9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The Deputy President (Senator Newland) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate, if, in view of the grossly unsatisfactory nature of the assistance so far supplied for the rescue of the survivors of the Douglas Mawson, the Government will immediately send a seaplane carrier with seaplanes to the vicinity of the wreck, in order to make aerial surveys and assist in expediting the investigation into the tragedy relating to the unfortunate ladies concerned.
– In reply to a previous question asked by Senator Gardiner, I informed the Senate that the proposal to send a seaplane to the scene had been fully considered by the Government, and that it was thought that it would not in any way assist in the search which is now being made. I have received information from Darwin to the effect that the peaceful party sent to interview, and, if necessary, to barter with the natives for the release of the alleged survivors of the Douglas Mawson, has returned to Elcho Island, and has reported that it found no trace of the women, who, it is reported, were being detained by the natives; nor could members of the party get in touch with any of the natives who are alleged to have seen the women. I have also been advised that on the 31st August the armed party landed on the mainland, and since then has been engaged in searching the country. It does not seem possible to do anything more in that direction. The search party, which comprises trained police, experienced bushmen, and black trackers, is doing all that is capable of being done.
SenatorFOLL. - Has the Minister received a communication from the Administrator of the Northern Territory in reply to his telegram asking if that official had any information concerning the report alleged to have been made by Constable Green that it was known twelve months ago that these women were being detained by natives?
– By this morning’s mail I received from the Administrator dispatches, including a report by Constable McNamara, who, with Constable Green, in March last, on information then being circulated that some wreckage had been found on the coast, conducted a search for survivors of the Douglas Mawson. I am advised that Constables McNamara and Green made a thorough search of the coast, and found certain wreckage, which may or may not have been from the Douglas Mawson. There was nothing to identify it. They met a number of natives, including one who is said to have since reported that the white women were being detained by natives in that portion of the Territory. Constable McNamara’s report states that they found no trace whatever of any survivors, nor did the natives in any way indicate that white women were being held captive by a local tribe.
– In view of a question to be asked later by Senator McDougall, I should like to know if the Leader of the Senate has yet received from the Tasmanian Government an official notification of the appointment of Senator McDougall as ex officio representative of that Government in theSenate ?
Question not answered.
– As a representative of not only New South Wales, but other states in this chamber, I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– Yes. The position of the hop industry is receiving consideration.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister supplies the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Motion (by Senator Wilson) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– Before this measure passes its third reading, I should like honorable senators to give it their attention, because it is probable that, in the committee stages last night, the nature of the bill escaped their notice. The preamble appears to be a proclamation lifted from Imperial legislation or charter. The bill is supposed to be a measure for the protection of the Boy Scouts’ Association, and I want honorable senators to mark the distinction between the boy scout movement and the Boy Scouts’ Association. From whom the association is to be protected I am at a loss to under stand. For the information of honorable senators, I shall read the measure -
Whereas the Boy Scouts’ Association (in this act referred to as “the Association”) was duly incorporated in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland by Royal Charter, granted on the 4th day of January, 1912:
And whereas the Association has power under the said charter to form local branches and committees in all parts of His Majesty’s dominions, and to apply for and exercise any powers obtained under any supplementary charter or Act of Parliament, Imperial or colonial, and whether federal or provincial which may be deemed expedient for any of the purposes of the Association:
And whereas for providing and maintaining an efficient organization for promoting the objects of the Association, local branches have been formed under the power aforesaid for the Commonwealth under the name of “ The Australian Federal Council of the Boy Scouts’ Association “ and for the several states of the Commonwealth, in New South Wales by the name of the Australian Boy Scouts’ Association, New South Wales section, and in the other states by the name of the Boy Scouts’ Association. Victorian section (or as the case may be) :
And whereas it is expedient to protect the Association and the local branches thereof in the Commonwealth:
Be it therefore enacted by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, the Senate, and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, as follows: -
This act may be cited as the Boy Scouts’ Association Act 1924.
Any person who without authority uses the name” The Boy Scouts’ Association “ or the name of any local branch of the Association or any name implying that any other society or body is the Association or a branch of the Association shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: Five pounds.
The Association or any branch of the Association formed within the Commonwealth may, with the approval of the AttorneyGeneral, apply to the Registrar of Designs for the registration under the Designs Act 1906-1912 of any uniform, emblem, badge, decoration, descriptive or designating mark or title used either (before or after the commencement of this Act by the Association or any branch of the Association for carrying out the purposes of the Association :
Provided that this section shall not authorize the use or registration of any uniform, emblem, badge, decoration, descriptive or designating mark or title which is similar to, or a colourable imitation of, any uniform, emblem, badge, decoration, descriptive or designating mark or title used by the Department of Defence.
Any person who, except with the authority of the Association or the local branch for the area in which the use takes place (proof whereof shall lie upon him), makes use of any uniform, emblem, badge, decoration, descriptive or designating mark or title of the Association or a local branch registered in pursuance of the last preceding section in such manner as to suggest that the user is authorized by the Association or such local branch or is connected with the operations thereof, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: Five pounds.
No prosecution shall be instituted under this act except with the consent of the AttorneyGeneral.
Nothing in this act shall be deemed to apply to the Life-saving Scouts of the Salvation Army as at present constituted.
I have read the bill in order that honorable senators may know what it contains. A good deal has been said about the necessity for the protection of the Boy Scouts’ Association. Who comprise the association ?
– The scouts.
– Have the scouts any say in the election of officials to control the association?
– The Honorary Minister has just told us that the boy scouts themselves are the association. No doubt he knows.
– Considering that my boy has been interested in the movement for eleven years, I should be entitled to express an opinion on that subject.
– It is nearly time he was in some useful arm of the service.
– They are doing a damned good work for Australia.
– I should have thought, Mr. Deputy President, that I would be protected from an interjection of that nature. However, I suppose I must accept what comes to me. I was about to say, when the Honorary Minister so rudely interrupted me, that I should like to know who comprise the Boy Scouts’ Association. Fromthe informa- tion at my disposal, I am inclined to think that the scouts themselves have little or no say in the association, which was brought into existence by the issue of a charter in Great Britain. Under the charter granted by His Majesty, the Boy Scouts’ Association in Great Britain was formed, and the Australian Boy Scouts’ Association is a branch of that organization. In common with everything else from that country which has been transplanted in this great country, it has thrived luxuriantly. Everything imported from Great Britain, including rabbits, sparrows, starlings, and other pests, have flourished in Australia.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Newland). - I ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair.
– I shall do so by saying that this association is a branch of an organization in Great Britain, and one which, like other importations, has flourished under the favorable conditions in this country. I was about to show that if a federal parliament had been in existence when the first prickly pear plant was imported into this country, something might have been done to prevent the disasters which have followed its introduction. In reading the history of this pest and others which have followed in its train,I was struck with what has resulted from insignificant beginnings. It is my duty, as a representative of the people, to take a microscopic view of every piece of legislation introduced into this Parliament to see if it does not contain provisions whereby the liberties of the Australian people may be curtailed or development retarded. I can quite understand the Honorary Minister saying that this association cannot be regarded as a pest, and that it is an organization well conducted and managed by an executive. In these circumstances he considers that legislation should be enacted whereby it will be able to carry on free from any competition. If legislation of this character is to be introduced, we shall establish a very bad precedent, and encourage monopolies. I know that it is the desire of many honorable senators opposite to do all in their power to restrict the liberty of the subject. I stand for the liberty of all, although every piece of legislation that we pass may in one direction or another interfere with our freedom. Has there really been any demand for this legislation? Has any honorable senator ever heard of a request for such a bill?
– The bill has been before Parliament for over a year. Several branch organizations have asked for protection such as is now to be granted.
– If Senator Reid says such request has been made, I shall not dispute his statement.
– I have had correspondence on the subject.
– I have never heard of any boy scouts’ association making such a request. This association could be amply protected under our ordinary state laws, which provide full safeguards for such organizations. It is possible that this legislation will seriously conflict with some of our state laws. It is not very long ago that Sir Joseph Carruthers introduced into the New South Wales Parliament legislation providing for the formation and protection of cooperative societies, or organizations operating for the mutual benefit of their members. Although that legislation had a much wider scope than this can possibly have, it is possible that this trivial and. ill-conceived measure will be in conflict with that law. Those supporting the bill imagine that they are assisting the scouts, but they are not. Senator Reid has stated that requests have been made for a bill of this character, but I have never heard of such applications being submitted. Although I was not a candidate at the last elections, I addressed more meetings than many who were candidates. On such occasions it is usual to have requests submitted for the introduction of legislation considered necessary by some sections of the community, but during the whole of the campaign it was never suggested in my presence that such a measure as this was necessary. Since the bill was under discussion yesterday, I have had the opportunity of more carefully perusing its provisions, and for the information of the Senate I have read what it actually contains. British legislation has always been framed with the intention of protecting the liberty of the individual, but this bill is to protect the Australian Boy Scouts’ Association, and not the scouts. I challenge the Honorary Minister, who says that one of his boys was a scout for eleven years, to prove that such a measure ‘ is necessary. If the Honorary Minister’s son is one half as smart as his father, he should make a very good scout..
– He is smarter than his father.
– If that is the case, we can expect him to be a Minister of the Crown as soon as he is of age.
– He is now of age.
– Then he is able to view this measure from the proper stand-point, and I am sure he would not suggest that it is necessary. No valid reasons for the intro duction of this bill have been submitted. We have heard a few murmurings in certain directions concerning the necessity of protecting the association, but most of these have come from designing individuals. We must always draw a clear line of distinction between the association and its members. The boys who are throwing themselves into this movement enjoy, as all Australians do, the open life, and their efforts should be encouraged; but this bill will not assist them. Since the advent of the Labour Government in Victoria, it has been discovered that a secret association of influential men has been formed in Melbourne, the members of which were sworn in by a previous government as special police, and authorized to act on behalf of one section of the community. They were allowed to carry arms against an unarmed section, and no one but the Government knew anything concerning the existence of such a body.
– As one member of that association was shot, obviously its opponents were not unarmed.
– When I used the word “unarmed” I was speaking in general terms. Even in Melbourne few of us have taken the trouble to carry arms. This body was brought into existence by a National Government. It was a sort of half stepbrother to our Composite Government, At any rate, it was of the same calibre as the Commonwealth Ministry, and. its principles were the same, although so far I have not been able to discover that our Government has any principles at all. This secret police force was armed by law against the rest of the community. If ‘any member of the force caine into dispute with another person he could perform the act of arrest and make use of arms, no matter what the circumstances were. When I know that such things are possible under a state law introduced in the manner I have described, I am suspicious of legislation introduced by the present Government to give power even to an institution so innocently named as the Boy Scouts’ Association. There must be something behind this almost secret legislation. I call it secret because of the manner in which it has been rushed through with the unanimous support of those who are sitting behind the Government. To find out what lies behind this bill we may have to wait until a new Government comes into office, or until experience gives us an insight into what purpose the Government had in going so far out of their way to protect one association above all others. There are quite a number of friendly societies operating in Australia; they are most excellent organizations. But I have not heard of legislation being introduced into the Federal Parliament to prevent any bodies from organizing and calling themselves the Independent Order of Oddfellows,, the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows, the Ancient Order of Foresters, or the Hibernian Australian Catholic Benefit Society. As no reason has been advanced for passing thi3 legislation I can only fall back on my belief that there is something behind it which the Government have not thought it worth, while to make public. Time may show what that is. On the face of it, this bill is innocent enough, and apparently there is nothing behind it. The Minister threw out the smoke-screen that it was a bill for boy scouts. Very few honorable senators could see through the screen, but now that an opportunity has been given to peruse the bill we find that it is a measure, not to deal with boy scouts, but to give certain powers to an association of boy scouts. I congratulate the Minister on the excellent education he has received in the Defence Department in the use of smoke-screens, but the screen he has used on this occasion does not get him very far. What chance would I have of asking the Commonwealth Parliament to pass special legislation to give special privileges to a board formed hy the various friendly societies and trade unions of Australia? As a matter of fact, these friendly societies and trade unions are already registered under state acts. Why cannot the Boy Scouts’ Association register under the laws of the states and get all the protection those laws afford? I believe that one of the reasons for foisting this bill on the Commonwealth Parliament is the fact that the association cannot get from at least five out of six of the state Governments the financial backing which is necessary to help it in its work.
As those five states are not controlled by the party responsible for this bill it would be useless for it to register under the state laws. The only administrations which are willing to pursue secret methods, and which may be described as bribers of the community by handing out people’s money to help individuals, and by passing legislation compelling people to contribute money towards some possible benefit that may accrue in the distant future, are the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government. As a preliminary to my remarks, I base my arguments ‘ on two points. The first is that this legislation is to protect, not the boy scouts, but an association; the second is that the Government introducing it is one of the only two remaining governments in Australia linked up with the party that established a secret police force in Victoria. The boy scouts are the smoke-screen thrown out in front of the Boy Scouts’ Association to shield it from criticism. Even the Minister put forward his own lad .as a smoke-screen. Why are these associations formed? First of all, they secure the passage of legislation, and then within twelve months they begin to pass resolutions, as I predict the Boy Scouts’ Association will be doing, asking Parliament for financial assistance or free passes, or something to their own advantage. Their demand will be based upon the legislation we are passing to-day. If this bill were in committee, I would seek to have a clause inserted providing that the passing of the bill must not be looked upon as an invitation to the association to- ask for financial assistance from public moneys. In most organizations that are advertising themselves as working in the public interest, we generally find one or two well-meaning earnest people who are thorough believers in what they are doing. But there is also a section qf the community always ready to make use of any organization to secure publicity for themselves, and incidentally always willing to participate in any movement which depends upon collections from the public. My experience is that for every 20s. of value the public interest gains from the activities of many organizations, 100s. generally go to benefit the organization itself. Of course, I am speaking in general terms, but that has been my hitter experience of the operations of associations which generally appear to spring into existence to exploit any movement out of which there is any money to be made. I have heard returned soldiers who served at the front make statements even in regard to the Red Cross Association. During the war that association had only to hold out the hat and money was flung into it for the purpose of assisting soldiers. A returned soldier, speaking to me regarding the work done at the front by the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, said, “ No Red Cross for me ; the Salvation Army all the time.”
– All the boys said the same.
– Yet, if we were now engaged in war we would legislate mainly for the benefit of the Red Cross, and very little for the Salvation Army.
– I do not think so.
– The honorable senator is a returned soldier. He speaks from experience, and he knows which was the better organization of the two.
– Give me the Salvation Army before any other.
– I am very glad to have that corroboration of my statement. The Boy Scouts’ Association expects to derive some special benefit from this legislation. I do not know what it will get from it. I have heard it said that when a battle was being fought in the middle of South Africa, and human beings were being slaughtered right and left, a black streak of vultures could be seen in the sky approaching the scene of battle from all directions. No one could say how the news of the slaughter was conveyed to them. An old friend of mine once said, “Wherever public money is distributed there are bots.” Whenever the sympathies of the people are appealed to for any purpose, the vultures are to be found seeking the pickings from the carcass. I see in this legislation an attempt to give to the Boy Scouts’ Association a prominence to which it is not entitled. The association may be as excellent as has been stated, but to mc it has not shown any good reason to justify the passing of special legislation by the Australian Parliament. Senator Reid said that certain of his constituents had written to him on the matter. I accept that statement.
If the honorable senator would pay a little more attention to the debates in Parliament and not occupy his time so much in answering the letters of constituents, although he would not be such a good representative departmentally, he would supply the Senate with a fund of information that might make it unnecessary for us to speak a3 often as we do. He has been informed that it is necessary to legislate specially for this association. I have not. The Minister (Senator Wilson) imagined that every honorable senator would view the matter in the light in which he viewed it.
– No one realizes more than the honorable senator the advantages which this legislation will confer.
– I am speaking now against the possible disadvantages. I never shirk carrying my end of the log, even though it is the heavier end. The Minister evidently thought that I would be able to see the advantages without any explanation from him. He, therefore, brought the measure clown without knowing anything about it, and, consequently, he could not explain it. The belief expressed by some honorable senators, that it was a bill to benefit the boy scouts, caused me, in the early stages, to withhold criticism. But when I read the bill and discovered that it was for the benefit, not of the boy scouts, but of the Boy Scouts’ Association, I considered that I would be justified in offering some comment at this stage. As the Government says that it does not want the session to end before December, and as I understand that the next session will be the last held in Victoria, I shall assist the Government to see that every measure brought forward is fully discussed and properly considered. I hope that this bill will be withdrawn until the Government can advance good reasons for singling out the Boy Scouts’ Association for special consideration. I wash my hands of the bill. I have taken the precaution to read every line of it, and, since I have shown that it is for the benefit of the Boy Scouts’ Association, and not the boy scouts themselves, no honorable senator can, afterwards, excuse the action he takes by saying that he did not know what was in it. Some persons may not be able to see the distinction that I have drawn.
– Who comprises the Boy Scouts’ Association?
– That is a mystery. The Minister may be able to tell us. In my opinion that association is closely linked up with the secret police of Victoria, because it has been brought into prominence by the same means. The bill should be re-committed to make provision whereby every accepted member of the Boy Scouts’ Association shall have a voice in the appointment of the controlling body. If boys are to be admitted at the age of ten years, and permitted to remain until they are twenty years of age, I do not see why they should be under the control of persons of whom they know nothing, and who join the association merely for the prominence that it gives to them.
– I think that the honorable senator is very unfair to those who take an interest in the movement.
– Ministers always think that I am unfair. But there are two sides to every question, and my experience is that most of the persons whose names are prominently associated with these institutions do not do much of the work.
– Can the honorable senator give us the name of one person who has gained prominence because of his connexion with this association
– Not at the moment.
– That is because people do not gain prominence by reason of their association with this movement.
– The honorable senator should know that I never mention the names of any persons when to do so might in any way injure them, and they are not here to defend themselves. The honorable senator wants me to mention the name of some one, but I prefer to confine my remarks to a general condemnation of these associations - not only the Boy Scouts’ Association. I remind the honorable senator of what has at times taken place in connexion with money collected to help sufferers. I could bring forward a list of the money still unexpended, and of the people who continue to draw incomes from it; but the honorable senator is so busy with little things that he knows nothing of that nature.
– I do not know of one person who has gained prominence because of his connexion with this association. The honorable senator is sparring at a shadow.
– I take the honorable senator’s word for that. I am speaking in general terms of associations, whether formed to help returned soldiers or for other purposes. 1 admit that numbers of public-spirited persons have done much to help our returned soldiers, but even Senator Duncan must be aware that “ crooks “ came in and helped themselves from the money collected.
– The honorable Senator should not abuse his own supporters in that way.
– That is one of the insults that Senator Duncan has continued to throw at my supporters since he turned renegade. My supporters are as honest to-day as when supporting him.
– They are not the same crowd.
– The party has the same men in it, only they are now in the position of being able to support honest men, and have not to apologize for “ crooks.”
– The party in New South Wales is engaged in trying to drive a lot of them out.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order ! I ask honorable senators to cease from interjecting.
– I referred earlier to a number of pests which have been introduced into Australia. The few pairs of rabbits, foxes, and hares which were introduced for sport, and in which no one saw any harm, have developed into pests which have caused great losses to stock-owners and breeders of sheep. Millions of pounds have been expended in the erection of wire netting fences to keep out rabbits and foxes, which were pretty to look upon when introduced. A number of sportsmen who came here from the Old Country had on their walls pictures showing huntsmen in their beautiful red coats, mounted on spirited horses, and followed ‘by a number of spotted dogs, and they desired to engage in the- same sport in Australia. Because I microscopically examine everything that comes from England - I do not refer to individuals - which, though good when admitted, develop into pests, objection is taken. I do not know how many things which, when introduced, were like the association referred to in this bill, and considered worthy of protection. In protecting rabbits, hares, and foxes, the Government probably considered that they were developing a manly sport. Some people consider that for 100 men with 100 dogs to chase a fox is a manly sport, while the one who secures the brush at the end of the chase is looked upon as a hero. That manly sport had to be developed because it came from England, although we had in Australia sport equally good. I look upon fishing, where a man dangles a bait which he knows the fish enjoy, and then catches the fish on a hook, as the greatest of sport. Next to fishing, I place hunting as a manly sport. In making these remarks, I am endeavouring to focus the minds of honorable senators on the fact that what to-day may be considered harmless may to-morrow prove costly to the people of Australia. In that light I look upon this association.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Before the Senate agrees .to the third reading of this .bill, we should be furnished with full information from the Minister. It may be that honorable senators who are .loyal .followers of the Government, and who vote for every Government measure whether they believe in it or not, think that this, being a Government measure, demands their support. The Opposition would not justify its existence unless it availed itself of every opportunity to criticize Kills, and to obtain from those who submit them the information which should be supplied in the interests of the whole of Australia. Why is it necessary to introduce this bill at all ? For over two decades a movement known as the boy scouts movement has existed in Australia, and for that long period it has got along very well without .any act of Parliament to protect it. The Government professes to be anxious to bring this session to a close, and has stated that matters of urgency only are to be dealt with. What is the urgency for this measure ? The people of Australia know little or nothing about it, and, in any case, are largely indifferent to it. Honorable senators on the other side are in much the same position, but it is sufficient for them that it is a Government measure. The
Honorary Minister stated that he had a boy connected with this movement for eleven years.
– I said that he had taken an interest in it for eleven years. I hope that interest will continue for 50 years.
– I understood the Minister ‘to say that his son had been a member of the association for eleven years. I now ask him at what age boys are ad- .mitted into the association. If we are to pass a bill giving it protection, we should know something of the powers it possesses. Senator McDougall stated that in the neighbourhood where he resides boys of ten years of age assemble, and busily engage themselves around the camp fire flying sausages and chipped potatoes at an hour when they should be at home with their parents. Does the association exer’cise “control over the hours kept by these boys? At what hour do they assemble for the evening’s work? At what hour do they disperse? Has Senator McDougall any idea how long they are engaged in cooking ?
– From 8 o’clock to 10 o’clock.
– Apparently these young boys spend two hours round the camp fire cooking. If the Senate passes this measure other organizations may ask for a similar protection in respect to their uniforms, badges, and designs. Parliament should not be engaged on work of this nature. Why should special protection be given to the Boy Scouts’ Association? It is possible that, on some future occasion, there may be an application from another organization “having a uniform and badges which may be a colourable imitation of the -uniform and badges of the Boy Scouts’ Association and the latter, secure in the protection of an act of Parliament, may take up an attitude antagonistic to the application of the former body. We all know that our boy scouts have a distinctive uniform. Those at present in charge of the association may be displaced to-morrow, figuratively speaking, and the new set of officials may have different ideas as to what are SUit.able uniforms and badges and emblems. A complete change may take place. It is not wise to encourage boys to deck themselves out in different colour*.
I have nothing to say with regard to the objects of the organization itself. I believe it is. very helpful to many boys, but I see no necessity for Parliament to be engaged in passing legislation to protect the association in regard to its uniforms, badges, and emblems. Apparently the Government anticipates trouble judging by the provisions that have been inserted’ in the bill. For example, why should the time of the Attorney-General be wasted, as probably it will be wasted at some future time, if persons other than those connected with the Boy Scouts’ Association desire to register a distinctive uniform? There may be objection, and possibly a. prosecution, but before a prosecution can take place the parties to that action must obtain the approval of the Attorney-General. Why should this official, bo bothered with such matters? Why not allow the Boy Scouts’ Association to continue as> .it has been going on for the last twenty years ? If occasion demands, and if something serious happens to the members of the association itself, the Government will be able to present a measure aud give reasons to justify its action. Up to the present we have not been supplied with adequate reasons for the introduction of this measure. I have no desire to delay its passage, but members- on this side of the chamber must insist on their right to discuss measures which, in their opinion,, are of moment to the people.
We say that this bill is not one of great concern, and that so far no’ reasons have been advanced for its presentation. It is very unwise for the Government to provide, as is proposed in this bill, that any particular type or colour of uniform can be adopted by one organization provided it is not a colorable imitation of that used by the members of the defence forces. The defence of a country is an important matter, and we remember the debate which occurred in this chamber a few years ago, when some honorable senators wished the distinctive uniforms of certain regiments to-be retained. There were about half a dozen advocates for different types of uniforms for the members of the defence forces, but it was eventually decided that there should be one general uniform for members of the Defence Forces. The
Government say definitely that there shall be only one uniform for members of the Defence Forces, allowing, of course, for the numerous trimmings worn by some officer S,, but the members of the Boy Scouts’ Association are to be allowed to have their own choice. For these and other reasons which I have briefly stated, I trust the Honorary Minister will be good enough to give the Senate the information to which it is entitled. Some members of the Ministry give little or no consideration to the contents of the bills they submit, and if a measure such, as this, containing only a few clauses is brought before the Senate, they do not think that a full and proper explanation of its provisions is necessary. That may be satisfactory from their point of view, but it is the duty of the Opposition to see that business is- not conducted in that way. So far as I am concerned I shall always endeavour, when the occasion demands it, to keep pegging away at the Government until I obtain the information to which I am entitled. How can I record an honest vote in the- absence of full details from the Minister? We are not opposing the bill merely for the sake of delaying its passage, but because we are interested in its provisions, and really wish to know what it means. The bill would have a more expeditions passage if the Minister would give the information we desire, and state the real reasons behind the attempt to pass it at this stage of the session. I believe Senator Gardiner supports me in that direction.
– I do. I think the Minister ought to give an assurance that the members of the secret police force are- not members of this association. Consideration of the bill should be delayed until we receive that information.
– What is the reason . for the introduction of the bill to protect an association which has been in existence for many years, and the members of which have, according to the Minister, been able to achieve such good results without any act of parliament- ?
– Much of the legislation passed by the Federal and State Parliaments is not asked for by any considerable section of the community. Some of Lt is not desired by any one. Generally, when measures of importance are before the Senate, members of the public directly concerned communicate with honorable senators. In this instance some members may have received communications, but nothing of that nature has reached me. The Minister (Senator Wilson), in moving the second reading, intimated that as the bill did not contain any new principles or contentious provisions, we might safely pass it. But on further considering it, it appears that although the consensus of opinion is that the members of the Boy Scouts’ Association are in most cases doing good work, there is also a well-founded suspicion that this bill has been framed merely for the purpose of protecting and entrenching an association. The names of the persons in the control of the association have been carefully concealed. That being so, it is incumbent upon the Minister to state who are the leaders of this organization in Australia, and in particular why they need this legislation. It has been in existence for a considerable number of years, apparently doing work of a satisfactory character, and until recently never contemplated asking for the monopoly given by this bill. I am entirely opposed to giving it such a monopoly. I feel certain that the boys have not asked for it. The idea has been developed in Great Britain, and very speedily dispatched to the Commonwealth for concurrence. A great volume of British legislation has been imposed on us from time to time, but, in my opinion, the less we get of it the better. This is certainly one British law that does not meet with my approval. I think the Minister should make it clear that there is need for passing the bill. It may be true that here and there a boy has adopted the uniform of the boy scouts, but a few instances of that kind do not justify the passage of rigid legislation of this character.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with amendments.
Ordered - That the message be considered in Committee of the Whole forthwith.
In committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ amendments) :
Clause 4 -
In this act unless the contrary intention appears - “Registrar” means a Registrar in Bankruptcy or Deputy Registrar in Bankruptcy.
House of Representatives’ amendment -
Omit “ or Deputy Registrar in Bankruptcy,” insert “ and includes a Deputy Registrar in Bankruptcy when exercising any of the powers or functions of the Registrar.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The bill gives special powers to registrars which it is considered advisable should only be exercised by registrars and by deputy registrars who are acting as registrars. This, like most of the other amendments, is purely a matter of drafting.
– It is absolutely impossible for senators to grasp the significance of the amendments made in another place unless they are given an opportunity to consider them. It is all very well for the Minister to have information placed at his disposal by Crown Law officers, but no other honorable senator can conscientiously say that all the amendments made by another place will improve the bill. If the Minister would agree to the postponement of the further consideration of the amendments he would get the business through just as quickly as he will by asking that they be considered straight away on the return of the bill from another place.
.- Although I support Senator Findley’s request, my position is slightly different from his, because the Minister has been good enough to furnish me with a copy of the amendments made in another place, with a very full explanation of each. I do not think it is unreasonable to ask for postponement of the consideration of these amendments. There are 86 of them, and some of them propose to insert new clauses in the bill. I cannot see why the Minister should ask us to hurry at this stage. Since 1906 an attempt has been made in this chamber to co-ordinate the state bankruptcy laws, and the fact that another place has found it necessary to make 86 amendments in the measure we agreed to can almost be regarded as an insult to us. I plead guilty with other honorable senators to trusting to the Minister’s assurance that the bill as we agreed to it met every requirement. I felt that it was a bill which omitted the worst features of state legislation, and included the best. But when we find the measure we accepted amended in 86 places, it is evident that we did not give it the attention it deserved. During the next three weeks I promise to remedy our neglect in this direction, and give close attention to every line of the bill. It was neglect on our part to send a measure to another place in a form which rendered it necessary for it to be so extensively amended.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– I cannot see why this amendment was made. Was it merely for the sake of amending the work of the Senate? It seems to me that the difference between the words struck out and those inserted is very minute.
– If that is so, why can we not agree to it?
– I do not happen to possess the happy, philosophical mind of the honorable senator. His view is, “ Nothing matters; let it go.”
– That is not correct.
– I believe that the smallest matter should not be allowed to pass. When we were children we were taught:
While time is spreading wide its wings,
Take special care of little things.
This is one of those little things to which I am inclined to pay particular attention. Some day I may develop an easy indifference to everything, and will be able to accept whatever the Government says is good. If these words were necessary, why were they not in the bill when it was introduced in the Senate ? This measure was not rushed through here. The codification of the bankruptcy laws has been under consideration for at least fifteen years. Look at the matter as we will, this branch of the legislature must justify itself. This large list of amendments is the severest censure that could be passed upon us. Had the bill been rushed through, one could have said that that was a reason for its imperfection when it reached another place. As that was not done, 1 shall make sure that when the bill leaves us on this occasion it will not be necessary for the other place to further amend it. I am told that most of these amendments were made at the instance of the Government. I should like to have the assurance of the Minister that that is so. Were these amendments due to a change of mind on the part of the Government, and not the outcome of the attention that was given to the measure in another place?
– They are amendments that were found to be necessary.
– That is really the basis upon which I commenced to argue, that it is advisable to postpone consideration of these amendments until next week. If the Government is willing, I am prepared to meet on Monday. We should be given time to consider the effect of the amendments. Senator Wilson has developed to a high degree the faculty of making himself acquainted at a moment’s notice with the changes that are made in the provisions of a bill by the amendment of its clauses. I cannot do that. I am compelled to move slowly, deliberately, and carefully. If I am given until 2 o’clock on Monday I may be able to pick out the matters that are of sufficient importance to warrant discussion, and to allow those that are not of so much importance to go without discussion. If the Minister prefers to adopt the contrary course, all we can do is to take into close consideration every word that it is proposed to change.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- Beforethe luncheon adjournment asked the Minister to postpone the consideration of these amendments until the next day of sitting. That was a very reasonable request. It will be a matter of impossibility to thoroughly understand what these amendments mean unless we are given the opportunity to peruse the bill and see the manner in which the clauses have been changed. Why should such haste be shown to pass this measure ? It has been on the stocks for about fifteen years. It was just as urgent fifteen years ago as it is to-day.
– Meanwhile everybody is clamouring for it, and the honorable senator desires to further postpone its passage.
– For fifteen years different Governments have had the opportunity to give that relief for which the honorable senator says that the people are now clamouring.
– The honorable senator may discuss only this amendment. He may not discuss the bill itself.
– I thought I should be in order if I briefly stated that the bill had for a long time been before the Senate. A short while ago, after it had been re-introduced in the Senate, it was practically redrafted. These amendments made by the other place are almost a bill in themselves.
– The honorable senator may discuss only this amendment of clause 4.
– It is as important to postpone the consideration1 of the first amendment as it is to postpone consideration of the other 85 that have been made by the other place. This is a very intricate bill. The amendments may be understandable to the Minister and to Senator Benny, who has legal training, but to the average layman like myself it is very difficult to understand their significance. The Minister has satisfied himself that they are necessary. If they are, why did the Government allow the bill to leave this chamber without them? I thought that the Government had given full and serious consideration to the measure before it was introduced. The Minister made a short explanation in respect to the amendment that we are now considering, but that explanation was not quite satisfactory to me. If he treats in the same way every other amendment we shall be very little wiser at the end than we are now. We know that at times the insertion of a few words, which in themselves have little5 or no importance, directly affects other provisions. The Minister did not tell us whether this amendment ha3 a bearing on others that are to follow. 1 know that the Government is anxious to push on with the business, but I do not think that this is a business-like way of conducting the proceedings. The Government is not justified in asking the committee, during i he short time it will have at its disposal this afternoon, to consider this and a number of other amendments, which must be of importance or they would not have been made in another place. When the bill was in course of preparation, why were the alterations which the Government now desires to make not included? The Government had sufficient time to give careful consideration to all the measures which have been brought before Parliament, but every bill that has been placed before us .has, after its introduction, been considerably altered. We are told that No. 1 amendment refers to page 3 of the bill, clause 4, and lines 32-33. Certain words are to be omitted, and others put in their place. The substituted words refer to the powers or functions of the registrar. To understand what those functions are, we must again turn to the bill. I ask Senator Benny, who has had considerable legal experience, to tell us what those functions are.
– The registrar has no functions which could not be exercised by a deputy-registrar.
– If Senator Benny were to explain this amendment we might be able to understand it. I say that with all deference to the Honorary Minister, who has stated that this amendment is necessary because it was made in another place. We should not slavishly follow another place, but should be informed of the meaning of the amendment. The business of this committee should be done in a business-like way, and to that end the fullest informationshould be supplied to us. Some loyal supporters of the Government may believe that whatever the Government does is right. While we on this side are not of that opinion, we do not oppose this, or any other amendment, merely for the sake of doing so. It is possible that this amendment, if carried, will affect other portions of the bill.
– It seems to me that Senators Gardiner and Findley are endeavouring to “ stone-wall “ this bill.
– I rise to order. I take very strong exception to a remark of that nature being applied to myself, and I hope that you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, will call upon the honorable senator to withdraw.
– As exception has been taken to the remark, I call upon Senator Benny to withdraw it.
-I cheerfully withdraw it, and substitute for the word “ stone-walling “ the word “delaying.” I think that is in order.
– I asked that the remark to which I took exception be withdrawn, and I now ask that the honorable senator both withdraw it and apologize for having used it.
– As objection has been taken, I call upon Senator Benny to withdraw and apologize.
– I do ‘not see why -
– Order ! I ask Senator Benny to withdraw and apologize for having used the expression complained of.
– I withdraw and apologize. Evidently the Opposition is endeavouring to delay this bill. As that remark is, I think, in order, I shall not apologize for it. The people of the Commonwealth have been waiting for this bill, which is of national importance, for a period of about seventeen years. A Bankruptcy Bill was first brought before this Parliament many years ago, when the party to which honorable senators opposite belong was in power, but no great efforts were made by that party to deal with it. I take it that this first amendment is being taken as a ‘test, and that if the Opposition is defeated on it, the remainder will be allowed to go through.
– If we are beaten in respect to this amendment, we shall acknowledge defeat.
– This bill is as near perfection as it is possible to get any law relating to bankruptcy. Personally, I should like to see some additional amendments made to it, but I realize that an amending bill can be introduced at a later date. The bill should be passed. We should then have a uniform bankruptcy law throughout the Commonwealth, as was intended when the Constitution was framed.
– Will the honorable senator explain the difference between the clause as altered by the amendment and the clause as it left this chamber ?
– The Registrar in Bankruptcy can perform certain functions, but it may be necessary for a deputy registrar in Bankruptcy to perform certain functions which were not provided for in the bill as it left us, but which should have been included. This omission has been rectified by another place. The amendment is simply to make the clause more comprehensive and to give to the deputy registrar the powers which he should have. I ask honorable senators not to allow this session to close without having first passed this bill. In the interests of the commercial and manufacturing industries of Australia, as well as other sections of the community, it should be passed without further delay.
– One of the reasons actuating me in discussing this amendment is that it has been placed before us without any explanation. The clause as passed by us was as clear as it could possibly be made. It certainly made the position clearer than does the amendment mow before us. Apparently, the amendment has been inserted by another place, merely for the purpose of making a change.
– Its effect is to make the clause more comprehensive.
– I disagree with* the honorable senator. Senator Benny -knows very well that there is more litigation over bankruptcy than any -other matter, and naturally enough, the honorable senator thinks the present occasion is one for speed in legislation.
– We have had plenty of time to consider this bill.
– The amendments ‘of .another place have o[nly been before the -committee of the Senate for about a little over an hour, and I proteat that the Minister should attempt to force them through without reasonable explanation. If the Minister in charge of the bill will explain the difference between the clause as it left this chamber and the clause as amended in another place, I shall listen attentively. Senator Benny has told us that the people of Australia want this legislation. In reply to that, I may say that the progress of Australia has not been seriously affected by the absence of a uniform- law during the last fifteen years. I can quite understand, of course, the desire of the legal profession to have it passed. It is something new, and, possibly, will be remunerative to them. The bill has been returned to the Senate with no less than 86 amendments, which the Minister expects this committee to pass without adequate explanation from him. I am not prepared to accept amendments of this kind from another place without that explanation.
– Apparently the honorable senator prefers to block the bill, and perhaps lose it.
– Not at all. But if, after repeated requests from honorable senators on this side of the committee for an explanation, the Minister remains silent, we shall have to keep on asking again and again why the amendments have been inserted, until we do get an explanation.
, - The request is a reasonable one. I am unable to understand the attitude of the Minister. Senator Benny told us a little while ago that the object of the amendment now before the committee was 1o make the provisions of the clause more comprehensive. Senator Benny should have explained why the measure would be more comprehensive if this amendment were included. When addressing the committee the honorable senator said he had not then the bril before him, but as he has since had an opportunity to closely study the clause, and the effect of the amendment, perhaps he will now explain in what, direction the measure will be improved. If these amendments are rushed through without careful attention being given to their effect on the legislation we are enacting, it is only reasonable to assume that an amending bill will have to be submitted to provide what the Government desire. We are supposed to scrutinize every measure and understand so far as is possible the purport of every amendment, but I doubt if even the Honorary Minister knows the effect of the inclusion of the words which it is proposed to insert. If consideration of the amendments were delayed until next week, honorable senators would have an opportunity to peruse t£e various clauses and also the amendments, and would then be able to support amendments which in their opinion may be necessary, and briefly to oppose others which they consider to be unreasonable. If the amendments are, as Senator Benny suggests, of a technical nature, it is practically impossible for laymen to grasp their meaning within a few moments. The Honorary Minister has, of course, had the advice and assistance of the officers of the Crown Law Department, and it is his duty to give the information in his possession to the committee. Even Senator Benny was unable at the first attempt to explain what is intended, and when he proceeded to speak again he was prevented by the Government Whip from doing so. The honorable senator is now on his trial and will have an opportunity to prove whether the whip has been cracked. Honorable senators on this side are not wilfully delaying the passage of the bill, but are merely asking for a clear explanation of the amendment before the committee.
– Bankruptcy legislation has been before the Federal Parliament for many years. When this bill reached the report stage some weeks ago the Minister submitted about 150 amendments, which were agreed to. The measure was then sent to another place, where 86 amendments have been made. When the Honorary Minister was asked for an explanation of the first amendment he curtly refused, and another honorable senator who was about to supply the information was prevented from doing so.
– I shall explain it when I am given an opportunity.
– The amendment will certainly make a slight difference to the definition of “registrar,” but I want to know if it puts the bankrupt in a worse position. While no one is anxious to encourage fraudulent practices, we know that many honest men become bankrupt through circumstances over which they have no control. I want to know if there is anything in the amendment, either to endanger the debtor, or to give him an undue advantage over the creditor. I appeal to the Minister. If the Minister will not accede to Senator McHugh’s request, or if he does not know the meaning of the amendment made by another place, will he permit Senator Benny to supply some information to the committee?
– In spite of the fatuous cheers which I hear from honorable senators, opposite I shall honestly and sincerely endeavour to explain what the amendment means. I shall do it ‘by way of reductio ad absurdum. Do honorable senators opposite prefer to have the word “ not” inserted, or do they prefer to leavE the definition as amended by another place? Will they permit the deputyregistrar to exercise the powers or functions of the registrar. in which case he comes under, the bill, or do they prefer him so to exceed the powers of the registrar that he will have no standing or’ status under the bill, and his actions will be ultra vires? This is simply a technical amendment to provide that a deputy registrar, who will not have as much experience as the registrar, shall only lune- - tion under the bill while he is exercising the powers of the registrar. In the natural course of events a registrar may have had twenty, or even forty, years’ experience, whereas a deputy may be a comparatively young clerk holding a responsible position in the service. The bill simply provides that when the deputy registrar exercises the functions of ‘the registrar his fiat shall go forth as that of the registrar. That is a wise precaution to take. I hope my explanation will prove satisfactory to honorable senators opposite.
.- If Senator Benny had offered his explanation earlier the amendment made by another place might have been agreed to before the adjournment for lunch. Senator Benny speaks of the registrar as likely to be a man of ripe experience, and of the deputies as likely to be men of less experience. . When this bill is passed the registrar chosen will not necessarily be a ma’s with a long practical experience in bankruptcy procedure. There may be in states distant from Melbourne registrars of infinitely more capacity and experience than the registrar of bankruptcy situated in Melbourne, but the latter will most- likely be selected, because the other registrars will be unknown to the Federal Executive sitting in Melbourne. I was about to read the whole of the bill in order to show how registrars and deputy registrars will function, but as two Ministers and the Whip, who 1b a lawyer, are now engaged in perusing the Standing Orders, evidently seeking for some means to impose the “gag” on me, I shall adopt another course. I shall move an amendment that will make it necessary for them to employ the “ gag” twice before I am prevented from speaking. I move -
That the words “ or Deputy Registrar in Bankruptcy “ be reinserted.
If we agree to the amendment proposed by the other place we shall have a more complicated definition of “ registrar.” I cannot imagine any one except a lawyer - and a pettifogging, cheese-paring, hairsplitting lawyer at that - altering this clause from the way in which it was sent to the other place. The alteration does not make the definition any clearer. 1 believe that it makes it more obscure. Scarcely anything will he done under the act except by the registrar or his deputy. In Victoria and the other states at present there is a registrar in bankruptcy, who is always on the spot. He sends his deputies out, and they act directly under his instructions. When this bill comes into force the deputy registrars in the various capitals will occupy identically the same position that is occupied now by the registrar, and - will be responsible, under the control of the registrar, for the whole of the business in their particular states. The amendment will limit the usefulness of the deputies, and, as a representative of a state, I cannot agree to that. When the bill went to another place it provided that in each state the deputy registrar should exercise practically the same powers as are exercised to-day by the registrar. That was altered by some one, possibly because he did not understand the bill, or possibly because it was whispered in his ear that the deputies would have too much power, and would really be exercising the functions of the registrar. Instead of limiting, curtailing, or reducing the powers of tile deputies, we should enlarge them. The registrar would then fee] satisfied that in. every state he had a deputy who could exercise all his functions without the possibility of legal proceedings following upon any of his actions. The Minister (Senator Wilson) has been in this Parliament only seven years. . I can quite understand that he is satisfied to have had the honour of doing more than any one else has done during the last seventeen years in regard to this matter, and that he is now prepared to sit silent, and treat as trivial the amendments made by another place. To me nothing is trivial that leads to the subordination of the rights of the states to the will of the Commonwealth. The states have already given away too much. In thisamendment I can see the grasping hand of the Commonwealth reaching out to control the states to a greater extent. Senator Drake-Brockman is the legal adviser of the Government in the Senate in the absence of Crown Law officers, and he has a keen legal intellect. I ask him to direct his attention to the difference there will be between the status of the registrar in Western Australia to-day’, and the status of a deputy registrar with circumscribed powers. “We should give the broadest and widestscope to the state authorities to take up this codified law and administer it, and to the Commonwealth to secure the men who have been trained in insolvency law. I have no doubt that that is the last thing that is wantedin Melbourne; the authorities here want to send their men out to control the work in every state.
– (Senator McDougall).- To enable the honorable senator’s amendment to be moved I shall have to putin two sections the. amendment proposed by the House of Representatives. ‘ The committee will first decide whether the words “ or DeputyRegistrar in Bankruptcy “shall be omitted, as, proposed by the House of Representatives.
Motion (by, Senator Pearce). - That the committee do now divide - put. The committee divided.
Majority … …2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The question now is
That the omission of the words “ or Deputy. Registrar in Bankruptcy “ be agreed to.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Yes.
Senate adjourned at. 3.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 September 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1924/19240919_senate_9_109/>.