The posterity of the fools who started the borrowing policy have to pay now £2 2s. 6d. per head in interest every year. That means a considerable sum from an average family. Yet that has to be paid to meet the interest bill on the debts -of the various States.
– Not if the loans are reproductive.
– I am not saying that none of the loans is reproductive, but I do say that a very large proportion of them are not.
– You do not expect this expenditure to be reproductive.
– For many years to come there is certainly no hope of the proposed railway being reproductive. I am aware that the State represented by Senator McColl has behaved much better than has my own State in that respect. It has expended a good deal more of its public debt on reproductive enterprises than New South Wales has done.
– Nevertheless Victoria gets a smaller return than New South Wales does.
– Taking the Commonwealth right through, I suppose it is fair to assume that out of every £100 borrowed £40 is not reproductive. In other words, out of the State debts, approximating £300,000,000, 40 per cent, is not reproductive in any sense of the term. Take that which is supposed to be reproductive. Take, for instance, the outlay proposed on telegraph lines and all that sort of thing. The present PostmasterGeneral, with commendable progressiveness, is proposing to institute wireless stations inland, which will make scrap iron of the wires that are stretched from place to place. Every modern invention tends to put on the scrap heap a lot of the so-called assets which we claim to represent our national debt.
– Sixty per cent, of the public debt was spent on railways alone.
– If our ancestors had held these opinions we would be going about bare-footed now.
– No, and the progressive civilization we are heirs to was not mainly built up by running into debt for everything which our ancestors wanted. Borrowing is a mania that is afflicting every community in the civilized world to-day. It is bad enough to be in debt myself, without having to plunge my country into debt.
– How would you finance big railways?
– I would estimate the reasonable outlay that could be indulged in, and then I would levy taxes on those able to bear them to raise revenue sufficient for the development of our national interests in that direction. It is a perfectly feasible scheme. I am astonished at those who profess democratic principles - members of my party - sanctioning the fever which is embodied in a borrowing policy. It creates an idle class who live on the interest derived from investments, and the country carries them on its back. Imagine all the profits that we would get out of these public works if constructed out of general revenue, in which there was no burden of debt to be met. >
– There would be no one on whom to levy taxation then.
– We would have had quite as big a mileage of railways, and our own property, instead of being pawned to individuals. We talk about our immense assets, but they are not ours when practically every one of them is pawned, to British investors in the main. Of late years, of course, we have borrowed more internally than used to .be done. But, nevertheless, that means that the interest derived from investments is keeping an idle, parasitic class, living on the backs of the people who have to provide the money. Out of this Commonwealth every year, we have to pay in interest, approximately, £10,000,000 on the loans already effected by the States. The party to which I belong claim that it is a false policy to borrow money for military purposes. Now why is it worse to borrow money for military purposes than for any other purposes? Because they say that the assets are not very tangible. They decay under normal conditions, and under extraordinary conditions they are blown to pieces.
– One is for development and the other is for protection.
– My contention is that the Labour party claim that military and naval expenditure is unproductive, and so they set their faces against it. If you borrow money for something else, and pay cash for military purposes, there is no difference if you pay cash for one purpose and borrow money for the other purpose. Senator Millen will agree with me, I think, that if you are going to borrow, it is all twaddle to talk about what particular thing you are going to devote the money to. I wish to point out that there is this fact to be borne in mind - that when the last Government proposed to borrow money from the Notes Fund they also proposed not to alienate any Crown lands in the Northern Territory. It is a fair argument that, even if borrowing be permissible when you are going to spend the money on your own lands, it is inadmissible to borrow to improve an asset which you are going to part with. In this case, the great asset is not the railway. It is the land which that railway is to make more productive. If, instead of selling the land in the Northern Territory, we leased it, and obtained a constantlygrowing income from the rentals as the Territory was developed, we should have a tangible asset to place against the money borrowed. But this Government has less justification than the late Government had. The late Government were going to keep the asset, and would always have it, against the cost of the railway. But this Government proposes to borrow money, and, at the same time, to scatter the asset. What has been the history of borrowing in this country right through? What has been done with the £60,000,000 to which Senator Pearce alludes? Has it enriched the people of Australia ? Not at all. It has simply enriched the landholders. Borrowing serves a dual purpose. On the one hand, it relieves the wealthy class from the taxation which they would otherwise have to bear, and it benefits the properties owned by the wealthy class. A borrowing policy is a system of class exploitation, lock, stock, and barrel. It has the effect of saving the wealthy class from taxation, and of building up the value of their properties, and it puts burdens on the poor which they are the least able to bear. Of the £10,000,000 paid away every year as interest on the public debt of the combined six States of Australia, the greater part is paid by the poor and received by the wealthy. It is’ not the poor who have very great investments. The wealthy classes are able to live in idleness by lending money, which means that the
Working classes carry the burden and help to keep others in idle luxury. Some will say that we should never have had the development which enables this continent to carry a population of between 4,000,000 and 5,000,000 if we had not gone in for this loan expenditure. I say that this continent could well have carried that number of people, even before railWays were known.
– Let us have a division before 4 o’clock.
– I object to this continual bustling. Here is a Government which has had adjournments for weeks at a time. We have been willing to work, .and have had nothing to do. Now wheal there is something to do, instead of giving us a reasonable time to carry out our duties as legislators, and to give ample consideration to every measure, we are asked to bustle Bills through wholesale. Unless I have to submit to physical force in the shape of the “ gag,” I decline to curtail my remarks in the slightest degree. My contention is that there is no reason to hustle things through in this unreasonable manner. There are fifteen days before Christmas, and we have seven or eight working days in which to do business if we choose. I am aware that some think that borrowing is a good thing in itself. But I am of opinion that this Government, with what - without wishing to be personally offensive - I may call the stupidity inherent in Toryism, are actually embarking on a system of profligate and reckless expenditure; they are OUt.heroding Herod in the way they are proposing to splash money about. That money is to be borrowed at high rates of interest. If the Government reply that the money is to be taken from the Notes Fund, I ask their supporters to tell me how they propose to go on with the works after that fund is exhausted ? It is not inexhaustible; and are we to understand that when it is exhausted the works upon which the money is to be expended will be closed up? Even if that were not so, we are not justified in aiding the Government to launch out in a borrowing policy of this description. When the Notes Fund is exhausted, the Government will have a good case for coming to Parliament and saying that the money already expended will have been wasted, unless we are prepared to go to the British money lender for more money to complete them. There never was a more barefaced attempt to plunge this country into a vortex of wildcat finance, which must inevitably lead to national bankruptcy, than to attempt to borrow money for such a purpose. I should like to see the Northern Territory developed on other lines. In the first place, we ought to start the railway from this end; and, in the second place, we ought to tax the wealth of this country to obtain the money necessary to construct public works. Ministers talk of handing assets down to posterity. By the time posterity gets possession of them, there is very little doubt that means of communication very much superior to the present railway system will have been invented, and that the railway will have become so much scrap iron. I have given an instance where it is proposed to link up inland towns by the wireless system, which means, if it becomes general, that the telegraph lines will become so much scrap iron and old wood. Every improvement, every new invention, makes old devices obsolete. Therefore, I say that there is no justification whatever for passing this burden on to posterity. On the general principle, I object to a vast horde of people living on the interests of investments at the expense of the workers and producers of this country. The money derived from our nationally owned lands, if it were wisely expended, and not simply tipped into the ordinary Consolidated Revenue, would give us means at command to construct mile after mile of railways. We have, too, a right to know how this money is to be laid out. Is there any provision in this Bill for the construction of a railway to the Katherine River at minimum rates of pay ?’ Do we know whether the money is going to be expended by the employment of cheap contract labour ? It is a well-known fact in the State from which I come that railway contractors have made huge fortunes - enough to represent a competency for the rest of their lives - from the proceeds of one big railway contract. Is this £400,000 going to be expended in providing fortunes for contractors, who will make profits out of sweating wages for the workers. Is there any guarantee that the money will be expended wisely on the work to be undertaken? The tropical country through which the line is to be constructed ought, before public works are undertaken there,to be treated somewhat as the Isthmus of Panama was treated by the American Government during the construction of the Canal. Everything should be done to make the country healthful and sanitary for those working there. The wages paid should be sufficiently high to amply recompense the men for going such vast distances and putting up with such inconveniences and dangers. If we are going to adopt the contract system and allow contractors to make huge fortunes underthe system advocated by the present Government, no money will be available to pay adequate wages to the toilers who will be sent to do the actual work of construction.
Question - That the Chairman leave the chair, report progress, and ask leave to sit again - put, under sessional order, and resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till ii o’clock a.m. on Monday next.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he is not willing to make the hour of meeting on Monday 2.30 p.m. to enable honorable senators from New South Wales to be present. If they return to their homes at the weekend, they will be unable to get back to Melbourne before 1 o’clock on the Monday?
– It will mean a difference of only an hour or two, and we should like to get on with the business.
– Then we will stop and help the honorable senator.
– If it were necessary to give reasons for my request there are at least sixty, which it would take a minute each to give, but I do not wish to do anything of that kind. In view of the fact that we have been working every day this week from 11 o’clock in the morning till 11 o’clock at night, and have done a good deal of business, I think the request might be conceded.
– I can give the honorable senator an undertaking not to bring on the Loan Bill before 2.30 o’clock.
– But the Minister will bring on the Norfolk Island Bill. He knows the way in which we have helped him with the Committee on Public Accounts Bill.
– And with the Defence Bill to-day. We can go no further.
– 1 can go a great deal further.
– Does not the honorable senator recognise that the motion is submitted to meet the convenience of the majority of honorable senators. They agreed this morning to meet on Monday in order to enable us to close on Wednesday.
– I have no desire to close on Wednesday. There will be very little difference between meeting at 11 a.m. and 2.30 p.m., and I can promise that, if the concession asked for is made, I shall be prepared to devote at least two or three hours less to the discussion of some measures to come before us, though I may find it necessary to vote against them.
– The honorable senator did not dissent from the arrangement made.
SenatorRAE. - I did dissent from it. It was only a matter between the leaders, and I never saw the leader yet that I was going to follow on every item. I have as much at stake in these matters as have the leaders in the Senate, and I do not see why they should go behind our backs and fix up things on the quiet.
– That is not a fair statement to make.
SenatorRAE. - There was some dissent expressed, and it was pointed out by myself that senators from South Australia could not get back on Monday, and honorable senators from New South Wales could only get back by 1 o’clock if the train ran to time. Ministers have professed to be meek and mild.
– The honorable senator has heard that even a worm will turn.
SenatorRAE. - Ministers are turning all the time, and we are foolish enough on this side to allow them to twist us around. I have no wish to make any threat, but if it is decided to meet on Monday at 11 a.m., I have no doubt that additional time will be taken up in the discussion of measures which will more than make up for the two hours that would be gained by meeting at that hour.
– With a view to assisting the Government to get on with business, I have refrained from speaking to-day. In return for that, the Government propose not to permit me to go back to my State if I wish to be present when business is resumed on Monday morning. I do not think that in the two hours between 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock on Monday very much progress will be made. The obstinacy displayed by Ministers in refusing a concession of two hours to honorable senators who wish to go to their homes in New South Wales at the week-end will be a justification for treating Ministers as they are treating honorable senators, on this side. I do not think that the Government will expedite their business by holding fast to an arrangement which has been made, and of which I did not express disapproval because I knew nothing about
– Ministers do not desire the two hours for themselves, but to meet the convenience of others.
– The arrangement made is inconvenient to some honorable senators. What difference will it make if the Government agree to meet at 2.30 o’clock on Monday?
– The difference between closing on Wednesday and closing on Thursday.
– That is not a matter of great importance.
– It is to some honorable senators, but not to me. I frankly admit that, personally, I shall not mind if the Senate does not sit at all on Monday, but I have accepted an arrangement to meet the convenience of a number of the members of the Senate.
– I am never very anxious to keep the Senate sitting. We are having crowded upon us just now a number of measures of first-rate importance which will require careful attention and deliberate consideration. I do not know how many measures it is proposed to try to rush through in the next few days, but I cannot see how our meeting on Monday afternoon instead of on Monday morning would make the difference between getting away on Wednesday rather than on Thursday. Ministers should recognise the generous treatment which has been meted out to them, but they show no desire to meet honorable senators who have assisted them on many occasions by refraining from speaking. I have refrained from speaking upon measures I should like to have discussed, out of consideration for the Government. I did so only last night.
– The honorable senator did.
– I say that we are entitled to ask for reasonable concessions in return for concessions to the Government. In view of the delightful climate of Melbourne at this time of the year, it is, perhaps, worth one’s while to remain at the week-end. One might make a delightful trip to Ballarat tomorrow, and come back refreshed on Monday morning in a condition to discuss any matter for a couple of hours. I do not see why. the Government should desire to meet the wishes of some honorable senators, while they refuse the most modest request of others. The Minister of Defence must recognise that honorable senators from New South Wales wish to get back to their State occasionally, that they may keep in touch with public opinion over there. There is a different atmosphere, political and otherwise, in New South Wales at the present moment to that of Melbourne. In dealing with the Loan Bill, the Senate struck out two items of the schedule, one of which covered an amount for the purchase of land at Liverpool. I was anxious to assist the Government to restore that item, because I consider it necessary. The Government must conduct the business as they will, and I suppose that, so far as our party are concerned, they will continue as they have done from the beginning of the session to say, “ Yes, Mr. Cook,” to everything that is put before them. I do not include myself amongst those who would treat the Government in this generous fashion, because I have no desire to do so. I might be allowed to say that Ministers leading small minorities are well advised not to adopt autocratic methods.
– Why not take the judgment of the Senate, and leave the matter to honorable senators on the other side?
– Will the Government accept an amendment?
– Anything the honorable senator pleases. Let us take a division.
– Then I move -
That the words “ eleven a.m.” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “half-past two p.m.”
– I appeal to honorable senators upon this side of the Chamber to vote for the proposal of the Government. I would point out that we have a Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and some intimation that this amendment was going to be moved ought to have been conveyed to him. I am going to be loyal to him; and I invite other honorable senators, to be equally loyal.
– Will the Government agree that no division shall be taken on Monday until after the arrival of the Sydney express - otherwise we shall be a vote short?
– So far as the Loan Bill is concerned, the Government have already given us an assurance that that measure will not come up for consideration on Monday morning.
– That is what I wanted to clear up.
– I invite honorable senators to vote with the Government, and to respect the understanding upon which Senator McGregor has gone away.
– I am interested in several Bills which are to come up for consideration on Monday, and I will not make one to disfranchise anybody who thinks as I do upon them.
– The most important is the Loan Bill.
– There is one measure inseparably connected with the Loan Bill, namely, the Pine Creek to Katherine River Railway Bill.
– We are in a difficult position in regard to the hour of meeting on Monday. I sympathize with Senators Rae and Gardiner in their desire to defer the hour of meeting until 2.30 p.m., otherwise business of importance will’ undoubtedly be brought forward in the forenoon, and a division may be taken when they are absent. I think that far too much consideration has been shown for the convenience of honorable senators coming from South Australia and New South Wales.
– This comes well from the honorable senator, seeing that he was absent for about four months this session.
– I think that too much consideration has been extended to honorable senators representing South Australia and New South Wales, who desire to get home every Saturday. If Senators Rae and Gardiner are so anxious about certain business, I do not see why they should not remain in Melbourne over this week end, if the hour of meeting is fixed for 11 a.m. on Monday.
– We will.
– Their duty to the country ought to take a higher place in their minds.
– The honorable senator is talking rot, and he knows it. He remained in Queensland for four months, and allowed others to do his duty.
– The honorable senator is an excellent judge of “rot”; he indulges in a good deal of it.
– The honorable senator was three or four months in Queensland doing nothing. Yet he comes here and lectures others.
– I am sympathizing with the honorable senator. He does not know his friends when he meets them. I am endeavouring to give him and his f riends an opportunity to vote upon certain questions-
SenatorRae. - It is a left-handed way of doing it.
– It is not, as the honorable senator will discover when the vote takes place. If the division goes against Senators Rae and Gardiner, they ought to remain in this city over Sunday, so as to be ready to get to work on Monday morning. I oan understand that there will be a desire on the part of the Government to get certain measures through this Chamber between 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock on Monday, when such doughty opponents of them as Senators Rae and Gardiner may be absent. As I am opposed to those measures, and as I am very anxious that my honorable friends should have an opportunity, not only of speaking, but of voting upon them, I intend to support the amendment in favour of the Senate meeting at haltpast 2 o’clock. It is not very nice for one to act in opposition to an arrangement entered into between the Leador of the Opposition and the Government.
– No arrangement has been made.
– I think there has. But public business ought to take precedence even of any arrangement entered into between the Leader of the Opposition and the Government. If some honorable senators think that certain measures are in danger if the Senate meets at 11 o’clock on Monday, they are quite within their rights in endeavouring to get the hour of meeting altered to half-past 2 o’clock. I understand that honorable senators from South Australia cannot return here until Tuesday morning, as there is no train from Adelaide on Sunday.
– They are all here.
– Then I would advise honorable senators from New South Wales to remain here also, if they wish to see the straight thing done to the country.
– The critics of this proposal seem to assume that it has been brought forward either to secure a Government advantage or to serve the convenience of the Government. Nothing Qf the kind. Itwould have suited me -much better to have had Monday morn ing free for departmental work, but the motion is the result of an arrangement which was entered into between the parties in the other House, and, after consultation between the Leader of the Opposition in this Chamber and myself. The proposal was submitted believing that we would be meeting the convenience of honorable senators. Therefore, I dissent from the proposition that what we have done Has been done to serve ourselves. It was done to meet the convenience of honorable senators, which means the convenience of the Opposition, seeing that it possesses such a large majority. The idea of closing the session on Wednesday next-
– Was that part of the agreement?
– Yes. Mr. Fisher and Mr. Cook, in the other Chamber, arrived at a certain understanding, upon which I consulted Senator McGregor here. If honorable senators are determined that the session shall not close then, of course, we are in their’ hands. But if a majority of this Chamber wish to close the session on that day, and it can he done without a sacrifice of public business, it would be entirely unreasonable for two honorable senators to endeavour to frustrate their wish. I ask honorable senators to stand by the motion, with the object of completing our business during Wednesday’s sitting.
– Did the Minister pf Defence arrange with the Leader of the Opposition to meet at 11 o’clock on Monday?
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Sonator GARDINER’ (New South Wales) [4.30].- The Senate has not had much serious work to do during the months that have passed, and on Monday it is more than probable that quite a number of Bills will he placed before us. Although we cannot be allowed two hours on Monday to allow us to visit our homes during the week-end, I think that the Leader of the Government might well say what business he intends to proceed with before luncheon. The Senate ought not to be in any way hurried in its consideration of measures.
– I should think not more than one. I wish for the assurance of the Minister that it is not his intention to use his newly-acquired subservient majority - which is so ready to say “Yes, Mr.Cook, and thank you for your insults “ - to rush everything through on Monday morning. ‘ The honorable gentleman will probably find, however, that after a. couple of days’ reflection this majority will not follow him quite so easily. He will, perhaps, not have its members in such a crawlsome mood on Monday.
– The honorable senator is not in order in reflecting upon others.
– I beg pardon if I have transgressed. I have no wish to upset the harmony proper to the Christmas season.
– It is our intention to proceed on Monday morning before luncheon with the Norfolk Island Bill, the Tasmania Grant Bill, the Post and Telegraph Bill, and the Committee of Public Accounts Bill; we do not anticipate passing more than those measures then. After lunch we shall take measures about which opinions may differ more - the Postal Voting Restoration Bill, the Loan Bill, the Pine Creek to Katherine’ River Railway Bill, and the Australian Notes Bill!
Question resolved in. the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 December 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1913/19131212_senate_5_72/>.