7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. T.Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m. and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether he is yet in a position to supply me with an answer to my questions in regard to the Blythe River iron option?
– The honorable senator submitted a list of eleven questions. I have already supplied the answers to questions 1 to 5, and I now have pleasure in supplementing the information which has been given. The Blythe River Iron Mines Limited have furnished the following particulars: -
With regard to Nob. 8 and 11, the directors of the company feel that, in the best interests of the shareholders, they must decline to disclose the inside business of the company.
Quarantine: Western AustraliaConditions on Transport “Medic.”
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he is in a position to reply to the question which I put to him yesterday, in regard to the quarantine arrangements in connexion with the outbreak of pneumonic influenza on vessels arriving in Western Australia?
– I have been supplied with the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
Our experience with several vessels that have arrived with a large number of cases of pneumonic influenza on board goes to show that the methods adopted have proved effective in clearing up the disease in the shortest possible time, and with a minimum number of cases. The method of keeping the troops on board insures efficient control and regular medical inspections twice daily, and the rapid segregation of infected cases, which would not be possible if the troops were landed on an unequipped station on one of the islandsclose to the mainland. The Boonah arrived with nearly 400 cases on board. They were removed, and only eight oases appeared next day, six the following day, and two to-day. The probabilities are that there will not be any more, and that the ship will be able to leave in a day or two, and the remainder of the quarantine period spent on the run east, enabling the troops to reach their homes in the shortest possible time. If the troops were landed there would not be the same chance of inspection, and getting the cases under treatment in the very early stages which is most essential. In any case, long before it would be possible to clear Rottnest Island, and make the necessary preparation for the troops, the ship should be. cleaned up, and the soldiers on the way to their homes. It has to be borne in mind that the ship itself is not infected. The doctors are agreed that this disease is not transmitted by inanimate objects, and must be transmitted from individual to individual, and therefore, provided that those contracting the disease are removed as rapidly as they are discovered, the risk of others catching the complaint is reduced to an absolute minimum. This is borne out entirely by our experience, and I feel sure that the best has been done for the troops and the public in the steps that have been taken. Finally, Albany station will he used as much as practicable in dealing with other boats coming forward.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice - 1.Is an inquiry to be held into the quarantine arrangements in connexion with the troopship M edic?
– During the period of quarantine of the Medic in Sydney, there were minor complaints about food and other matters, which were at once rectified; but the Government arc not aware of any complaints which would justify holding a formal inquiry.The Government will give consideration to any reasonable evidence of a definite nature which is brought forward. The successful control of the influenza epidemic on the Medicwithin a few days after her arrival is sufficient answer to any suggestion of negligence on the part of the quarantine service.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether any reduction has been made in the censors’ staff in Australia, and, if so, to what extent?
– I have already announced that reductions have been made in that staff. I suggest that the honorable senator should give notice of the second portion of his question.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he can supply the Senate with any further information as to when the badges, to be issued to the next of kin of deceased soldiers,will be distributed?
– I made inquiries this morning as to how this matter stands, and I find that there are two contractors working on the badges, of which 36,000 have already been delivered to the Department. The Department has been holding these until a sufficient number were in hand to warrant their distribution. This morning I gave instructions that the Department should immediately commence to distribute the badges which are in hand, and other badges as supplies are delivered. We are endeavouring to get the contractors to increase their supplies, but so far we have not metwith much success in that direction.
– In view of the fact that the Government are getting a large number of measures through Parliament during the closing days of the session, because they are urgent and necessary, will they permit honorable senators to participate in the advantages of that rush by enabling them to get their measures, which are also necessary and urgent passed ?
-The opportunity for honorable senators to reach their own business isone which they themselves can create by expeditiously dealing with Government business. They will then be free to turn their attention to the matters standing in their own names.
– Is the Minister aware that honorable senators have been deprived of the opportunity to get their business through this Chamber by reason of the action of the Government in suspending a portion ofour Standing Orders ?
– The honorable senator is under a misapprehension as to the effect of the motion adopted by the Senate. That motion merely gives precedence to Government business. If honorable senators will co-operate with Ministers to dispose of that business, the road will then be open to them to deal with their own private business.
– If honorable senators doco-operate with the Government to get its business through, will Ministers allow them a day in which to dispose of their own private business?
– It is of no use putting hypothetical questions to me. I assume, however; from the honorable senator’s inquiry that he is earnestly anxious to dispose of Government business.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he will postpone the proposed erection of a consumptive sanatorium at Turramurra on the North Shore line, Sydney, in order to give the local authorities an opportunity to place their objections to that proposal before him.
– I cannot promise to do that, because the local authorities have already put their objections before me, .and those objections have been fully inquired into, both by the medical authorities and the Business Board, who do not think they disclose sufficient reasons for postponing this work.
– Are there any reports from medical authorities as to which is absolutely the most suitable site for a sanatorium of that character ? I imagine that the best site for the purpose would be one in the dry western urea of New South Wales.
– The matter to which the honorable senator has referred, has already been made the subject of reports by the medical officers of the Department. As he is aware, the principal Commonwealth Medical Officer in New South Wales is also the principal ‘State Medical Officer. These reports do not recommend any other site than that which has been selected.
– I ask the Minister whether he has received any further representations from Turramurra, other than those which I have ‘placed before him., and whether he is aware that several of the local authorities are interested in this matter ? If so, will he afford them a further opportunity of placing their objections to the chosen site before him?
– In addition to the representations made by the honorable senator, I have received representations from various local governing bodies. If further representations are made, I shall most certainly see that they are given full consideration.
– The Minister for Defence informed me yesterday that there were thirty-eight Australian-born persona in internment camps in Australia, and eight individuals who were British born. Now that the war is practically over, will the Government release those men? Or, if there are offences against them which are not sufficiently serious to warrant the continuance of their internment, will the Government have them indicted and tried immediately? Also, is the Minister for Defence aware that there is a possibility of a fine crop of law cases arising over the illegal detention -of Australian subjects?
– The question of the policy of the Government with respect to internees, both as to those born in British communities and persons not born within the Empire, is under the consideration of the Government. I am not aware of any contemplated legal action, and have no information on that subject.
– Have the Goverment any further information to give the Senate in answer to the question I asked regarding metal scrap ?
– I have not yet received any further reply, but will endeavour to expedite the receipt of information.
” CARNES “ ARTIFICIAL LIMBS.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– I think the honorable senator is under some misapprehension. No such regulations have been issued by the Department of Repatriation;but, from the nature of the question, I assume that ‘the honorable senator is dealing with the ease of a man who is not a member of the Australian Imperial Force. In the circumstances, his case would not come within the ken of the Repatriation Department. If Senator Need-‘ ham will provide me with the name of the individual concerned, I will endeavour to trace the particulars.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he give the men Bilbao and Burtovitch, who have been detained in custody seven months after the expiration of their sentence, an opportunity of a public trial prior to the Government carrying out its expressed intention to deport them?
– The persons named were prosecuted under the Unlawful Associations Act. The question, therefore, should be addressed to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is there any objection to the word “Anzac” being applied to a hostel at Launceston, Tasmania, acquired and furnished for the benefit of returned soldiers by public subscription and general financial effort?
– As this is not a matter coming within the determination of the Defence Department, although the regulations are under the War Precautions Act, I have been endeavouring to get a decision from the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. Owing to the pressure on that Department, however, due to the closing hours of the session, it has been impossible to give consideration to the matter. At the earliest possible moment the request will be dealt with, and the honorable senator will be communicated with direct.
The following paper was presented: -
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 13th December, vide page 9258) :
Clause 5 (Incorporation of Commissioner).
SenatorNEWLAND (South Australia) [11.22]. - During the second-reading stage of the Bill I was not able to avail myself of the opportunity to address the Senate. However, under this clause, which deals with the incorporation of the Commissioner, I hope I shall be in order in making the few remarks which I had intended. I am glad to have noted that every section in the Senate has welcomed the introduction of the Bill. Certain shortcomings have been pointed out, and some of the operations proposed have not met with the complete approval of all honorable senators. A good deal, of course, will depend upon the appointment of the Commissioner and his staff, and upon the amount of liberty which will be granted to the Commissioner. The operations under the Bill will be of such a nature that it will be wise for the Commissioner to be given very wide powers; that is, if the measure is to be as successful as all honorable senators desire. I do not find fault with the Bill, but I trust the Minister will welcome any suggestions intended to improve it.
In a discussion on a previous clause I pointed out that the Bill did not provide for all the ramifications with regard to soldiers and their dependants. There is no provision whereby the Commissioner may restrict, within certain limits, the nature of the applicants for homes. For instance, a returned soldier who is a wealthy man may make application. He may have thousands of pounds invested in Government bonds or other such securities, but he may not own a house or any property. He may ask to be provided with a home. In such circumstances, the Commissioner should have the power to say whether or not that person would be eligible to receive the benefits of this measure.
– A man with thousands of pounds may do so. I know that returned soldiers worth thousands of pounds have already applied for homes under one of the State provisions. There is no crime or offence in that, of course; but the trouble is that such applications may hinder orprevent more needy cases from receiving attention.
I hope the Commissioner and his staff willbe as free as possible from political influence. The position of Commissioner is one wherein the occupant should not be hampered by interference on the part of Parliament. Of course, this official should be responsible to the Minister controlling the Department, and a tight rein should be kept upon his administration, particularly with regard to the funds at his disposal.
The administration of this Bill will require the establishment of a very large Department. We must not be frightened at the expense that will be involved, and it must not be unduly curtailed by Parliament if we are to carry out properly the important duty which we owe to a very deserving section of the community. There can be no doubt whatever that branches of this Department will have to be established in every State, so that its work may be expedited, and no excuse may be given for complaints arising from delays in its administration.
I am satisfied that the Commissioner will find it necessary to purchase large, as well as small, blocks of land to give effect to this measure, and it may be necessary in certain cases for him to acquire land outside present municipal boundaries in all the States, and beyond the reach of existing tram services and other facilities for transit. I do not think that there is any clause of the Bill under which the Commissioner can make arrangements for extending transit facilities to any area which he might find it desirable to purchase for the settlement of soldiers. He should be given some authority under the measure either to provide such means of transit himself, or to enter into negotiations with those controlling existing tramways, for the purpose.
In the event of a model city being established by the Commissioner, he should be in a position to appoint a Board of Control, or some authority to supervise the settlement.. Recently the Public Works Committee was inquiring into the establishment of homes for workmen employed at the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, and some little difficulty was found in dovetailing the responsibility of the Government and the local authority in connexion with the settlement proposed to be formed for the purpose. It is possible that the Commissioner may find it necessary to be in a position to settle such difficulties arising between his Department and local authorities. I do not know whether he will have the power to do so under this Bill, but if not, he certainly should be vested with it.
– How did the difficulties referred to arise at Lithgow ?
– They arose in connexion with the delimitation of boundaries, and the extension of sewerage, and water and gas supplies, from the municipality to the workers’ settlement.
– I suppose that the municipal authorities wanted the Commonwealth Government to bear expense which was properly theirs.
– I need not go into the details of the matter, but difficulties arose on those lines. Another matter which must not be overlooked is that in some of the States fairly liberal provision for homes for workmen and soldiers has already been enacted. I am better acquainted with the legislation which has been adopted in South Australia than with that of the other Sates. I may tell the Committee that in South Australia the returned soldier will not look at this scheme so long as the Government of that State continue to provide homes for workmen and soldiers on the liberal scale now operating.
– How much longer does the honorable senator think that the South Australian Government will be able to continue operations under their scheme ?
– I think that they can go on with it indefinitely.
– So much the better for the soldiers.
– Under this Bill a person is given thirty-seven years in which to purchase a home, but a soldier in South Australia will not avail himself of its provision when under the South Australian Act he is given fifty years within which to pay for a home.
– Does the honorable senator regard that as more attractive than the provision in this Bill ?
– I do. It is a question of the ability of the man to pay.
– Order ! The honorable senator is out of order in traversing the whole Bill on this clause. I have no wish to hamper him unduly, but he cannot make a secondreading speech on this clause.
– I am dealing with the appointment of the Commissioner, and with his powers and functions, and I hope that you, sir, will allow me to use arguments to show why it is necessary to increase the powers of the Commissioner under this Bill in order that its provisions may be generally availed of. For. that reason I think it well to draw comparisons between those provisions and legislation of a similar character which has been passed by some of the State Parliaments. Unless the provisions of this measure are liberalized, its operation will be found to be a comparative failure in South Australia, because the Government of that State are providing more generous terms for returned soldiers than are provided for in this Bill. Soldiers’ widows are provided with homes under the South Australian Act. They may, at a charge of 6s. per week, have homes provided for them which they may occupy for life. On their decease the homes may be sold, and the Government mayrecoup their expenditure in that way. Under the State legislation also, in such cases, rates and taxes are paid by the State for five years.
– Soldiers’ widows are provided for under this Bill.
– I am aware that all soldiers’ dependants are provided for, but I am pointing out that they are not provided for so liberally as under the
South Australian Act. I may tell the Committee that since the South Australian Government commenced building homes for soldiers in that State-
– I ask the honorable senator not to discuss that matter on the clause before the Committee.
– I was about to say that the number of homes built for soldiers in South Australia under the conditions to which I have referred were 611 in the city, and in other parts 189, or a total of 790.
– A number of those were built on the margin advanced by the Repatriation Trustees.
– The Repatriation Trustees did advance certain sums for the purpose. I have referred so extensively to what has been done by the South Australian Government, because I am anxious that this Bill should be made a success. If that is to be brought about, it will be necessary that full advantage shall be taken of the scheme in every State. The greater the number of people who do take advantage of it, the lower the cost will be comparatively. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), I think, fixed 1 per cent. as sufficient to cover anticipated losses. I am anxious that his estimate may be realized, but if it is, the fullest possible advantage must be taken of the provisions of this measure. This should be the most generous proposal for dealing with the subject in the whole of Australia, but that cannot be said of it now. It is true that no deposit is asked for from the people who may elect to take advantage of its provisions, but some of these men will have a considerable sum of money to draw in the way of deferred pay, and will be able to put down a deposit so as to secure more generous terms.
I have already informed the Minister that I do not desire to adversely criticise the Bill. No man has more sympathy with a measure of this kind than I, but I am anxious to assist the Minister in liberalizing the measure so that it may in every sense of the word be of substantial assistance to those persons who are likely to take advantage of it. I think the Commissioner should have the widest possible scope, and that Parliament should not be permitted to unduly interfere with his work.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [11.47]. - I have not previously spoken on this measure, which is really one phase of repatriation, and I would like now to take this opportunity of congratulating the Government upon the proposal to appoint a Commissioner, which is an acceptance of the principle which a minority of honorable senators have consistently advocated since the introduction of the Repatriation scheme. There are one or two matters which, in my judgment, appear to deserve consideration. I refer to the powers that may be invested in the Commissoner. I notice that it is proposed to pay him a salary of £1,500 a year.
– Order ! The honorable senator will not be in order, under this clause, in discussing the salary to be paid to the Commissioner.
.- It seems to me that as the clause relates to the appointment of a Commissioner, it also embraces the question of salary to be paid to him. As it is estimated, the Commissioner will control an expenditure of something like £50,000,000, and, therefore, we might quite properly be permitted to discuss the question of his salary.
– The honorable senator will have ample opportunity of discussing the salary in a subsequent clause.
– I presume then, that I shall be in order in saying that a Commissioner who will, perhaps, be charged with the expenditure of £50,000,000 should receive a salary in proportion to the amount of his responsibility. It appears to me also, to be reasonable to assume that a Commissioner invested with such a large amount of responsibility, should also have the power to appoint and dismiss employees.
– The staff is to be placed under the Public Service Act.
– I notice that is provided for in a later clause, but there may be some objections to the adoption of that principle.
– Order ! The honorable senator will have ample opportunity to discuss that matter when the clause relating to it is before the Committee.
.- Am I not in order, Mr. Chairman, in discussing, under this clause, the powers of the Commissioner?
– Yes ; but not his salary.
.- But if the question of the appointment of a Commissioner is decided, it cannot be reopened.
– The Committee has full power to recommit or reconsider any clause it considers necessary.
– I am quite in accord with the proposal to appoint a Commissioner, subject to certain provisions with regard to his power in administration.
– I call attention to the fact that the clause deals with the appointment of a Commissioner, and, that being so, I contend, with all deference to you, Mr. Chairman, that under it the Committee is perfectly justified in discussing his powers, and even his salary.
– Not his salary.
– I think the Com- “mittee is entitled to consider, under this clause, whether the Commissioner shall receive a salary or not. Some honorable senators might hold the view that a Board would be more efficient than a Commissioner.
– That could quite legitimately be offered as an alternative to the proposal to appoint a Commissioner.
– Yes ; and in the discussion of that alternative proposal honorable senators would be entitled to consider the question of whether the salaries would be greater or less than under the .present proposal.
– If any honorable senator has that proposal in mind, it is quite within the scope of the Committee to postpone the clause until the other clauses have been dealt with.
– With all deference to you, Mr. Chairman, I claim that on this clause the Committee has full power to discuss all questions relating to the Commissioner.
– .My only desire is to allow the widest scope possible within the Standing Orders for the discussion of this matter, but I rule that the honorable senator will ‘not be in order in discussing, at this stage, the salary to be paid to the Commissioner.
– The question of his salary is bound up in the question of his appointment and his functions. The clause states -
In this is bound u,p the question of continuity. The Commissioner may be removed from office, and another man may take his place, but his functions will continue, so the Committee should have power to discuss the whole ‘of his powers, and his salary. Indeed, I think that under this clause practically the whole Bill could be discussed. The clause goes on to say - and be capable of suing and being sued, and shall, subject to this Act, have power to acquire, purchase, sell, lease and hold lands, tenements, hereditament’s, goods, chattels, and any other property for the purposes of this Act.
I submit we can here discuss the whole of the Commissioner’s powers, his salary, and even the color or length of his shoelaces. The clause goes on further to state -
My contention is that the whole ambit of the Commissioner’s duties can properly be dealt with under’ this clause.
– But not his salary.
– I claim that we can discuss whether he shall receive a salary or not.
– Not under this clause.
– With all deference to you, Mr. Chairman, I submit that the question of salary may be included.
– I ask the honorable senator to proceed with his argument.
– My argument, then, based on these premises, is that the clause covers the whole ambit of the Commissioner’s appointment, and I suggest to the Minister (Senator Millen) that better results will be achieved by the appointment of a Board instead of allowing all these important matters to rest upon one man’s judgment, one man’s view of the position, one man’s sympathy, or one man’s antipathies. It may be that the Commissioner will have a predilection for one place more than another, and that his judgment will, in a measure, be circumscribed by prejudices, whereas a Board would take a wider viewpoint. This subject came up for discussion in the South Australian Parliament some years ago, when legislation for the erection of workmen’s homes was under consideration, and Parliament took what I regarded as a wise course in deciding on the appointment of a Board, similar to the board of directors of a Savings Bank. Under the State Act, these men exercise all the powers which, under this clause, it is proposed to invest in the Commissioner, so I think it would be wise for the Committee to consider the alternative. In view of the variety of circumstances which must be considered in dealing with applications by returned soldiers, there will be a tendency to make the arrangement too autocratic if all the power is centred in the hands of one man. I have no sympathy with the creation of bureaux, pure and simple, but there is good in all things, and we ought to take the best from both systems. I should prefer a Board of three in this case.
– My only desire is to get the most effective machinery. There might be a good deal in favour of securing a Commission of three instead of one, if it were contemplated that a single Commissioner should carry on the whole organization himself ; but the Bill provides that he shall, if possible, utilize the existing machinery of the
State Savings Banks. My conversations with the responsible representatives of banks justify the statement that such an arrangement is feasible, and, if it is made, while the Commissioner will be the controlling head, applications will be dealt with under his direction by the Savings Banks Commissioners in the various States. In the circumstances it did not seem to me that I was justified in asking Parliament to appoint and pay three men, when, if that scheme materialized, one should be sufficient. In all those matters I decline to dogmatize, because we are dealing too much with the realm of the unknown. Oh the supposition that working arrangements can be arrived at with the State Savings Banks, I ask the Committee to accept the Bill as it stands, with the knowledge that if it is not found workable it will be possible to alter the constitution of the Commission.
– Is it possible for the Commissioner to utilize the services of other bodies besides State Savings Banks Commissioners?
– Yes; the clause empowers the Commissioner to make arrangements with the State Savings Banks “ or other approved institutions.” That would include State Housing Boards, such as exist in some parts of Australia.
– Will the State Savings Bank machinery operate in relation to soldiers’ homes in the same relation as the State Lands Department?
– No; the State Lands Department deals with matters in its own way, but in this case, if an agreement is made, the State Savings Banks will be required to do the things which the Commissioner himself would otherwise do.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Appointment of fit and proper person to be Commissioner).
– The words “fit and proper” are unnecessary, because the Government would not appoint any other kind of person. If they did, I would do my best to annul both the appointment and the Government. I do not think the words occur in any other Act, and as they convey the reflection that without them the Government might select an “ unfit and improper “ person. I move -
That the words “ fit and proper “ he left out
– I do not pretend that the retention or deletion of the words will make any practical difference, hut it is a common practice to include them in our Acts of Parliament. For instance, they are in the Public Service Act. They do no harm, and should not be removed without some substantial reason, which Senator Senior has not offered.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause S (Tenure of Commissioner for seven years).
– This term is two years longer than that of appointments made under similar Acts, and I would like to bring it- into harmony with the usual practice. Seven years is more than double the ordinary tenure of office of a member of Parliament.
– The appointments of the Public Service Commissioner and the Inter-State Commissioners are for seven years. It is essential to get a thoroughly good man for this job, and two things which will appeal to him are the remuneration and the tenure. The remuneration we are offering is distinctly below that paid by the State Savings Banks, and if we reduce the tenure we decrease one of the attractions which this appointment might have to an excellent man.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 -
Amendment (by Senator Millen)’ agreed to -
That the word “ such,” in sub-clause 2, Deleft out, and the words “the same” inserted in lieu thereof.
– I move -
That the following words be added to subclause 3 : - “ and if within thirty days thereafter an address is presented to the GovernorGeneral by the Senate and the House of Representatives praying for the restoration of the Acting Commissioner to office, the ActingCommissioner shall be restored accordingly. But if no such address is so presented the Governor-General may confirm the suspension and thereupon the Acting Commissioner shall cease to hold office.”
The purpose of these amendments is to place the Acting Commissioner in exactly the same position as the Commissioner, should suspension be necessary.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 11 and 12 agreed to.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [12.15]. - The Commissioner appointed under this Bill should be adequately paid for the work which he will have to perform, and, in my judgment, a salary of £1,500 per annum is not calculated to attract the class of man that we desire for the office. At the very lowest, the salary should be £2,000 per annum. I therefore move -
That the word “One”, line 2, be left out, with a view to inserting the word “ Two “ in lieu thereof.
– I have a good deal of sympathy with the view which has been expressed by Senator Bolton. In regard to the higher positions in our Public Service, I have never hesitated to say that we do not pay salaries parallel with those which their occupants could earn outside the Service. There are, however, some advantages attaching to the Public Service which, to an extent, compensate for the comparative small ness of the salaries paid.
– The Commissioner may nothe a public servant.
– He will be a public servant in the same sense as is the Public Service Commissioner, though he willnotbe subject to any other public servant. Speaking for myself, I can assure the honorable senator that if I found that a suitable man for the position could not be obtained at the salary stated in the clause - a man in whom the Government could repose the most implicit confidence - I should, without hesitation, agree to pay a higher salary, and would look to Parliament to subsequently indemnify my action. That, perhaps, would be a little irregular, but I think that Parliament would say I was justified in obtaining the services of the best man, even if I had to pay a little more for them. But no appointment will be made under this clause unless the Government are fully satisfied as to the competency of the person to be appointed.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [12.18]. - If it became a matter of public knowledge that the salary of the Commissioner was to be £2,000 per annum., it might have a very beneficial effect on the class of persons who will apply for the position. But if it is to be left to the Government to determine whether one man is worth only £1,500 a year, whilst another is worth £2,000, I see no reason why we should not specify in the Bill the remuneration that we are prepared to pay to a good man.
– I scarcely think that the Minister was wise in practically throwing out a veiled invitation to applicants to ask for a higher salary.
– Applying for a higher salary does not mean that an applicant will get it.
– But applicants may refuse to accept the position unless they do get it. In Queensland, we have a very able man conducting the State Savings Bank, with which is embodied the administration of theWorkers’ Dwelling Act, the Agricultural Banking Act, and the Discharged Soldiers’ Settlement Act. All these Statutes are administered by a very capable officer, whose salary is only £1,200 per annum. I contendthat a man occupying an administrative position of that character has very much more responsibility than will the gentleman who is appointed Commissioner under this Bill. Inthese circumstances, I am of opinion that a salary of £1,500 a year is an adequate one. I do not anticipate an expenditure of £50,000,000 of whichthe Minister spoke.
– I did not say that £50,000,000 would be required.
– I am perfectly aware of that. But the Minister’s statement has been misinterpreted by the press. What the honorable gentleman intended to convey was that the sum involved in housing our returned soldiers may eventually amount to £50,000,000- quite a different thing from an expenditure of £50,000,000 of Commonwealth money.
– I would like to prevent the possibility of any misunderstanding consequent upon the remarks made by Senator Ferricks. The honorable senator was pressing the view that if we pay the Commissioner a salary of only £1,500. a year, we shall run the risk of securing the services of an incompetent man. In replying to his statement, and speaking for myself, I said that if I were faced with that alternative I would be willing to pay more. However, I do not think that it will be necessary to do that. Seeing that the Commissioner will have a tenure of seven years, I still think it will be possible to get a competent man for the position at the salary specified in the Bill.
– In speaking upon the motion for the second reading of this measure, I said that in my opinion the salary payable to the Commissioner was hardly sufficient. But I shall not vote for Senator Bolton’s amendment, because the amount of the Commissioner’s salary is a matter for the Government to determine, and not for this Committee. In New South Wales our Chief of Police receives £1,500 a year, together with a housing allowance of £200 a year, and a travelling allowance of £2 2s. per day. As Senator Ferricks has already pointed out, we may probably get just as good a man for £1,200 a year as we shall get for double that amount. Our first duty, however, is to ascertain whether he is competent to fill the office. After his competency has been proved, we shall be in a position to increase his salary if that course should be deemed advisable.
.- The Bill would be materially improved if the first sub-clause of this clause were excised, and the amount of salary were not stated. It is not wise to specify the salary which shall attach to the position of Commissioner for a longer period than he may continue in office. Even the Minister himself has pointed out that it may be cheaper to pay a suitable man a higher salary than that which is set out in the clause. For this reason I think we ought not to define the salary which shall be paid to the Commissioner.
.- I move -
That after the word “ year “ the following words be inserted : - “ or such higher salary as is deemed necessary by the Minister, but not exceeding Two thousand pounds per annum.”
The insertion of these words will overcome the difficulty to which attention has been drawn. I confess that my curiosity was aroused somewhat by the statement of the Minister that if a salary of £1,500 were specified in the Bill, and he thought it necessary to increase it to £1,800 or £2,000 per annum, he would not hesitate to adopt that course.
– The honorable senator is not putting the position correctly.
– I have no desire to misinterpret the Minister’s statement.
– The way that the honorable senator has put the position suggests that I am prepared to flaunt the will of Parliament.
– That is why I have raised the question. It is precisely what I thought the honorable gentleman intended to convey. I understood him to say that if a thoroughly competent man were available for the position, he would not hesitate to appoint him at a higher salary than that specified in this clause, relying upon Parliament to subsequently vote any additional money that might be required. Of course, if the Minister meant that he would first obtain the sanction of Parliament, I misunderstood his remarks. I agree with the honorable gentleman that the very best man should be appointed to the position of Commissioner, and that in the long run such a man will prove to be the cheapest. At the same time, I do not think it wise to leave the salary that is to be paid to the occupant of that office entirely to the discretion of the Minister. My own opinion is that a salary of £1,500 is scarcely sufficient.
– I desire to prevent any such impression from getting abroad as that I have stated that I would take a course, inregard to this matter, which would be flouting Parliament. I have said and indicated nothing of the kind. I was dealing with the position stated by Senator Bolton; that is, that to keep the salary down to the fixed figure of £1,500 might result in the appointment of an unsuitable and incapable man. And I said that, rather than appoint such a person, I would run the risk of making an appointment at a higher salary, thus securing a man in all waysdesirable, and I would then put the facts to Parliament. I do not suggest, however, that that would be the only alternative. One other would be to arrive at a temporary arrangement with the gentleman appointed, until the matter could be brought before Parliament in the ordinary and proper manner. Another alternative would be for the Government to introduce an amending Bill.
As for Senator Foil’s amendment, if such a provision is to be inserted at all, the Committee might as well agree to Senator Bolton’s straightout proposition for the insertion of the sum of £2,000. I do not feel disposed at the present juncture to assent to such an alteration of the clause.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [12.32]. - The whole tendency of Government authority is to employ cheap labour. If we go outside of the Government, we find business corporations paying their managers, who do not transact anything like the volume of business, or business of so important a character, salaries amounting to three and four times those received by leading Government officials. I know of a man who is responsible under the Government for very great financial undertakings, yet there are business men who are - so to speak - selling dolls’ eyes and are receiving higher salaries than that Government servant. It is a position which the Government should seriously consider.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 -
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [12.34].- The Minister for Repatriation has had experience in the appointment of officials to the Repatriation Department. No doubt it will prove to be necessary to relieve some of those officials of their duties, on the ground of incompetency, If officers to be engaged for the administration of this measureare to be appointed under the provisions of the Public Service Act, it will be difficult to get rid of them should they be found to be incompetent. The Commissioner who will be appointed under the “Wax Service Homes enactment should be given the power of appointment and dismissal of his officers. I propose to move an amendment in that direction.
– I direct attention to a material difference between the appointment of a staff under this measure and the appointment of a staff to the Repatriation Department; and I will show why it is necessary that the staff of the Commissioner administering the War Service Homes Act should be placed under the Public Service Act. The Commissioner will be appointed for a term of seven years. I question, therefore, whether Parliament would be prepared to hand over to an individual holding such a brief tenure of office the right to appoint and dismiss whom he may please. He would be open to accusations of tyvanny or favoritism; without any check on the part of the Parliament. In the Repatriation Department, Parliament could require the dismissal of any member of the staff immediately. It is necessary that the staff to be appointed under this measure should be given those guarantees which are represented by the Public Service Act. This clause has been inserted in its present form to assure that staff that their future in the Service will not be impaired by the likes and dislikes of any one official.
– Will not the Commissioner be in the position that he must fill up his staff from the Public Service? Andwould he be able to introduce outside officers, except boys, or soldiers ?
– If there are officers in the Public Service to-day who are qualified to be appointed to this branch, they will be allotted by the Public Service Commissioner in the ordinary way.
– I support the attitude adopted by Senator Bolton. My experience has been that when a man is appointed under the Public Service Act, he is there to stay, whether he is competent or otherwise. Once he has become a member of the Public Service he joins a great permanent army ; or, at any rate, he requires a good deal of shifting. In the Queensland Railways Department, which is administered by the Commissioner of Railways, the latter is appointed for a shorter tenure of office than is proposed under this Bill. He has under him thousands of railway employees. He has the sole administration of the Act, and the final voice in the appointment or dismissal of all railway servants. If there is one Department which has in the past given satisfaction, so far as the staff is concerned, it is the Queensland Railway Department. The same facts hold good in Victoria. The Railways Commissioners have the sole charge of their staffs. In view of these facts, I trust the Minister will reconsider the clause.
– I agree with those honorable senators’ who have just spoken, from the view-point that I dread increasing our Public Service. We are becoming tremendously loaded up, and soon this community will be top-heavy. The Commissioner under this measure, when appointed, will have to apply to the Public Service Commissioner for a staff. He will have to take just those officials whom the Commissioner may allot to him. Much of the success of this project will depend upon the staff appointed. If the chief executive officer could choose his own officials, he would be more likely to secure a satisfactory staff. I do not suppose that he would be allotted the pick of our public servants by the Public Service Commissioner, for the reason that they are already actively engaged in other Departments. And, by the way, there are splendid men in our Public Service. The scheme to be established under this Bill will have greater chances of success if the administering Commissioner possesses the power to choose the men he wants.
– He would not be debarred from taking officers from the Public Service if he required them.
– That is so. He could ascertain from the Public Service Comissioner what officers might be available for transfer to his Department; and he would learn whether such officers were likely to be suitable. This measure will create only a temporary Department, although its activities may continue for a long while.
– These provisions may be extended tocivilians.
– We cannot look so far into’ the future, and we have no right to regard the Department as permanent, in the sense that the Treasury and the Defence Departments are permanent institutions. I trust the Minister will further consider the matter.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [12.45]. - If this clause is carried in its present form the effect of it will be to practically shut the gate against returned soldiers desiring to secure an appointment in this particular branch of the Repatriation Department. Certain action has been taken by Parliament to facilitate the entry of returned soldiers into the Public Service, but there are still many difficulties in the way of returned men securing appointments in the Service. The clause provides that persons employed by the Commissioner are to be subject to the Commonwealth Public Service Act. Honorable senators will recollect that the Defence Department had quite a number of public servants in its employ, and it was necessary for Parliament to pass special legislation to enable that Department to properly deal with members of its staff who were also members of the Public Service. The Commissioner should be placed in a position enabling him to exercise his own judgment as to the qualifications required of men whom he will employ in the work of the administration of this measure.
– I have been very much impressed by the arguments of Senators Fairbairn and Bolton. Senator Fairbairn points out that, theoretically at least, this proposed building scheme is not a permanent one, and will gradually become exhausted, as it serves the purpose for which it has been introduced. The honorable senator suggests that, for that reason, we should consider that if the staff appointed to administer this measure are to be under the Public Service Act, we may find ourselves, when the purpose of the measure has been served, with a number of officers in this branch of the Repatriation Department, who may claim, under the Public Service Act, a continuous tenure of office. That is a very important consideration. Senator Bolton has pointed out that the clause may render it difficult to give preference to returned soldiers in appointments to the staff. I recognise that both these arguments have a good deal of weight.. It is impossible for me to make a final statement on the matter now, and, in the circumstances, I suggest that the Committee might negative the clause, and, later on, I shall be prepared to introduce something to take its place.
– Would it not be better to postpone the clause?
– I prefer to finalize the matter, and I shall be content to have the clause negatived at this juncture, on the understanding that I am free to take the action I have suggested.
Clause 16 ( Acquisition of land).
– This is one of the most important clauses in the Bill. Under it the Commissioner may acquire practically any land in any part of the Commonwealth, including land which has been dedicated, reserved, or set apart for any public or other purpose. There is a limitation upon the power of the Commissioner in sub-clause 5, which provides that before proposing to acquire land involving the expenditure of more than £5,000, he shall submit the proposal for the approval of the Minister. It must not be forgotten that this means that power is given under the Bill to the Commissioner to purchase land involving an expenditure of up to £5,000 at his own discretion, and without consulting the Minister. Another important feature of the clause is contained in sub-clause 4. under which the Commissioner is given power to subdivide land. It occurs to me that some returned soldiers may have land of their own on which they would like to have a home built, and the Bill should make provision to enable the Commissioner to build on land the fee-simple of which is heldby a returned soldier.
– That is provided for in clause 20.
– Is not this the clause in which we should insert a provision with respect to perpetual leaseholds in the Northern Territory?
– I am having an amendment prepared to deal with that in a separate clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 agreed to.
Clause 18 -
The total cost to the Commissioner of any dwelling house acquired or erected in pursuance of this Part, together with the cost of the land on which it is erected, shall not exceed £700.
– Will the value of a man’s land be deducted from the amount of £700 ?
– Not if he owns the land. A man may have land worth £300 or £400, but he can stillborrow up to £700.
Clause agreed to.
– This clause contains very important provisions in connexion with repayments. I do not remember that the Minister for Repatriation, in speaking on the second reading of the Bill, indicated the conditions upon which he desires that repayments should be made. It would seem that the Commissioner is given the power to fix the amount of repayments.
– The amounts are determined by the interest and sinking fund.
– I point out that the thirty-seven years’ term provided for may be found very stiff. A man borrowing £700 at 5 per cent. will be paying £35 a year in interest alone. If the Minister is in a position to give the Committee some information as to the pro- bable cost per year per £100 it would assist us in fixing the terms of repayment.
– I submitted that information in my secondreading speech, and I cannot now undertake to quote from memory the exact figures I then used. I believe that the proposal under the Bill works out at 9 s. 9d. per month per £100 for the thirtyseven years’ lease, and that the charge in respect of a house costing £600 would amount to 13s. 4d. per week. Senator Newland will, I think, recognise that the differencebetween a thirty-seven years’ lease and a fifty years’ lease is really insignificant. The increased weekly payment for the shorter lease would be very small. I venture to say that if the proposition were put to a borrower that by paying a few pence more per week he could secure his title in thirty-seven years, and by paying a little less he could not secure it until fifty years had elapsed, he would prefer to take advantage of the shorter term.
– I should like to see a provision included to enable the Commissioner, instead of building a house on a block, to offer to lease the land to the highest bidder, subject only to the payment of the full annual rental value in advance, and the condition of permanent residence.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– I move-
That the word “sell,” line 2, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ lease.”
The purpose of my amendment is to prevent the Commissioner from selling the land to the returned soldier, but to keep it in perpetuity in his possession as Commissioner. It would be very much better for a returned soldier if, instead of having fastened round his neck the debt of a freehold property, which many a man could not hope to pay for in his lifetime, he were given the leasehold at a rental sufficient to cover the cost of the land, together with the building, making due allowances for depreciation in value. It is well known to honorable senator s that many private owners decline to part with the freehold. Not only is this the case in Australia, but right throughout the civilized world. If it is a good thing for the private owner - and the opinion on this question is pretty well unanimous - to stick to the freehold, it should also be good for the Commonwealth to do likewise.
– I do not think it necessary to detain the Committee long in discussing this amendment. It is a simple proposition that we should compel those who take advantage of the provisions of this measure to be satisfied with a leasehold. I am not going to argue the principle which is so dear to Senator Grant’s heart, but I say that if he wants to bring in a big reform or change of this nature, it ought not to be attempted in connexion with a measure which deals with only a section of the people. I object to an attempt to limit this panacea to returned soldiers. Let Senator Grant get to work as a missionary to convert the whole community, and let the whole community be treated in the same way. This amendment would be making an invidious distinction in the case of returned soldiers, and I ask the Committee to reject it.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 20 -
Subject to this Act, the Commissioner may, upon application in writing, make an advance to any eligible person on the prescribed security, for the purpose of enabling him -
.- I move-
That the following new paragraph be added - “ (c) provided that the area of any such land or holding shall not be less than 32 perches.”
The adoption of this amendment would, I think, get over a difficulty which Senator Grant and I encountered under clause 16. I think it would be excellent if this principle could be adopted by the Government in this housing scheme for returned soldiers, in order’ to guard against overcrowding. The area defined in the proposed new paragraph is a fair minimum for the erection of a house, and I do not think any hardship would be entailed by its adoption. We may assume that most of the land to be acquired will be in the suburbs or country districts, and, in the case of those soldiers who, perhaps, already own blocks of land, which may be too small for the erection of a home, if this provision be inserted, I do not think that any hardship will be inflicted, because it would be possible for them to dispose of it, and, under the operations of this measure, acquire a larger area. There is a good deal of overcrowding in every capital city of the Commonwealth. Even Brisbane is not free from the evil, despite the fact that millions of acres are available in that State for settlement. The present condition of affairs in our capital cities does not say much for the foresight of those who were instrumental in founding them.I trust the Minister will give this proposal serious consideration.It is not my intention to delay the passage of the Bill. I think it would be excellent if, under this measure, the Government made an effort to prevent undue overcrowding, but I am sure that a lead by the Government in this direction would have a beneficial effect on the community.
– I hope the honorable senator will not press his amendment. I recognise with him that there is room for considerable improvement in the matter referred to, but I again say that this is not a measure in which social reforms of this kind should be introduced. The Bill is intended to give opportunities to returned soldiers to obtain their homes. If the honorable senator will think for a moment, he will see, I am sure, that it is not desirable to make this Bill a lever for the accomplishment of his purpose. The proposition is that the area of land shall be not less than about1/4 acre. Suppose a soldier has, by saving over a long period of time, bought a small block of land, say 30 perches, and desires, under the provisions of this measure, to erect a home. If the Committee adopts the amendment, he will be precluded from making application to the Commissioner, because his allotment will be short of the statutory area, although, for business and other reasons, it may be his earnest desire to have his home in that particular locality.
SenatorO’Keefe. - And would not the same argument apply where the Department was purchasing property conveniently situated for returned soldiers in relation to their work?
– Yes. I think Senator Ferricks’ amendment would operate harshly. He has pointed out that if a returned soldier has a block of land smaller than the area defined in the amendment he may dispose of it, but I have never yet heard of a man selling land without having to pay somebody something. The transfer fees alone would involve the payment of a few pounds, and that surely would be a disadvantage. I would point out, also, that in suburban areas1/4 acre of land would probably have a frontage of from 50 feet to 60 feet, and the purchase price would involve considerable expenditure, with the result that there would not be very much of the £700 to be granted under this Bill left with which to build a home. It is safe to say that in. the suburbs of our capital cities land would be worth from £4 to £5 a foot in many cases, so that the value of a house would be out of all proportion to the value of the land, and as a letting proposition it would be an entirely business deal.
– An ordinary1/4acre block of land for building purposes is usually 1 chain frontage by21/2 chains deep, and at from £3 to £5 per foot the purchase of this land would, as the Minister says, run away with the greater portion of the £700 that will be available as an advance under this Bill. I agree with Senator Ferricks that an endeavour should be made to prevent overcrowding, but it seems to me that a difficulty would arise by the adoption of his amendment. I have no doubt that many cases will occur in which it will be advisable for the Department to purchase land in suburban areas of our capital cities to suit the convenience of applicants who may desire to live close to their place of employment, otherwise expense will be involved in fares to and from work. Although land less than1/4-acre might be a little on the small side, if it were conveniently situated it might suit an applicant better than a block in some other locality. I think, therefore, that the amendment would hamper the Department.
– I support Senator Ferricks’ amendment, but it would come in better as portion of paragraph b. “ To purchase land and erect thereon a dwelling house.” That will not prevent the Commissioner erecting a dwelling house on any pockethandkerchief allotment that may be owned by a returned soldier, nor does it propose to interfere with the purchase of a house together with the laud on which it has been already erected.
– The amendment does all that.
– It will not interfere with paragraph c, nor with d or e. orf. All it does is to stipulate that if the Commissioner purchases land and erects houses on it, no block shall be less than 32 perches in area. Nearly all the trouble in closely settled areas is caused by the small blocks on which people are obliged to live. We are considering the repatriation of men who went away to fight for Australia, and no opposition should be offered to a proposal that such a man should be given at least 32 perches. I gather that the Minister has no objection to the principle of the amendment, but does not want to graft it on to the Bill. Last Sunday, in St. Paul’s Cathedral; the Reverend C. BT. Zercho, head master of All Saints’ Grammar School.St. Kilda, strongly denounced the existence of slum areas in our cities, and urged the more active co-operation of the church to minimize the evil. He said -
One of the most iniquitous practices ever tolerated in any community was the cutting up of the land into pocket-handkerchief allotments and the herding of population together in our cities. Our cities w,ere tilings of beauty - outwardly: broad streets, lovely and extensive parks, gardens, and reserves, splendid public buildings, beautiful and costly cathedrals and churches, and thousands of stately homes. But what was there behind all this beautiful outward show? Squalid slums and dens of iniquity; houses by the thousand, with yardroom not sufficient to swing a cat in, in which tens of thousands of children of our own race and blood were born and reared.
Of course, these conditions have been publicly pointed out scores of times, and I have written to the reverend gentleman to point out to him the true remedy. I take it that the Commissioner will, if possible, acquire fairly large areas of land as near as practicable to centres of population, and have them laid out on an up-to-date town-planning system.
– It will be right enough to apply the limitation in that case.
– That is the direction in which I want it applied; but, of course, the fewer small pockethandkerchief allotments are acquired in large centres of population the better I shall beo pleased. This Chamber should not be seriously asked to establish a housing scheme for men who have gone to fight for Australia, and to tell them that they must live on miserable1/4-acre blocks. That would be the biggest insult we could offer them.
– Thousands are living on less.
– That is no reason why these men should. As the Minister estimates that the cost of the whole scheme will run into £50,000,000. we should put it on a proper basis, and give the Commissioner definite instructions not to cut up land into smaller areas thant 32 perches, or, as near as possible, five blocks to the acre. That should be regarded as the very minimum, and we should give him a broad hint that we want the areas to be as big as possible. At Daceyville, near Sydney, the blocks are too small.
– What area are they?
– I could not say. The Commissioner may contemplate acquiring an area in that neighbourhood. If he does, it should be an indispensable condition that he must give the returned man a fair-sized block to live on. I am only sorry we cannot see our way to makeit an acre.
SenatorFoll. - Do not forget that there is a £700 limit.
– It is of more importance for the man to have a decentsized block to live on than to have the house on the land.
– Let the man himself be the judge. Why should you want to order his life for him ?
– Then why does the Minister order that he must buy rather than lease his block?
– There is a good reason, because if his lease were forfeitecT the improvements effected on it by the money of the Commonwealth Government would go to the land-owner.
– We do not want the property and improvements to revert to the original owner. If Senator Ferricks will temporarily withdraw hisamendment I shall move an amendment to paragraph b.
– To simplify matters, I propose to amend my amendment on the lines suggested by Senator Grant. I did not move it with any idea of introducing an academic reform into the Bill. I moved it because I viewed it as a vital and integral part of the housing scheme of the Government. Honorable senators on both sides have frequently said that nothing is too good for the returned soldier. I do not disparage what has been offered by the Government under this Bill; but to preventmisconception and dissatisfaction in the future, it is as well to state that the scheme is a business proposition founded actuarially on a sound basis from the point of view of the Government, and that there is no concession to the returned soldiers so far as the loaning of the money is concerned, except the very liberal terms of repayment.
– And the fact that the country is asked to carry all the administrative expenses, and lose something in interest.
– Yes ; up to 1 per cent. as the Minister indicated. It would be an improvement on an excellent scheme to stipulate that when a returned soldier is allotted a block of land for the erection of a dwelling under this Act, the area of the block shall be at least 32 perches. That would represent exactly five blocks to the acre. Such an allotment is small enough in a country like Australia. When we are told that thousands of people are living upon allotments of half that area, my reply is that that is no reason why our returned soldiers should be restricted to allotments of . 16 perches. If one takes the trouble to journey to some of our Melbourne suburbs by train, he will see any number of pocket-handkerchief allotments.
– He will also see plenty of nice, attractive cottages erected upon blocks possessing only 40-ft. frontages.
– I contend that an area of 16 perches is not sufficient to allow of the erection of a home upon it. Yet in Melbourne to-day we know that houses have been erected upon allotments containing . only 12 perches.
Such areas do not permit of the maintenance of decent living conditions. The amendment which has been outlined would involve no great outlay on the part of theadministration, because when a returned soldier has a block containing 32 perches allotted to him, he will know that he has to pay for it.
– How about the individual whopossesses his own allotment?
– The proposal of Senator Grant does notapply to him.
– Then it is made in connexion with the wrong clause.
– Paragraphb refers to the purchase of land.
– No, it refers to an application for the purchase of land. The clause which the honorable senator has in his mind is clause 16.
– To argue that because thousands of people to-day are living upon allotments embracing an area of less than 32 perches, our returned soldiers should be obliged to live upon such allotments, is analogous to arguing that because thousands of persons are in gaol to-day, everybody else ought to be there. By leave, I will amend my amendment by moving for the addition of the words to paragraphb.
Amendment amended accordingly.
. I cannot help thinking that honorable senators who have brought forward these proposals assume that we are dealing with theories. May I remind them that we are living in a very practical world, and that there is a growing tendency on the part of the municipalities to rate land values.
– A very good idea.
-I thought thatit would command the sympathy of Senator Grant. That means that where that system is adopted, the bigger the proportion of the £700 which is put into land, the heavier will be the amount of the rates which the soldier will have to pay. Will he regard that as a kindness?
– The honorable gentleman’s argument is tantamount to saying that if we give a soldier an allotment of 20 feet square he will have less rates topay.
– Nothing of the kind. There is a happy mean in these things. Usually the nearer one gets to the centre of activity the higher will the land values become. If we compel soldier applicants to acquire allotments of a quarter of an acre, they will either have to pay a tremendous price for their land over and above the proportionate value of their houses, or they will have to go into the remoter suburbs if they are to get homes for £700.
– They will have to go out, anyway.
– We cannot deal with the matter in a piecemeal fashion. This clause is part of a link in a chain of many problems. By adopting the amendment, we shall not help the soldier - we shall only compel him to pay for alleged advantages in the way that I have indicated. I ask the Committee to agree to the clause as it stands.
– It is quite true that the tendency in all municipalities to-day is to rate upon land values only. It is equally true that the general trend of events is in favour of exempting improvements. Where these are taxed the rates are higher in proportion to the improvements made; but in other instances the improvements are not taxed at all. There is, however, no reason why houses of a very expensive character should be built. The proposal of Senator Ferricks will not interfere with the right of the Commissioner to purchase any microscopic blocks which have been cut up by land-jobbers, who are now awaiting increased values. There are thousands of these persons throughout Australia. It is only when a number of blocks have been purchased by the Commissioner that the proposal will become operative.
– This clause has nothing whatever to do with that matter. It relates to advances to the individual.
– It proposes to give the Commissioner power to purchase land.
– Then, at a later stage, I shall move to recommit clause 16.
– I do not think the Committee are likely to agree to the amendment. In the first place, it seeks to establish two sets of conditions. It affirms that a man who is going out into a particular district shall not acquire an allotment of less than a certain area ; but the individual who is attracted by a house with, perhaps, a mortgage upon it, may acquire the allotment upon which it stands, no matter what may be its size. The result would be that some persons would be enabled to go into our slum areas, whilst others would be forced out into new areas. If honorable senators have given any attention to the possibilities of townplanning
– This amendment is in that direction.
– No. Let us assume that the Commissioner has purchased land somewhere, and has decided to enter upon a town-planning scheme. Such a scheme would provide for a certain amount of air space-
– Order ! The honorable senator is getting a little wide of the clause now.
– I am pointing out that the effect of the amendment would be to hamper the Commissioner, and to prevent applicants under this scheme from acquiring land.
– So long as the honorable senator argues upon those lines, his remarks will be in order.
– They are the lines upon which I am arguing. The Commissioner, I repeat, will have to make provision for certain air space, and for certain space for the purposes of ornamentation.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable senator in order in discussing the question of townplanning upon the amendment?
– The honorable senator is perfectly in order in making a reference to it by way of illustration.
– In cutting up an area such as I have outlined, it would be found that there were corner blocks of a larger or smaller size than that stipulated in the amendment. These blocks would not be available for selection by the soldier. They would be vacant allotments, the cost of which would have to be added to the cost of the allotments available for selection, the result being that the prices of the latter would be increased to the soldier. I have paid a good deal of attention to the townplanning scheme adopted at Daceyville, and I have never heard a solitary settler there complain, although the settlement contains many odd blocks of a smaller size than that prescribed by the amendment. But my greatest objection to the proposal is that it would apply a particular set of conditions to one class of applicants, and a different set of conditions to another class. A Commissioner will not be chosen who has no idea of town planning.
– The honorable senator will be quite in order in referring to town planning by way of illustration, but not in debating town planning upon this amendment.
– If theChairman will kindly permit me to finish my sentence, he will learn that I was not attempting to place myself out of order by debating the topic of town planning.
– The honorable senator is arguing with regard to land purchases by the Commissioner, and I point out that this clause does not apply to that.
– An amendment has been moved to limit the size of the blocks.
– Not when the Commissioner purchases the land. That has already been dealt with under clause 16.
– I assert that the amendment does apply to land acquired by the Commissioner.
– It does not.
– Land purchased by the Commissioner is covered by one set of conditions, while land purchased by the soldier comes under another set of conditions; and I am asking that the hands of the Commissioner shall not be tied. His good sense and sound judgment should be relied upon.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 21 negatived.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted in lieu of clause 21 : - “ (1) The amount of the advance which may be made to any applicant under this Part shall be the amount (not exceeding 90 per centum of the total value of the property in respect of which the advance is made) which the Commissioner considers necessary in order to give effect to the purpose for which the advance is made, but the amount of the advance shall not in event exceed the sum of £700.
For the purposes of this section, the total value of the property means such sum as, in the opinion of the Commissioner, will be the total value of the land and dwelling house upon the completion of the work for which the advance is applied for.”
The only difference between the two clauses is in respect to making provision for those applicants who are able to pay a deposit of 10 per cent. I said, in the course of my second-reading remarks, that there was a difference between the position of the applicant who was unable or unwilling to make a deposit and that of the man who was prepared to do so. By inadvertence in the drafting of clause 21, however, the provision referring to the 10per cent. deposit was not included. A man who has not paid a deposit will have the land vested in the Commissioner until, in the process of time, the nominal owner has built up, by his Tegular payments, the necessary amount of deposit; whereupon, he also would be in a position to obtain a mortgage.
– The effect of the new clause, I understand, will be that if a soldier acquires a house built by the Commissioner, he can do so without being called upon to pay a deposit. But if he desires to select his own site, or to build a house for himself, he must find 10 per cent. of the cost.
.- That is not so. Suppose that a man indicates to the Commissioner a particular house which he desires, and that he has no deposit. The Commissioner would buy, and the title would vest in the Commissioner. But if an applicant made a deposit, he could buy, and the title would be vested in him. It is only a legal difference, because, in both cases, the soldier applicant would have the same interest in the property, and he would be occupying it. It is merely a question whether the title deed is to be vested in his name, or in that of the Commissioner. Where no deposit has been paid, the title would vest in the Commissioner until the amounts paid by the resident mounted up so as to give him the right to have the title deed made over in his own name.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clauses 22 to 28 agreed to.
Payment of purchase money or repayment of an advance shall be made in equal weekly, fortnightly, or monthly instalments, in accordance with the contract entered into or mortgage executed at the time of the purchase or advance, provided that in no case shall the period over which such instalments are repayable exceed -
.- During the course of the second-reading debate, I made some remarks with regard to the desirability of extending the term for repayments in relation to wooden buildings. I think the period should be extended to twenty-five years, and, possibly, even longer. It would be within the option of the applicant to avail himself of that extended term of not. If he could repay within ten or fifteen years so much the better for him. But an extended term would place a reduced liability on the borrower. I have had experience where men have borrowed in order to build properties, and they have found it a task to keep up with repayments; wherefore, they have asked that the period be extended.
– What interest and sinking fund have been paid in those cases ?
– I admit that they are much heavier than these.
– That makes all the difference.
– It does make a considerable difference; but if the soldier had the option of taking an extended term for a wooden building, it might be of advantage to him. We should not tie applicants down any more than possible. It is a great relief for them to feel that they are not bound down to meet a certain amount within a stated period .
– In paragraph a a verbal amendment is required. It refers to ‘ the case of a dwelling house composed of brick or stone.” I suggest that the wording should be “ brick and stone.”
– I notice an omission in paragraph a also of the word “ concrete.” I move -
That the word “ or “ be left out, and that, after the word “ stone,” the words “ or concrete “ be inserted.
Amendment, and consequential amendment in paragraph c, agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
The rate of interest to be charged to any purchaser or borrower in respect of any purchase money or advance in accordance with this Act shall be such rate as isprescribed, but not exceeding the rate of Five pounds per centum per annum.
.- I move -
That the word “ Five “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Four.”
This amendment, if carried, will enable the purchasers of these houses to secure them more cheaply. Five per cent. is a fairly high rate of interest. The banks do not allow 5 per cent. on deposits, and, in most cases, the interest on our war loans is only 41/2 per cent. I believe that wo should give returned soldiers house accommodation at a rate of interest not exceeding 4 per cent.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 31 (Property to be kept in repair until payment in full).
– I see no provision in the Bill for the making of necessary repairs to a house occupied by a soldier’s widow. I think it would be well if power were given. to the Commissioner to have repairs made in such a case, and the repayment of their cost spread over a certain period. Under the definition of “ eligible person “ there will be many who will not be in receipt of regular incomes, and who will not be in a position to pay in a lump sum for necessary repairs to the dwellings they occupy. I should be glad if the Minister could see hig way to insert a provision to deal with these cases.
– I do not think that a special clause is . necessary for the purpose suggested by Senator Senior. Under this Bill the obligation is upon the occupier to keep his house in order, and it is only when he does not discharge that obligation that the Commissioner steps in and does the necessary work. Senator Senior has referred to the case of widows or other persons possessed of only small incomes who might find it difficult to pay £3 or £4 in one sum for repairs. I point out to the honorable senator that it will be possible for the Commissioner under regulations to provide in such cases for weekly payments of 3d. or 6d., or some small amount, to be collected to meet the expense of repairs. There should be no difficulty about that if the occupier of the house were willing to agree to the arrangement; but there is now no power under the Bill to compel the acceptance of such a proposal, and some people might resent the collection of amounts in that way. In the settlement at Daceyville they have carried the idea of collecting amounts in small weekly payments to a great extent. They not only make collections for the payment of rates in that way, but a small sum is collected each week from tenants for the purpose of keeping a communal gardener employed. That is done by arrangement, and by that means, for a very small sum paid by each tenant per week, a gardener is employed to keep the little plots of the settlement in good order. I think that it would be better to leave the Commissioner to work out these matters when he is in a position to know the wishes of the people with whom he will have to deal.
– Under an Act passed by the South Australian Government in 1917, making provision for the accommodation of returned soldiers, there is a section which sets out that if the owner or occupier is a widow, or the widowed mother of a deceased soldier, the cost of repairs or renovations of premises occupied by her shall be paid as to one-half out of the fund, and as to the other half out of moneys provided by Parliament for the purpose of the Act. It is provided, further, that the amount of such costs shall bear interest at 4 per cent, per annum, and repayments are to be made by the owner or occupier in equal weekly instalments, to cover principle and interest, of 2s. per cent, per annum until the amount of interest thereon is fully paid up. I mention that provision of the South Australian law for tho information of the Minister for Repatriation. If the honorable senator prefers that the matter should be dealt with by regulation under this Bill, I am content.
– I do not think that such a provision as Senator Senior has quoted from the South Australian Act would properly find a place in this Bill. It deals with a matter to which the attention of the Repatriation Commission should be directed. The Commissioner, under this Bill, is empowered to build himself, or to advance money for the building of, houses on a business basis. Under the South Australian Act which has been quoted, the State gives widows and other dependants of soldiers the occupation of houses for about one-half of their value. Any proposal such as that suggested by Senator Senior should, I think, be met by the main Repatriation Act. Our sympathies, of course, go out to the widows of deceased soldiers. But I may remind honorable senators that, when the provision to which Senator Senior has referred was made by the South Australian Government, the widow of a deceased soldier was entitled to a pension of only £1 per week if she had one child, but, under the conditions existing at the present time, a widow with -one child is entitled to a pension of £2 per week. The Repatriation Department has (proceeded on the basis that it is desirable to give each of these women an income which will enable her to live in a humble way and leave her, at the same time, free to make her own arrangements.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 32 to 34 agreed to.
Clause 35 -
So long as any land or land and dwellinghouse is subject to a contract or sale, mortgage or other security in accordance with this Act, a transfer of that land or land and dwellinghouse, or of any estate or interest therein, shall not have any force or effect unless it -
is made with the consent in writing of the Commissioner.
Amendment (by Senator Millen) agreed to -
That the word “ or “, line 2, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “of.”
– I move -
That sub-clause 2 be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following subclause : - “ (2) Consent to the transfer of land or of land and dwelling-house, or of any estate or interest therein, shall not be granted by the Commissioner in pursuance of this section, except in the following cases, and subject to the following conditions: -
where the proposed transferee is an eligible person - such conditions as are prescribed; and
where the proposed transferee is not an eligible person -
i ) in the case of a transfer within five years after the making of the advance - where it is proved to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that the refusal thereof would inflict great hardship; and
in the case of a transfer after the expiration of five years after the making of the advance - such conditions as are prescribed.”
In introducing the Bill, I pointed out that these provisions are required to safeguard the occupiers of the houses against speculation. It is intended to prevent a civilian acquiring the benefits designed by the Act to be conferred upon soldiers, and also to prevent unfair trafficking between one soldier and another. For various reasons a soldier might be tempted to give a price to secure a house which would not be a fair price. Whilst the Commissioner would not interfere with legitimate traffic under this proposal, he would be able to stand by and see that all dealings were fair and square. The proposal is made in the interests of the soldiers themselves, and I suggest that this provision, which is taken from the South Australian Act, should be adopted.
Amendment agreed to.
– I ask whether it is possible here to introduce an amendment to prevent a borrower from having to pay transfer fees, stamp duties, and so on.
– I made an inquiry on this point, and I find that the constitutional difficulty may be in the way, since stamp duties are imposed by State laws. There is a doubt as to whether we might not regard these things as Commonwealth instrumentalities, in which case they would escape State taxes. If that is not the true position, merely stating in this Bill that they are exempt, would not exempt them if we have no constitutional right to so deal with the matter. The subject has been under the consideration of the Law Officers of the Crown, and they advise that if these things are constitutionally free from State taxes it is not necessary to include a provision to that effect in the Bill, and if they are not free, the inclusion of such a provision would not help us.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 36 -
– Honorable senators will remember that during the second-reading debate Sena- tor Foll and others suggested the advisability of widening the insurance to cover damage by tempest and flood. In order to adopt that idea, it will be necessary to insert a number of amendments in this and subsequent clauses. I move -
That the words “ against fire risk “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ as prescribed.”
This amendment will enable the Commissioner to provide for any insurance that may be required.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 37 agreed to.
Clauses 38 to 41 consequentially amended and agreed to.
Clause 42 agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 42a. The Commissioner may acquire leases of Crown land in the Northern Territory or in the Territory for the Seat of Government, and may subject to and for the purposes of this Act-
erect a dwelling-house on land so acquired;
sub-lease to any eligible person who is not the owner of a dwelling-house within Australia or elsewhere land so acquired; and
make an advance to any such eligible person for the erection of a dwellinghouse on land sub-leased under this section or on land in those Territories, leased from the Crown by that person.”
When Senator Ferricks first brought this matter forward, he suggested that advances should be made available for leased lands. But I pointed out the great disability the Commonwealth would labour under if advances were authorized upon leased lands, because if a lease were forfeited there would be the risk of the security passing into hands other than those of the Commonwealth. In the case of Canberra and the Northern Territory, however, forfeiture of leases would revert to the Commonwealth Government, and in the circumstances it seems only right, and a perfectly safe thing to do, to extend the provisions of this measure to such lands.
That the following’ words be added to paragraph a of the proposed new clause - “but the minimum area of such allotment or block for each dwelling-house shall not be less than 32 perches.”
I am almost ashamed to suggest that in this case the minimum area upon which a dwelling-house may be erected shall not be less than 32 perches. When we consider that we have an area of 500,000 square miles in the Northern Territory and of 1,000 square miles at Canberra, it should not be necessary to instruct the Commissioner definitely that in no case shall a dwelling-house be erected on an allotment of less than 32 perches. In view of the manner in which houses are being erected on small areas in other parts of the Commonwealth, I believe the amendment is necessary. I do not propose to the Minister that he should provide only for blocks of that area. The larger the blocks are the better I shall like them. It is a scandal that any amendment of this kind should be required in connexion with a place like Canberra or the Northern Territory. I wish to test the feeling of the Committee by my amendment, so that at a later stage, when I move for the recommittal of the Bill to insert a similar clause dealing with freehold lands, honor able senators will be in a position to see what they have done with their own estates. I have not the slightest faith in Commissioners unless something of a definite character is laid down for their guidance.
– What would you do if the local authorities at Canberra cut acre blocks into six allotments ?
– I would not build upon them.
– Then you would deny the returned soldiers the benefit of this Act?
– If the authorities at Canberra cut up acre blocks into six, fen. or twenty allotments I would not build upon them. They should not permit buildings to be erected on such blocks. Senator Millen knows that it has been necessarv in all Local Government Acts to lay down a regulation defining the size of allotments for dwelling houses in order to prevent land jobbers cutting up estates into blocks of unsuitable sizes. The Minister knows, also, that it has been necessary to resume large areas in Sydney and suburbs to rectify grave mistakes in the past by people who had no regard whatever for the welfare of our citizens. In the subdivision of Sydney and suburban blocks they provided long strips for streets and narrow frontages for allotments. ‘ On one occasion it was necessary to step in and take definite action. I think the late Sir George Reid was responsible for the measure which provides that no street shall be less than 60 feet in width. Up to the time that Act was passed owners of property were permitted to divide estates and allow widths of only 30 feet or 40 feet for streets. The tendency everywhere, so far as I can gauge public opinion, is to go in for town planning and provide a minimum width for all streets.
– I tell the honorable senator that modern town planning provides for narrower streets.
– In a case of that kind it is mandatory for the houses to stand a long way back from the street alignment. When the streets are narrow, and the houses built right up to the footpath, a bad condition of affairs is produced, especially in a fairly warm climate like that of Australia. The tendency is now for Local Government Acts to be so worded as to prevent houses being erected on unsuitable blocks. Unless there was some supervision, people would erect two or three houses where there is scarcely room for one. It is not sufficient to impose the rates on the land values only It is necessary to supplement that very excellent scheme of taxation by other provisions, such as this one. I saw recent regulations forbidding the erection of cottages or two-storied houses attached to each other.
– They are municipal regulations, and what you are now proposing is a municipal matter.
– We have no municipality yet in Canberra, but we have a straight-out flat rate, a la Henry George, on land values there, with no graduations or exemptions, which is working very well. I am ashamed to have to move a provision of this kind when we are dealing with land that actually belongs to the Australian people, as Canberra does. I hope the Commissioner will spend a large amount of the money placed at his disposal at Canberra, and that the Minister for Repatriation will also spend large sums in that area. If Canberra was the property of a private individual, and he had money at his disposal as the Commonwealth has, he would not dream of expending a penny under the Repatriation Act except at Canberra.
-Colonel Bolton. - Why not make the block a quarter of an acre?
– My amendment gives five blocks to the acre. I do not mind if it is made 1 or 5 acres; the larger, the better. I hope the Commissioner will regard this simply as the dead minimum.
– The amendment is on all fours with one submitted by Senator Grant some time ago, and rejected by the Committee, with its usual intelligence. The only difference is that, on the former occasion the amendment applied to freehold land; now it applies to leasehold. The cutting up of land into allotments is not affected or controlled by this Bill No matter what is placed in the Bill, people will go on cutting up allotments just as they are doing to-day, subject to municipal regulation.
– Not in Canberra.
– This Bill does not control Canberra. The authorities who will control Canberra will establish their own policy, perhaps, directed from the Parliament. It might be correct to put this provision as an instruction into that Bill. If it is put into this Bill, it will simply mean telling the soldiers that we will not let them get the benefit of any land which is subdivided in the future as it has been in the past. The honorable senator has too right to deprive any soldier of an opportunity of getting the benefit of the measure.
– The amendment referred to by Senator Millen was found at an earlier stage to be slightly out of place, and will come on later. It was designed to apply to all lands that might be ac- quired by the Commissioner. This amendment applies only to the Northern Territory, Canberra, or any other Federal Territory. If the authorities at Canberra are so short-sighted as to cut up the area there into microscopic blocks, I hope that not one penny of the money placed at the disposal of the Minister will he spent there. Does Senator Millen stand for the proposition that a man who has fought for Australia is not entitled to a block of at least 32 perches in area ?
– You do not insure him getting that. You simply say by your amendment that he shall not get the benefit of the Bill if the land is cut up into smaller blocks.
– If I had my way I would put a definite instruction in the Bill to the authorities who will cut up Canberra, to make no block less than 32 perches in area. If they do, it will be their fault if they prevent the settlement of returned soldiers on that land. Senator. Millen’s arguments are most flimsy, and carry no weight anywhere. I understood that Canberra was to be a thing of beauty and a joy for ever, but now I learn that there is a danger of our returned soldiers not going there unless the authorities are allowed to cut the land up into small blocks, which will be a disgrace to the Commonwealth.
Amendment of the proposed new clause negatived.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clauses 43 and 44 agreed to.
Clause 45 -
– Does sub-clause 1 include houses that may be rented at the option of the Commissioner ?
– The effect of the clause would be the same if we had included the Repatriation Department as an eligible person. The Department is now under the necessity of providing free homes for some of the more seriously incapacitated men, such, for instance, as those who have been blinded.
In that case the Department, rather than buy or build for’ itself, will utilize the machinery of this Bill, employing the Commissioner to buy or build for it, the Department being responsible for the payments, instead of the individual for whom the house is being constructed.
– The principle is ‘that those who want to buy a house and block must repay the money by instalments. What will be the position of the widowed mother of a soldier unable to make the payments prescribed? To all intents and purposes she becomes destitute. In other words,, she occupies exactly a similar position tothat occupied by the incapacitated soldier. I wish to know whether provision is madein the Bill for meeting such cases in the same way as the case of the incapacitated soldier is met?
.- I would point out to Senator Senior that,, in the case of the incapacitated soldier,, the Department provides him with a home rent free. In the case of the widow, it does not do that. It provides her with a fixed income, so that she is at liberty either to rent a home from private owners* or to take advantage of the provisions of this Bill.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [4.17]. - I was not present whenclause 4 was dealt with, hut I have in my mind a class of case which I fear will1 arise very frequently. I refer to the wife of a soldier who has deserted, and tothe unmarried wife of a soldier. Thereare many cases of that kind, in whichgreat hardship will be inflicted. Thesewomen have no legal status under this Bill, and I desire to know whether some provision cannot be made for them?
– Ti understand that Senator Bolton has raised the question of the de facto wife as against the legal wife of a soldier. This matter was mentioned on the motion for the second reading of the Bill, and I have since looked into it. I must, however, say quite frankly that I am not able to put forward any solution of the difficulty. There is at the present time a case before the Department in which a deceased soldier has left behind a widow, an aged mother, and a de facto wife. There are numerous complications of this sort. “Whilst many of these women have been treated with a measure of generosity by the Department, I do not know that we can do much for them under this Bill. Itis idle to bring them within its scope, if their circumstances will not enable them to make the payments that would be required of them.
– Unless those payments are made by the Repatriation Department.
– The Department is nottaking on that responsibility at the present time. It is doing what must be regarded as a fair thing by providing these women with a fixed weekly income. I do not think we can go very much further than that within the limits of safety.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 46 -
If the Commissioner is satisfied that any property vested in him under the Act is not immediately required for the purposes of this Act, he may sell or let the property at such price or on such terms and conditions as he thinks fit.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [4.20]. - I would like to ask the Minister whether any provision is contained in this measure for cases in which land has been purchased and allotted to a soldier who has been unable to fulfil the conditions of purchase, with the result that the allotment has fallen back into the hands of the Commissioner.
– This clause meets suchcases.
– In the circumstances Ihave outlined, I presume that the Commissioner would be entitled to dispose of the allotment to other than a returned soldier, in order that he might recover the money which had been advanced upon it?
.- The last supposition of Senator O’Loghlin was perfectly right. This clause will vest in the Commissioner power to lease or sell land to anybody that he may think fit.
But obviously, he will not be in a hurry to sell to civilians a house in respectof the purchase of which he may receivean application from a soldier within a few weeks’ time. Nevertheless, he cannot keep houses as a drug on the market. He must be in a position to lease them or sell them, as the state of the market suggests.
– It seems to me that this clause vests in the Commissioner power to sell any gifts which may be made by patriotic citizens either of land or property. I should like to know whether that is so.
– It depends upon the terms of the gift.
– We know that all over Australia gifts have been made to the Repatriation Department.
– Only this morning I received a gift of £11,000.
– Suppose that a gift were made by a patriotic citizen, specifically for the purpose of soldiers’ homes. Before such gift was accepted by the Commissioner through the Department, I assume that an investigation would be made as to whether the gift was a suitable one, and whether it could be put to the use for which the donor had made it. It would not be satisfactory to donors if land given for the erection of soldiers’ homes in a particular locality was afterwards sold by the Commissioner because of its alleged unsuitability.
– Let me put another case. Suppose that somebody presents the Department with an allotment of land worth £50 or £100 for the purposes of a soldier’s home under this Bill. Let us further suppose that the Commissioner advances an additional £600 for the erection of a home upon that allotment. If the man becomes a defaulter, surely the Commissioner must have power to recover the amount which he has advanced upon it?
– The case put by the Minister is not exactly that which I have in my mind. If an allotment were given to the Department, I take it that the Department would be morally bound to erect a home upon it, or to let the giver know thatit was useless for the purposes for which it had been given.
– I take it that it would do that.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 47 to 49 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [4.28]. - I rose, sir, when you called upon clause 48, but you refused to see me.
– I did not see the honorable senator. It is too late to call my attention to the matter now.
– I intend to move for the recommittal of certain clauses, and I will include clause 48 to suit the convenience of Senator Bolton.
– Will the honorable senator also include clause 16 ?
– Not on your life.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent theBill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Bill be recommitted for the consideration of a new clause 15, and the reconsideration of clause 48.
Amendment (by Senator Grant) proposed -
That after the word “ of “, line 3, the words “ clause 16 and “ he inserted.
– In seconding the amendment, I hope the Minister will acquiesce in the reconsideration of clause 16. It will not occupy more than ten minutes for Senator Grant to state his case.
– I have great difficulty in believing that any debate upon this subject, at which Senator Grant is present, can be terminated in ten minutes. I suggest that it would be only an unnecessary consumption of time to hold a third debate upon the one question during the same afternoon.
– I take exception to the expression of the Minister for Repatriation.
– Order! The honorable senator cannot speak twice upon the same motion.
– Then I will state a point of order. Was Senator Millen in order in stating-
– I withdraw everything.
– Senator Millen made use of a statement that there was no hope of concluding a debate upon a proposal of this character within ten minutes so long as Senator Grant was present. I take exception to that because I can put my statements as clearly, forcibly, and concisely as the Minister. If he was a bit more reasonable-
– Order! That is not a point of order.
– I regard the remarks of the Minister as a reflection upon myself, and I ask that they be withdrawn.
-Words to which exception is taken must be clearly offensive before the presiding officer can request their withdrawal. Senator Millen, as a matter of fact, may be taken to have been paying a tribute to Senator Grant’s debating powers. Therefore, in those circumstances, I cannot rule that the honorable senator was out of order.
– Very well, sir, I will accept the Minister’s withdrawal of everything that he said.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move-
That the words “ clause 48 “ be left out-
– Order ! The honorable senator is not entitled to move a further amendment.He has lost his right to do so by having already moved an amendment to the same motion.
– I move -
That all the words after “ clause 15 “ be left out.
I do not believe in opportunities being given to go back over the Bill in circumstances such as this. If honorable senators are not prepared to attend to their duties, they should not ask for concessions of this character.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Recommittal) :
– The Committee will remember that at an earlier stage of the proceedings, consequent upon’ some representations which I think came from both sides, it was agreed to delete clause 15, which placed the whole staff of the Commissioner under the Public Service Act, and I then intimated that I would bring forward some alternative proposal for consideration. I have here a new clause, which, although rather long, in effect places the staff under the Commissioner in the same position as the staff provided for under the Repatriation Act. The Commissioner will have the responsibility of selecting, appointing, and dismissing his officers. That is all contained in a’ few lines, and the bulk of the clause is a necessary provision to meet the case of a number of present public servants whose services may be required by the Commissioner temporarily or permanently. I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 15. (1) The Commissioner may appoint such officers to assist in the execution of this Act as he thinks necessary.
Officers employed under this Act shall not be subject to the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902-1917, and shall hold office during pleasure only.
The salaries and allowances of officers employed under this Act shall be payable out of moneys standing to the credit of the War Service Homes Trust Account.
An officer of the Commonwealth Public Service or of the Public Service of a State who becomes an officer under this Act shall retain all his existing and accruing rights.
An officer of the Commonwealth Public Service who becomes an officer under this Act shall not thereby be required to resign from the Commonwealth Public Service but may be granted leave of absence for the period of his employment under this Act, and the period of leave so granted shall for all purposes be included as part of the officer’s period of service.
Upon the termination of the employment under this Act of any such officer, who has not been dismissed for misconduct, he shall be entitled to re-appointment to a’ position in the Commonwealth Public Service with such advancement in status and salary, beyond those held and received by him in that Service immediately prior to his appointment under this Act, as the Public Service Commissioner in the circumstances thinks just.
In determining the status and salary to which the officer shall be advanced, the Public Service Commissioner shall take into consideration the time (if any) which the officer served as an Australian soldier and the period of his service as an officer employed under this Act.”
– I am opposed to the proposed new clause. I prefer the clause which was negatived by the Committee. The Minister is now proposing the appointment of a new Commonwealth staff in connexion with which it will be possible for the Commonwealth Government as an employer to evade their proper duty. There will be on the staff men of the professional, clerical, and other divisions, who will desire to come under the provisions of the Public Service Act in the same way as officers employed in other Departments, and they will be unable to do so. I object to this proposed method of employment by the Commonwealth Government, who have to be fined to compel them to o!bey awards of the Court and pay fair wages. The proposed new clause will give the Government another Commonwealth Department, in which it will be possible for the Commissioner as the employer to evade his just obligation to those whom he will employ.
– This new Department will have at its disposal the expenditure of an enormous sum of money. No doubt the Commissioner and his staff will be provided with elaborately-furnished and palatial offices. Provision is made to enable cer- ‘ tain officers to retain whatever privileges they now possess under the Public Service Act, while the other employees of the Department are to be treated as outcasts. Why should those who will be doing the actual work of the Department be treated differently from other officers? The clause which has been negatived would give the Commissioner the power of control over the staff which is exercised by the heads of Departments under the Public Service Act, and the Minister has given no reason for this proposed departure. It may have been settled by the party on the other side that the new clause is to pass, but the Minister should give us the reasons underlying the proposal. If this Department is to do any work, and is not, like the Institute of Science and Industry, to sit here in Melbourne trying to catch blowflies in Queensland and to eradicate the pricklypears in that State without doing very much work, a large staff will be required. I protest against the proposed departure, and hope the Committee will not agree to it.
– I did not explain the purpose of the new clause, because, as honorable senators will bear me out, there was a discussion on it earlier in the day. If Senator Grant wishes to know the reason for its introduction, I may inform him that in discussing the clause which has been negatived Senator Fairbairn took the point that the scheme which will be established under this Bill will, unless something unforeseen happens, become exhausted by the effluxion of time, when the soldiers’ needs in this direction have been met. It was therefore considered undesirable that there should be a considerable number of permanent employees under the Public Service Act on the staff whom it might be necessary later on to dismiss. Another reason for the new clause was that ‘brought forward by Senator Bolton, who urged that a freer opportunity would be given to employ returned soldiers in forming the staff if the Commissioner were not tied down to the provisions of the Public . Service Act. I understand that for those reasons it was generally agreed that a provision such as that contained in the new clause should be adopted, and I hope that honorable senators will allow the proposed new clause to go through.
.- We passed a Bill the other day to meet the difficulty suggested by Senator Bolton, and in my view there was little force in the reason for an amendment .given by Senator Fairbairn. Under the clause which waa negatived, all persons employed, by the Commissioner were to be subject to the Public Service Act, and the Commissioner, in relation to the persons employed by him, was to have all the powers of a permanent head and chief officer within the meaning of the Public Service Act. I distinctly prefer that clause to the new clause which has now been proposed, and which will give the Commonwealth Government another opportunity to evade the provisions of the law in respect of persons employed by them. We are to have under consideration shortly a Bill which in this respect proposes to anticipate the judgment of a Court, but I would not be permitted to refer to that measure at length. This will give the Government another loophole to evade awards of the Arbitration Court, and I hope it will be rejected.
– One of the reasons stressed by Senators Fairbairn, Foll, and Bolton for the deletion of clause 15 as originally introduced has not been mentioned. They stressed the danger of an abnormal increase of the Commonwealth Public Service. It is now proposed that the men engaged by the Commissioner are not to be subject to the provisions of the Public Service Act, but they will not be any the less public servants. I mention this in reply to those who object to an army of public servants. There are many who object to the growth of the Public Service of the Commonwealth, but they forget that the functions of the Commonwealth Government are yearly increasing, and the number of public servants must be expected to increase proportionately.
With regard to the suggested temporary character of this sub-Department, let me remind honorable senators that, when the applications from the first batch of applicants are dealt with, we shall be committed under this measure for a period of thirty-seven years, and there is nothing very temporary about that. Many of the returned soldiers will have to wait their opportunity to select sites, and, as time goes on, applications will continue to come in under this Bill, each probably committing us to a further period of thirty-seven years. That is too far ahead to anticipate the probability of a number of unemployed’ public servants. I hope that long before that time the growing needs of the” country will have created a demand for many more civil workers than the number who will be employed under this Bill. The Minister, in giving the main reason for the original clause, said that if the principle adopted in connexion with the Repatriation Department were followed, it was possible that in the appointment of officers jealousies, cliques, and favoritism might creep in. I am sorry to have to admit that it is generally believed that in some centres of activity of the Repatriation Department those un desirable influences are already operating. There is a current belief in Brisbane that little cliques and coteries have been established in connexion with the branch of the Repatriation Department there, and no one outside the charmed circle is given even a look in.
– I thought the honorable senator was suggesting this morning that the State machinery could be used in connexion with this matter.
– I asked a question of the Minister this morning, but he did not give a definite answer. He said that under the provisions of the Bill it would be possible for the Department to make some arrangement with the States. In States where no such machinery is likely to be availed of this would not apply, and the soldiers employed in this’ sub-Department would not be under the control of the Public Service Commissioner, but as this is a matter dealing essentially with the welfare of returned soldiers, it should not matter. Any obstacles in the ‘way of employing returned soldiers should be removed.
– But you are agreed, then, that there are difficulties in the way of soldiers getting into the Public Service?
– I dare say there are, but if such difficulties exist the provision should be made more elastic in a Department like this. I hope that Senator McDougall will continue his opposition to the proposed new clause, as I am afraid it is likely to lead’ to trouble in the future.
Senator MCDOUGALL (New South Wales)’ T5.3]. - I desire to point out that unless the Department is under the Public Service Commissioner it will be necessary probably to appoint a staff of inspectors to carry out the work satisfactorily. Senator Fairbairn is getting away from his former argument. This new Department will increase the number of civil servants, not in the visionary future, but at once.
Question - That the proposed new clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clause 48 -
The Commissioner may, with the consent of the Governor-General, arrange with any State Savings Bank or any other prescribed institution, to provide homes for or make advances to eligible persons uponsuch terms and conditions as are agreed between the Commissiloner andthe bank or institution.
Particulars of every such arrangement shall be laid before both Houses of the Parliament within thirty days after the making of the arrangement, or, if the Parliament is not then sitting, within thirty days after the next meeting of the Parliament.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [5.8]. - This clause provides that the Commissioner may delegate to a State Savings Bank or other financial institutions, such as building societies, the special work of providing homes. When the repatriation scheme was initiated it was stated that the Lands Departments of the various States had all the necessary machinery to give effect to a policy of land settlement. I am not quite clear as to how this clause will operate, and I should like some assurance from the Minister that better results are likely to accrue than have been experienced in the land settlement schemes under the State machinery.
– I do not think it is difficult to give that assurance, as the position with regard to this clause would be entirely different. Land settlement is dealt with by the Lands Departments of the various States, and under State laws; but under this clause, if an agreement is arrived at be tween the Commissioner and a State Savings Bank, it will be an agreement under which the Commonwealth Government will be finding the money and the State Savings Bank will be doing the work, exactly as the Commissioner himself would do if the machinery were at his disposal. In order to avoid creating his own staff, the Commissioner will be empowered to arrange with the State Savings Bank to do this particular work for him. It will make no difference to an applicant whether he deals with the Commissioner direct or if he approaches a State Savings Bank. The same principle will apply, and the same terms will be available. The object is to avoid the, creation of a special organization.
SenatorFOLL (Queensland) [5.12].- In view of the explanation just made by the Minister, I would like to know whether he can give us an assurance that in cases where it is possible for the work to be done through the Commonwealth Bank that course will be adopted instead of incurring an extra charge by making use of State institutions.
– I do not think it makes much difference which agency is employed, except that the State Savings Bank will probably be able to do the work much cheaper. It would not be advisable to have both Commonwealth and State Banks doing the same class of work in some places, because applicants would not know which institution to apply to. Then, again, we are confronted with this difficulty: The Commonwealth Bank has only a limited number of branches, though it has agencies at all places throughout the Commonwealth, and it has not available to it the machinery necessary for this class of work. The State Savings Banks on the other hand have their own valuers, architects, and men experienced in the working of the Credit Foncier system, and unless we utilize their services we shall have to create all this new machinery. That would take time, and I think it is advisable that we should avail ourselves of their services. I urge the Committee to adopt the clause as a much more economical method, and one which would remove the obligation which would otherwise rest upon us to create our own staffs throughout Australia.
Clause agreed to.
Bill reported with a further amendment; reports adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
There is no policy involved in this measure. It is merely a legal and technical method of simplifying the procedure in dealing with the military estates of deceased soldiers. It does not touch the private estate of a soldier, which will still be dealt with by the ordinary State laws. There is what may be technically termed a military estate. A soldier on active service has a kit, in which he may carry from time to time articles of some intrinsic or sentimental value. When he goes to the Front his kit is stored in military custody. It is open to military inspection, and he carries these things only with the consent of the military authority. Certain payments are made to him direct; some may be made to his dependants, and others, such as the deferred pay, are kept in suspense. On the death of a soldier- on active service, it is the practice in the United Kingdom to deal with his military estate by a different law from that which deals with his civil or private estate. We have never had such a law in the Commonwealth. The civil or State law3 are administered by the Curators of Estates. It can be easily seen that, in the circumstances in which our soldiers have gone away to the various theatres of war, considerable difficulty and irritation may be . caused by the operation of different sets of laws. For instance, a soldier’s kit may be in Europe or England, and the personal effects that he has with him on active service are there also. He may have some portion of his money with him, whereas his deferred pay is here ; and it may happen, also, that he has allotted ‘some other portion of his pay here. We have been carrying on under the law of the United Kingdom so far as effects outside Australia are concerned. That law is called the Imperial Regimental Debts Act, and deals solely with military estates. It provides that Curators of Intestate Estates may intervene as regards the property of a deceased soldier only when requested by the Committee of Adjustment, the Paymaster, or the Secretary of State, so to do, and must administer the property in accordance with the principles laid down in the Regimental Debts Act, and, subject thereto, according to the law regulating his office, independently of the Act. Any surplus in his hands must be remitted by him to the person carrying out the duties of Secretary of State, to be dealt with in accordance with the Act. There has been some doubt whether, legally, the Imperial Act applies to the Australian Forces, although, up to the present, it has been assumed that it does, and action has been taken under it accordingly.
– Has it any relation to the Army Act?
– It has. It hinges partly on it. But there is a doubt, because we have legislated by means of our Defence Act under our defence powers in the Constitution. At the same time, we apply the Army Act to our Forces overseas, with certain exceptions, and therein lies the doubt. It is in order to remove those doubts, and simplify the procedure in the distribution of soldiers’ estates, and more adequately to protect the Commonwealth, that this Bill has been introduced. The Commonwealth might find itself landed in a very large responsibility if we were acting illegally, and if it were claimed that any of these moneys had been wrongfully distributed. The Bill, like the Regimental Debts Act, applies only to military estates, and does not concern itself with the civil estate of a soldier. It applies to all military estates of members of the Forces killed or dying while on war service, or within three months from the date of discharge, and irrespective of the place where the” death occurs. Honorable senators can easily, see how necessary this is when it is remembered how widespread and various are the conditions under which our Forces have been operating. A “ military estate “ is defined as follows: - (1) Pay, allowances, or other money due to a member by the Commonwealth; and (2) Personal property or effects in the care, control, or custody of the military authorities at the time of the death of the member, or which come into such care, control or custody after the death of the- member. Thus, a member of the Forces may have certain valuables in his clothes at the time he is killed. These come into the control of the military authorities, and, therefore, constitute part of his military estate.
– Does this Bill operate in regard to sailors?
– No. That point is being considered at present, and I am sorry we were not able to come to a determination in time for this Bill. It is thought that possibly the same requirement is not present in the case of the Navy, because it is not quite on all fours with the Army. The Navy, it will be remembered, was placed absolutely under the British Admiralty, without any reservation whatever. In this Bill, provision is made for the disposal of the military estate of a deceased soldier in one of three ways. It may be disposed to his personal representative, of which there is a record which the soldier himself makes, or to any person beneficially entitled, or to such person or class of persons as are prescribed. This provision renders possible somewhat greater elasticity in the disposal of soldiers’ estates than obtains at present, and so permits of justice being done in cases where at present some difficulty is being experienced. Let me give an instance. It may be that the father of a soldier is dissolute and has done and is doing nothing for the care or sustenance of the family. The mother may have had the whole responsibility of the rearing and maintenance of the family on her hands; yet it may be that, under some law of one of the States, on the death of the soldier his estate would pass, not to the mother, but to the father. That is why we take power to prescribe in such cases to -whom the estate shall pass.
The Bill also provides that distribution in pursuance of the Act operates as a discharge of the Commonwealth from liability, and it exempts the Commonwealth from liability as regards the disposition of estates in pursuance of this Act, and also as regards past dispositions that have been made in accordance with the Imperial Regimental Debts Act. That provision validates what we have done. As this Act is for the protection of the beneficiaries of the soldier, and insures that they get their just due, it is necessary that in passing such an Act and taking a liability on ourselves we should protect the Commonwealth, where a mistake may have been made, or where even a wrong may have been done, against action for damages. Clause 7 exempts the Commonwealth Government from any liability as regards the disposal of money which is paid to the Curator of Intestate Estates For administration. Take the case of an intestate estate where we have not proved a will. We may pay that money to the Curator of Intestate Estates of a State, and he, acting in good faith, may make such distribution as the law of his State in his judgment requires him to make. He may, however, act wrongly or unwisely, although in good faith, and it- is necessary that, having discharged our liability under the State law by handing to him - where we have no other means of dealing with the estate - such amounts as this Bill authorizes us to pay, we should protect ourselves from liability for his action.
– Does this apply only to soldiers who have not made a will?
– No. It applies where they have made a will, but we must act in conformity with that will. This is the’ machinery by which we give effect to the will, but we have to contemplate at the same time cases where there is no will and where we cannot for some time locate the beneficiary. If there is a will we utilize the machinery of the State to give effect to it. If the machinery of the State requires that the money shall be paid to the Curator of Intestate Estates we may do it that way ; but this Bill will give us the power to pay direct. There is considerable advantage in that, because one case has- been brought under my notice where a small amount was left to be distributed amongst a family of brothers and sisters. They happened to be scattered over three States, and the fee3 that would have had to be paid in order to enable that distribution to take place amounted to half the amount the beneficiaries were entitled to receive. It is obviously wise to avoid that sort of thing if we can, and under this Bill we shall be able to lay down such regulations as will entitle us to pay direct and avoid the payment oF these fees altogether. But there will probably be a class of case in which we shall have to pay this money to the Curator of Intestate Estates within a State, or the Public Trustee. It may happen that, after that has been done, the Curator of Intestate Estates, or the Public Trustee, as the case may be, may not be able to locate any beneficiaries. In that case we. take power under this Bill to call upon him to repay the amount to the Commonwealth Government. Under the ordinary State law it would find its way into the State revenue. Obviously, if the amount is not claimed by the beneficiaries, it should be returned to the Commonwealth. Where it is so returned we propose to pay the amount into the Repatriation Fund, so that it shall be used for the benefit of the fellow soldiers of the deceased.
Then we make provision for the disposal of the medals and decorations of a deceased soldier. That, I think, is necessary, because we wish to make sure that those medals and decorations of honour - for that is what they are - shall not find their way into the pawnshops or the second-hand shops of this country, but into the hands of those who will value them for the sake of the men who have fallen. We have had before us many cases which may appear to some persons to be of small moment, but which, to the persons who are interested in the winding up of these estates, caused considerable irritation. We desire to simplify the procedure by which persons may get these estates wound up, wipe out the unnecessary payment of fees, and insure that the right people shall get the money. Tn order that we may do this, the Government must have a responsibility in the matter, and this Bill will give them that responsibility. As honorable senators will see, there is no important principle involved in the Bill. In it we are following closely on the lines of the Regimental Debts Act of the United Kingdom. I ask the Senate to proceed with the debate upon the second reading of the Bill, because the measure is an urgent one which must be passed before we rise, as there are a number of estates now awaiting adjustment. The Bill will, therefore, afford to a number of persons, to whom the few pounds which have been left to them are of importance, a considerable measure of relief.
– Having looked through the Bill, and having listened attentively to the speech delivered by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), I do not intend to ask for an adjournment of this debate. Instead, I am going to” assist in putting the Bill through with all possible expedition, because I regard it as a very necessary measure. It is a validating Bill which is designed to deal with the estates of deceased soldiers. It does, however, contain some clauses in regard to which I shall in Committee require an explanation, which will, no doubt, be forthcoming. I am sorry that the measure does not extend to the Navy, because I think that our sailors should be afforded the same protection as it is proposed to accord to our soldiers. But I am satisfied that this defect will be remedied at a very early date. One of the clauses of the Bill which will vest extraordinary powers in the Minister is that which relates to the distribution of the medals and decorations of a deceased soldier. When we reach Committee I shall want to know how the Minister intends to dispose of these medals and decorations. I recollect that some time ago, although we had a week’s discussion in this chamber upon the question of the disposal of soldiers’ medals, we could not arrive at any decision, the result being that the Bill relating to it was dropped. I am quite in favour of the taking of any steps which will have the effect of keeping these medals and decorations out of the pawnshop. In this connexion, I would suggest that they should be purchased and held by the Government. I should like to know what machinery is provided in the
Bill to prevent these medals and decorations getting into the hands of people who will not value them. I repeat that I am sorry that our sailors are not included within the provisions of the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Payments to Curator of Intestate Estates or Public Trustee).
– Have representations been made to the State Governments with a view to ascertaining whether the Curators of Intestate Estates and the Public Trustees in the different States will co-operate with the Department in giving effect to the provisions of this Bill?
– I cannot say that any representations have been made. But, as a matter of fact, we have been co-operating with the Curators of Intestate Estates in the various States for some time, so that I do not anticipate any trouble in that regard. The Bill has not been brought forward as a reflection upon any State.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 10 agreed to.
The medals of a deceased member, which are not bequeathed to some specified person by will, shall be delivered to such person as the Minister, or a person thereto authorized in writing by the Minister, approves.
– I desire an explanation as to how this clause will operate. The Minister has said that it is designed to keep medals and military decorations out of pawnshops and second-hand shops. I desire to know whether in the event of medals or decorations being bequeathed by will to some person whom the Minister does not think is a fit person to have the custody of them, this clause will empower him to interfere with their disposition ?
– I would remind Senator McDougall and the Committee that since the Military Decorations Bill was discussed here, we have amended the Defence Act in a direc- tion which penalizes those who traffic in medals or military decorations. So that what we attempted to achieve in that Bill and failed to accomplish owing to the loquacity of certain opponents of it, has been achieved through the Defence Act. But this clause is intended to enable the Minister - where a medal has not been bequeathed by will - to direct its bestowal upon some person, or it may be, upon some public institution. For example, it may happen that a soldier who dies has not made a will, and that he possesses certain military decorations. There may be somebody who, in ordinary circumstances, would be entitled toreceive his effects. In that event the Minister would approve of that person receiving his medal and decorations as well as his estate. Upon the other hand it may happen that the deceased soldier, having left no will, the person who would come into his estate may, for some reason or other, be totally unfit to receive his medal and military decorations. In such circumstances the Minister may direct that his medals and decorations shall be bestowed upon some museum, or art gallery, or public library. This power is to be given to the Minister in order to prevent such medals and decorations falling into the hands of persons who will not value them, and whose possession of them would be objectionable to the soldier himself if he were alive. The intention is that the clause shall be administered in that way.
– My reading of the clause is that it gives power to the Minister to dispose of a deceased soldier’s medal and decorations to persons other than those to whom they have been bequeathed.
– Just the opposite.
– If a deceased soldier does not bequeath his medal and decorations to any person, he may have a relative, and under this provision the Minister will have power to say whether that person shall be authorized to receive them.
– That is right.
– If a soldier dies intestate,and if his father, brother, or other relative is, in the opinion of the Minister, not a fit person to receive his medal and military decorations, the Minister may authorize some other person to receive them. That is the portion to which I object. If it were provided that these decorations could be diverted to some institution I would not have so much objection. But under this clause power is given to the Minister to award the medal to some person who may be quite unrelated to the deceased soldier, and to whom that medal would not have been given had the dead man stated in his will where it should go. The principle in the clause is wrong. ,
– It might be a relative of the soldier - his mother or his father, some near member of his family - but to whom he had not specifically bequeathed the decoration.
– I think, at any rate, that provision should be made that if the person who might have been given the medal is not, in the opinion of the Minister, a fit and proper person to receive it, the decoration should be awarded to some institution, or in some similar way disposed of.
– If there were some similar provision in any British enactment there would be more reason for the retention of this clause in the Bill. But the Committee has not been informed whether such is the case. If a soldier has won a decoration and has subsequently died, it should be a principle that that reward should be retained in his family - all other things being equal. I do not see any reason for interference by the military authorities’ in the matter at all.
– If the soldier had bequeathed his effects to any one, a medal or other decoration would naturally follow in that direction. There are numerous instances of soldiers not having made a will. In such cases the decoration remains in the custody of the military authorities. The question then arises : What are they to do with it ? Under this clause the Minister would be given authority to state to whom the decoration should be sent.
– But why should these decorations be under the control of the military at all?
– Because the soldier’s belongings are all in the possession of the military authorities after his death. There is no civilian control on the field of battle. A soldier who has had training in England, before he leaves London for France, must hand over his personal effects to military custody.
– Does this Bill relate only to soldiers who have died on active service?
– They may have died in battle or from illness in hospital in England. No matter where the decease occurs the position is exactly the same.
– This measure, I take it, will be only retrospective, and not prospective.
– The scope of this measure will relate to the future. Unfortunately, it is fairly certain that before the demobilization of our fighting men has been completed some will have died of illness. If those men have made wills, bequeathing their estates, any decorations included among their military effects will follow the directions of those wills. But if no wills have been made out the medals will remain in the custody of the military; and we must give them to somebody. We will not keep them. This clause will give discretion to the Minister regarding the bestowal of the awards.
– I would like the Minister to assure the Committee that the clause will not refer to anything which may happen to the soldier after he has returned to Australia and re-entered civil employment.
– It certainly will not.
Senator Colonel ROWELL (South Australia) [5.51]. - Having had considerable experience, may I point out that as soon as a soldier dies, his belongings are taken over to the control of the commanding officer of his battalion or regiment. Subsequently, the effects are handed on to the proper military authorities, to be taken care of, and ultimately returned to Australia. On one occasion, when I was returning to the Commonwealth from
Egypt, it was decided that I should bring back the effects and equipment of 800 deceased soldiers. Those things were to be handed to the military authorities here, and, no doubt, they would include decorations won by the men on the field.
This clause provides scope for the military authorities to pass on to the people whom they may consider the most entitled to them the medals and decorations won by deceased soldiers. The provision is a good one. Instead of a number of medals lumbering the military stores, it is only right that they should be handed to whomsoever the Minister considers the best qualified to receive them. For instance, there might be cases where the Minister would decide that a decoration should go to thefiancee of a deceased soldier.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 and 13, and title, agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17th December (vide page 9427), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– When the debate was adjourned last night I was dealing with a statement of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) that counsel had been consulted in regard to the validity of this measure if it were extended so as to be operative in peace time. The Minister mentioned the names of several gentlemen whose legal skill and knowledge are matters of wide repute. I take it for granted that the opinions of those gentlemen were favorable to the project as embodied in this measure. The Minister referred to a tapering-off period. It may savour somewhat of the valour of ignorance in legal matters for me to say that I do not believe in the soundness of any legal opinion which considers that, under our Constitution, legislation which has been passed under the war power, in time of war, and which has forits object the practical supersession of all powers which under our Constitution must revert in their operative character to the States, retains its validity in time of peace. As to the Minister’s reference to a tapering-off period, if the Commonwealth can make war legislation operative in peace time; if it can supersede the powers which the States have reserved to them under the Constitution; if it can make a tapering-off period of three months, where is there any inhibition in regard to the setting down of a taperingoff period ranging over six months, or twelve months, or two years, or three years, or four years, or for any greater period? If counsel’s opinion in regard to the validity of war legislation in peace time is sound, I can discover no inhibition against the practical supersession for a long period of the self-governing powers of the States. It may be deemed presumptuous of me to advance such an opinion ; but many people who are now electors in the Commonwealth were only boys and girls ten and eleven years ago when certain legislation passed by this Parliament was declared by the High Court - the Judges of which are the interpreters of our Constitution - to he unconstitutional. That is to say, it was legislation which it was not within the constitutional and legislative competency of this Parliament to pass. I allude to what is known as the New Protection legislation. And upon several occasions the High Court has pronounced invalid legislation passed by this Parliament as a consequence of an ever-present desire to strain the provisions of the Constitution.
The most eminent members of the legal profession become quite different individuals when seated upon the Bench as Judges. Many Judges who would not entertain certain arguments put before them, would, as counsel, have no hesitation in advancing just such arguments. Many of the High Court Judges, I have no doubt, from time to time have as counsel pronounced opinions and advanced arguments which as Judges they would not for a moment hold to be valid. That being so, my temerity in challenging the supposed favorable opinion on the
Dart of the eminent gentleman mentioned by the Minister may be more apparent than real. I may be quite justified in asserting my doubt as to the constitutional character of legislation passed in war time during the war period, and which is designed to be operative after the Imperial Government proclaims or enacts peace, when, I take it, the sovereign powers of the States will be constitutionally and automatically resumed.
In another place the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has stated that it is essential that the operation of the War Precautions Act be continued. I am not questioning the necessity for its continuance while we are actually in a state of war, but the honorable gentleman claims that its continuance is necessary in order to enable something to be done after peace has been proclaimed. I should like here to draw attention to the language of the original Act. It mentions that the Act is to be legislatively valid until peace is proclaimed “ and no longer.” It is emphatic on that point. The expression “ and no longer “ is cumulative in its emphasis, so that there is no doubt at all that when this measure was submitted first as a Bill to the Legislature it was never contemplated that after peace was proclaimed it would be held to be operative and valid for another moment.
The Acting Prime Minister, in debating this matter, has said that it is particularly necessary that the period during which the War Precautions Act shall continue to be valid must be prolonged. Why 1 The honorable gentleman instances the metal contracts, and he says -
Some contracts in regard to metals have been entered into which will extend over ten years. .
Is it argued that because we have entered into metal- contracts which cover a period of ten years the War Precautions Act should be extended for a period of ten years ? That would be a most feeble argument.
While I challenge the validity of the operations of the War Precautions Act after peace is proclaimed, I do not question the validity of any contract covering a peace period which may have been entered into during the war period when the War Precautions Act, under which it was entered into, was unquestionably valid. In other words, during the war period, under the war power and under the Act, it has been constitutionally and legislatively competent for the Legislature to sanction many things, including such contracts as are mentioned by the Acting Prime Minister. If the war period ends to-morrow and the War Precautions Act becomes invalid, I do not think those contracts will be invalidated. Under .the ordinary principles of the construction of Acts of Parliament no Australian Court would hold that a contract entered into under a valid Act was not valid in itself. I think that is common sense. Although one of the masters of English literature has made the statement that “ the law is an ass,” my experience is that the general principles of the law are the perfection of common’sense.
– The contracts referred to do not rest upon the War” Precautions Act, but upon the legislative power over exports.
– As the honorable senator has interjected, power may be taken under the Customs Act to deal with the export of metals. For all practical purposes, what the Acting Prime Minister designs to secure by the extension of the operation of the War Precautions Act could be secured by operating the provisions s>i the Customs Act.
The honorable gentleman speaks of special legislation being necessary. If special legislation to deal with these contracts is within the competency of this Parliament, apart from the War Precautions Act, and it is, let such special legislation be introduced at the earliest possible period, in order to fine down the barriers which some suppose will exist when we merge from war time into peace time.
– I think we should have a quorum, I should like honorable senators to be present to listen to this address. [Quorum formed.”]
– I believe that the Acting Prime Minister, in putting forward the fact that we had entered into metal contracts for a period of ten years as an argument for the continuation of the War Precautions Act, used a contention so feeble as scarcely to deserve to be called an argument. Any difficulty which might present itself in regard to these undoubtedly valid contracts could be met by the special legislation which the honorable gentleman somewhat vaguely indicates himself, or by operating the provisions of the Customs Act.
– By legislation which could be passed if there were no war at all.
– That is so. I said last night that I do not for a moment charge the Minister with having operated his mighty powers in any objectionable way, but I’do say that honorable senators, in voting for the projection of this measure into peace time, must take into consideration the position which would be set up during the tapering off period. Let the Imperial Government proclaim peace, or by an enactment declare a state of peace to have been entered into, I then wish to know whether any competent court of jurisdiction in Australasia would refuse a writ of habeas corpus if an application were made in respect of any person whom the Minister interned after peace had been proclaimed. I venture to say that habeas corpus would be operated by a J udge of any competent tribunal in those circumstances. That being so, it is an argument which I wish to adduce in support of my contention that the Act automatically becomes invalid as soon as peace time has been reached.
We have to remember that this Parliament legislates under a Constitution which is distinctly and designedly of a Federal character. The separate Australian States, in respect of the powers reserved to them in time of peace, are essentially sovereign States tinder the British Crown. Each Australian State, in regard to its sovereign power, is as independent of every other State in the Commonwealth and of this Legislature as it is of the Republic or the Legislature of France. I make that statement without fear of anything like logical contradiction. The States have reserved to themselves certain powers which can be operated, and which are their property in time of peace. How are we going to define the peace period. As we are an entity as a belligerent the peace period must be defined by Imperial enactment or proclamation. I see no other way of defining the termination of the war. I venture to say that it must eventually be so defined. If it is so defined, and it will be, does not that period at once indicate the complete revival of the powers which the States have retained for themselves? I advance the opinion that it does. That being so, honorable senators will forgive me if I use a few more arguments, which deal with matters that have been regulated under the provisions of the War Precautions Act during the present war, to illustrate the point 1 wish to make.
Under this Act and the regulations promulgated under it, what is known as a price-fixing policy has been entered upon by the Commonwealth administration. It is well known that the Commonwealth Parliament has no power to legislate in regard to price-fixing in time of peace. During the referendum campaign, which was carried out as a result of the desire of this Parliament to amend the Constitution, it was specifically asserted by important Ministers of the day that one of the principal objectives sought was the power to regulate and fix prices. The people refused that power. Consequently, it is not a valid exercise of administration on the part of the Commonwealth Government to fix prices other than in time of war. This Bill proposes the extension of the operation of the War Precautions Act for three months after the declaration of peace. Does any one, lawyer or layman, assert that the Commonwealth can, during three months after the war has ended, interfere with the powers of the States to regulate prices ? It is a point that might well be argued before a competent tribunal of interpretation, such as the High Court is.
In regard to companies, I advance my opinion more diffidently. I express my doubts with some hesitation. Senator Pratten, in his address, very properly dwelt upon the inconvenience to the enterprising and energetic capitalists and adventurers of the Commonwealth that is caused by the regulations in regard to the flotation of companies. He dwelt upon the necessity of able and enterprising men having to interview Treasury officials and obtain a permission, which might be more or less reluctantly given, to float a company, to arrange a syndicate, and so on.
The Commonwealth undoubtedly has the constitutionalpowerto enact a companies law.
– But has it?
– Yes, I think it has.
-Was not that one of the matters which was thesubject of a referendum?
– That is a fact. The Commonwealth Parliament has not enacted a uniform companies law. That is the point of my argument.
– An answer was given to me last week to that effect.
– But we will leave that question to remain, as it were, in a state of dubiety, and assume that the Commonwealth has the power, but has not exercised it. Consequently, the State powers in regard to such a matter revive in complete force directly we reach a period of peace ; and the Commonwealth Parliament cannot, in such circumstances, continue its restrictions during the peace period. If, then, my argument has any point, this Act projected into the peace-time period, will be to that extent invalid.
In regard to the moratorium, I think the Minister has practically confessed that the power to proclaim a moratorium in regard to mortgages is, in peace times, vested in the individual States : that this is a power reserved to and exercised by them during peace. But the Minister has told us that there would be a certain difficulty if, at this juncture, we were thrown back upon the legislative resources of the States, in getting them to agree to an all-round moratorium proclamation. Again, I say, I do not believe there will be any difficulty. But the point I insist on. making is that if it is constitutionally incompetent for this Legislature to proclaim a moratorium in time of peace, it certainly cannot be invested with that power during three months after peacetime by the mere passing of this measure now.
There is another matter that came before the High Court, and which will sustain me in my seeming temerity in questioning the opinion of eminent legal authorities. I notice that one, at least, of the learned Judges of the High
Court Bench did not give his adhesion to the decision that the Minister could intern anybody without assigning reasons and hold such person in durance indefinitely without bringing him to trial. I allude to that learned Judge (Mr. Justice Powers). If I remember correctly, he did not concur in the decision of his learned brother Judges in regard to the validity of Ministerial action taken under the “War Precautions Act, or those regulations in relation to this particular power. That is sufficient justification for me to maintain my attitude of query and doubt until the matter is decided by the High Court. I am emphasizing this point because there exists upon our statute-book the means of determining the doubts which have arisen in my mind from time to time in regard to the War Precautions Act, and its projected extension into the time of peace, which will come when an Imperial enactment is passed or proclamation is issued.
Undoubtedly, this question of the interpretation of our Constitution exercises the minds of the members of the Commonwealth Legislature from time to time, and it must necessarily exercise to a greater degree the minds of Commonwealth Ministers. Andas evidence of that, in 1910 this Parliament, to my mind wisely and sensibly, passed an Act to amend the Judiciary Act of 1903-07. The purport of that Act is to determine points of doubt in regard to the constitutional competency of this Parliament to pass certain measures which might, to close observers, involve the straining of our powers under the Constitution. It isa short Act, and provides that cases may be stated for the information of their Honours the Judges of this important and high tribunal, the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth. It contains few clauses, and it is clearly, and I think wisely, designed for the purpose of securing from their Honours an interpretation of the Constitution when the competency of this Legislature is in doubt. I have been told - I do not know how correctly - that their Honours have refused to give judgment in regard to stated cases ; that they will not give judgment or decisions except in relation to bond fide actions which come before the High Court for trial.
– Courts will - not give judgment except in particular cases.
– But this, to my mind, has special reference to the High Court.
– That is so.
– And, in my opinion, the Act to which I refer was particularly designed to secure an interpretation concerning doubtful powers. I understand from my colleague (Senator Keating) that no case has yet been stated to their Honours for decision.
– So I understand.
– I take it that the honorable senator is, in all probability, correct.
– I have made inquiries, and have been reliably informed that the power given by that Act has never been exercised.
– This particular case is probably the most important one that could be stated for the consideration of the High Court Bench. If the measure to amend the Judiciary Act has not been operated in connexion with a constitutional difficulty, when is it to be operated ? I am not going to assume that their Honours will refuse to function in relation to this matter.
– Nor I.
– But if they do so refuse, I say, with the greatest respect to those eminent gentlemen, that they will not be giving this Parliament that assistance which it might legitimately expect to receive.
– Since the Act was passed, in 1910, there has been a decision of the Privy Council - in 1912 - upon that point in relation to the Supreme Court of Canada. It was a question as to whether or not the Parliament of Canada was right in providing for reference by the Supreme Court of Canada. The Privy Council held that the Parliament had power to do that.
-Quite so. And if this matter did go on to the Privy Council from the High Court Judges that decision would hold good. I am imagining for the purposes of my argument that their Honours would refuse to function, though I do not think they would. I believe the High Court Bench in a matter like this would gladly indicate to this
Legislature, per medium of a stated case, what its opinion was in regard to the validity of such a measure as has been introduced into this chamber.
Honorable senators will, I feel sure, as they have listened, to me, begin to understand the point I am taking in objecting to the passing of this measure. I say it is very unwise for the Senate, which is the custodian of the rights of the States, while our Constitution retains its Federal character, to sanction the supersession of the sovereign rights of the States under the guise of a war policy, and, to my’ mind, unconstitutionally projecting this power into the peace period. That is realty my argument. Here is an Act passed by this Parliament, undoubtedly designed to meet such a contingency as I, at least, find facing me at the present moment.
I have spoken more deliberately than is my wont, and I desire to say that I hope to see this vast mass of legislation, in the guise of regulations, reduced at the earliest possible moment. I leave that entirely to the discretion of Ministers; but I invite them to curtail the exercise of their- undoubtedly wide powers. I believe that the War Precautions Act has validity during the war period, and I am inviting Ministers to provide for the transition period by relinquishing as much as possible the exercise of powers that have been conferred upon them by virtue of this Act. And I say that if they do this expeditiously, intelligently, and with proper spirit, the members of this chamber will do all they can to help them in the difficulties that remain after peace has been proclaimed.
I enjoyed the speech delivered by my colleague, Senator Keating, last night; but while his technical interpretation of the proclamations in certain of our Acts may be correct, I do not see much that is practical in the argument, for I maintain that we shall reach a state of peace throughout His Britannic Imperial Majesty’s Dominions directly the Imperial proclamation issues, or when an Imperial enactment dealing with the definition of the states of war and peace is placed upon the Imperial statute-book and becomes operative.
– Not for the purpose of the War Precautions Act.
– I say that the War Precautions Act must then expire.
– Not until the proclamation is issued.
– I intend to deal with that particular point.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Senator Ferricks, by interjection, differentiated between the Imperial proclamation declaring peace, which must eventually issue, and the proclamation mentioned in the existing War Precautions Act, which will be issued by the Governor-General at the instance of the Commonwealth Ministry of the day. The Commonwealth proclamation of peace must of necessity synchronize, ot be immediately subsequent to the Imperial proclamation of peace, for just as an Imperial proclamation involves the Commonwealth, which is an integral portion of the Empire, in a state of war, so will the Imperial proclamation terminate the state of war and declare the existence of a state of peace. I advance this opinion, and will hold it until the matter is determined by the competent interpreting authority. My opinion is that if the Commonwealth Administration did not immediately advise the Governor-General to proclaim peace on receipt of. the intelligence that peace had been proclaimed by the Imperial authorities, then any action taken under the war power during the intervening period would be invalid and unconstitutional. That i3 my contention, and it leads up to my major argument that the Commonwealth has not the constitutional competency to’ exercise war powers during the time of peace.
– I think you are unsound in contending that the Imperial proclamation will govern Australia.
– If Ministers could artificially extend the state of war they would be really the instruments of a sovereign power, and we are not a sovereign power, but an integral part of the British Empire, and peace or waT exists for us in common with all parts of the Empire.
– In the opinion of the advisers of the Governor-General-
– The advisers of the Governor-General would be ultra vires of their powers in such circumstances. The Commonwealth Administration cannot artificially prolong the state of war. They cannot project it into an Imperially proclaimed era of peace. That being so, this Legislature is also constitutionally incompetent to extend the War Precautions Act by three months, or one month, or one week after the Imperial Government has proclaimed a state of peace to be in existence. That is really the pivotal argument that I use in justifying my intention to vote or pair against the measure now before the Senate.
I hope the Administration will, at its earliest convenience, submit to the High Court a case stating the constitutional difficulties which, I think, I have discovered. If the Act which I quoted earlier is ever to be operated, surely it ought to be operated in connexion with the contingency that I see, and which honorable senators must individually and collectively distinguish. Near the end of the Minister’s address introducing this measure, I invited him to get the Administration to consider the advisableness of submitting a case as to the validity of any legislation passed by this Parliament in pursuance of the war power and designed to be operated in time of peace, for the opinion of the High Court Judges. If the Ministry do not do this they fail in their duty, because they do not operate a measure placed on the statute-book for the express purpose of dealing with such a difficulty as we now find confronting us, or as I, at least, find confronting me. Honorable senators may think I am making a great deal of this matter. They may say, “ Nobody would challenge the constitutional competence of the Commonwealth in connexion with legislation like this.” I venture to say it would be very, speedily challenged, and honorable senators have to remember that I am one of the representatives of the smallest State in the Commonwealth.
When war was declared I, in common with other honorable senators, cleared my decks,- so to speak, for action. I was prepared, under the war power, to vote for any measure deemed necessary by the Administration of the day, to which I was nominally in opposition, and would have been in peace times strenuously in opposition. Because I considered it my duty as a legislator to set aside all party feeling, I supported the then Administration in all legislation of the character of the War Precautions Act. In the many efforts made in this Chamber to secure the disallowance of regulations under this Act, I always voted with the Government. While a state of war is in exist’ence, while’ Europe is in its present disturbed condition, while there are potentialities of conflict in the war areas or the areas close to them, I shall not vote for any repeal of the existing Act; but when I think that we are within measurable distance of peace, when I honestly and firmly believe that all the sovereign powers of the .State in which I live, and which I help to represent, as also of the other States, will be immediately resuscitated, I would deem it a failure of duty on my part if I voted for legislation which would be a straining of the terms of the Constitution, and which, in my humble opinion, would be declared invalid if a case based upon it was stated to their Honours of the Sigh Court Bench. If, in the event of the Administration stating a case to clear up the difficulties I have mentioned, their Honours refuse to function, I shall have to use my almost unaided judgment in determining the position that will then have been created; but my colleague, Senator Keating, has been able to assure me that legislation of this kind passed by the Canadian Legislature has been reviewed, and held to be good by the Privy Council, and I learn that the Privy Council has held that it was right and competent for a case to be stated in order that the terms of the Constitution might be interpreted for the benefit of legislators by the Supreme Court of Canada. Our High Court Bench is in some measure constituted of men who cradled this infant nation in the early days, when the various Colonies came together to form the Commonwealth, who exercised their undoubtedly great abilities in helping to draft the Constitution, and made names for themselves that will float gracefully down the tide of Australian history. These men are not likely to .refuse to assist thf> Administration of the day, nay more, the Commonwealth Parliament of the day, in a difficulty which confronts it in regard to its constitutional powers. I shall be very much disappointed . in their Honours of that high tribunal if they refuse to assist us in this difficulty. I hope, if my remarks ever reach their ears, that they will not think them in the least degree savouring of disrespect. I yield to nobody in paying respect to the great abilities and marked integrity of the occupants of seats on the High Court Bench of Australia. At the same time, just as I would criticise, and have criticised, sins of omission or commission, even on the part of British Prime Ministers, I do not hesitate to say that I should be disappointed in the High Court Bench if it refused to hand out a decision pursuant to a case being stated by the authorities of the Commonwealth as to the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of legislation, such as is projected in the terms of this measure.
In no spirit of captious criticism I wish to make some remarks about the mass of regulations alluded to in very significant terms by my legal colleague, Senator Keating. A few weeks ago, in Launceston, I received a telephone message from a municipal authority, asking me if I knew anything of a regulation preventing municipalities from constructing new sections of tram lines, or disbursing municipal funds for that purpose, without the authority of the Commonwealth Treasury. I had to confess that I was in much the same position as that South Australian magistrate who said it was beyond the ability of mankind to keep track of the numerous regulations promulgated ‘ under the War Precautions Act. I advised my questioner to write to the Treasury for information. I am not ashamed to confess that, at the moment, I was unable to state whether such a regulation was in existence or not. I now believe, from remarks made last night by Senator Pratten, that it does exist. Two or three days afterwards I was entering the office of a solicitor in Launceston - a man who stands high in his profession in that city. I met coming out a gentleman connected with the Launceston Fruit Board. He had a whole armful of regulations that had been given to him by the solicitor. He had gone in to make inquiry of the professional adviser of the Board as to whether a regulation existed fixing the price of fruit cases, and the lawyer told him he had better take all the regulations that he could find and go through them at his leisure. The lawyer said he did not think it advisable to go through the mass himself, and for the Board to have to pay him for doing so. When I voted for the War Precautions Bill, which subsequently became an Act, I did not dream it was going to be applied in some directions in which it has been applied. The Minister very wisely and honestly confessed that some mistakes had been made. I shall not be very critical of the mistakes that undoubtedly have been made in consequence of the exercise of the supposed powers that were conferred upon the Administration by the Legislature when it passed that measure. But some very strange things were done by virtue of the regulations promulgated under the Act.
A good deal has been said about the Tin Producers Association, about tin scrap, &c. , and I am very pleased to have heard the speeches which have been made from time to time dealing with this measure - a measure that is very pertinent to the welfare of the State which I represent. Some time ago it appears that some authority, vested with power by the Administration, projected the formation of a Tin Producers Association. I used to hear statements made by bankers in which queries were daily put to me bv responsible men as to what was the nature of the action which was contemplated by the Administration in connexion with the tin industry. They had heard that the price of tin was to be fixed, and that a Tin Producers Association was to be formed, and they naturally appealed to me as one of their representatives, and as one who had owned some small tin mines for years, for information. I had to confess that I, one of the representatives of the most important tin-producing State in the Commonwealth, was not in possession of anything like accurate information on the subject. i I sat down, deeming; it very derogatory to myself to occupy such a position, and telegraphed at the cost of some 7s. or 8s., to the Act- ing Prime Minister asking for information on the matter, and requesting that any Executive steps should be stayed until all the various interests connected with the tin-mining industry had been consulted. I can assure this Chamber that I was unable, until within the last week or two, to secure anything like definite information relating to this matter. And I find that in connexion with such a purely commercial measure as a project to form a Tin Producers Association the War Precautions Act has been used. A very important company in Tasmania engaged in the production of tin - I will not say any more about it for fear that it may be identified, itself being on the best of relations with other tin producers - was invited to send a representative to a conference in Melbourne - a conference which was ostensibly called for the purpose of launching this Tin Producers Association
– Why all the secrecy ?
– I will come to that presently. The chairman of directors of this company, knowing that it was getting on very well, did not see the necessity for sending a representative to that, conference, and did not send one. A peremptory summons then reached him intimating that if a representative were not sent to the conference the War Precautions Act would be enforced against the company.
– And the company did not know what that meant ?
– The company happened to have in Melbourne at the time a representative to whom it hurriedly cabled instructing him to attend the conference. The proceedings of that body were private, and no information as to what was done there has been vouchsafed either to this Parliament or to the people of Tasmania, who are particularly interested in one of the most important industries of the Commonwealth. That was an exercise of power under the War Precautions Act which I never contem- plated when I voted for that measure. Action of that kind was not justified in the circumstances, and was a misuse of the powers conferred upon the Administration by the War Precautions Act.
I am not criticising this measure caustically, because the Minister, as I have previously said, has wisely conceded the .point that mistakes have been” made, and that in some instances there has been possibly a misuse of the powers granted under the Statute. I will admit that the major powers which were exercised by the Administration under the Act have, to my mind, not been misused. They have been used with discretion. But we aTe a democratic, people, and many things that we will cheerfully endure in time of war we will not tolerate for a moment in time of peace. I believe it to be a cardinal mistake on the part of the Administration to introduce this measure, intending,- if they can, to project its operation into that period of peace which will ensue after the Imperial proclamation has issued. I shall not quote further instances of the misuse of powers under the War Precautions Act. I am sure that honorable senators will agree with’ me that there has been a misuse of those powers, and I hope that, in that tapering period to which the Minister has alluded, the closest and most energetic effort will be made to thin out from the vast sheaf of regulations all those which are admittedly or colorably superfluous.
– Did not the honorable senator say just now that, on the issue of the Imperial proclamation,” our proclamation should issue automatically?
– If it is not issued in a manner which will synchronize with the Imperial proclamation, anything that is done by virtue of the War Precautions Act will be unconstitutional. Senator Ferricks. - If the Government do not advise the Governor-General to issue the proclamation, what redress will any sufferer have?
– The High Court in the last resort. In order to clear up the difficulty which the honorable senator plainly apprehends, I have asked the Administration to take advantage of the Act, and to have a case stated for the interpretation of our constitutional powers in connexion with legislation of this kind directly peace arrives.
– If that is not done, John Smith, who may be a sufferer under the operation of these regulations, will have no redress, because he cannot get to the High Court. He will thus have to rot in gaol.
– I do not think so. Anybody who was likely to rot in gaol would be immediately brought before the Court under the Habeas Corpus Act.
– There are a lot of people in gaol now who have had no trial.
– They are there by virtue of the provisions of the War Precautions Act, which have been properly exercised in time of war. But we must not strain the Constitution. We are not competent to pass a measure projecting the operation of the War Precautions Act into the time of peace.
– The only redress which these people have is the High Court. Who is going to institute the proceedings there?
– Does the honorable senator think that the constitutionality of any Act can be established without an interpreting authority? If there, be any difficulty in making an application to that tribunal, I venture to say that it exists theoretically, and not practically. I feel certain that after peace has been decreed to have arrived by virtue of the issue of the Imperial proclamation, the Minister will be too wise to have individuals arrested and interned under the pro. visions of the War Precautions Act, even if we cared to extend its operation.
– But the people to whom I refer may be kept in gaol.
– I do not think that the Ministry would care to establish price-fixing during the three months’ period within which the War Precautions Act will operate - assuming that we pass this Bill - after the close of the war. I venture to say that the Government, during that period, will not insist upon company promoters going to the Treasurer for permission to float companies. Therefore, the Act will be invalidated by the issue of the Imperial proclamation in regard to peace.
– The Treasurer implies that they will insist upon that provision being continued.
– Then I say that the constitutionality of his action will be immediately challenged when peace arrives. The difficulty which Senator Ferricks foresees and the difficulties which I am discussing with such logic as I can command, will be obviated if the Government at the earliest possible moment submits a case to the High Court with a view to securing a decision as to the validity or otherwise of this legislation after the Imperial peace proclamation has been issued. I have not the slightest intention of overlabouring my arguments. I have occupied with one or two breaks the attention of honorable senators for a good hour or more. I have made my points, and whether they have force or not, the event, I suppose, will prove their character.
I wish merely to sum up my arguments, and to say that they justify me in the action which I intend to take, namely, that of either voting or pairing against this measure. If the Minister for Defence, is apprehensive of sedition, of dangerous utterances, or dangerous actions after the war has technically ended, all I can say is that I think it is constitutionally competent for this Legislature to pass a Sedition Act. I will help him to secure for his Administration all the powers which may be necessary to put down sedition, to prevent internal disturbances, to check disloyal utterances, and to do anything else that may be required. But I think that all the powers which we need can be secured by legislation which we are competent to pass in time of peace. I do not wish to see action of that kind taken under that War Precautions Act after peace has arrived. Because I believe that this Parliament has not the power to pass a Bill extending that Act into the peace period, because I believe that such action would be vexatious to a degree, because I believe it would be an infringement of the principles of Democracy, and because I believe it is unnecessary, I am going to vote against this Bill. Honorable senators will recollect that in my case there is an additional reason for my opposition to legislation of this kind in time of peace. Ours is a Federal Constitution. From the stand-point of population and territory the State which I help to represent is ‘the smallest in the Commonwealth. The powers which have been retained by that State are very dear to it. It is geographically, separated from the other five States of the Commonwealth, and I would be doing my duty in very ill-fashion if I permitted any whittling away, obviously or unconsciously, of the powers which I believe are retained in their full sovereign strength by Tasmania and the other States, directly the Imperial Government announces by proclamation that a condition of peace has been arrived at. Of course, if I cannot induce the Administration to obtain from the interpreting authority a decision which will clear up this matter, I must use my own discretion. The submission of this measure to the Legislature is entirely premature ; and because I hold that conviction it is my deliberate intention to vote or pair against the Bill.
.- This Bill is of such importance that it has well merited the full and excellent discussion which has been aroused. I have listened with careful attention and interest to the speeches upon the subject, and I desire to briefly state my position. I well remember, when the original Bill was before the Senate, that it created no antagonism. It was passed after a few hours’ debate. There was very little opposition in the other Chamber, either. If Parliament had realized, however, the manner in which these powers were to be used, there would have been no hope of passing the original measure. We were told that these extraordinary powers would be exercised discreetly, and that they would not be employed for political purposes. We were assured that they would be used in a way which would do injury to no one. Members of Parliament at that time considered it wise to give to the Government the powers they sought, seeing that it was a time of war. I have endeavoured to make it a rule not to blame -myself if I should be taken in once. But if I am taken in a second time by the same party, then I deserve what I get. The promises made in 1914 were of such a character that members were justified in granting to the Government of the day the powers asked for; but the manner in which those powers have been used upon hundreds of occasions has set the ears of the people tingling.
I do not wish to recapitulate the various experiences of the people under this measure. Senator Pratten enumerated many of the regulations issued under the Act. .His references demonstrated the ridiculousness of their administration. The people throughout the Commonwealth are anxious for the repeal of the War Precautions Act; not only that section of the people which I represent, but opponents of our political party also. It is not desired that these restrictive measures should be retained for a day longer than can be possibly avoided. In 1914, when the original Bill was before Parliament, there were some critics who pointed out the dangers of trusting these enormous powers to any one. The predictions then uttered have proved, to Some extent, at least, correct. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), when introducing the amending Bill in another place, went so far as to say, in effect, that mistakes had been made in the heat of passion. No one will deny that the powers under this enactment have been abused. We were told that the Act would not be employed for political ends. If I were to begin to discuss the things which have been done under the powers granted, I might occupy many hours. I draw attention, merely as an example, to the voting of the soldiers abroad. Hor.orable senators know full Well what happened. Manifestoes were issued by Labour leaders in the Commonwealth, but the powers of the censor , were such that not a word reached the troops at the Front. At the same time, a paper was in circulation at the Front which Was edited by a paid officer of the Government; and that paper was almost wholly devoted to the Government’s political purposes.
Any individual who took part as a Labour supporter, either in the election or the referenda campaigns, ran the risk of arrest and of being brought before a magistrate for some ‘breach of the Act or its regulations. There was not one df us who was not liable to arrest without warning, and without opportunity of redress. Such a situation should never have existed in a free country. For some time after the law was’ brought into operation there was little complaint about the manner in which it was being exercised. Matters proceeded smoothly enough until a certain event occurred, when there was a dispute and a division in the Labour ‘party. Then the trouble began. The powers exercisable under the Act were employed for political purposes, although there had been very definite promises that no such powers would be employed. At present we have Board’s in control of almost every conceivable activity in Australia. I have not much fault to find with that, but the commercial and producing interests are anxious that those Boards shall be done away with. My complaint’ -is more against the power employed in respect of life and liberty. To me the dearest thing on earth ‘is liberty. Material matters do- not count for so much. Life and liberty come first. But even with regard to such material matters as the welfare of the producing and commercial interests, the powers employed under the Act should not remain an hour longer than necessary. Every section of the community is up in arms against this legislation. It should be withdrawn.
The Government would be well advised to take the advice of either of my honorable friends and colleagues on the opposite side; Senators Keating and - Bakhap. The former advises that the Government should leave matters as they stand. It will be a considerable time before peace is proclaimed, and Senator Keating has pointed out that during that period Ministers coUld avail themselves of the opportunity to go through the regulations, ascertain what powers they must continue to possess, and then ask the Legislature to grant them such powers by ordinary legislative methods. This Parliament may be called together again, within a month., or within two months, or even later, before the declarationof peace. Senator Bakhap has asked the Government to state a case to the High Court of Australia. That appeals to me as a sensible suggestion. We should take steps to ascertain whether Parliament really has the power which it has taken to itself. It would be unwise and dangerous to place laws upon our statutebooks concerning which there is any constitutional doubt. The Government should have stated the precise nature of the powers which they required. There would not then have been any extraordinary high feeling, such as exists throughout the community to-day.
As to the many Boards which have been created, the fact cannot be denied that the members of them are men interested in the particular calling upon which they are ordinarily engaged. I do not make any accusation, but human nature is such that a man will do things which tend to his own personal interests, by reason of an entirely unconscious bias. These things have aroused feeling throughout the community. Honorable senators almost every day receive circulars strongly objecting to the work of one or other of these Boards. The people are suspicious of their administration of the various activities committed to their care.
– Every one of the members of these Boards is an expert.
– I do not question that; but if they are experts, they are also human, and the people generally feel that they are disposed to do those things which will benefit themselves. It would be. in the interests of the Government to bring such a state of affairs to a termination as early as possible.
– Does the honorable senator not think that it is necessary to control some industries during war time?
– What about the profiteers ?
– I have said that if the Government were to enumerate the particular activities which they desire to continue to control, there would hot be the same exception taken to their action.
– They wish to control their political opponents.
– Unfortunately the belief that they wish to do so is common throughout Australia. I believe that I am expressing the feelings of the vast majority of the people of the Commonwealth, not alone those who would vote for me at an election, but those also who would vote against me. I am asked whether I do not favour the control of certain industries; but even if I did, this is not the way to control them. When the people of Australia are determined that we shall have the power to control certain industries, they will give us that power.This is not the way in which to control even the profiteers.
– How would it do to put the’ Opposition into power for a time?
– That would require a general election. I do not propose to predict what will happen politically in the near future, but I have no doubt as to what will eventually happen if this kind of legislation is continued by the party opposite. By the manner in which the powers conferred by the War Precautions Act have been used, people have been prevented from writing, thinking, or speaking their minds.
– I have done a lot of thinking in the meantime.
– . Senator Senior is privileged to some extent. He may say many things that I could not say without risk.
I was saying that our liberties are at stake under the Act. Hundreds of publications that are in circulation in Great Britain and the Allied countries are censored in Australia. Let me repeat again the silly action of the censor which I mentioned the other night. I drafted a little circular for a public meeting, and put on it the words “ Come and hear the truth,” and the censor put his blue pencil through that. I do not think that honorable senators opposite would justify silly actions of that kind. But that sort of thing has been done under the War Precautions Act throughout Australia, and many vindictive things have also been done under it. Letters have been held up, and even a private telegram from a man to his wife has been held up.
I repeat that, if honorable senators, when considering the original measure, had known how the powers it conferred would be used, it would never have passed this Parliament.
– Is not the honorable senator magnifying small things and overlooking big things?
– If the honorable senator thinks that the liberty of a human being is a small thing, I can only disagree with him.
– The honorable senator was not referring to such things.
– I did refer to them, and very explicitly.
We have been told that the extension of the operation of the Act is required, amongst other things, in connexion with the moratorium and with the control of financial institutions. We have been warned as to what will happen in financial circles if the powers conferred by the Act are not retained. We have been told that if we do not chain them down the money-lenders will crush the mortgagors, the shipping people will immediately increase their freights, and those concerned in the Wheat Pool and other organizations of the kind will at once exploit the people. This is a very poor commentary on the spirit and feeling of the men who occupy important positions in Australia. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr.- Watt), in his speech in introducing this Bill in another place, said that the measure was necessary to prevent the ship-owners, the money-lenders, and similar people from exploiting other sections of the community. What sort of loyalty and patriotism can there be amongst these people if it is necessary to chain them them down lest they do evil to the community ?
– The honorable senator does not defend the money-lenders and men of that kind?
– I have no very great animosity against the man who lends money at a decent rate of interest. I know that men of wealth in Australia have done very well during the war. I am satisfied that, the trading people have also done very well. It might easily be proved that they are at least £200,000.000 better off than they were before the war started. If they have not been satisfied with the conditions which have prevailed during the last four years, and as soon as they are let off the chain will double their charges upon the people, who will not be in a position to protect themselves, that is but a poor recommendation for the persons who, in this Chamber and in another place, support the party opposite. I felt that it was extraordinary that the Government should express their opinion of the people whom they represent in the way they have done.
– The honorable senator knows that what has been said is quite true of many of them, and he would not defend them.
– The majority of the people are honest, but we still make laws against thieving.
– It is amusing to listen to the excuses which our friends opposite find to defend these people. It would be better if they frankly admitted that many of them very probably deserve” to have some check exercised over them.
I dare say that some of the activities controlled by Boards might very properly be continued. I believe that the control of sugar has been a good thing for Australia. Whilst the people of this country have been receiving sugar at a reasonable rate, the company dealing in the commodity have not done too badly. I understand that their profits are practically the same as they were before the war. The powers contained within the four corners of the Bill under consideration are greater than, I think, should be vested in any Government after peace has been declared. The people of Australia have had to submit to galling conditions during the last four years. I think they deserve commendation for the manner in which they have submitted to these “restrictions, but now that the war is practically over, I see no reason why these should be continued. If the Government are well advised, they will allow the Act to terminate in the ordinary course. One reason advanced for the continuation of these powers is the need for the Government to be able to deal with people who are accounted disloyal. I have no love for disloyalists, but I think that reason is more or less a gag. There are very few disloyalists in the country, and I am quite satisfied that the good sense of the community could be depended upon to deal with them. Disloyalists would soon find themselves ostracized from society, for Australians are as loyal and as peaceloving a people as are to be found in any part of the world. It is not wise, therefore, to brand the people of Australia as disloyalists. There are so few of that class in Australia that it is not worth while keeping a measure like this on the statute-book in order to deal with a few cranks. It simply acts like a safety valve to let them say what they want to say. It hurts nobody, and no one at the other end of the world will take any notice of what some crank or other says in Australia. We shall only make ourselves a laughing-stock in the eyes of sensible people if we continue this power for the sake of dealing with one or two persons who may bc called disloyalists. I shall vote against the measure, and sincerely hope it will not be carried.
.- Judging by the expression on their faces, my honorable friends opposite would like to get a disagreeable duty over as soon as possible. I refer to the duty of voting for this measure, as they are going to do, when only a small proportion of them really believe that these powers ought to be continued. I think I am justified in believing that with some of my honorable friends party allegiance and the cracking of the party whip are stronger than their own inclinations. We are all in the grip of party politics, and I honestly believe that a number of them are just as anxious to see the War Precautions Act swept out of existence as is any one on this side, but the cracking of the party whip compels them to vote for the Bill.
– That is why you voted for it on the first occasion ?
– I voted for it then for the same reason as Senator de Largie did, because we were foolish enough to believe the assurances of Senator Pearce, Mr. Hughes, and others that it would be used only for the purposes of emergency for which it was passed. It was a war-time measure, and it was a well-known historical fact that the Government of every country when at war found it necessary to pass a measure of this sort, giving them power to act in case of emergency. A number of us who supported that Bill had serious misgivings, because we knew the powers in it were much wider than Parliament ought to give to any Ministry, or than Parliament would give to any Ministry in normal times, but we were solemnly pro- mised, and were fools enough to believe, that the measure would be used only for the purposes for which it was framed, presented to Parliament, and passed, and for which it was supported by those supporting the Government. The sequel has shown that, during the past few years there have been done under these regulations, which have been turned out in hundreds, like sausages from a machine, things that would have almost disgraced the secret police system of Russia.
We are told that it is necessary to pass this Bill because peace has not yet been proclaimed. For all practical purposes it has been proclaimed, and no member of Parliament believes that there is a million to one chance of this terrible war breaking out again. The real reason why the Government have brought down the Bill is that the heads of the various Controls, and the members of the parliamentary, or non-parliamentary, Boards, have asked the Government to let them have these powers a little while longer. If the millionth chance turned up, and the war broke out again, there would be nothing to prevent the Government from calling Parliament together in a few days. Then within twenty-four hours a War Powers Act could be put through both Houses to meet national emergencies. That would be an Act framed in a proper way, and not giving such wide and drastic powers as the War Precautions Act gave to a Government which no one expected to use them in the way they have been used. It is as well to remind the people in these times, when the economy cry is so often heard, of some of the things done , under that
Act. In about September of last year Mr. Tudor asked the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives when Parliament’ would be called together again. Parliament was just about to go into recess, as was supposed, only for a few weeks, because there was a great deal of really important work to be done. Now the word and pledge of a Prime Minister ought to be worth taking by the people of Australia, and Mr. Hughes solemnly gave his word that it was the intention that Parliament should meet again soon. Mr. Tudor said he was afraid something might be done under the War Precautions Act when the doors of Parliament were closed, and the people’s representatives were powerless. Mr. Hughes solemnly pledged his word that nothing would be done that Parliament would not condone if it were sitting. Within a very few weeks after Mr Hughes made that statement, members were called from all parts of Australia by a notice that Parliament would assemble on a. certain day, and when some of them had reached Melbourne, they were suddenly told that they were not wanted, and that the Government, by virtue of their powers under this remarkable piece of legislation, had decided to take the second conscription referendum. The Government determined on this course without consulting their own supporters. Never before was such a flagrant breach of a man’s word committed by the Leader of any Parliament within the British Dominions.
– And he got it right in the neck.
– He got it right where it hurt him most. Not one follower of the Government that expressed his opinion privately to me when we reassembled after the second referendum had been defeated said he believed that the referendum would be carried. I heard a number say that if they had been consulted by the Government they would have advised them not to take the referendum.
– Why resurrect these dead ghosts?
– The honorable senator does not like to have these dead dogs resurrected. I know they smell, but these are the sort of things that it is necessary to resurrect, because the Government which Senator Plain supports are asking the Senate to grant them an extension of the very powers under which these things were done. From £80,000 to £100,000 was thrown away, and bitterness between the people of Australia was intensified. Soreness caused between lifelong friends by the first referendum was intensified, just when the wounds were beginning to heal, and the Government were defeated by a far larger majority Ulan on the first occasion. The second referendum could not have been taken if the country had been governed in the constitutional way, and if the representatives sent by the Democracy from the four corners of Australia to- Melbourne had been allowed by Mr. Hughes to ‘do those things that the people sent them here to do. But Mr. Hughes, Senator Pearce, and the Ministry closed the doors of Parliament. They said to the representatives of the people: “ Out on you; you have nothing to do with us.” In saying that to the people’s representatives, they flouted the people, and, as Senator Barnes suggests, they got it where they did not seem to expect it, but where, apparently, most of their supporters thought they would get it. Heaven knows what spirit of madness came over the Cabinet when they decided to take the second referendum.
– They were afflicted with Hughesitis.
– That is the disease.
Look at some of the things that happened during that campaign. Mr. Hughes went to Queensland, and because an egg hit him, he spent a great deal of the taxpayers’ money, under the war powers conferred by the Act, in establishing a special Queensland police force to protect him. That force is still in existence, although I do not know if the Queensland hens are still laying strong eggs. It might have been a very strong egg, but I guarantee that we have hens in Tasmania which lay eggs quite as strong. The one that spoilt my new hat on the night before the referendum, when I was speaking in opposition to conscription, was laid, I will guarantee, by a stronger hen than the one that laid the egg that hit Mr. Hughes. I did not ask for a single special policeman to be appointed in Tasmania to protect me, and if the campaign had lasted for another three or four weeks I would still have revelled in it, because I believed I was doing my duty, as I suppose Mr. Hughes believed he was doing his. These things were made possible only because Australia was being governed,, not by Parliament, but by the Ministry under the War Precautions Act and the regulations pertaining to it.
Let me cite a few more absurd instances. Probably Senator Pearce does not know that these things were happening, because he was not personally responsible for all the stupidities by the censors. Let me direct attention to the position that existed in Tasmania. At Launceston, prior to the departure of each vessel, nobody was allowed to approach within a certain distance of a ship’s sides, a space was roped off, and all the passengers’ luggage was searched, for fear, no doubt, that some crank in the community might take on board an infernal machine for the destruction of the boat. At the same time, at Burnie, a port equally important, only 100 miles further along the coast, vessels were leaving twice a week without any such restrictions being imposed. It was possible at any time for an enemy to take passage on the Oonah, and by means of bombs sink the vessel on her passage between Burnie and Melbourne. If these precautions were necessary at one port in Tasmania, surely they were just as necessary at another; but, apparently, there is no official information about this absurd position, and certainly I was not going to say anything.
– That is a very poor illustration to quote.
– Well, it has to be a silly one to reach my honorable friend’s intelligence.
Many’ absurd things were also done under the regulations for the control of racing. In Tasmania the Military Commandant is an estimable gentleman in every sense of the word, but he knew absolutely nothing about racing, and yet the sole control of all the little picnic race meetings was placed in his hands, because, so the Government believed, it was necessary to curtail racing. It would have been far better if the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) had placed this matter in the hands of a man who knew something about racing, or if this could not have been done, he had instructed somebody to advise the Commandant as to the best method for the control of sport in that State. But now that regulation has been withdrawn, and there is no longer any control of sport in the Commonwealth.
Let me also give another illustration of the absurdity of censorship administration in Tasmania. I know that no less than seven prosecutions were ordered against the editor of one paper. Seven times the editor was called upon to attend the Court, only to find on every occasion that he was not wanted, as the case had been withdrawn. I desire to be just to the man who has had charge of this matter in Tasmania. He has complained on several occasions that he had to obey instructions from head-quarters, and I know that sometimes he said he was sorry for the action he had to take.
A good deal has been said about the necessity for continuing the power with regard to moratorium regulations. That matter has been fully dealt with, so I have no intention of taking up further time of the Senate in its discussion, except to say that a member of a legal firm in Hobart told me the other day that the Act is largely a dead letter, because, whenever people approach a financier for assistance they contract themselves out of the regulations. This substantiates the statement made by Senator Pratten last night.
In regard to the appointment of a secret service police by the Minister for Defence, and, I presume, the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) - I do not like to mention names, because the individuals concerned are not here to protect themselves - I have absolute proof that this system was responsible for more secret meanness than one would have thought possible in a country like
Australia. The third degree has been put upon witnesses in order to extract from them information to build up cases. We have been accustomed to pity the Russian people for the iniquities they endured under the secret service police system of that country, but during the past four years things have been done in this country that would almost lead one to assume he was in Russia.
The prohibition of any statements regarding soldiers’ grievances at a time when the Government were asking for a large number of additional recruits hindered recruiting considerably. Unfortunately, at that time newspaper editors and proprietors were prevented from giving publicity to soldiers’ legitimate grievances. The powers of the censorship were exercised rigorously. I am speaking about things I know of. One paper in Hobart, the Daily Post, now known as the World, perhaps because it was a Labour paper, was treated with great severity. It will be well remembered that, in 1917, the Government declared that the press was to be free in regard to censorship, excepting in regard to statements connected with the naval or military defence of the Commonwealth. But, in spite of that, explicit orders were sent to the Daily Post that they had to submit everything to the. censor, although the Government had made the definite declaration to which I have referred. But the editor of the Daily Post was not so foolish as to comply absolutely with the order, and frequently published articles which had no connexion whatever with naval or military defence, and it was in connexion with these transgressions that he was brought before the Court on the occasion I have mentioned, though in each case the prosecution was withdrawn.
There are one or two other matters to which I may refer. It is just about time, I think, that some information was published as to the position of the metal trade in Australia under the Government control by virtue of regulations promulgated under the War Precautions Act. A number of people interested in the metal industry are not satisfied, because there has been too much secrecy about the control. It is also suggested that the people would like to have some statement about the ships purchased by the Commonwealth. This transaction involved an expenditure of about £2,000,000, and I think the people are entitled to see half-yearly or yearly balance-sheets. There ought to be some explicit information given. >
– There should be audited accounts.
– Exactly. Again, three gentlemen have been appointed to exercise absolute control over the formation of companies. It seems to me that that is rather a dangerous procedure. These men are only human, and it may be that some of their personal friends would have more consideration given to their applications to form companies than would others with whom they were not so well acquainted. Of course, it is possible that these gentlemen may have been influenced only by unconscious bias. Whether that is so, I cannot say. But I know that quite a number of persons who made applications to be allowed to form companies, with apparently very promising prospects, had their applications refused. As a result, they were very sore about it. I know, too, that other applications which did not seem to be any better propositions, were granted, and that for a long time there was a good deal of dissatisfaction experienced amongst persons who engage in this class of business.
I have been informed that all references made to the Commission which has been inquiring into certain matters connected with our Naval and Military administration were censored, and that their publication was prohibited until after the Acting Prime Minister had spoken. Only to-day I received a wire from a Tasmanian editor to that effect. Of course, we have been promised that the censorship regulations, if they are not actually lifted, will be very much relaxed in the future. The’ sooner that position is brought about the better it will be for the Ministry and for the welfare of the people of Australia.
I complained just now of our cursed secret police system - a system for which there was absolutely no necessity, seeing that ordinary detectives, by pursuing ordinary methods, would have been able to secure just as good Tesults as have been achieved. But’ under the system which has grown up in Australia quite as bad things have been done here as were done1 in Russia years ago. Fbr example, I have on several occasions’ referred to the case of a man named Kiely. I now propose to give a peculiar instance of the lack of promptitude that has been exhibited by certain officials who are responsible to the Minister for Defence. According to a telegram which’ I received from’ the honorable gentleman, this man was arrested in June last “ as’ a precautionary measure “ under our War Precautions’ Act. Since then he’ has been confined im a detention) camp1 until a few days ago.. According to his own statement, he had’ never been afforded an opportunity of confrontinig his accusers, and did not even know the charge upon which he had been arrested. After’ I had moved the adjournment of the’ Senate to call attention to bis case,* and after I had read a letter from Kiely,. whom’ I have never seen and do not know, the Minister stated that some five or six weeks previously he; had ordered that a public investigation should be held into this man’s case. Thereupon I pointed out that it was indeed remarkable - if that order had been given- - that’ this: sick man. was still being allowed to rot in gaol.
– I do not think that the honorable senator’s remarks are relevant to the War Precautions Act, and, consequently, they are not relevant to this Ball.
– Then the Minister has misled me, because he assured’ me that this man had been arrested under that Act “ as a precautionary measure.” Under no other Act could his liberty be taken from him, and could, he be kept in gaol for months- without a trial. I do not know of any Statute which would permit S’en’ator Pearce, under his signature, to have a man arrested^ Yesterday I asked the Minister when the- promised investigation into Kiely’s case Would be held, and. whether the accused would be allowed legal’ assistance. The honorable gentleman asked for notice of my question. I gave notice’ of it, and fo-day the Minister replied’ that he” had not yet received the desired information, but would probaibly be’ able to supply it later in the day. This m’orning I happened to pick up a newspaper from Launceston, from which I learned that- the” investigation into this man’s case began in that city . On Friday last. Yet the Minister’s officials did’ not know’ anything about it.
– The Minister himself did not know, I suppose.
– I do not blame the Minister. Although I do not agree with him upon many matters, I sympathize with him because of the enormous responsibility which he fs carrying today. But he has officers, who ought to know what is transpiring.- According to the” newspaper report, Kiely was brought up in chambers before a police magistrate, in the person of Mr. HalL He asked that has case might be remanded, to give him an opportunity of obtaining legal assistance. Accordingly, he was remanded until the next day, when Mr. M. J. Clarke, a solicitor, appeared for hint. At the same1 time *Mr. Archie;** a member of a firm of solicitor’s in Launceslio’n, appeared for the Defence Department. A file was presented1, which contained several charges against this’ man, I understand, charges of disloyalty and disaffection. Thereupon Ms solicitor . stafed! that that was the- first time his client had been informed of the nature of the charge which, was to he preferred against him, and, consequently, he asked for a further remand, so that he might have an opportunity of CEOss-examining Kiely’s accusers. Surely that was a reasonable request! Surely we ought not to assume- that every man is- guilty of the offence with which he is-, charged until he has- proved his innocence ! This ismm had had no chance of proving- his iipK>Genee. The legal representative ‘ of the Defence Depatrtmemt also desired- a reimiamfy because: he’ had not received the file- of papers until that day. He stated,however; that he had received inst’rtictioms’ from the Department to afford every facility for this investigation : to- take place. The case was, therefore1, remanded until this evening. Apparently, Kiely’s liiberty is not deemed to be of sufficient importance for. the Court to sit during the ordinary hours of the day, inasmuch as his case is to be heard in chambers at 7 o’clock this evening. I am not sufficiently familiar with legal procedure to know whether the fact of a case being heard in chambers implies that it is to be heard in private or in public.
– Probably that time was fixed for the convenience of the accused’s own counsel.
– It may be so, but I doubt it. Had it not been for my repeated efforts in this chamber to secure a public investigation into this man’s case, he would still have been languishing in the Darlinghurst internment camp. If a man can be arrested on the mere statement of another that he has given utterance to certain sentiments, and if he can be kept in an internment camp for six months without a trial, under the War Precautions Act - the operation of which we are now invited to extend - our vaunted freedom in Australia has disappeared. Kiely, I may add, was born in Australia, and comes of a very reputable family, who live in Warrnambool. Obviously the career of such a nian was open to the police. I maintain that he should have been proceeded against under the ordinary laws of the country, and not under the War Precautions Act. If he had been brought before the Courts under the ordinary laws of the country he would have been given the same privileges as are granted to the greatest criminal. He would have been brought face to face with his accusers. A man charged with the vilest crime, so long as it is not under the War Precautions Act, is conceded the opportunity to face his accusers, and is given a chance to bring evidence in rebuttal of the accusation. This man, however, had to remain in gaol from early in June last until a few days ago. I would not vote for the continuance of this measure for one moment after the declaration of peace. I would give a hundred votes, if I had them, to wipe it out of existence immediately; because, for all practical purposes, we have peace to-day. Where is the justice of keeping this man, and many other individuals, still interned? The deprivation of a man’s liberty may be a small thing to some Defence Department officials, but it is a big thing to the individual concerned. If it is proved that this man has said anything which, in the remotest degree, could be considered a menace to the safety of the Empire, I would say, “ Good enough for him if he gets the sentence he deserves.” But, no matter what may be proved against him, the Government will never be able to clear itself of the shame of the charge that it took away a man’s liberty and refused him a public investigation. The fact is, we have not been living in a free country. Things have been done in Australia, under our secret intelligence service especially, which would almost put the secret service police of Russia to shame.
We have heard three excellent speeches, delivered by honorable senators opposite, who have advanced strong reasons why the Act should not be continued. We are presumably here to legislate for the people who sent us here. The people might as well have shut up Parliament, and have said to Mr. Hughes and the Ministers of his Government, “ You are running the show. Go ahead !”
Before concluding my remarks, I desire to refer to a few of the Boards which have sprang into existence under cover of this Act and its regulations. Some days ago a return was laid before Parliament relating to the non-parliamentary Boards which are governing the country to-day. I have before me a newspaper record dealing with that return. It states -
An incomplete return, supplied in the House of Representatives by the Acting Prime Minister, showed that thirty-seven Boards and Commissions, some of them subdivided, had been appointed by the Ministry in connexion with Government Departments and war activities. Many of them are honorary in character. The salaries and honorariums indicated amount in the maximum to £11,775 per annum, exclusive of daily fees and travelling allowances.
I suppose those latter would, total as much as, if not more than, the sum mentioned. This money has been expended by these gentlemen who were appointed by the Government to act in an honorary capacity. They have been solicitous to help the Government - quite anxious to do so - and no doubt, they have acted in a public-spirited manner.
The report proceeds to deal specifically with the various Boards, and it gives the following particulars: -
Commonwealth Shipping Board. - The chairman ( Rear- Admiral Sir William Clarkson) receives an allowance of £350, in addition to his salary from the Navy Department of £900, making his total remuneration £1^250 per annum. Mr. D. L. Dowdell, delegate member in London, is paid at the rate of £1,000 per annum, and an allowance of £2 2s. per day. Mr. C. G. Lyon, representative in India (now resigned), was paid at the rate of £1,000 per annum, with an allowance of £2 2s. per day. “No salaries or fees are paid to other members of the Board.
The Deputy Controller of Overseas Shipping (Sir Edward Owen Cox), the Deputy Con-, troller of Coastal Shipping (Mr. David Hunter), and the members of the Inter-State Central Shipping Committee are not paid salaries or fees.
Wool Committees. - No salaries or allowances are paid to members of the Central or State ‘Wool Committees, or of the Sheepskin sub-Committees.
Enemy Aliens Committee. - No salaries or allowances, are paid to members.
Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration. - The members do not receive any salaries or allowances. Travelling expenses may be claimed.
Royal Commission on Commonwealth Public Servants or Employees of Enemy Origin. - No salary is paid to Mr. A. N. Barnett, the Commissioner. When travelling he is entitled to 30s. a day as expenses.
Federal Public Service Control Royal Commission. - No salary is paid to Mr. D. C. McLachlan, the Commissioner. When away from Sydney he is entitled to travelling allowance at the rate of 30s. a day.
Economies Royal Commission. - No fees are paid to members.
With respect to that last-named body, it is a pity that it was not in being before Mr. Hughes instituted his Commonwealth Police, and before the Government decided to take a second referendum, and throw £80,000 away.
The list of Boards as given in the newspaper report continues -
Committee to Advise the Government on Legal Problems Arising Out of the War. - No salaries or allowances are paid to members. The railway fares of the Sydney members are paid when they are required to attend meetings of the committee in Melbourne.
Australian Metal Exchange. - No salaries or allowances are paid to members of the Sydney and Melbourne committees of the Australian Metal’ Exchange.
The Australian metal industry is a tremendous business; and it appears to be rather remarkable that a number of gentlemen who have been occupied for the greater part of their lives in making money out of Australian metals should be willing, at this stage, to work for nothing. T can only repeat that it is remarkable. Whatever else it may be, it is certainly not a good system. All these matters should be kept under the direct control of the Government. There are Ministers who are paid to look after them.
Under the Navy and Treasury Departments there are the following Boards: - ! Central Coal Board. - £25 a month is paid to Mr. A. McGowan, assistant to the Board.
Coal Purchase Boards. - Travelling expenses according to his rank, and cost of railway fares, are paid to Captain Waley, the president. Miners’ representatives on Coal Purchase Boards are allowed £2 2s. each meeting, in addition to actual railway fares, such allowance not to exceed £4 4s. a week in addition to actual railway fares.
Council of Finance. - Members act in an honorary capacity.
Central War Loan Committee in each State and War Saving Committees in each State. - Members act in an honorary capacity.
Commonwealth Stores Supply and Tender Board. - Each member receives £1 ls. for each sitting of the Board.
– The latter is a very useful Board. Such bodies, throughout the States, have rendered excellent services.
– That may be; but things have been done which have not tended towards economy.
In the Defence Department the various Boards include the following: -
Military Board. - Military members of the Board receive special duty pay at the rate of £75 per annum. No fees are paid to the other members.
War Railway Council. - No fees are paid to members.
Board of Business Administration. - Mr. George Swinburne was not paid anything in addition to his salary of £2,000 a year as Inter-State Commissioner. Mr. C. H. Reading receives £1,500 a year. Mr. H. V. McKay received £1,500 a year to 7th November, 1918; since then he has acted in an honorary capacity. Mr. W. G. McBeath acts in an honorary capacity.
Why was it necessary to employ Mr. H. V. McKay? He was not a member of Parliament. He had not been given authority by the people, or by any section of the people, to administer the country’s affairs. Neither had any other of the individuals mentioned. This is merely a way of ministerially, shelving control. The Government have thrown their duties and responsibilities upon non-parliamentary Boards; and even if those Boards have been acting in an honorary capacity, the system has not been satisfactory. Let the people either shut up the Federal Parliament and hand the Government of the country over to the non-parliamentary Boards, or let the Government take back and administer its proper powers. These Boards comprise a super-Parliament, having no responsibility to the people. The other day a report was placed before Parliament dealing with the investigations of a Commission upon Naval and Military administration. That Commission conceived it to be its duty merely to report upon the facts, .and not to make recommendations. That inquiry should have been conducted by a Judge acting as a Royal Commission, who would not only have set out the facts, but would have probably made recommendations.
I shall not deal with the whole of the Boards mentioned in the list I have been quoting, but will proceed now to indicate those under the Trade and Customs Department -
Commonwealth Board of Trade, Bureau of Commerce and Industry, Institute of Science and Industry, Australian Wheat Board, Wheat Storage Commission, Price Fixing Branch, Leather Industries Board, Commonwealth Film Censorship, Commonwealth Dairy Produce Pool Committee, Sulphate of Ammonia Board, Cornsacks Advisory Board, Commonwealth Flax Committee.
– Order! I point out to the honorable senator that many of the matters quoted have no connexion at all with the War Precautions Act.
– Those Boards have been appointed under the powers of that Act.
– The honorable gentleman was just reading the name of a Board appointed under the powers of the Customs Act.
– That is true, sir, but I will say that a great majority of these non-parliamentary Boards have been appointed by virtue of the powers contained in the War Precautions Act and its regulations - powers which we are now asked to extend.
This subject, generally, is of the greatest importance, and cannot be discussed at too great length so long as there may be a chance of securing the support of sufficient honorable senators to cast tb Bill into the waste-paper basket.
– Senator O’Keefe has been animadverting upon the appointment of business Boards, and has suggested that the object of Ministers in making these appointments was to escape responsibility. I cannot see anything more natural in a time of war, when Ministers were called upon to undertake vast duties in addition to their ordinary work, than that they should call in men of experience to assist them, and men who have been glad to give their services for nothing. Ministers have not escaped responsibility by the appointment of these Boards. The Board reports to the Minister, but it is the Minister who must accept responsibility for any action taken. It was absolutely necessary ‘ that these Boards of highly trained successful men of business should come to the assistance of the country in the time of stress and strain through which we have been passing. I commend the Government for having appointed these Boards. I wish that they had appointed more of them, and had adopted the policy earlier. -If we look to Great Britain and to the United States of America we shall find that they have proceeded in the same direction and have employed successful citizens to run their vast commercial undertakings during the war.
Senators Ferricks and O’Keefe have directed attention to one very serious thing, and that is the curtailment of the liberty of certain persons. I can conceive of nothing more serious than that the liberty of any citizen should be unjustifiably curtailed. I should be prepared to vote against any Government responsible for such a thing. I have, however, been compelled to choose between statements made by Senators Ferricks and O’Keefe and the statements made on behalf of the Government.
– If the honorable senator will ask the Minister for Defence he will tell him that what we have said is a fact, and that a man is not told the charge upon which he is. interned.
-Does Senator Ferricks suggest that these men were picked up indiscriminately in the street, or that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) had some special “ down ‘ ‘ upon them ?
– Some persons made charges, against them.
-Does the honorable senator suggest that the Minister did not look into the charges made, or that he keeps men interned just for fun ? Honorable senators overlook the fact that in interning men the Minister incurs enormous responsibility. If he deprived a man of his liberty upon insufficient ground, he would for ever forfeit his place in the esteem of the community.
– Would the honorable senator keep a man in gaol without confronting him with his accuser?
-The honorable senator should remember that we have been at war. In my view the Minister must have completely satisfied himself that it would be dangerous- to let certain men out of custody, or he would have permitted them to go free. I hope that in reply the Minister for Defence will give some particulars of the cases which have been referred to. Liberty is the most valuable possession which a man can enjoy.
-Colonel O’Loghlin.-These cases have been brought before the Senate on several occasions.
– I have heard them stated, and I have heard the Minister’s reply, and have concluded that he was justified in keeping men interned in the interests of the safety of the whole community. We could not permit aliens and disaffected people-
– The man to whom I have referred was born at Warrnambool.
– The man who is disaffected in this country must be absolutely insane, and it would not be wise to let such men and enemy aliens wander about the country, possibly giving information to our enemies.
– Is it not a fair thing that a man should be told the charge made against him?
– I should think so.
– That has not been done.
– There must be some sufficient reason for it which I am not at present aware of. Honorable senators opposite should ask themselves the common-sense question “ Why does the Minister do this?” They know that in interning persons he incurs a very great responsibility indeed.
– He does it on the evidence of his officials.
– They must have sifted the evidence.
– The Minister will not disclose their identity.
– It must be disclosed at some time, and if men have been improperly imprisoned those who are responsible will incur tremendous penalties.
Senator O’Keefe said that Mr. Hughes, by carrying out two referenda on conscription, put the country to an expense of £160,000. But the honorable senator forgot to mention that the failure of the referenda to establish conscription cost the country . £320,000 in the efforts that had to be made to secure recruits to support the magnificent divisions we had at the Front Had conscription been accepted, it would not have been necessary to spend £320,000 on recruiting, in order to induce men to fill up the ranks of our sadly depleted battalions, to keep Australia’s flag flying and her honour secure. Though our battalions were sadly decimated, they were kept up, and the expenditure on recruiting was money well spent.
– It would not have been necessary to spend much money on recruiting had it not been for the bitterness occasioned by Mr. Hughes during the first conscripton referendum.
– I amsorry to hear that any bitterness was allowed to interfere with a proper spirit of patriotism on “the part of the people.
When this Bill was first introduced it proposed the extension of the operation of the Act for six months after the war. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has since agreed to curtail the period to three months after the war, or until the 30th July, whichever is the longer period. There must be some period fixed for the termination of its operation. If it were “To terminate suddenly, the result would be chaos. It must be admitted that it is necessary to continue the exercise of many of the powers conferred by the Act. We have amongst us several thousand German enemy subjects sent here from Hong Kong, the Malay Peninsula, and other places, and if the War Precautions Act were suddenly repealed, those people would be turned out amongst us. I think that honorable senators generally would not like to face that condition of things. The Wool Pool must be continued; the Wheat Pool, and the Metal Pool also. We must continue to control butter shipments.
– Why cannot the Metal Pool be brought to an end ?
– Because, I understand, there are contracts made through the Pool all over the world.
– With the British Government ?
– Yes. The honorable senator might just as well ask why the Wool Pool or the Wheat Pool should not be brought to an end in the same way. We cannot expect Ministers, while we are badgering them here day after day, to give proper attention to all these things. I do not think that seven months from the present time is too long to bring the operation of this measure to a close. I admit that its operation causes terrible friction, but we must give the Government a reasonable time in which to make proper arrangements to deal with the matter in an orderly fashion.
– We do not need the War Precautions Act to maintain the Metal Pool or the Wool Pool.
– I think that we do.
– We have exclusive power over all exports.
– That is not the only way in which the business may be controlled.
– It may be controlled in that way.
– I do not care to set my opinion against that of a lawyer, but if we had not the Wool Pool we should very soon find various wool producers ignoring the arrangements altogether and shipping their own wool.
– How could they ship it if export was prohibited?
– They could sell it to some one here, and have it worked up here. Senator Pratten might establish a factory for the purpose. We can only have these matters dealt with in an orderly way by granting the extension of the Act which the Government are asking for.
There are many activities which I hope the” Government will cease to control at once.
I am as much against the censorship as any one can be. I think that we have had quite enough of that. I never dread the Yarra Bank explosions. I think that it does a lot of good for a fellow to go down on the Yarra Bank and blow off steam for an hour or two. He feels all the better for it, and is not subsequently so likely to indulge in any mischief. I think that there has been too much pin-pricking as a result of the operation of the Act. The Government will have seven months within which to bring this business to an end, and during that time I hope that they will terminate many of the activities in which they have been engaged owing to the war. I know that the metal industry has been greatly interfered with. I have here a letter from a gentleman in Wangaratta. He says -
Thanks for your letter. The provisions prohibiting forming of syndicates and companies are harassing us in mining. All such companies require Federal approval. Their ideas are no good at all. At present Federal authorities will see no one. They are trying to get the War Precautions Act extended, when they will be like adamant, and stop all new industries.
I quite agree with. that. I hope that Ministers will take warning, and cease further interference with mining companies. I had a little spec, in a mine myself the other day. It was only a coal mine, not far from Sydney, and in a bore which we put down we struck a fine seam of coal at 1,600 feet. But we had no money, and, this war coming along, we could do nothing just then. However, the manager knew of another man who had a coal mine with “a seam close to the surface, and requiring a little capital to develop it. He said if we gave him 60,000 shares in the company he would carry on the work, and develop the proposition. We had to appeal to the Government for authority, and the matter came before Mr. Mulvany, who would not hear of it. He said it was a terrible thing to have 60,000 dummy shares, and so he stopped it. Subsequently I was asked, as a shareholder, to go along and see, of all people, Mr. Collins, the Under.Treasurer ! When I entered his office, I said, “ G08d Lord, Collins, I thought you were occupied looking after the expenditure of £100,000,000 of our revenue.” He said, “ Yes.” Then I said, “ I thought you were also looking after the old-age pensions, the soldiers’ pensions and the invalid pensions, as well as the maternity bonus,” and he replied that of. course he was. I said, “ Apparently, you are going to supply all the wet nurses for the children. On top of all that, you are going to dry nurse the whole community as well.” The thing is absolutely ridiculous. These restrictions on companies are tying up enterprise, and there is no reason why they should be continued. But, of course, it is said that people get robbed in mining. I have heard that. They may be ; but when anybody puts money into a new mine he stands a good chance of losing it. It is very much the same as putting money on a race-horse. All new mining shows are, more or less, wild-cat ventures, because nobody knows what is ahead of the pick. It is the height of absurdity, in my judgment, that Mr. Collins’ time should b« occupied in matters connected with these Boards. Mr. Collins is one of the most experienced financial men we have. He is carrying an enormous load, and all his time should be devoted to looking after the civil expenditure of the country. We have to consider, also, the inconveniences which these restrictions on the formation of new companies entail. It is bad enough for ‘people who live in Melbourne, but it is ridiculous that people should be obliged to come from Sydney or elsewhere to seek authority to build up small mining ventures. I hope the Government will, as soon as possible, remove all these unnecessary restrictions. Of course, there is a possibility that unless some control is exercised, money, which may be required for future war loans, will be sunk in these ventures. We must expect one, or possibly two, more war loans, and we know perfectly well that the compulsory ;provisions of the contemplated law will be applied to them. People know all this, and probably are prepared to go into these fresh ventures with a full consciousness Aof all that it means. I think it would be perfectly safe for the Government now to allow the wheels in industry again to revolve as in normal times.
With reference to the moratorium, I was pleased to hear honorable senators opposite suggest that the money lenders are men of such -splendid character. We have had a lot of white-washing to-night by our friends in Opposition, and I hope that when the next election comes round they will remember what has been said in this debate. I do not look on all money lenders as vampires. A great deal of the money is lent by big companies, life insurance societies, and corporations entirely on sound business lines. As an enormous amount of money is involved, there would be some risk if the moratorium regulations were withdrawn immediately. The situation requires to be handled very carefully. This is one reason why the Government should have a little time in order to make quite satisfactory arrangements. I do not think that the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) is asking for an undue length of time, but I do hope that harassing restrictions will soon be swept aside.
I know it is difficult, once a Department is established, to do away with it, because those responsible have to consider the employees who, of course, equire fair notice of any impending changes. Still. there are plenty of occupations available throughout the country, and I feel quite sure that if changes should be really ne cessary, the persons concerned need not be long out of billets. Indeed, the difficulty is to find men who can take up positions; so I do not think Ministers need be reluctant about closing up Departments on that account. There is plenty of work available. Unfortunately, these Boards are curtailing enterprise. We, want to be able to proceed in the old way as soon . as we can, and go on developing this country on the most uptodate and progressive lines. This cannot be done if the business enterprise of the community is throttled by restrictive regulations, as has been the case lately. Still, I am going to support the Government in what they have asked for.
– Stick to the Government.
– I shall stick to the Government. To that extent I am a good unionist. For all the reasons I have enumerated I think we can safely allow the Government an extension of the Act as asked for. It was passed by our Labour friends - they are responsible for it. They gave the Government these autocratic powers, and they cannot complain if they are not used in a way ‘entirely to their liking.
I was sorry to hear Senator Gardiner make certain observations to-day, and I regret he is not now in the chamber, because I do not like to speak on the subject in his absence. I was sorrv that, ; >s Leader of the Opposition here, he should have made reference to the possibility of a revolution in this country in a certain event. The whole thing is too trivial for words. Can any honorable senator picture a revolution in Australia? How would it start? Would the people rise against themselves ? The people put this Government in power, and the people elected this Parliament on the freest franchise in the world. How, then, can any one assume that there will be a revolution ?
– Only because Acts of this character are on the statute-book.
-Were they not put there by the representatives of the people, and will not we, as representatives of the people, go before them again in a little over twelve months’ time ? What is this Soviet business that we read of in other parts of the world ? Is it not the supplanting of one autocracy by another? Of course, it is. With uneducated people like the Russians it may be necessary to govern by an autocracy, but with an educated people like the Australians there -is no such necessity. I do not desire to say anything further, except that I think the Senate would be well advised in extending the operations of the Act as desired by the Government, but I hope, meanwhile, that Ministers will act up to their promises, and allow us to get back to normal conditions as soon as possible.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [10.27]. - I am not going to offer any apology for having supported the Act when it was introduced, because I recognise, as, indeed, we must all recognise, that in war time it is absolutely necessary for such extended powers to be vested in Ministers. But that grant of extraordinary powers to the Government of the day involved also the responsibility on the part of the Government to use the powers with discretion. I do not think there was ever any danger with regard to the War Precautions Act under conditions existing at the time it was passed. There was then a Labour Government on the Treasury benches and a Labour majority in both Houses, and I venture to say that neither the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) nor the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) would have dared to act in such an arbitrary and despotic manner in administering this law if those conditions had continued. Although the responsibility for this tyrannical action rests in the first place with the Government that administers the Act, those who support them in both Houses cannot get rid of their responsibility in that respect also, because, if the Government were not secure, by having behind them a docile and pliant majority to indorse whatever action they chose to take, the War Precautions Act would not have been administered as it has been.
Senator Fairbairn expressed astonishment that it should have been possible for meu to be interned without having been charged or given an opportunity of defending themselves. He said that the Government must have had some very good reasons before such a state of things could have occurred. The Minister for Defence has made the same excuse when questions about the internees have been asked in this Senate. In reply to representations on the subject, he said, “ The Government have looked into these matters carefully, and aTe satisfied they have good reason for the action taken.” The fallacy behind any statement of that sort is this: There can be no satisfactory investigation of any case where only one side is heard. And that has been the position with regard to those who have been interned under the War Precautions Act. In British communities we have built up, in the course of centuries, after great struggles against arbitrary power, certain safeguards by which the liberty of the subject is protected, beginning with Magna Charta and the Bill of Rights. Under the administration of this Act all those safeguards have been thrown to the winds, and men have been arrested, imprisoned, and detained for months without any accusation or trial, without an opportunity to meet their accusers, or to disprove the allegations against them.
Senator O’Keefe brought a case before the Senate to-night which he has mentioned on three or four previous occasions. I wish to refer to the case of Mr. J. M. Scott, which I have brought before the Senate on two or three occasions previously. He was lecturing in South Australia on the nationalization of banking when he was arrested. He had stood at the last State elections as an independent candidate for the district of Barossa, in South Australia. When arrested he was taken to Sydney, and interned. He had no opportunity of knowing what the charge against him was, or who his accusers were. When I brought the matter before the Minister for Defence on the last occasion he said it was to be investigated. It appears to have been investigated, and the man has been liberated. He is a loyal Australian-born British subject, and is extremely indignant at having been placed in an internment camp amongst alien enemies. When I learned that he was free I wrote to him, and asked him if he had had an opportunity of knowing the charges against him. This is his letter in reply -
I have yours dated 7th instant. In reply toyour inquiry, “ Did I get any statement of the charges against me?” I have to state: “ No, I did not.” I challenged them to bring, any, and told them they were afraid of publicity. When I read in the newspapers of the 11th instant that the armistice had been signed, I went to the commandant of the camp, and requested my release. Of course, he refused it. I sent an account of this toone of the New South Wales Supreme Court. Judges, asking him to send it on to the Minister for Defence, and on the 27th I was informed that I was free.
He does not appear to have had a trial,, or any chance of stating his case -
I should mention that I was demanding thesame opportunity as others who had been tried, and whose names had come before the public, in a prominent way, although the verdict went against them. I was informed again by the Supreme Court Judge that where there had been trials it was because “ there was evidence, or what might pass as evidence,” but in my case there would be no trial, because there was nothing, and they apparently did not want to give publicity to this finance question.
That is an allusion to the fact that he had been lecturing on finance before he was interned. Then occurs so strong a sentence that I think it advisable not to read it. He is certainly extremely indignant at having, been placed, a fullblooded Britain, alone in that unholy enemy’s camp for three or four months. He then says-
Probably never in the history of any country have rulers sank so low, nor brought such disgrace and shame on their race, as the shame and disgrace brought by this Government on this nation, when it did what it did to me; not to me, but really to Australia. Although I am free now, that does not shift the awful thing off the fair name of the nation I belong to, and every Australian the descendant of British ancestors has to assist to wipe out this blot by passing into oblivion the traitors to the race who did it. While thanking, on behalf of my nation, you and all those members of the House who assisted in getting my release, permit me to’ point out there is still this national duty to perform in helping to publicly wipe the stain off the records of our country. I addressed a large audience in the Botanic Park last Sunday on this matter, and accept my assurance that the public are with you in this fight.
I suppose that case is one of many, but Mr. Scott has been released because the Government evidently found that there was , nothing on which they could base a charge against him. He does not know to this day what he was interned for. We have arrived at stich a position in this country that if anybody whispers- into the ear of the Minister’ or of any of his secret service staff of spies and informers’ something to blast the character of an Australian citizen, that man is seized and put into camp, which is practically a prison, without being given an opportunity to defend his character. Such a state of things revolts the conscience of the community, and when the Government ask for an extension of the powers which they have abused so tyrannically and arbitrarily we are justified in saying that we have had quite enough of this sort of thing in a free country. We have gone back to the time of the Stuarts. This is the old Star Chamber system inaugurated again in Australia- a thing that every real Britisher has been ashamed of, and to which We point with scorn now as something that could never happen in this enlightened age. No one would have believed that in these days a man could be imprisoned without knowing the charge against him, put in prison on the information of spies and informers, and held there without trial or even accusation.
Some honorable senators on the Government side, notably Senator Keating, have said that Parliament is willing to give the Government any powers that can be shown to be actually necessary during the . transition period from war to peace, and the Senate can surely demand that the Government should state specifically what portions of the War Precautions regulations are necessary, and ask Parliament to Sanction their continuance, while agreeing that the others should not be renewed. 1 hope the Government will heed that good advice, and that an end will, be put to the arbitrary and tyrannical administration that has been the distinguishing and dishonouring characteristic of the Government’s management of the War Precautions Act during the last two years. 1 mention the last two years because I do not think there was any complaint about the administration of the Act until about the middle of 1916. Regulations of that sort are necessarily harassing, but they were administered up to that time with discretion and without causing undue hardship. It was not until the first conscription referendum campaign began, and the Prime Minister ran amok through the country, setting everybody by the ears, that the censorship and other regulations were used in an arbitrary manner, with the results described by various honorable senators. Parliament itself has not been free from the inroads of Government officials. A member’s private locker was raided, and copies of his speech were taken, while the State Parliament of Queensland was interfered with, because the Brisbane Printing Office was raided, the type seized, and Hansard confiscated. Such things have not happened since the days when Cromwell turned out the Long Parliament. It is only since the Labour Government left the Treasury bench, and a Labour majority ceased to exist in both Houses of Parliament, that the Government have dared to take such arbitrary and despotic action.
– I intend to vote against the second reading of this Bill, but it is not because I support the statements that have been put forward by honorable senators on the other side, or because I associate myself with the spleen that has been hurled by them against the Government. I take this course because I consider that the Government should have approached the question of the prolongation of the War Precautions Act in a different manner from that adopted by them. Had the Government given us some indication of what regulations they desired to retain, and what to drop, they would have had the almost unanimous support of the Senate and of the other branch of the Parliament. It would be a crime for the moratorium to be wiped out without proner notice being given. Besides municipalities that have invested their funds in the war loans, and need some protection under the terms of the moratorium, a number of private individuals are similarly placed, and will need pro- tection until the various war loans are liquidated. It would be absolutely impossible to wipe out the Act altogether at this period, as Senator Grant and others have suggested; but the Government should have given the Senate some indication of which regulations they consider absolutely necessary to carry on the business of the country, and which they consider unnecessary now that the armistice has been signed and an early peace is probable. If they had given some such indication they would have had very little opposition from me as far as this Bill is concerned. Numberless quite unnecessary regulations have been issued by the Goivernment under the Act. During the time of the last referendum in Queensland, regulations were poured out one after the other like sausages from a machine. They disturbed the people more than would otherwise have been the case, although I do not agree with Senator Ferricks that it was solely because of the action of the Government that the people of Queensland and other States were disturbed. I believe that Senator Ferricks and ‘ others on ‘his side were equally, if not more, to blame. Regulation after regulation was issued during the last referendum campaign, until- I positively wondered when their issue would cease. “We know that as the result of a little rowdyism which was displayed at one of the meetings in Queensland, which was addressed by the Prime Minister, the people of that State were subjected to the infliction of a Commonwealth Police Force. Now, df any real need existed for the maintenance of that body, of what possible use would be a force consisting of some 20 or 30 men?
– The people of Queensland must be a bad lot.
– I disagree with the honorable senator. They are the best lot of people to be found in the Commonwealth, and under normal conditions are the most orderly. I have no_ sympathy with the Commonwealth Police Force, and by protesting against its continuance on several occasions I have endeavoured to secure its disbandment, and the employment of the men who comprise it in other avenues which are open to them. Most of these men are returned soldiers, who would be more satisfied if they were given some other appointment under the Commonwealth. ‘ ‘
Honorable senators opposite have spoken of the various Boards which have been created under the War Precautions Act, and have expressed themselves in favour of their abolition. To my mind, although a number of those Boards are utterly useless, it would be quite impossible to wipe out the whole of them at the present time. If the Government had not exercised control over the wheat produced in this country, long ere this our farmers would have been pleading with Ministers to do something for them in the direction of finding a market for their produce. There are, however, other Boards which might very well be abolished.
I object to giving the Government the powers conferred by every regulation which has already been issued, together with the powers which would be derived from the issue of further regulations of a similar character. To my mind, Senator Keating struck the keynote of this question when he pointed out that even if the Bill now before us does not become law, the Government will not immediately forego any of the powers which they wield to-day. If peace be declared within the next two or three months - a contingency which seems very improbable in the fight of the press reports which we are daily receiving - it will not be necessary for ‘the Governor-General to issue the proclamation provided for in our War Precautions Act until .such time as the Government deem it advisable to issue it. We know perfectly well that that proclamation will be issued by the GovernorGeneral only on the advice of his Executive. Ministers, therefore, were not obliged to submit this very contentious Bill, seeing that in its absence they will retain the powers conferred upon them by the principal Act for some months to come.
In regard to the censorship, we know that in other parts of the world it has already been relaxed. Only this, morning I read in a mining journal that very much to the relief of the persons interested in the metal trade, the Government of the United States of America have relinquished all control of it. Yet, in Australia we are told that it would not be safe for the Government to forego theircontrol over this and other industries. Senator Pratten, who is well known in the commercial life of New South Wales, and, indeed, of Australia, has very properly stressed the fact that the continuance of the regulations under the War Precautions Act, even for a week longer than is necessary, will unduly hamper the operations of the various companies which are interested in the metal industry. These companies have endured sufficient during the past four years to warrant us in restoring to them, at the earliest possible moment, the utmost freedom which they previously enjoyed. I have nothing further to add in respect of this Bill. I endeavour at all times to record my vote in accordance with my conscientious convictions, and upon this occasion I feel that the Government might have been more frank with us, and might have supplied us with more information. Had they given us some indication of the powers which might well be dispensed with at the present juncture, I would not have opposed the passing of this Bill. But, instead, they have asked us to grant an extension of all the powers that are conferred by the WaT Precautions Act. In view of the hysterical legislation in which they indulged some two years ago, I do not feel justified in registering a vote to enable them to re-enact that legislation. I have no desire to ventilate any personal grievance, but, as a matter of principle, I cannot vote for the continuance of the principal Act for a moment longer than is absolutely necessary.
– Nobody wishes to do that.
SenatorFOLL. - How long its continuance is necessary is, of course, a matter of opinion. I have expressed my opinion, and the fact that I disagree with the honorable senator possesses no special significance. I shall vote against the second reading of the Bill.
. -This Bill has been discussed at very great length, and because of that I propose to say very little upon it. I wish to repeat nothing that has been said by previous speakers. But I do want to register my protest against the passing of this Bill, because I cannot conceive of any honest man voting for the continuance of an Act which has been so dishonestly used. Whilst I was one of those who voted to give the Government the powers which they wield to-day, I did so in the belief that they would use those powers only for the protection of the people of this country and of the Commonwealth itself. Like other honorable senators, I had not the slightest idea, when that measure was passed, that we were doing anything more than empowering the Government to deal with our enemies. Because we had confidence in Ministers, and because we believed that they would never dream of using the powers conferred upon them- in . any other direction, we supported the measure. But we have since learned, not only that they are prepared to use the Act to insure the safety of the Commonwealth, but that they are prepared to use it for the most mean’ and despicable political purposes. They are ready at all times to lay violent hands upon any person who happens to be opposed to them politically. They send along their minions, and I do not know whether they put them in gaol or not. It is a mystery to me what they do with them ; but they confine them somewhere or other. These fellowAustralians of ours, if the Government deprived them of their liberty but conceded them the ordinary right of trial by a jury of their peers, would have a decent chance of securing fair play. Yet what is happening in Australia - the last country on God’s earth where any one would have expected so great an abuse of liberty ? This is the country to which men and women journeyed after they had been forced out of their native lands by harsh and oppressive conditions. This is the country where they expected to find shelter under our vaunted freedom and liberty. They thought that this was the very home of liberty. Yet the Government of Australia have taken citizens away and deprived them of their freedom, without even giving them the rights of fair trial, to which all men are entitled.
– Deeming was given a trial before he was executed.
– That is so; but the same does not apply to men arrested under the War Precautions Act. Timehonoured fair play is not to be extended to men born in this country. They are taken away and hidden somewhere without being given the right to know what is the accusation against them, or of being judged by a jury of their fellow countrymen. What is a country worth if a man cannot say what he likes and do what he pleases under its laws ? What is the good of a country if a man may not take the chances of risking whatever his country’s laws may impose? If my idea of justice is correct, it means that I, as a citizen, must take the risks of the laws. If I defy the laws I accept the risks; but I know all the time that I shall not be placing those risks in the hands of any one individual, but into the keeping of a jury of my fellow countrymen, who will give me justice.
The Government, having had three years’ experience of administration under the War Precautions Act, have been condemned by the country. That is to be seen by the results of every election which has occurred. The Government must have a cast-iron cHeek - knowing the results of their administration of the Act and its regulations, and being aware of the opinions which the people hold concerning them - to ask Parliament now to grant an extension of the very powers which they have so misused and abused. They have not only imprisoned our manhood, but they have muzzled the press. They have appointed certain persons, who may be honest in themselves, but who have put to full use the censorship powers - and in a mighty strange fashion, too.
I will cite one instance as to which I have personal knowledge. Under the censorship regulations the editor of a Labour newspaper was prosecuted. He was charged with having failed to submit certain matter to the censor. He was fined, I think, £50, with the option of six months’ imprisonment. But here are the facts concerning another editor of another publication. This was not a Labour magazine, so far as I am aware, notwithstanding that it has been one of the few journals through whose columns the people have been able to get a clear idea of what has been happening all over the world. I am alluding now to Stead’s Review. Mr. Stead published a work entitled Stead’s War Facts. He submitted all the matter therein to the censor.
– The whole of the matter in the book had previously been permitted to be published in Stead’s Review.
– That is so, and the censor passed it all. It is a costly proposition to gather and collate masses of facts and publish them. Mr. Stead did all this; and he obeyed the laws of the country, and submitted his matter to the censor. But, after he had gone to great trouble and expense, and his book was placed upon the market, Mr. Stead ran up against the War Precautions Act. His publication was prohibited.
– It is in the Commonwealth Library.
– That is so, but it cannot be purchased at the book stalls or in any shop throughout Australia. Mr. Stead had to withdraw his publication from circulation, following upon instructions from the Government.
– We have it in the Library, and it is a very good book.
– That is so, and there are other works in the Library which are very good books, but which are prohibited from public sale.
Mr. Boote, editor of the Worker, wag prosecuted and fined heavily because he had not submitted matter to the censor. Mr. Stead was fined to the extent of his losses in connexion with the publication of his book, although he had submitted all ite details to the censor. So, where the devil are we under the War Precautions Act?
– Is that parliamentary ?
– It may not be, but it is common sense, and the people want common sense, whether it is parliamentary or not. This is a dishonest Government. When I voted to empower the Government, for the protection of this country and its people, to exercise the War Precautions Act as it was originally presented to us, I believed the Government were honest, and would employ those powers only in the interests of the people. I cannot believe to-day, however, that any honest-minded senator will concede to the Government an extension of these powers which they now seek, in view of their knowledge of the facts. Honorable senators must know how the Government have misused their powers.
I am a party man. I make no secret of it. Everybody knows it. But surely we have some honour in this Chamber, and some individual sense of what is due between one person and another. That being so, honorable senators, surely, will not permit the Government to secure the desired extension of their powers. I have not such poor faith in human nature as to believe that that is what will happen. I cannot believe that this measure can be submitted to a deliberative assembly and passed in face of all the evidence which has been furnished against it. During the continuance of the war I had no desire to injure the Government, who were conducting the- affairs of the country. I do not believe that any honorable senator on this side would have sought to do anything to injure the Government while carrying out their great responsibilities in a time of war. But I cannot believe, either, that honorable senators will now give to the Government the further powers sought. I would be quite prepared to offer to the Government an extension of the Act if they were honest, and said, “ Here are certain matters requiring to be dealt with. The war is practically over, but certain powers are necessary still to safeguard the people. We ask you to grant us those powers.” There would be no dissentient voice in such circumstances. But when the Government ask us now for an extension of the Act, I can only say that I frankly believe they desire the extension to continue until after the next elections. That is what is behind it all.
– If they extend the powers so far as that they will get it in the neck.
– They will get it in the neck, anyhow. Their sins have been so damnable that they will not be able to escape the just retribution which this country is waiting to mete out to them.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Shannon). - I ask the honorable senator to restrain his language. It is scarcely parliamentary to make use of the word “ damnable.”
– This Government have been worse than damnable.
The purpose behind the desired extension of the Act and its regulations is not to safeguard Australia, but for the Government to save themselves. The Government want to extend the War Precautions Act over the next elections, so that they may be able to do the same things as before; so that they may publish everything on God’s earth which suits them, while, at the same time, keeping men on the job censoring out of the reach of the people every argument advanced by their opponents. I am not prepared to give the Government the extension of the Act which they ask for. I admit frankly that my party feeling runs very high. I credit honorable senators opposite with believing that their party is right; but I do not believe that a majority of them are prepared to descend to the depths to which the Government ask them to descend now. I should be prepared to vote for a measure which would empower the Government to protect the people of this country, but I am not prepared to endow them for a further term with powers which they have so misused in the past. I cannot believe that this Bill will go through. I am piously hoping that it will not. The time of the Senate has been fairly taken up with the debate, and Ministers will in all probability have an opportunity to put up a defence for themselves, if a defence is possible, in connexion with this measure. They may be able to persuade their supporters to vote for it. But I care not whether the Bill is passed or not, honorable senators should know that the people of the Commonwealth are very sick of the War Precautions Act.
The Government have been very busy under this Act in robbing the people of the country, or enabling some of their friends to do so. They have professed a desire to befriend the farmers of Australia. I asked the Minister responsible for the purchase of wheat bags some time ago, which was done under this Act, what profit the Government made out of the transaction. The Minister said that he had insufficient information at the time to supply me with an answer. I had not then read the Treasurer’s Budget speech, but I found later, from a perusal of it, that it discloses the fact that the Government befriended the farmers of this country by purchasing bags on which they spent £2,400,000 of our money, and, in doing so, made a profit of £106,000.
– The honorable senator is talking of a different year altogether. That was last year.
– No, I am talking of this year. Though I could not get the information, it was disclosed. There is the usual distributer in Flinders-street, who has a space on a wharf where bales of bags are dropped as they are taken from the ship’s hold. He, has only a bit of a clerk making book entries there; but the Government sold bags to this distributor for 9s. 8d. per dozen, and they let him put on another 5d. per dozen, making the cost 10s. Id., and that distribuor got £104,000. He was allowed to send the bags to another distributor, and not to the farmer who uses the bags. The other distributor was allowed to put the price up to 10s. ‘ 6d., and so he got another £104,000. That is the kind of thing that was done by a Government who professed to be the farmers’ friends. The farmers of Corangamite have just shown the kind of friend they consider this Government. They have whipped the Government candidate. The party opposite may win the seat, though I think that is very doubtful; but the farmers of the district have at least shown the Government that they are taking a little notice pf how the affairs of Australia are being carried on by them under the War Precautions Act, and other Acts which they have been endeavouring to administer, but which, in my opinion, they have seriously maladministered. They robbed the farmers of £225,000 in one deal. On the admission of the Minister responsible, they robbed the rabbiters of £260,000. The Minister in another place responsible for the price fixing has told the country that the price-fixing business has resulted in a profit to the Government of £200,000. They have not treated the big interests in the same way. They have permitted those interests in wool and in meat practically to please themselves. Honorable senators are aware that the InterState Commission made certain recommendations on the subject of fixing the price of meat. After they did so, the Government acted, and, as a result, I had to . pay 2d. per lb. more for meat than I had to pay before they took any action at all. The people of the country are paying for this kind of thing; and, God knows, it is nearly time they woke up to the fact that the Government are fooling them, and won their place in power because they said they were going- to win the war.
The war is won, and I am very glad that it has been won, but it was not won by this Government or “by the elements supporting them, but by the trade unionists of Australia, who went to the Front in their thousands, and are returning now not expecting to find a country governed under a War Precautions Act. They look forward to returning to a free country as they left it. They do not expect to return to a country where the name G. F. Pearce on a minute may result in the internment of any soldier or any citizen of this country, and deprive him of his liberty without a trial by his fellow men. Our soldiers are returning in their hundreds of thousands. I have no fear of these men. I am one of them, and have worked alongside many of them. When they return the last thing they will expect is to find that the Government were given power by this Parliament to do’ the things they have done to some of their fathers while they were absent. I cannot believe that the Senate will consent to such a thing. But it does not matter v whether this Bill passes or not, honorable senators need make no mistake about it, the Australians who are’ coming back are not going to be tied down by any restrictions which this Parliament may seek to impose. They are coming back to find worse laws and greater re- strictions in their country than are to be found in many other countries, although this was a comparatively free country before they left it. They are returning to find a Win-the-war National Government in power, because they “ pulled the legs “ of the people very successfully a little while ago. They will be under the authority of the Government and their laws, and under the War Precautions Act.
What, in the name of God, is this Act wanted for? Is it for the returned soldier ? Do the Government require this power to deal with the returned soldier? If not, what do they want it for? Ministers have told us that there have been thirty-eight people interned in this country who are citizens of Australia or of the British Empire, and those people have never had a trial. They have been deprived of their liberty; but they have done no harm to this country. Bias any one else done harm to it? Now that peace is in sight, we hope to see the countries that have been at war. returning to better industrial conditions than prevailed previous to the war. Is there any one in Australia for whom it is necessary that the Government should have these powers conferred upon them? Do they require these powers to deal with the returned soldiers whom they have promised so much, the men who have won the war, and have been the spear-head in every big fight in the great struggle? Are these the people whom the Government contemplate dealing with under the War Precautions Act? If so, let the Government admit it frankly. Do they fear that something will happen when our soldiers return ? “They have no evidence that those who remained in Australia are a menace to the welfare of the country. I say, deliberately, that they propose the extension of the Act and desire a continuance of their powers under it to deal, not with those who are already in Australia, but with those who are coming back. I hope that honorable senators will not pass this Bill but whether they do or not, the men who did the things which our soldiers have done at the Front, when they come back here will wipe the floor with the mob opposite who are trying to restrict their liberties.
.- After all the steam that has been let off. in this debate, I hope that our friends opposite feel a little easier. I have never listened to ‘ a debate in which there was so much political camouflage used as has been used in this debate. I do not doubt that honorable senators opposite have believed that in saying the things they have said they were saying what would be regarded as popular. The War Precautions Act is a disagreeable Act, because it is, and has been, an interference with, liberty. Honorable senators get up and mouth that kind of thing as if they had made a discovery. They have discovered nothing. Every one knew that the Act would interfere with liberty - the liberty to do things inimical to this country during the war. Every one who has tried to do that has been interfered with, including some of the gentlemen on whose behalf we have listened to passionate appeals, and who are amongst the 4,000 or 5,000 in our internment camps to-day.
Senator Barnes is very much concerned as to what the attitude of the soldiers will be who are coming back. The Government are not concerned about that: We know that they will be all right. We have never had any doubt about them. It is the men who remained here when they ought to have gone to the Front about whom we have been concerned. We were satisfied that the men who went to the Front were prepared to do their duty to this country. It was the shirkers and the slackers against whom the War Precautions Act in many cases had to be applied in order to prevent them from doing a positive harm to this country.
Although the hour is late, I feel that some things which have been said in the course of the debate should not be allowed to go into Hansard and be circulated throughout the country without the truth being told in regard to them’. I shall take, first, the remarks made by Senator Gardiner. That honorable senator instanced, as one of the evils of this Act the cancellation of preference to unionists on the wharfs during the Waterside Workers’ strike. What were the circumstances in connexion with that matter? That strike was deliberately worked up -
– By the Government.
– That statement is untrue. That strike was deliberately worked up for the purpose of preventing the coaling and loading of foodstuffs into our transports and hospital ships, required to bring our wounded troops back to Australia. In Sydney these men absolutely refused to coal or put foodstuffs into hospital ships, with the result that the power of the War Precautions Act had to be exercised to withdraw preference from them, and to enable men who were willing to work the vessels to obtain employment in preference to unionists who refused duty. Those are the circumstances of that strike leading up to the cancellation of preference to unionists
Several honorable senators interjecting,
– I am glad to know that I am making honorable members opposite squeal, for this is evidence that the truth is getting home on them. I have been obliged to sit all through this debate and listen to insults hurled at me, but as soon as I attempt to reply there is a chorus of squealing from honorable members opposite. They know that it is the truth, and they do not like it. That is the reason why the War Precautions Act was brought into operation in that particular case, and as one who has done as much as any honorable senator to make preference to unionists and arbitration possible, in this country, in the same circumstances I would do the same a hundred times over.
I come now to the second point raised by Senator Gardiner. He spoke about the repressive regulations dealing with disloyalty and dissension, and instanced the suppression of the use of Sinn Fein badges in Australia as an example of how ridiculous the regulation was. He said that these things were freely allowed in Ireland, and had been allowed right throughout the war. I tell the honorable senator that he could not have given a more unfortunate example. I say that Ireland, during this war, and owing to the actions of this section, has been a source of weakness to the Empire when she could have been a source of strength. Although it is true that Irish regiments and Irishmen have done nobly on the field of battle, it is not true of those who remained in Ireland and caused dissension right throughout the war. All honour is paid to those Irishmen who fought so nobly on the field of battle; but no honour to those who remained in Ireland. The Government were determined that these people should not be allowed to stir up bitterness and similar dissension in this country. We took action with that object in view, and I am glad to say it was successful, because we scotched the attempts of those who endeavoured to create dissension here.
I come now to Senator Pratten’s remarks, and I cannot help feeling somewhat satirical when I think of his reference to himself as a “ general “ supporter of the Government. It would be somewhat difficult to record the instances in which he has supported the Government, at all events in connexion with any measure that I have been piloting through this Chamber. He referred in a somewhat schoolmasterly manner to the ideas We all had when the original Act was introduced at the beginning of the war, and went on to say that all those ideas have changed, I am one of the first to admit it. When the Act was passed I had no idea of the use to which it would be put before the war was over. But, after all, what is, that admission ? It is an admission that this war itself has been a complete revelation to every nation on earth. Previous wars were fought by the navies and armies of the belligerents, but this war has been fought by the whole of the people. Every section of the people has been involved. The naval, military and economic force9, trade and commerce - everything - has been flung into the scale. We did ‘not know that in 1914, and Senator Pratten, in 1918, chides us with the fact that in 1914 we did not know the uses to which this Act would be put. This remarkable statement, surely, is a startling revelation! He tells us that when We passed the Act in 1914 we did not know what we would have to do.
– I never said anything of the sort.
– That, at all events, is the effect of the honorable senator’s argument if it means anything at all.
Tie honorable senator, in the course of .his remarks on this Bill, produced sheafs of the regulations, and perhaps to your intense weariness, sir, and certainly to my own, he spent a considerable time in reading and denouncing them all, and saying that all these things ought to have been done by legislation. This wisdom after the event is most startling. Senator Pratten comes here as a representative of the commercial community of New South Wales, and he tells us that all these things are an interference with commerce and industry. I tell him, in reply, that this war has interfered with the commerce and industry of every country, and that if Great Britain had not interfered wth her trade and commerce as she did, Germany to-day would have been doing so in a much more drastic manner. It is because Britain realized that the whole of her trade, finance and commerce had to be thrown into the scale that the Empire is victorious today and Germany defeated. This representative of the commercial community of New South Wales deplores this interference with trade and commerce. Senator Pratten is against the “Bill. He quoted a number of regulations which he said should be discontinued, though I notice he is prepared to admit that these regulations which are in the interests of the commercial community should be continued. But I point out to Senator Pratten that if he would destroy the Act he must destroy these also.
Senator Pratten, if I may judge by his speech on this Bill, holds the belief that no Ministers can be trusted. Either they are inept or untrustworthy. But his remarks as applied to Ministers were quite flattering when compared with his remarks concerning those officials whom the Ministers have gathered around them. I gather from his remarks that the staffs we have got together are either knaves or fools who cannot be intrusted with the duty of advising us on any matter. I frankly confess that Senator Pratten is beyond my comprehension. If he achieves what he is endeavouring to do, I venture to say that at the next election the commercial community will have a reckoning with him of a far more drastic character than he has endeavoured to have with this Government.
– That is only your opinion.
– I am merely giving my opinion. The honorable senator took much longer to give his.
Let me direct the attention of the commercial community and Senator Pratten to one little item in which they are vitally interested, and in which they are being protected to-day by reason of the War Precautions Act and the regulations issued under it. Honorable senators of the Opposition are very frequently given to talking about the exploitations of the Shipping Combine. There is. no place in the world that has been so well and so cheaply served by shipping as Australia has been during the war; but if the War Precautions Act had been lifted from shipping for five minutes we would not have had a solitary ship left on ‘our coast, and the Shipping Combine, as it is called, could have made immense fortunes, because freights elsewhere have been five or six times higher than those which they were allowed to earn on the Australian coast. We have not only held the ships here, but we have also held the freights down. Although freights have fallen elsewhere^ they have not fallen to anything approximating the Australian rates. If we were to lift the War Precautions Act at the present time the Australian shipping companies would in six months make more than they have made during the whole course of the war.
– The Australian shipping companies scoff at that assertion.
– It can easily be tested by a comparison of the freights prevailing elsewhere with those which prevail on the Australian coast.
– Does the Minister say that shipping to-day is as scarce as it was before the war ended ?
– Yes; the shipping scarcity has not been overcome. On the other hand, the demands of demobilization will increase the problem. If we were to lift the War Precautions Act, it would mean ruin to the business communities of Australia right along its coast line.
– The Minister is assuming that something will happen which will never happen.
– I know that it will not happen, because the Government, and its supporters,, and those who are in favour of this Bill will, not allow it to happen; but if Senator Pratten had his way it would come about as soon as peace is declared.
I apologize to Senator Keating for not being able to grasp his arguments in regard to the proclamation; but, as it appears to me, we would be placing ourselves in an extraordinary position if we adopted the course he has suggested. The United Kingdom has passed a specific Act which provides for the declaration of the date of the termination of the war at a date not later than the date of exchange or deposit of the ratifications of the treaty of peace. The Imperial Parliament is not Imperial in the sense that its laws extend to, and are enforceable throughout all parts ofthe Empire; but is Imperial in the sense that it controls the foreign policy of the nation. Our enemies, our Allies, and the neutral nations look upon the British Empire, not as a number of nations, but as one nation. When the Imperial Government issues a proclamation declaring that peace has been achieved on that day, every portion of the British Empire will be at peace. But, according to my understanding of what Senator Keating has said, there can be a proclamation by the Empire, saying that the state of war has passed, and inferentially that means that the people who are in the internment camp at Liverpool are our enemies before it is made, but cease to be such once it is published; and, on the other hand, we can have a proclamation in an integral part of the Empire a month or six months later, declaring that peace has been achieved, and in that period between the proclamation by.’ the . British Empire that peace has arrived and the proclamation by the GovernorGeneral of Australia that peace has arrived, these people may still be regarded as our enemies.
– I did not say that.
– Then, if that cannot be done, one of the vital necessities for this measure has gone. It is vitally necessary to retain those persons in our internment camps until we have decided upon a policy in regard to them. Senator Keating’s meaning, then, is that as soon as the Imperial proclamation is issued we can no longer deal with these persons ?
– No. I merely touched on that matter, because I spoke briefly. In Committee I shall be able to develop my argument sufficiently to make it appeal to the Minister.
– I do not- know whether the honorable senator’s words are to be interpreted as a promise or a threat. If the honorable senator really means what he says I withdraw all that I have said in regard to his argument, and ask him to take it as having been unsaid.
– But does not the Bill provide just for what the Minister has been saying, for treating the occupants of internment camps as enemies until peace is proclaimed?
– If the Bill is passed we can do so, but Senator Keating argues that we should destroy the War Precautions Act and simply depend upon the Governor-General’s proclamation.
– My contention is that the Governor-General’s proclamation is not analogous to the Imperial proclamation. It is purely local, and is designed to have a local effect only.
– Passing away from that point, I wish to correct Senator Bakhap’s reference to my remarks upon the tapering period. I did not infer that by some feat of legerdemain on our part there was a tapering period during which the war power of the- Commonwealth would shade into the constitutional power. All I meant was that there was a tapering period from, say, prior to the armistice, when we were continuing to exercise these powers freely. For instance, until the Bill we are now dealing with expires there will be a tapering period, during which we shall ease down in our exercise of the powers given by the War Precautions Act until they finally pass from us.
I now come to the remarks of Senator Guy. One of his principal charges against the censorship is that the Tasmanian censor deleted the words “ Come and hear the truth,” which appeared on a certain hand-bill.
– Was not his action ridiculous?
– It did seem to me that it was ridiculous he should have done anything of the kind, but after listening to Senator Guy for half-an-hour I have come to the conclusion that the censor must have heard one of the honorable senator’s speeches on conscription. There was an instruction by which these representations in regard to the war were liable to the censorship.
Senator O’Keefe, after tearing a passion to tatters and giving certain people the benefit of some cheap wit, turned to a general denunciation of the Boards that have been brought into force under the Act. What amuses me in this debate is that we have a combination of forces against the Bill. Senator Pratten held up to considerable criticism a gentleman named Mulvany,
– I did not mention his name.
– The official at the Treasury who deals with the flotation of companies, and whom the honorable senator was criticising, happens to be named Mulvany. Senator Pratten denounces this matter being dealt with by an official. If it was dealt with by a Board, he would vote side by side with Senator O’Keefe, who denounces these matters being dealt with by Boards, and he would also find himself side by side with Senator Foll, who says the work should not be done by Boards or officials, but by Ministers themselves. All those gentlemen could vote side by side against the work being done anyhow - by Boards, officials, or Ministers.
Senator O’Keefe speaks of the Kiely case as if some military officer in Tasmania had said about somebody that he had made a statement that was wrong, and telegraphed that over to me, and I said, “Off with his head!” and had signed my name to the warrant. It was not done that way. The military officer in Tasmania receives police reports that a man has done and said certain things in certain places. The Military Commandant considers the reports, consults with the police, and recommends to us that the man should be arrested, and he is arrested. The officer sends the file to us, and the Chief of the General Staff examines it, and recommends to me what course they think should be taken. In the case of every person who is British-born, although not necessarily of British nationality - he may even be of German nationality - the papers, with all the. recommendations, have been taken to Cabinet, and the full evidence read to the Cabinet. In every case there has had to be a majority of the Cabinet in favour of the internment before the man was interned. When certain members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood were interned, exactly the same statements were made about them. We had an inquiry before Mr. Justice Harvey, and there has been a remarkable silence - a silence that could be felt - ever since that report was published. I give that as an instance to show that there, too, the Government were denounced as having acted without due warrant. When the people get the evidence on which the Government acted, no public demand is made in any part of the Commonwealth that the men should be released.
– You should have taken the same action in regard to Kiely long ago. All I asked for was a fair trial.
– As Senator O’Keefe takes such an interest in this case, may I suggest to him that he should give the case of the man who was arrested under the War Precautions Act for having wireless naval messages and secret naval books in his possession, and that Senator O’Keefe should also give the fact that wireless messages sent by the Government in code actually appeared in the Labour Call of this city, having been obtained by some mysterious means and decoded.
– Do you insinuate that I know anything about that case?
– It simply shows what happened in the case of another man who was arrested in exactly the same way as Kiely was.
– On a point of order, I submit that the Minister, made a distinct insinuation against me, to the effect that I should know the facts regarding somebody who was arrested for having wireless secrets in his possession. I know nothing about any wireless secrets in any man’s possession, except what I saw in the newspapers. The Minister has made a vile insinuation against me, and I ask that he should withdraw it.
– So far as I have been able to follow the Minister, he simply adduced a certain case, which he said was a counter-balance to the case that Senator O’Keefe had mentioned, and suggested that Senator O’Keefe might put that case also. I did not understand the Minister to insinuate in any way that Senator O’Keefe was cognisant of the facts of that case.
– He asked that I should give the facts.
-The Minister might have meant that they should be within the honorable senator’s knowledge, as” well as the facts of the other case; but he did not insinuate, so far as I could follow him, that the honorable senator knew the facts in any improper way. To ask an honorable senator, when he quotes one case, also to quote or bear in mind another case, is,, in my opinion, not disorderly.
– The Minister, in fairness to me, should say more than he has said, or withdraw it.
– Order ! There is a proper and orderly way to dispute the President’s ruling. Unless that way is taken, the President’s ruling must be accepted in its entirety.
– I have not finished with that case. Senator O’Keefe could have quoted it, because it was reported in the press, and the man was dealt with in exactly the same way. He was arrested and was not told of the charge against him.
– He ought to have been.
– He was not told, for a very good reason - because we wanted to find out his accomplices, if we could. The facts showed that we were right, because he had in his possession books that would have been of the utmost value to an enemy of this country. In almost any other country, he would have been shot. He was an employee in the Navy Department, and one of our “ comrades.” He was a man of British birth, and everything that could have been said about Kiely could have been said of him. He had a British name, and was born of British parents; and yet he was going about the city, knowing that under Navy regulations he was committing a crime. Honorable senators opposite have been speaking as if everybody in this country was harmless and loyal, and would do absolutely nothing against the interests of Australia. I am sceptical, because I have seen too many instances to the contrary. We have in Liverpool Camp to-day men who we have absolute proof were the secret agents of Germany. They were spies in this country, and more than one of them was born in” this country.
– Why did you couple my name with that man ?
– Because the honorable senator picked out one case where the whole of the facts are not yet known, and created an atmosphere of suspicion around it. I mentioned another case, where the man was dealt with in exactly the same way. The Irish Republican Brotherhood cases were dealt with in the same way, and, when the public know the facts, where is there a man to say that an injustice was done ?
– He was not dealt with in the same way. They were tried in open Court, and all I asked was that Kiely should be similarly tried. _ Senator PEARCE.- Senator O’Loghlin declared to-night that these things would not have been done when the Labour Government was in office. As a matter of fact, they were done, and done with the knowledge of the party, when the Labour Administration was in power. In other words, British-born persons were interned without trial, and the Labour party knew of their internment, because they were informed of it by myself in the Labour Caucus. They knew also that consideration was given to every one of these cases by the Cabinet, and that it was not on the decision of the Minister alone that this procedure was adopted. Senator Thomas. - That provision was put in by the Labour Caucus itself.
I must express my surprise at the attitude taken up by Senator Poll, who says that he is opposed to this Bill because the Government is not in a position to state definitely tonight which of the regulations under the Act it is prepared to drop, which of them it proposes to perpetuate, and what regulations are to be amended. Is that a reasonable attitude for him to take up ? I ask. the honorable senator to examine it for himself. Parliament has been sitting continuously ever since the signing of the armistice. Does the honorable senator realize the pressure under which Ministers have to work? Does he realize how impossible it is, while Parliament is sitting, and attention has to be given to the preparation of Bills and the answering of all sorts of questions, for Ministers to get together for the purpose of discussing anything more than business actually arising out of out parliamentary proceedings. “Would he have u3 deal with these regulations in a slipshod fashion? The very fact mentioned by him, that hundreds of regulations have been framed under the War Precautions Act, shows that to examine them with a view of determining which of them can be dropped, which can be amended, and which ought to ‘ be continued, is not the work of a day. Such examination cannot be made in a spare hour now and a spare hour then, but must necessarily occupy some weeks. Senator Foll, however, will not give the Government an opportunity to make that careful examination. He says he will vote for the Bill to cease automatically with the declaration of peace, because we are not prepared to state now which of these hundreds of regulations we propose to drop, continue, or amend.
That is not a responsible attitude for a Government supporter to adopt. I would describe it rather as the attitude of a senator who desired to harass the Ministry. A supporter of the Govern- ment should give some consideration to the pressure under which Ministers are working, and to the time which must necessarily be occupied in dealing with questions of this sort as they ought to be dealt with. If the honorable senator has correctly stated the basis of his opposition to this Bill, it is not reasonable.
– I said I would oppose the Bill because, even if it were defeated, the Government would not lose their present powers under the (principal Act.
– We would lose those powers the- moment that peace was declared, and no one can tell when that will be.
– Is there not time to examine the regulations before the peace terms are signed?
– I do not know whether the honorable senator is in the secrets of the Allies, but I can only say that I do not know when the peace terms may be signed.
– The honorable senator knows that they are not likely to be signed for some time.
– I do not. I notice that President Wilson and representatives of the other Allied nations are now meetingI presume that the object of their meeting is to determine what they are going to do with respect to the peace terms, and that the Peace Conference itself may be convened only to ratify the decisions already arrived at. In that case we might have the declaration of peace before the end of January. President Wilson has said that if the Peace Conference is to continue until March he must return to the United States of America.
Another statement made by Senator Foll I wish to correct; and, since he is a comparatively new member of the Senate, I hope he will take what I have to say as being merely a suggestion that he should satisfy himself as to the correctness of any report before he repeats it. He has said that the censorship has been released in America and in the United Kingdom. That is not correct.
– I said it had been partially released.
– I beg the honorable senator’s pardon. He did not use the word “ partially.” The censorship in Australia has been released to the exact extent to which it has been relaxed in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Had Senator Poll questioned me on the subject, I might have shown him a cable from the British Government telling us what they were doing, and suggesting that we should act on similar lines. It is not fair to condemn Ministers with respect to a Bill of this kind without asking whether the basis of that condemnation is correct or not.
– The Minister might have given the Senate, when moving the second reading of the Bill, the information that he has just put before us.
– No doubt I could have referred to many other matters. I spoke, however, at what I considered to be reasonable length, and I assumed that any supporter of the Government who was not satisfied with respect to any point would come to Ministers for information with regard to it. That is what is expected of any Government supporter, and had I been approached I should have been very pleased to supply any information within my power to give.
Question- That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 2 of the prinoipal Act is amended by inserting in sub-section (1) thereof after the words “ state of war “ the words “ and for a period of three months thereafter or until the thirty-first day of July One thousand nine hundred and nineteen, whichever period is the longer,”.
The period during which the principal Act continues in operation by virtue of subsection (1.) of this section is is this Act referred to as “ the extended period during which the principal Act remains in force “.
– In my speech upon the motion for the second reading of this Bill I maintained that the extension of the War Precautions Act after peace had been proclaimed would prove to be unconstitutional. In order that the point may be definitely determined, I desire to know whether the Government will take steps, in accordance with the power contained in the Judiciary Act of 1910, to submit a case to the High Court so that we may get an authoritative decision upon it?
– Although I was a member of the Parliament which passed the Statute that amended our Judiciary Act by providing for the power of reference to which attention has been drawn bv Senator Bakhap, I had really forgotten that such a measure, was in existence. But, so far, I have had no opportunity of consulting the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) upon the matter. I will, however, see that the honorable senator’s representations are brought under his notice without delay.
– I would like to sav that the amending Judiciary Act, to which reference has been made, was passed in 1910, and that in principle it is founded upon a similar Statute which operates in Canada. . It has been said that after we passed the Judiciary Act of 1910 one of the Justices of the Hiph Court, in a private capacity, expressed an opinion adverse to its constitutionality. But I understand from inquiries which I have made that there has never been any judicial pronouncement upon the subject. Neither the High Court nor any Justice of it has judicially expressed any opinion upon the validity of that Statute, or upon our competence to pass it.
I wish, also, to mention that in 1912, a similar issue to that which is involved in such connexion, came before the Privy Council in an action between the Attorney-General of Ontario and the Attorney-General of the Dominion of Canada. That was an action in which the Attorney- General of Ontario and the Attorneys-General of several of the Provinces questions the validity of somewhat similar legislation in the Dominion. They expressed a doubt as to the competence of the Supreme Court of Canada to determine the validity of certain Provincial Statutes. The matter came before the Privy Council, which, after hearing the arguments advanced, decided that the Federal Statute was valid, and that the Supreme Court of Canada was required to express its opinion upon the hypothetical case which had been submitted to it. Apart altogether from the existence of the Dominion, it held that such a power was reposed in a free constitutionallygoverned community. It was a power which was enjoyed by the provinces before Federation, in respect to their own laws, and the establishment of Federation did not cause that power to disappear. It existed somewhere, and that it existed in the Dominion Parliament the Privy Council had not the slightest doubt. Although one of the Judges of the Supreme Court of Canada had said, “ This is not doing the work of a Court, and I do not recognise this as judicial work,” the final tribunal held that the Dominion Parliament had the power to require the Supreme Court to give its interpretation upon a hypothetical case. I hope that when the Minister is referring to the Acting Attorney-General the point raised by Senator Bakhap, he will direct attention to the important case decided by the Privy Council two years after this Parliament passed the amending Judiciary Act in 1910.
– I move-
That the word “ longer “ be left out with a view to insert the word “ shorter “ in lieu thereof.
I do this with the deliberate object of specifying the limit of time for which the principal Act may operate. If the amendment is carried, the Act must expire on the proclamation of peace, or not later than the 31st July. It is reasonable to argue that, before that date, the Government will have ample time to be able to submit to Parliament some definite proposals regarding the powers they may desire to exercise after the declaration of peace. It has been pointed out over and over again that the uncertainty as to what the Government intend to do is holding up a number of business enterprises and developments that will proceed when the commercial community knows definitely what is to happen in connexion with the powers now exercised under the WaT Precautions Act.
– I trust the Committee will not accept the amendment. I do not propose to repeat the arguments that have been advanced in favour of the extension of the principal Act. As honorable senators are aware, a longer period of extension was provided in the Bill as originally introduced in another place, but a compromise was arrived at, and is embodied in the Bill. I think the compromise is fair, and I ask the Committee to stand by it.
– The amendment is one that ought to commend itself to the Committee. I, too, realize, as the Minister for Defence does, that President Wilson’s force of character and dominating personality, and the position he occupies in relation to the JV Hied Powers, may help to promote the declaration of peace much earlier than the most optimistic of us anticipated some time ago.
In that event, is this Act to remain in force for five or six months after the war is officially ended? That would be a negation of the very compromise to which Senator Pearce has referred. Suppose that peace is declared some time in February, if this clause is passed in its present form, the Act will still remain in force until the 31st July. 1 understand the amendment to mean that if peace is declared before the 31st July the Act shall cease to operate immediately; but, on the other hand, if peace does not come till September, or for several year3, the Act will terminate on the 3lst July. It may be urged that if peace did not come in the interim, it would be a hardship and an in convenience if the Act ceased to operate on that date. That would not be so, because the Government would be able to sta long before the 31st July that it was necessary to take other action to further extend the Act, or to substitute for it some other legislation more in consonance with the circumstances of that day than with the circumstances of the day when war was declared in 1914. Therefore, I do not sec that either hardship or inconvenience will result from the adoption of the amendment. On the contrary, if the amendment is agreed to, and peace does come upon the world formally and technically early in the new year, the Act will cease to operate on the day the state of war is ended, instead of remaining in operation for some five or six months afterwards.
I hope that the Committee, apart from any party feeling, will consider the position with regard to this Bill. I have in mind two considerations that I think should influence any honorable senator in giving a vote upon this measure. Throughout the war period, I have never hesitated to give to any Government who were in office any powers they asked for, and I have never been associated, directly or indirectly, with any person who sought to annul any regulation the Government chose to pass. I have trusted them implicitly. But we are approaching normal peace times, and I think the amendment will have the effect of speeding up the officers of Departments, who at the present time are intrusted with extraordinary powers under the “War Precautions Act and regulations, to a realization that the termination of their abnormal powers is imminent. But if they know that the Act will remain in force till the 31st
July at least, and possibly for an indefinite period beyond that date, there will be no disposition on their part to shed their powers with any alacrity. Let the Act terminate on the declaration of peace, or not later than the 31st July, and we shall find that the officials in whom these powers have been vested will be on their guard to prepare themselves for the new conditions and circumstances that will attend the change from a state of war to a state of peace.
– To enable honorable senators to partake of a little light refreshment, I shall, with the concurrence of the Committee, suspend the sitting for half-an-hour.
Sitting suspended from 12.80 to 1 a.m. (Thursday).
Question - That the word proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the words “ and for a period of three months thereafter or “ be left out.
– Order ! The honorable senator cannot go back over the clause now.
– But the clause has not yet been disposed of.
– The honorable senator can move to amend a portion of the clause which has not yet been dealt with, but he cannot go back.
– I am only going back over portion of the clause which has been dealt with in order to link it up. by way of an amendment with part of the clause which has not yet been considered.
– The honorable senator will not be in order in doing that. The Committee has just decided that the word “ longer “ shall remain in the clause. The honorable senator may move something subsequent to that, but not prior to it.
– I ask the Minister (Senator” Pearce) if he intends to do anything with regard to paragraph 2 of section n. of the original Act. The Committee has decided to insert in the original measure the words “ and for a period of three months thereafter or until the thirty-first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and nineteen, whichever period is the longer.” Reading that into the original Act we find that it is associated with the phrase “ until the issue of a proclamation by the Governor-General.” Is it proposed to retain those words? If they remain, there will be a considerable amount of doubt as to the position. Already the Minister and I are not in accord, in our opinions, concerning when the Act will terminate. If an amendment is not made now with respect to the issue of a proclamation there will be still further doubt. The retention of the words means that we shall be making the issue of a proclamation a condition precedent to the termination of the war for the purposes of this Act. There is in the minds of many people misconception as to the effect of a proclamation. There is no proclamation necessary either for the declaration of war or of peace. It is not an indispensable condition precedent to either. Proclamations have been a source of great trouble in the development of the Constitution of Great Britain. The Tudor monarchs legislated by proclamation, and the Stuarts followed them; ‘and the last king who attempted to legislate by proclamation did so at the risk of his Throne. That was James II. It was contended on the part of the Crown that those proclamations had legal effect, and, to some extent, it was recognised; although Lord Coke, when invited by the Crown to declare the effects of proclamations, said the Government could not by proclamation make anything which was law not law. A proclamation is only an announcement, in so far as it proclaims a state of peace or of war. Some proclamations are necessary, however. For instance, under the Navigation Act, the law provides that the Act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation.
That proclamation is a condition precedent to the operation of a law passed by this Parliament; but these other proclamations are not indispensable to peace or war. A proclamation might be issued in Great Britain declaring that the state of war had ceased on the 1st May, but there is no obligation on the part of the Governor-General, or the Governor of any Dominion, to issue a similar proclamation, lt is an intimation of the Royal will - of what it is the pleasure of the Crown to announce to its subjects. The Government could delay the issue of a proclamation, because the proclamation does not make peace, but only announces that a state of peace exists. It may serve as evidence afterwards, and that is all.
– In itself, the proclamation is not an act of peace.
– Not at all. The proclamation referred to will still remain, unless we do something, as a proclamation for the purposes of the Act - for the purpose of terminating the operation of the Act.. We are now providing that the operation of the Act shall cease at the termination of the war, plus three months, or on the 31st July next, whichever is the longer. And are we to complicate the position by leaving in the provision that the present state of war shall continue until the issue of a proclamation by the Governor-General ? The Government have power to defer the issue of that proclamation just as long as they please. I am not talking about the constitutionality of the powers to be exercised; but the Government may choose to keep the measure on the statute-book, and delay the issue of the proclamation’ until three weeks or three months after the Imperial proclamation.
– Is that likely?
– I am not dealing with the likelihood, but with the discretion that rests with the Government. What I object to is that the Government will not exercise their responsibility, but are asking us to share it, and to share it blindfoldedly. We are extending the operations of the Act and all the existing regulations, while we do not know what the existing regulations are, and have no definite promise as to which will be repealed:
– If Parliament were sitting it could interfere.
– Judging by the way in which Parliament is dealing with this measure, it shows no disposition to interfere. Even if this extension is not granted the Government still have all the powers, and will retain them until the period mentioned in the original Act.
Senator Pearce quoted from a Statute passed by the Imperial Parliament , to declare when the war is terminated. I do not know what the particular Statute is, but it is obvious that there was such a necessity imposed on the Imperial Parliament. The Defence of the Realm Act simply states that “ His Majesty has power, during the present war, to issue regulations/’ and so forth, and there is an obligation on the Imperial Parliament to define when the present war terminates. We have already done that by providing that it shall depend upon a proclamation, and now we say that it shall be three months after the termination of the war.
– Do you infer that a Government would refuse to issue a proclamation at the proper time in opposition to . the will of Parliament ?
– I do not suggest that the Government would do that, but I can conceive that a Government might justifiably intimate that they were not going to issue a proclamation, say, on the 1st of a month, but that it might probably be the 15th or the 2 1st of the month. There may be some necessary cleaning ud to do; and that is why we made the end of the war, for the purposes of this Act, depend on the issue of a proclamation, for which the Government is responsible. I would sooner leave the power and responsibility as it now is with the Government.
– When there is an official proclamation by the Imperial authorities that war has ceased and peaco exists, does the honorable senator not think that the Dominions, including Australia, will follow that lead?
– It does not matter whether they do or not. That will not affect this Act. We, in the exercise of our own legislative power, have decided that, for the purpose of these extraordinary powers, the term of their enjoyment shall be fixed by the issue of our own proclamation. I think that we acted wisely in making that provision. We did it with the deliberate intention of investing the Government with discretion to issue the proclamation when they were ready. It should be remembered that we passed our measure after the Defence of the Realm Act was passed. Our Act was assented to on 29th October, 1914. The Defence of the Realm Act was assented to on 8th August, -1914, or only four days after war was declared. The Imperial Parliament made no provision for defining the period or the end of the war. We did, and in doing so had regard to the fact that there might be a lot of matters to be cleared up, and we therefore left it to be determined by the issue of a proclamation by the GovernorGeneral.
I have pointed out that in the Electoral Act, and in the Act providing for the suspension of patent rights, we included no such provision. It was seen that a certain number of institutions, systems, and regulations would be brought into being under’ the War Precautions Act which could not be terminated in a day, and which would not go out of existence the moment a cable was received from the Imperial authorities that peace was proclaimed. So we said that for the purposes of this Act - but not for general purposes - the present state of war means the period from a certain date until the issue of a local proclamation. I have pointed out, also, that there is no neces- sity for the issue of a proclamation by the Governor-General, either at common law or under constitutional law; but we have said that, for the purposes of this Act, the state of war shall terminate on the issue of such a proclamation.
– I follow the honorable senator’s argument; but does not the Imperial definition of the end of the state of war completely govern and condition any definition we may make under a Commonwealth Act?
– For the purposes of the Commonwealth’s domestic Act, not necessarily.
– We cannot allow a state of war to remain when the Empire has declared it at an end.
– We are not allowing a state of war to remain. Senator Reid made an interjection which was pertinent on that point. He said that the Imperial proclamation could not be made stating that a state of peace existed and Australia at the same time not be at peace. But the proclamation provided for in our Act has no bearing whatever upon our relations with our enemies. It has relation only to our own internal domestic legislation.
At another stage Senator Pearce said that if an Imperial proclamation was issued declaring a state of peace to exist, we could no longer deal with internees as enemy internees, because they would no longer be enemies. If we could not do that by reason of the fact that an Imperial proclamation had been issued declaring that a state of peace existed, how do the Government propose to do it by extending the War Precautions Act? That would not make those persons enemies when, according to the honorable senator’s own argument, the Imperial proclamation would have made them friends. The whole argument of the Government in this matter goes round in a vicious circle. Another Minister points out that it is necessary to extend the Act for the period proposed because certain arrangements had been entered into abroad. But those things could be dealt with without the proposed extension at all.
I ask Senator Pearce to bring this clause into harmony with itself and with the rest of the measure. I move -
That the following paragraph be inserted: - “ 1a. Paragraph (2) of section two of the War Precautions Act 1914 is hereby repealed.”
I should very much prefer to see it remain, without the provisions included in this Bill; but if the Government are determined upon carrying the provisions of this Bill there will be no place in the original Act for paragraph 2 with regard to the proclamation. I repeat that personally I would sooner leave to the Government absolute and complete discretion in this matter. I would let them terminate their powers when they chose, subject, always, to the criticism of this Parliament.
– Holding that view I do not see why the honorable senator protests against the Government having the power to issue the proclamation.
– Because it would be inconsistent with what the Government are now proposing to do. In this Bill the Government are adopting entirely different lines in defining when the state of war will cease. When this Bill was introduced in another place, the Acting Attorney-General at great length went into the circumstance that the Imperial Government had appointed high and eminent legal authorities to exactly define when the. war will have ceased. ‘As a matter of fact that had no bearing whatever on the issue. The war will have ceased, so far as our Act is concerned, as set out in paragraph 2. The Government are now passing something which will be in direct conflict with paragraph 2, and if that is adopted I say that we should repeal paragraph 2 of the original Act. As sure as guns are guns, there will be litigation about this Act, and I say that we should not, with our eyes wide open, add to the complications and difficulties of the community, and increase the crop of litigation, which is likely to arise. If we do not repeal paragraph 2 of the Act, and yet at the same time carry the provisions of this Bill, there will be a fruitful field for controversy as to when the Act will have ceased to operate. One will say that it will have ceased three months after the actual exchange of ratifications; another will say three months after the proclamation, though the proclamation may not issue at all, and there is no obligation to issue it; and yet another will say that it will have ceased to operate on the 31st July. I submit my amendment with regret, and only because it is in harmony with what the Committee seems bent upon doing in connexion with this Bill.
– I shall not follow the honorable senator in the long and, as it seemed to me, involved argument regarding the issue of a proclamation. The issues are simple. The time during which the measure shall continue in operation is referred to asi “ the present state of war,” which is defined in the original Act to mean the period from the 4th day of August, 1914, until the issue of a proclamation. The Bill amends the original Act by providing that it shall cease to operate three months after the termination of the present state of war, or on the 31st July next, whichever shall be the later date. What Senator Keating has said about the issue of a proclamation is irrelevant. He proposes to omit the definition of the original Act. I ask the Committee not to do that, because it is necessary, and will have effect should the present state of war continue after the 31st day of July.
– The Minister says that it is necessary to retain the definition of “ the present state of war “ in the principal Act : but speaking earlier in the discussion, he flaunted the definition contained in an Imperial enactment. Why did he do that ? Does he propose to apply that definition? If not, why was it quoted? And why did the Minister who introduced the Bill in another place spend halfanhour in explaining to an attentive audience that the Imperial Government had appointed eminent legal authorities to determine the precise moment at which the present state of war could be said to cease. I am inclined to think that this is all camouflage. Now the Minister tells us that we have in the original Act a definition suitable for our purpose. We had that definition when the Bill was introduced, and are going to retain it. Yet it is proposed to embody in the law a provision inconsistent with it; and I contend that, in such circumstances, the definition should be struck out. An Imperial statutory definition is necessary, because the Defence of the Realm Act does not define the present state . of war. If the Government were determined to stick to the definition in section 2 of the principal Act, why did they introduce this Bill? They say that the Bill is required, because there is some doubt of when the present state of war may be taken to end, and that a tribunal has been appointed in England to determine what that exact point of time will be ; but now we are also told that we have in our own Act a sufficient definition to which the Government are determined to adhere. Furthermore, it is proposed to embody in our legislation a provision inconsistent with that definition, which will make the measure more unintelligible, more a subject for controversy, and a discredit to the draftsmanship of the authorities, or to the legislative ability of the Parliament.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority …. 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
All regulations, orders, and proclamations lawfully made pursuant to the principal Act shall, except in so far as they are amended or repealed, continue in operation during the extended period during which the principal Act remains in force and no longer :
Provided that any regulation, order, or proclamation heretofore made, or any provision therein contained, operating by force of its terms for a longer period than the extended period during which the principal Act remains in force shall remain in force unless amended or repealed during the period provided in such regulation, order, proclamation, or provision.
– It appears that the second paragraph of the clause will extend the regulations even after peace is declared, and the Act becomes ultra vires. I should like some explanation from the Minister as to what is intended by its insertion.
– Will the Minister indicate the exact regulations and their purpose? I understand there may be some which it will be necessary to maintain even after the Act ceases to operate.
– I oan quite understand honorable senators’ interest in this matter. The paragraph refers to one or two regulations only in respect of certain trade matters, in connexion with which it is necessary to make the regulations coterminous with the arrangement. It may be that the period will be ahead of the time fixed, 31st July, and this provides that the regulations shall continue until they are repealed so as to complete the business arrangement.
– Can you specify them?
– I cannot _ say exactly ; but they relate to those business arrangements that have been made. I do not say it is the Wool Pool, but arrangements of that nature.
– I move -
That all the words after the word “ longer “ (line 6), be left out.
I do it for this reason: The Committee has already passed a clause that practically extends the operation of the Act to a minimum date, the 31st July. . It may be longer, owing to delay in the proclamar tion. Consequently, we cannot have any alteration of the War Precautions Act before 31st July, and by that time I hold it will be the clear duty of the Government to submit to Parliament specific legislation with regard to any further control that may be required. As one who, by virtue of his platform pledges, tries to think independently and fairly upon national matters, I cannot stand for giving extended powers to the Minister such as are contained in the second paragraph, because it would then be within the province of the Government to issue a proclamation at any time between now and the 31st July, or five years, ten years, or, perhaps, fifty years hence.
– Read the clause, and you will see that it says “ heretofore,” and not “hereinafter.”
– Very well. Will the Minister specifically state that no regulations made up to the present will extend beyond the limit of this Act, excepting,they wool, wheat, and dairy produce?
– I cannot say that; but they are business contracts of that nature.
– I think, speaking from memory, that a contract in connexion with metals has been made by the Metals Association with the British Government for ten years, and I should like the Minister to state specifically that this clause does not apply to contracts such as that, made not by the Government, so far as I understand, but by private associations of smelters. Much as I respect the present Ministry, I cannot stand for giving any Government such extended reserve powers as are contained in this ‘Clause. I do not think that any honorable senator has at his fingers’ ends the full effect of all the regulations in connexion with trade and commerce. I am pleased to learn from the Minister that the effect of this clause will be retrospective and not prospective. He has told us that from this date forward to the expiry of the Act, no regulations will be made that will continue beyond the expiry of the Act.
– There will be no danger in passing the clause, because the regulations to which it applies are already made, and it is within the control of Parliament to deal with any that may be made thereafter. All these regulations are within the control of Parliament. Before the Act expires Parliament will meet again, and if the honorable senator fears the effect of some of the regulations he can inquire at ‘the Attorney-General’s Department, and if he thinks that any one of them should not continue in force he can give immediate notice to move to disallow it. Such a motion will take precedence over all Government business. I suggest that this is a reasonable course for the honorable senator to follow.
– It is my desire to delete the second part of clause 3, for the reason which the Minister has advanced, namely, that all regulations should cease as soon as the Act expires, otherwise an anomalous position will be created. The Act will have expired, but certain regulations made under it will continue in force.
– That will certainly be the position.
– It seems to me that no regulation can continue in force when the Act under which it has been framed has been repealed. I do not feel inclined to leave this great reserve of power in such an indefinite form. The Minister should have been able to tell the Committee exactly what are the various extensions of powers the Government seek. Instead of that, he asks me to inquire at the. Attorney-General’s Department after the Bill is passed and this power is given by Parliament. I think that the tame for information is here and now, and that we should define the powers we propose to repose in the Government.
– The passing of the amendment will not affect the contracts.
– It will prevent any regulation from continuing after the expiry of the Act on the 31st July next, at the earliest. A ‘ minimum of seven amd a half months is sufficient time to enable the Ministry to consider the whole position and bring down legislation- to take the place of any regulation which gives them power which they wish to have extended for an indefinite period. Consequently I press the amendment.
– Holding that any extension of this Act beyond the date at which the war ends by the Imperial enactment is unconstitutional, it follows that I also believe that any regulations made by virtue of that extension are unconstitutional. Therefore in principle I am hostile Ito the whole of clause 3. Regulations, except in so far as they may be construable as conditions of contract, must expire when the Act by virtue df which they are promulgated expires.
– That would mean that on the declaration of peace we would cut away all contracts we have entered into.
– It would not have that effect. In so far as regulations may be construable as conditions of contract, they may persist in validity, but it seems to me that ordinary regulations promulgated by virtue of an Act which I believe to be unconstitutional must be in themselves unconstitutional. Therefore the whole of clause 3 is not soundly based. But when we deal with the second portion of the clause we find that there is an attempt to give vitality and validity to regulations that have been promulgated’ under an” extended Act, which even in regard to its extension has expired. Unless it can be shown that these regulations are vitally and legally construable as conditions of contract, they are invalid when the Act itself has expired. If the law says otherwise, I do not know the law.
– The law is “a hass.”
– The law, as I have a nodding acquaintance with, it, is not “ a hass.” It is only the wrong methods that some people employ in construing the law that are in themselves asinine. The law, if properly understood, is nearly always consistent in communities such as this, but to my mind here are inconsistency and invalidity piled upon inconsistency and invalidity. With the reservation I have made, I do not think any part of clause 3 is really valid. I do not believe the extended period sought by the operation of this measure in constitutionally valid, and I shall therefore have no hesitation in voting for Senator Pratten’s amendment, because I consider the whole clause to be operative only under an Act which is in itself invalid.
– In telling Senator Pratten that he could, best achieve his object by moving for the repeal of the regulation, the Minister overlooked the very important fact that, under the Acts Interpretation Act of 1904, section 10, notice of motion to disallow any regulation must be given within fifteen days after the regulation has been laid on the table. Possibly that period has long since expired.
– If both Houses passed a resolution, do not you think that would disallow it?
– Not by force of law, although the Government might take it as an indication that the regulation should be annulled. I can quite understand that there are regulations which it is important to continue after the Act expires, if they have any validity. But I question whether they would have validity, as they are founded on the Act. After the Act ceases to operate, it seems, ipso facto, that the regulations lapse. Senator Bakhap drew a contrast between a regulation as such and regulations which might be construed to be part of the conditions of a contract. In the latter case all the validity they would have, if any, would be their validity, not as regulations, but as conditions of contract. Senator Pratten is entitled to a clearer indication from the Minister of the nature of the particular regulations to which it is proposed to give extended life. If the Minister cannot name them, then he should indicate their nature.
– I can give two now.
– Possibly they would not be all. I do not believe that many of the officials administering these regulations have more than a nodding acquaintance with them. Otherwise the Government would have been able to give <5oth Houses long before this exact details, showing which they wanted to retain, and which could be put out of existence at once. Every honorable senator then could have compared the Government statement with the regulations in the books. I do not believe the Go vernment can do that. I do not blame Ministers for it, because, as Senator. Pratten said, no man could carry them all in his head. I believe few of the officials know much about them. On the other hand, some of the men who administer regulations are simply saturated with information.
– Two instances in which this provision ‘operates have been brought under my notice. One is the active service moratorium regulation, ‘ which provides that the time for any payment of principal money secured by any mortgage, or due under an agreement of purchase, contracted by a soldier or his female dependant before he became a member of the Australian Imperial Force, or before the 1st January, 1916, shall be postponed until “ six months after the cessation of the present state of war, and not earlier.” Surely it is desirable that that should be continued. The other relates to enemy shareholders, and gives power to the public trustees to hold enemy shares for twelve months after the end of the war.
– Is that ultra vires ?
– Lam not a lawyer, and cannot say, but I take it that the draftsman was more competent than I am to- form an opinion. I do not know if he was as competent as Senator Bakhap is.
– He may be more competent; perhaps less. Senator PEARCE. - At any rate the draftsman has put this forward as being, in his view, constitutional and legal. He would have advised us if he had thought there was any doubt. As he has not so advised us, I must assume that he thinks we have the power to do this. I understand there are one or two other’ regulations affecting business contracts, and the Committee will see the necessity of safeguarding these things as long as possible.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Application of terms used in principal Act).
– The provisions of this clause are inconsistent with an opinion expressed by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) in his reply to the secondreading debate. I understood him then to say that an Imperial proclamation of peace would apply throughout the Empire in matters relating to foreign policy, and that for the purposes of war if a proclamation were issued in Great Britain it would have effective application in Australia. If that is so, this clause seems to be aiming at something at total variance with . that statement. Basing an assertion on the honorable senator’s statement, then despite the issue of an Imperial proclamation of peace the Australian Government could, under this clause, set about the preparation of something which would lead to the continuance of war. The interpretation given by Senator Keating to the application of a proclamation was not, in my opinion, very involved, and I have come to the conclusion, after listening to the debate, that this amending Bill overlaps the principal Act. If it does, then we shall have confusion worse confounded. I wish to know from the Minister whether, despite the issue of an Imperial proclamation relating to peace, preparations could be continued in Australia for treating individuals as enemy subjects. Once peace is declared in Great Britain on behalf of the Empire, then, in the Minister’s words, “Who shall be our enemies”?
– By this clause we shall be setting up a state of war which we are not competent to set up.
– And that state of war might be carried on to a much further extent than would at first sight appear to be possible. I do not trust this Government, and for their own purposes they might delay tendering to the Governor-General the advice that this proclamation should be issued. A delay of twelve months might thus elapse before a state of peace, according to the Government’s interpretation of the position, was declared here.
I am reminded of the story of a Roumanian who, when, about to leave New York for his own country, said that he had been recalled to the colours, and that he was going home to fight “ the enemy.” When questioned as to who “ the enemy” was, his reply was, “I do not know; but by the time I reach Roumania my country will have found for us an enemy to fight.” We are providing in this clause for the internment of enemy’ aliens for perhaps twelve months after Great Britain has proclaimed a state of peace. It has been conclusively shown by honorable senators that our proclamation will not come i«to operation . automatically under the original Act, but that action must be taken by the GovernorGeneral upon the advice of his advisers - the Government of the day. I ask the Minister for Defence if an Imperial proclamation is issued declaring a state of peace to exist, will Australia be bound, by it ? He said that Australia was an integral part of the Empire. That being so, would such a proclamation be binding on Australia as an integral part of the Empire, and, if so, what becomes of the” proposal contained in this clause?
– Since Senator Ferricks has informed the Committee that he does not trust the Government, why should I waste time in giving him my reading of this clause?
– How does the Minister reconcile the position set up by clause 4 with that which he has already taken up? It is proposed by this clause to treat as “ enemies “ “ alien enemies “ and “ persons having enemy associations or connexions,” such persons as could be so treated during the actual stages of the war. Senator Pearce was most emphatie in attempting to deal with the position which I put up, and he declared that an Imperial proclamation of peace would at once establish a state of peace for the whole Empire. I agree with him. It would certainly establish it so far as our external relations are concerned. Of course, it may be argued that this clause is intended to apply chiefly to our internal relations. In one breath, the Minister says that the issue of the Imperial proclamation in Tegard to peace will terminate the state of war which exists in Australia; and yet, in this clause he asks us to permit the Government, after the war, to treat our “ alien enemies” as enemies, and also to regard as our enemies “persons having enemy associations or connexions.” We are dealing, therefore, with a very important matter. Senator Pearce has, perhaps, properly taken exception to the opening remark of Senator Ferricks, to the effect that he did not trust the Government. But I would remind the honorable gentleman that he has had some experience under the principal Act, and that I have had no occasion to call into question the exercise of his discretion under the extended extraordinary powers that have been conferred upon him. But it is now proposed that the operation of the War Precautions Act shall continue until July next. Suppose that Senator Pearce goes to London next month, and that somebody else takes his place. Shall we be able to repose the same confidence in his successor’s capacity to deal with these important powers? I think it is desirable that the Minister should inform the Committee of what is intended to be accomplished by the clause, and what is the justification for it.
– I do not think that Senator Keating has any need to ask me the question which he has asked, seeing that in the course of his remarks he has supplied the answer to. it which naturally suggests itself to my mind as a layman, namely, that during the period which preceded the armistice we had taken certain action under the War Precautions Act against persons who are spoken of in that Act as “ enemy aliens “ and “ persons having enemy associations or connexions.” Until the principal Act expires, action will have to be completed in regard to these persons either by holding them until the time arrives for their release or, possibly, by deporting them. That is the explanation of why the words to which attention has been drawn have been inserted.
Clause agreed to.
– I have already pointed out that in the War Precautions Act of . 1914 the term, “ The continuance of the war,” is expressly defined. I am certain, from the debates . which have taken place upon this Bill, that few honorable members have taken the trouble 4o look up the principal Act, and that few, if any, are aware that the words to which I have directed attention have a special interpretation. The clause which we have just passed contains the words “ during the continuance of the present war.” Clause 2, on the other hand, refers to the “ state of war.” I ask the Minister ‘to consent to the insertion after the word “ war “ in the second paragraph of the preamble, of the words “ as in the said Act defined.”
– I feel some deference in advancing arguments against a legal gentleman of Senator Keating’s standing. But. this preamble is merely a recital of what is contained in the principal Act. Surely it is a correct recital.
– I am in a position to say definitely that it misled a number of senators.
– In a preamble we are ndt sailed upon to insert explanations.
These words do not enact anything, but merely recite what is contained in the principal Act.
– They are accurate as far as they go, but they are not complete.
– I ask the Committee to accept the preamble as it stands. .
– I would point out that the very purpose of a preamble is explanatory, and if this preamble can be better explained by the insertion of a few words we ought to insert them. I am surprised that the Minister should have taken my criticism of the Government in such a narrow spirit as to prompt him to withhold information on a very vital point. One would think that a- gentleman holding such a responsible office-
– When the -honorable senator says that he is not prepared to accept my opinion, why should he ask for it?
– One would imagine that a man occupying such a responsible office would be bigger than Senator Pearce has shown himself to be. It is v his smallness which has got him down during the past four years. That is why he has proved the rank failure that he has been. The preamble to the Bill is not necessary if it is not going to be explanatory. The Minister has got himself badly involved over this Bill, and I do not think that he really knows where he is.
Preamble agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– During the second-reading debate some excellent speeches were delivered by senators on the Government side, and it would have strengthened the conviction of those who believed that the Bill should pass through all its stages to-night if even one senator, other than the Minister for Defence, had risen to state the reason why he believed the Bill should be agreed to. It surprised me, that out of twentyfour members on the Government side there was not one honorable senator prepared to rise in support of the Bill, with the exception of Senator Fairbairn, who spoke very briefly. In those circumstances, the Bill should not be rushed through the third-reading stage in this manner. The principal Act will continue for a considerable time to come, and, although the Standing Orders have been suspended to enable the Bill to pass through all its stages without delay, the Government are in too great a hurry in asking the Senate to agree to the third reading to-night. If the third reading were delayed until the next sitting possibly improvements in the measure might be suggested. I cannot understand the indecent haste of the Government in rushing the Bill through.
– I wish to record’ my final protest against the passage of this measure because I honestly and sincerely believe, in the absence of contrary judicial interpretations, that the measure, in so far aa it projects its operations into the peace period by virtue of the exercise of a war power, is beyond the competency of this Parliament, and, therefore, is unconstitutional. That being so, I, as a Federalist, cannot consent to the straining of the Constitution as a matter of expediency, particularly when the application is sought to be made during thy peace period to the measure passing through the Chamber to-night. When there exists ample opportunity for consultation between the Commonwealth Administration and the Administrations of the various States to remove the difficulties which, perhaps, may require to be removed in connexion with various matters, I cannot even impliedly condone any legislation passed by this Parliament by a straining of the provisions of the Constitution, which is so precious in its Federal character to the different States which compose the Commonwealth, and are sovereign in respect of the powers that have been reserved to them. I do not intend to delay the third reading, or to challenge the measure. I have risen merely to make my protest. I do not say that the War Precautions Act is one that should not be placed on the statute-book.
I would vote as readily as any member of the Senate against any proposal for its immediate repeal. It is a measure which we should , have on the statute-book during the continuance of a state of war, but it does not at all follow that that measure is necessary for the ensuing time of peace, and- I certainly advance the opinion that it is outside our constitutional competency to endeavour to prolong the validity and vitality of the Act in the way we are doing.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [2.36 a.m.]. - As one of the senators on the Government side I resent the statement of Senator Ferricks that there are no senators on this side who are game enough to express their support of this Bill. There are senators on this side who are game to do many things, and they have demonstrated that they are game to do many things, besides talking of their loyalty to the country. Unlike Senator Ferricks, I trust the Government. They are the interpreters of the situation, and I leave the Bill in their hands; I regard it as their response. In answer to Senator Ferricks, I say that I am not afraid to speak my mind oh any matter.
– I join in the protest by Senator Bakhap against the passage of this Bill - not because I do not think it necessary to continue the War Precautions Act until peace comes, but because I think that the Government are making an unwise- and premature attempt , to continue the patchwork of legislation which has caused much dissatisfaction. The business community will be extremely disappointed that we have not fixed a more definite limit to the War Precautions powers. Any honorable senator who has conscientiously . and honestly opposed the Bill during yesterday and to-day will have no need to regret his action; and I venture to surmise, and even forecast, that within a very few months further amending legislation will be required, and we shall regret that we did not delay until international conditions -had further developed themselves the -legislation which is now before the Senate. I protest against the Bill going through in its present form. I hope that it will do no harm, but I cannot see that it can do any good, having regard to the fact that the. Government already possess, and will continue to possess, all the power they need for the few months yet to intervene before the international position clears. That would have given more time to further consider the matters than they have had up to the present.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a third time.
Transfer of Post-office Official - Commonwealth Commercial Organ,izations,
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Is the Vice-President of the Executive Council in a position to furnish me with a reply to a question which I put to him at an earlier stage of the sitting?
– The honorable senator asked whether the Minister representing the Postmaster-General would lay on the table of the Library all the papers in connexion with the transfer of Mr. D. J. O’Leary from the General Post Office, Perth, to the Post Office, . Albany, Western Australia’. . I have - been informed that the Postmaster-General will obtain the papers, which’ are in Perth, and will ascertain if there is any objection to complying with the honorable senator’s request.
Senator MILLEN (New South WalesMinister for Repatriation) [2.42 a.m.l. - Senator Needham some” weeks- ago asked for information concerning the names of members of various Committees who are in receipt of fees. Since the answer to his comprehensive question is somewhat long, I now “lay on the table a statement containing the information desired, with the exception of certain details in regard to the Institute of Science and Industry, the Price Fixing Branch, and the Leather Industries Board. -Question resolved in the ‘ affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 2.43 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 December 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19181218_SENATE_7_87/>.