9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The Deputy President (SenatorNewland) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act- Auditor-General’sReport upon the Accounts of the Trustees for the year 1923-24.
Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act - Report of Repatriation Commission for year ended 30th June, 1924.
Defence Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1924, No. 147.
Dried Fruits Advances Aot- Regulations 1924 -Statutory Rules, No. 144.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Statement regarding applications for relief from taxation.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended -Statutory Rules 1924, Nos. 146. 146.
New Guinea - Statement of Accounts of Expropriation Board.
Public Service Act - First Report on the Commonwealth Public Service, by the Board of Commissioners, dated 22nd September, 1924.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with amendments.
– Can the Leader of the Senate say when, and in what manner, the Government proposes to give practical effect to the resolution of the Senate of the 4th September, 1924, affirming the desirableness of assisting prospectors in the gold-mining industry throughout Australia?
– Reference to the bill which the Senate passed last night will indicate that the Government has already given partial effect to that undertaking.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
PURCHASE of Calculating Machines.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– An endeavour will be made to obtain the information.
Wireless Equipment of the “Huddersfield.”
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Payment of Light Dues
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The honorable the Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Debate resumed from 3rd October (vide page 5110) on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Such an important bill as this should have been presented to the Senate at the beginning instead of the fag end of the session; because just now senators’ minds are somewhat unsettled. They wish to dispose of the business on the notice-paper as expeditiously as possible, and return to their respective states.
However the bill is before us, and we shall have to determine its fate between now and to-morrow. In order to determine my own attitude on the proposal, a few days ago I asked a series of questions relating to the recent Premiers’ conferences, and I was much impressed with the skilful manner in which definite replies to important points were evaded. In the first place, I asked what were the names of the delegates attending the Premiers’ conferences of 1920 and 1923, and what states they represented. I was furnished with that information, which indicates that, with the exception of Queensland, the representatives of the other states are now out of office. Certainly New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia have since had a change of Government, but it is true that two or three representatives of the Commonwealth Ministry still retain office.
– New South Wales has not changed its opinion on this subject, although it has changed its Government.
– Probably not. I also asked if at those conferences a decision in favour of the construction of the Kyogle-Brisbane railway had been arrived at? The reply was in the following terms : -
As a result of the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Melbourne in October-November, 1921, the proposals were embodied in a draft agreement printed and circulated to each of the State Ministers on the 18th November, 1921, and circulated also at the conference in January, 1922. Each of the states agreed to the basis of payment, viz., one-fifth by the Commonwealth, and remaining four-fifths by the states on a per capita basis. At the conferences referred to, the States of Queensland, New South Wales, and Western Australia were in agreement generally that the works proposed by a royal commission (estimated to cost £ 21,600,000), should be put in hand; but Victoria and South Australia, whilst accepting the standard gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in., and agreeing that “the adoption of a uniform gauge . . . essential to the development and safety of the Commonwealth,” would not assent to the work being proceeded with for the present.
The word “ generally “ qualified the Minister’s reply. In connexion with such a matter as this we cannot have an agreement in general terms. It must be definite. I also asked the Minister if any of the State Parliaments had ratified the agreement, and the reply was to this effect -
Acceptance by the states was subject to approval of the respective Parliaments.
– Which has never been given.
– This reply, surely, was an admission that the State Parliaments had not agreed to the proposal. There is no such agreement between the Parliaments of the States and the Commonwealth Parliament for the construction of this proposed railway. It is quite true that a number of Premiers and Ministerial representatives of the several states meet from time to time in Melbourne, and that amongst other important questions discussed in recent years, they dealt with the unification of railway gauges in Australia. I believe it is wise that the Premiers of the various states should meet periodically for this interchange of opinions, but the delegates to such gatherings cannot arrogate to themselves the authority of State Parliaments. Any agreement arrived at cannot be binding until it is ratified by the Parliaments of the respective states. Although the preamble of the bill refers in legal verbiage to an agreement, there is no such agreement between at least three of the mainland State Parliaments concerning the construction of this line. It is contended by the Government that the proposal embodied in this bill is a part of a trans-Australian railway of «. standard gauge. If I thought this was the beginning of the establishment of a uniform railway gauge for the whole of Australia I would be one of its most ardent supporters.
– What does the honorable senator think the scheme embodies ?
– I am endeavouring to analyze the measure before me, and before I have concluded the honorable senator will know my views on the whole proposal. I am a strong supporter of a uniform railway gauge, and if I thought that this was the first instalment my attitude would be quite different. It is also contended that the proposed scheme is a part of the railway from Sydney to Port Augusta, via Hay.
– Who said that?
– It was contended by the Minister who introduced the bill in this chamber, and by the
Prime Minister in another place, that the proposed line is part of a strategic railway. The Sydney to Port Augusta railway via Hay is a necessary contribution to. the railway system of Australia, and would be of great service, particularly in the event of an invasion, in expeditiously transporting troops. But there is nothing before us showing that the mainland states have been consulted in regard to, or have agreed upon the construction of such a line. Viewing the bill as I do, and with the information at my disposal, I am of the opinion that instead of this being the beginning of a uniform railway scheme for Australia, it will be many years before the railway extends beyond the borders of Queensland and New South Wales. If the Prime Minister in introducing the bill in another place, and the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce), in his second-reading speech here had been able to give a definite assurance that as a result of the passing of this measure steps would be taken to continue the construction of a railway line of uniform gauge to connect Western Australia with, the north-eastern portion of Queensland, my attitude would be different. That assurance has not been given, and cannot be forthcoming until the State Parliaments have consented to be parties to the undertaking.
– Why does not the Western Australian Government convert the gauge between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle ?
– Western Australia would be glad to assist in any systematic unification scheme.
– The Western Australian Government promised to undertake that work.
– I am not disputing that point, but the fact remains that the Western Australian Parliament has not passed a statute in that regard.
– It should wake up.
– The Parliaments of Victoria and South Australia should also wake up. I realize the necessity of a uniform railway gauge throughout Australia, not only for defence purposes, but to assist producers particularly in periods of drought. Why not begin in real earnest?
– I suppose the honorable senator is of the opinion that a commencement should be made in Western Australia ?
– In a sense this railway is beginning nowhere and ending nowhere.
– It is to commence in Queensland, and, surely, that is somewhere.
– And is to end for the present in New South Wales, which is a state of some importance.
– There is nothing in the bill to suggest a continuity of construction, and unless that is provided for we are not likely to get anywhere.
– Where does the honorable senator suggest that a commencement should be made?
– I am not a railway expert. It is the duty of the representatives of the respective State Governments to meet the Commonwealth Government representatives, and after negotiations, enter into a legal agreement, providing for a uniform scheme of railway construction, which should be ratified by the respective parliaments. There is, I believe, a legal agreement between the Government of South Australia and the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the existing South Australian railways. Governments may come and governments may go, but until obligations entered into by governments are repudiated by Parliament the contracts must stand. When the Commonwealth assumed control of the Northern Territory one of the conditions imposed was the construction of a north-south line. That agreement was entered into in 1911, and although thirteen years have elapsed only 54 miles of railway have been constructed between Pine Creek and Oodnadatta, a distance of 1,063 miles. If we continue at that pace under a legal agreement, what is likely to be the rate of progress without an agreement? Compared with the rate of construction of the north-south line, the speed of the H udders field on its mission of mercy is that of an ocean greyhound. I was a member of this Parliament when a bill was introduced authorizing the construction of the first portion of the line from the north to the south. Although I am not a railway expert, I contended that the construction of that line should be commenced simultaneously at both ends, as was done in connexion with the transAustralian railway. The construction of the north-south line should be undertaken independent of a uniform gauge system.
If the recommendations of the royal commission which inquired into the best standard gauge to adopt were to be binding upon the parties, why have State Governments refused to ratify them? The principal provisions of the bill are based upon the recommendations of the royal commission on a uniform gauge, but the bill does not pretend in any way to provide such a railway system for Australia. Instead of being an interstaterailway scheme, it is as stated by an honorable member in another place, simply an intra-state railway. If a scheme were adopted by the Parliaments of the mainland states and the Commonwealth under a legal agreement, we would be commencing a railway system on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, towards the cost of which the states and the Commonwealth would contribute. Then it would be a matter of starting anywhere so long as there was a definite end in view.
– It would take Victoria and South Australia a hundred years to come to a decision on the point.
– Perhaps the debate on this bill will assist to arouse Victoria and other states to the necessity of getting together and determining on a definite scheme. But until that is done I cannot honestly support this measure.
-Brookman. - The logical conclusion of the honorable senator’s argument is that he would not agree to the Commonwealth Government undertaking to build a uniform gauge line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle.
– That would not be the logical conclusion of my argument, because, as Senator Drake-Brockman knows very well, the Commonwealth Government could not construct a railway from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle without the consent of the State Parliament.
– In spite of the state the Commonwealth Government could build that railway.
– I venture to say that the Constitution would prevent the Commonwealth Government from building a railway in a state without the consent of that state.
– The Commonwealth may build railways anywhere in Australia for defence purposes.
– That right would have to be determined, but I venture to say that my contention is correct, and that the Commonwealth could not build a railway in a state without the consent of the Parliament of the. state.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Western Australian Parliament would withhold its consent ?
– I do not think ft would, but we are not discussing the building of the railway from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie. We are discussing the establishment of a uniform railway system.
– And we are making a beginning in that direction.
– If during the debate Senator Reid or Senator DrakeBrockman can convince me that the passage of this bill will be the beginning oi the railway unification scheme for Australia, to which I am, looking forward, I shall support^ the second reading.
– The honorable senator knows as well as I do that it is the beginning of that scheme.
– I have discussed this bill free from personalities, and have not imputed motives, and I do not wish Senator Reid to impute them to me. I am taking the full responsibility of my action as a member of the Senate representing the State of Western Australia, without instructions or suggestions from any one. Therefore, I hope that honorable senators will suggest nothing in the nature of motives, either personal or state, so far as I am concerned. I am endeavouring within my humble limitations to look at the proposal before the Senate as broadly as I can, and to ascertain whether it will hasten the day we ali hope to see, when one will be able to travel from one end of Australia to the other without changing trains. In my humble judgment, I think this bill will not hasten that day, but, on the contrary, will delay it. If we want to hasten that day the Commonwealth Government should suggest a meeting of State Premiers to agree upon a concrete scheme which they can ask their Parliaments to ratify. Until that is done we shall not bring about what we desire, and because I think this bill will not bring about that uniform system which I am anxious to see established it is my intention to vote against it, unless strong arguments are advanced to convince me that the view I have taken is wrong.
– The proposal to build a railway line from Grafton - to South Brisbane is an excellent one. Such a railway would save seven hours in the journey between Sydney and Brisbane, and at least 100 miles. I believe that it would develop excellent country, and that in every respect it would be a very desirable railway for the States of New South Wales and Queensland to build ; but it puzzles me why such a proposal should be placed before the Commonwealth Parliament. I am aware that the foundation for the submission of this measure to this Parliament is an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Premiers of New South Wales and Queensland, based upon an agreement arrived at between the Commonwealth Government and the State Premiers in 1920. That agreement is set out in the schedule to the bill, as follows : -
And whereas at a conference of Ministers of the Crown which was ‘ held in Melbourne in July, 1920, and at which the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia (hereinafter collectively called “ the five States “) were represented, it was resolved as follows : - “ That this conference is of opinion that two experts from outside this country should be appointed, along with one Australian outside the railway services of the Commonwealth and the .States, to consider and report upon the unification of the gauges, the question as to what gauge it is desirable to adopt, and the question of the cost of conversion. “ The Commonwealth and the Premiers of the States agree to appoint a Railway Commission, and affirm that the Ministers for Railways of New South Wales, Victoria, and the Commonwealth shall select the two members of the commission who are to be appointed from outside. “ The Commonwealth and the States’ agree to abide by the decision of this tribunal. “ The! Commonwealth to bear one-fifth of the total cost, and four-fifths to be borne by the five States concerned on a per capita basis.”
What authority had any conference of Premiers to bind the states to an agreement to build a railway?
– The Premiers did not bind any state to do so.
– We are asked to ratify this agreement by passing this bill.
– Just so, each Parliament must ratify it.
– As a Commonwealth Parliament we have been asked to ratify it, and the agreement also requires the ratification of the state Parliaments, f’o make it binding.
– It has been laid down emphatically that even the resolutions passed at Imperial Conferences are not binding upon a dominion until they have been ratified by the Parliament of the dominion, and surely a conference of premiers of states has no authority to bind the state parliaments. Senator Needham was informed last week, in reply to a question, that the agreement which I have read had not yet been ratified by any state. I have no doubt that Queensland and New South Wales, which are particularly interested in a proposal to build a railway which will suit their local development, will affirm the agreement; but we have no’ assurance that the other states will give that consent, which is necessary to make the agreement binding. There has been a later conference of Premiers, at which two of the states, through their representatives, expressly repudiated any responsibility in connexion with the matter, while a third, Western Australia-, was indifferent, and, ‘ according to the Prime Minister, would neither consent to nor reject the proposal. In any case, it is but a tentative agreement, and is not binding cm the> Commonwealth until the various state Parliaments have ratified it. The cost of building this line is to be borne in the following proportion : - Four-fifths by the states, and onefifth by the Commonwealth. But the Commonwealth has undertaken to pay not only its fifth share, but also the proportion that the states of Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia would have paid if they had consented to the proposal to build the line. The Commonwealth will thus provide towards the cost of this railway £700,000, representing its own share; £819,000 for Victoria, £267,000 for South Australia, and £177,000 for Western Australia. It is very kind of the Commonwealth Government to pay these amounts for the states I have named, but whatever amount is paid in this way must be raised by taxation imposed on the people in the various states. Therefore, through taxation, the people of Victoria, South. Australia, and Western Australia will be contributing these amounts in proportion to their populations. The Commonwealth Government has no authority to make such an arrangement, unless we give it by passing this bill, which I hope will not be done. The agreement, which is the foundation of the bill, was entered into four years ago. The Commonwealth entered into an agreement- with the Government of South Australia fourteen years ago, and nothing has been done to carry it out, except the building of a few miles of railway at the north end of the proposed Oodnadatta-Darwin line. In moving the second reading of this bill the Leader of the Government in the ‘ Senate made a statement that a communication had been sent to the Premier of South Australia, as I understood him to say, proposing some agreement for the continuation of the railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs.
– No. I did not say that. I said that the Commonwealth Government had definitely committed itself to construct the first section of the north-south line from the south, connecting up with Alice Springs.
– That is practically what I said.
– No. The honorable senator said that the Government had undertaken to construct a line - from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. I did not say that.
– It is a matter of the starting-out point.
– I do not think that -South Australia will worry, as long as it knows where the line will finish.
– Then the communication forwarded by the Commonwealth Government to the Premier of South Australia contains nothing definite.
– It is most definite; but not on the lines suggested by the honorable senator.
– Why has it not been published?
– We could not make it public until we received a reply from the South Australian Government.
– We have had to put up with that sort of thing for two or three years. I have attended a number of deputations, the members of which have been informed by the Minister that a definite answer would be given the following week, but in some cases that reply has not been received. I do not know why this measure should be re- garded as urgent, when nothing definite has yet been done in connexion with an agreement which was entered into fourteen years ago in relation to a great national undertaking - the north-south railway.
– In that case I shall vote for it.
– Surely, Senator Reid will not dispute that a railway across Australia from north to south is a national project. By maintaining the Northern Territory and constructing the Oodnadatta line, South Australia did a great deal in the interests of the whole of Australia and the White Australia policy. In handing over that territory a valuable asset was placed in the hands of the Commonwealth Government. I see nothing in that transaction for which South Australia should bc reproached. That state did more than its share by maintaining the Northern Territory for a number of years, and keeping it white. I propose to move an amendment that the bill be read a second time this day six months. That would give us time to gather more information than we have before us at present. Other public works which are expected to exceed £20,000 in cost are submitted to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. Why that procedure has not been followed in connexion with an important work of this kind, which is estimated to cost £3,500,000, I cannot understand.. . I point . out that the estimate of £3,500,000 was made several years ago, since which time the cost of material has increased, so that it is probable that the line will how cost £4,000,000, if not more. Before the Senate pledges itself to the proposals in this bill, we should have more definite information than has yet been placed before, us. My proposal is not against a comprehensive system of railway gauge unification. If there is justification for the unification of the gauges between Grafton and South Brisbane, there is justification for a line of standard gauge from Albury to Melbourne. South Australia has constructed a line from Salisbury to Redhill, which will eventually form part of the line connecting with the east-west railway at Port Augusta. . While that line is of 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, the sleepers, bridges, culverts, cuttings, and other necessary works have been prepared for a line of standard gauge. I do not think that
South Australia has asked for any assistance from the Commonwealth because of the extra expense she has incurred in connexion with that railway. But there is no more reason why the Commonwealth should not assist South Australia in connexion with that line, than assist* New South Wales and Queensland with a line to connect Sydney with Brisbane. The proposal of the commissioners who recommended the unification of the gauges at an estimated cost of £21,600,000 contained no reference to new lines. Tho scheme was for the conversion of the then existing lines to the 4-ffc. 8^-in. gauge. The Minister cannot claim that this pro>posal now before us is an endorsement of the recommendation of the commissioners who were appointed as a result of the Premiers’ Conference in 1920. I recognize that a transcontinental railway of uniform gauge to connect all the capitals on the mainland cannot be secured unless some new lines are built, but I emphasize that the Railways Commissioners only recommended the conversion of the existing gauges. The construction of a line from Port Augusta to Salisbury has also been mentioned, but as that proposal is not now before us, I shall not, at this stage, express any definite opinion as to its desirability, except to say that if it were constructed, and the line between Albury and Melbourne made of standard gauge also, we should have a substantial contribution, in conjunction with the proposal before us, towards a railway of standard gauge from Brisbane to Kalgoorlie, and, if the Western Australian Government carries out its agreement, as I have no doubt that it will, from Brisbane to Fremantle.
– Is the honorable senator aware that a bridge is necessary across the Clarence River - across what is really an estuary?
– Yes. I am glad that the Government has not had the audacity to ask the Commonwealth to bear the cost of that bridge. A proposal to link the whole of the capitals with a railway of standard gauge would be a comprehensive and national one. But to call this proposal to construct a local line between points in New South Wales and Queensland, a beginning of the process of unification, is to make a farce of the whole matter. If the amendment which I have foreshadowed is agreed to, the Government will have time to bring its proposals to maturity. If it then brings down a comprehensive proposal for a railway of standard gauge from South Brisbane, through Kyogle, to Grafton, the narrowing of the gauge between Albury and Melbourne, and the construction of a line of standard gauge from Salisbury to Port Augusta, we shall have a substantial instalment of the unification proposals which we all hope to see carried out ultimately. My objection to this proposal would then cease. I am not opposed to the unification of the gauges as recommended by the commission, but this proposal which is now before us is not a step in that direction. On the contrary, it might tend to retard it. Until the Government has some definite and comprehensive proposal to submit to this Parliament - a proposal which will commend itself to all the states - we should stay our hand. new South Wales and Queensland are the two richest states in the Commonwealth. How often do we hear of the immense possibilities of the mother state ? We are told that one-third of the population of the Commonwealth is resident in that state, and that its people contribute one-half of the revenue of the Commonwealth. Queensland is also one of the wealthiest states. While the construction of this railway can, no doubt, be amply justified as a purely local line, it is not at this stage a national undertaking. If New South Wales and Queensland do not proceed with this railway, I shall be prepared, when a comprehensive scheme such as I have suggested is placed before us, to agree that the line now under consideration shall be regarded as part of a great national undertaking, and that the Commonwealth shall bear one-fifth of the expense. I move -
That the word “ now “ be left out, with a view to adding to the motion the words “ this day six months.”
– I support the amendment moved by Senator O’Loghlin. I do so in no parochial spirit, as, like Senator O’Loghlin, I regard the unification of the railway gauges of Australia as one of the primary essentials of this country.
– It is extraordinary to see the honorable senator agreeing with Senator O’Loghlin.
– I flatter myself that I am a better Australian than many people from New South Wales. I remind Senator Duncan that it was New South Wales which violated the agreement entered into between that state and the states of Victoria mid South Aus* tralia many years ago in connexion with the railway systems of Australia. If that agreement had been carried out those three states, at least, would have had a uniform gauge of 5 ft. 3 in. South Australia and Victoria, believing that New South Wales would act in good faith, constructed their railways of 5-ft. 3-in. gauge.
– When was that agreement entered into?
– It was a good . many years ago. I cannot remember the exact date. After South Australia and Victoria had constructed their railways on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge New South Wales “ ratted “ and constructed hers on the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge. I admit that it had expert advice to the effect that” the 4-ft. 8in. gauge was to be the world’s standard gauge. Was New South Wales honest when it lured innocent, confiding Victorians and South Australians into an agreement which it afterwards repudiated? Now the people of Victoria and South Australia are asked to find a considerable portion of the cost of constructing a purely state railway between New South Wales and Queensland, on the plea that it is part of the scheme for unifying the railway gauges of Australia. As a good Australian, nothing would please me better than, to see a unified gauge throughout Australia.
– What gauge would the honorable senator have?
– 4 ft. S£ in.
– The honorable senator agrees,, then, that New South Wales did the right thing.
– No. Before I entered this Parliament the Commonwealth Government constructed the east-west railway on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. We cannot now get away from that gauge. I do not say that I am opposed to the construction of this railway. I think, how- ever, that we should be given time to consider the matter and to deal with it on its merits. Senator O’Loghlin presented his cas© lucidly and explicity from an Australian, and not a South Australian stand-point. I want to emulate his example. During the next six months the Public Works Committee could inquire into the proposal. It is a law of this Parliament that no work the estimated cost of which exceeds £25,000 shall be sanctioned unless it has been investigated and reported upon by the Public Works Committee.
– Does the honorable senator argue that this matter comes within the Public Works Committee Act ?
– I do.
– I regret to say that I disagree with the honorable senator.
– Legal gentlemen are privileged to disagree with one another. I should like to hear the view of my learned friend, Senator Elliott.
– I do not know whether it does or not; but it ought to.
– This- will involve an expenditure of more than £3,500,000. All that Senator O’Loghlin asks is that instead of rushing at the matter “like a bull at a gate” the Senate should take a little time to consider it. We poor, unfortunate people in South Australia have had to wait many years for a railway which the Commonwealth Government solemnly contracted to construct.
– The unification of railway gauges has been under consideration ever since Victoria and New South Wales fell out in regard to the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. It is time that something definite was” done.
– We want something to be done. Some honorable senators would like us to give our approval in six minutes, but we from South Australia ask that the matter be deferred for six months. I intend to vote for the amendment.
– The amendment rather embarrasses me. I look upon an amendment of this kind as the severest form of censure that could be passed upon a government, because its adoption means that the business of the Senate is taken out of the hands of the Government. As Leader of the Opposition I could not, ordinarily, refrain from doing that, if the opportunity presented itself. Both Senator Benny and Senator O’Loghlin have stated very clearly the position in regard to the construction of this railway. They are both sufficiently big Australians to support the proposal that there shall be a unified gauge throughout Australia. With that portion of their argument I am in entire agreement. The Minister (Senator Pearce) has moved, “ That the bill be now read a second time.” Senators Benny and O’Loghlin say, “ We so far agree with the principles of the bill that we are willing to read it a second time this day six months.” What would happen if that amendment were agreed to ? As this is not the chamber in which governments are made and unmade, when we met this day six months hence the President would call upon the Clerk to read the bill a second time. There could be no further debate, because the Senate would already have fixed the day upon which the second reading should take place. Senator Benny recalled an old grievance that both Victoria and South Australia have against New South Wales. Those three states, many years ago’, agreed that there should be a uniform gauge, and New South Wales adopted the 4-ft. 8J- in. gauge. The wisdom of that choice has been amply demonstrated, because in Great Britain, America, and other countries 4 ft. 8^ in. has been proved to be the most profitable gauge. In Great Britain there were quite a number of gauges, ranging up to 6 feet. But they are now being converted to a gauge of 4 ft. 8£ in. When the 5-ft. 3-in gauge railways of Victoria and South Australia are converted to a gauge of 4 ft. 8$ in., those states will reap a greater benefit from the unification proposals than will accrue to any other state in the federation. Thousands of men will be employed when that work is begun in earnest, and Victoria and South Australia, in addition to drawing extra capitation fees, will have greater prosperity conferred upon their businesses. New South Wales will then have to perform her usual function of bearing half the cost. Had I a week ago. been called upon to vote in respect to this bill, I should have voted against it, because at first glance it appeared- to me that the rich states of New South Wale, and Queensland should construct this railway.
– First thoughts are best.
– Sometimes. The speech delivered by Senator Needham converted me to the idea that this is a beginning of the unification of the gauges throughout Australia. A country like Australia must be opened up, and my lengthy parliamentary experience has shown me the wisdom of constructing railways wherever possible. I do not believe that this proposal would have been brought forward but for the fact that a big bridge work and a portion of the line itself will be in the constituency represented by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page).
– I think the honorable senator is incorrect in that statement. If he studies the history of the matter he will find that the negotiations in respect to this railway were begun before the composite Government was formed.
– I do not say that the proposal was not considered before Dr. Earle Page joined the Ministry. My point is that, had he not been in the Government, it is doubtful whether this bill would have seen the light of the Federal Parliament. The fact that a little “ roads-and-bridges “ member is in the Government, and sees in this scheme the prospect of giving employment in his constituency, is responsible for the introduction of this measure. The desirability of the line, and its usefulness to the community, will not be affected. Frequently little men do what big men would overlook, and it so happens that a little “ roadsandbridges “ member, who holds the position of Treasurer, is able to confer a distinct advantage upon Queensland and New South Wales. Incidentally, of course, the other states will have to bear a share of the cost. Although we represent states, we should in this matter disregard state boundaries. A man who- is a Victorian to-day may be a Queenslander to-morrow. Equally, a man who is a South Australian to-day may. be a New South Welshman to-morrow. I approve of Senator O’Loghlin’s remarks. He endeavoured to obtain from the Minister a definite statement with regard to the construction of the north-south railway. I hope I did not misunderstand the Minis ter. At times it is very difficult to understand him, but when he is so disposed he can express himself very clearly indeed. I understood him to say that the Government had under consideration the proposed construction of another section of the north-south railway line. . What would be the position if, when that proposal came before the Senate, the members representing states not directly interested were to say that it was a matter affecting only South Australia and the Northern Territory, and that South Australia should bear the full financial responsibility. I remember, also, how actively Senator Needham, when the proposal to construct the east-west line hung in the balance, canvassed members to ensure the passage of the bill in ratification of what we believed to be a promise made before Western Australia entered the federation.
– It was the spirit of the compact.
– It was mentioned as an inducement to Western Australia to enter the federation, and I supported the construction of that railway because I thought a promise had been made. Again, in that, matter Parliament builded better than it knew, because if the line had to be constructed now the cost would be almost prohibitive. It is now the connecting link between east and west on the standard gauge. I was impressed by Senator Needham’s suggestion that this should be regarded as a section of the standard railway for Australia. No one can deny that it will be, or that the break of gauge at the border between New South Wales and Queensland is a serious disability. I agree with Senator Needham that the break of gauge difficulty at Albury should have been undertaken, first. I always feel, when I step out of the train at Albury, and see the army of railway employees carrying luggage and goods across the platform from one train to another, that we have not advanced a step during the past 50 years.
– New South Wales will not do anything to overcome that difficulty, nor will this state join in any such proposals.
– I suggest that, as there is now an intelligent Government in Victoria, the Minister should open up fresh negotiations.
– I am afraid that in this matter Mr. Prendergast’s administration is little better than an echo of previous governments.
– I regret that this proposed line between Grafton and South Brisbane, as a connecting link in a standard gauge railway for Australia will be vulnerable if, unfortunately, Australia should be attacked by a powerful and hostile nation. The bridge across the Grafton River could easily be destroyed, and thus the effectiveness of the line from a military point of view would be destroyed. As a railway for defence purposes it does not meet with my approval.
-brockman. - Nor with the approval of the Inspector-General of the Commonwealth Military Forces.
– I should prefer the proposal made by Mr. Andrew Fisher for a uniform gauge railway for defence purposes from Brisbane down to northern New South Wales, following the direction of the present line, but eliminating many of its curves, and then coming down to Adelaide, via Deniliquin. We should then have a military railway through the centre of Australia, and for defence purposes it would be invaluable. I do not altogether like this proposal, because the line will be constructed too near the coast. That is my only objection to it from a defence point of view. I should prefer a military railway built on the other side of the ranges.
– It may not be perfect militarily, but it will be very useful.
– All railways are useful. I thought I made it clear in my opening remarks that I approved of the policy of railway construction for the purpose of opening up and developing the country. When first , this proposal appeared on the notice-paper I was inclined to oppose it, but after consideration, and realizing, as Senator Needham has put it, that it will be a link in a uniform railway system, I intend to SUP, port it. I hope also that the time is not far distant when the Commonwealth, exercising its powers under the Constitution, will take over all the railways in Australia.
– This is a beginning.
– I justify my support of it on the ground that we must make a start in the scheme for a uniform railway system for Australia. Even at this late hour, if the Commonwealth decided that the standard gauge should be 5-ft. 3-in.,- New South Wales certainly would not be a sufferer, because an enormous sum of money would have to be expended in “my state in converting lines already constructed. I sincerely hope that before many years elapse the Government will take over all Australian railways, and carry on the work of unification of gauges as a national undertaking. There is a very serious break of gauge at Kalgoorlie, and I suggest to Senator Needham that the spirit of the agreement concerning the east-west line clearly committed the Western Australian Government to the conversion of the existing line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle to the standard gauge. But the Western Australian Government declined to honour that undertaking, and even refused the offer of the Commonwealth Government to provide a loan to carry it out. The neglect on the part of the Western Australian Government to. standardize the gauge along that section of the railway is a very grave departure from the understanding upon which the east-west line was built, and it seriously inconveniences the travelling public. Senator Benny had something to say about New South Wales railway authorities, .60 or 70 years ago, departing from what was believed to be an agreement for the construction of all railway lines in New South Wales and Victoria- on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. That should not now be held up against New . South Wales, because experience has proved the wisdom of the decision in favour of the 4-ft. 8j-in. line, which is now recognized as the standard gauge for the world. If, however, we are to hold that up against New South Wales, surely we have good reason to complain that South Australia and Western Australia have not made connecting links with the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie line on the standard gauge. As far as I can see, we shall only be able to solve our difficulties when the Commonwealth Government decides to take over the railways of Australia, and convert them to the standard gauge as a national work.
– Senator O’Loghlin’s amendment should have provided that the further consideration of the bill be: deferred wending the construction of a bridge over the Clarence River, because it is useless to regard this proposal as a contribution to the unification of gauges until the” bridge referred to has been built. Without it the railway would not be of the slightest value from a military point of view. The whole object of unification is to provide means for the rapid transport of troops in time of war, and a bridge over the Clarence, which at Grafton is actually a huge estuary of the sea, with a rise and fall in. the tide of about 10 feet, is essential. The absence of a bridge there constitutes a more serious difficulty than the break of gauge either at the Queensland border or at Albury.,
– New South Wales’ has accepted the agreement, and has undertaken to construct a bridge.
– We want to see something done. Senator Gardiner urged, as one reason why representatives of other states should support the bill, that people move about from state” to state and that persons who are Victorians to-day may be Queenslanders tomorrow. That is merely a reason why, following the same line of argument, the Commonwealth should be asked to carry out all the unfinished railways in the variolic? s bates. It is difficult enough to ensure the construction of railway lines along the most suitable routes if this question has to be determined solely by a state authority, but if the Commonwealth is going to embark on the business of completing all the missing links in the railway systems of the states it will be very costly, because most of the uncompleted railways are proposals which the state authorities believed to be too unprofitable for State Governments to build. Why was not this railway constructed years ago? If full investigation were made it would be found that its construction had not been undertaken because it was an unpayable proposition. The responsibility is now to be placed upon the Commonwealth.
– It is the first time I have heard such an argument.
– Moreover, if the Government is to shoulder the responsibility, why has the proposed undertaking not been referred to the Public Works Committee ? If a few miles of railway were to be built in the Federal Capital Territory, the work would have to be fully investigated and reported upon before Parliament would sanction its construction. In this instance, that committee has not been asked to conduct any inquiry. I am strongly in favour of further consideration of the bill being delayed until the bridge over the Clarence River is constructed. If this were done, the Government would have ample time to negotiate with other’ State Governments, and the schedule to the bill when next presented would disclose, I believe, that the Commonwealth and all the states were in agreement. Unless it is otherwise provided, the Commonwealth will have to contribute towards the cost of a bridge over the Clarence River.
– The Commonwealth Government has definitely stated that it will not contribute towards the cost of that structure.
– Millions of pounds will be spent on a railway which will be practically useless, for defence purposes because the New South Wales Government will not construct the bridge, and the responsibility will eventually rest upon the Commonwealth. Senator Gardiner referred, very briefly, to the strategic value of such a line, and it is only reasonable to assume that in consequence of its close proximity to the coast, it would be of little use in transporting troops in the event of an invasion. Many portions of the line would be subject to interruption, not only in the vicinity of the bridge over the Clarence at Grafton, but at other points near Newcastle.
– That would only be the case if Britain had lost command of the seas.
– The east- west line could be smashed if we were attacked.
– It is many miles from the sea.
– It is only 60 miles from Eucla.
– It is well beyond shelling range. Earl Kitchener, in his report to the Commonwealth Government, strongly recommended the development of inland railways, which Senator Gardiner referred to as the only strategic lines worthy of consideration. Earl Kitchener was totally opposed to the construction of railways hugging the coast, because, in his opinion, they would be subject to interruption. I do not know if the amendment moved by Senator O’Loghlin will help us very much, but, in the absence of any information to tha contrary, I shall be compelled’ to support it.
– I intend to support the bill. I wish to take exception to an article appearing in this morning’s Age, which is typical of many that appear in that newspaper. Nothing undertaken by the Commonwealth pleases the Aye unless it ultimately tends to the advantage of Melbourne. That is in keeping with the spirit displayed by our little South Australians, and some others who have spoken this morning. The article refers to an alleged compact between the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), of South Australia, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), who, it states, have conferred, because the Prime Minister believed that this bill would be defeated in the Senate. A promise, it is alleged, was made to South Australia by the Prime Minister to secure the votes of the representatives of that state in the Senate. WhateVer else the article may do, I do not think it will have the effect of changing the opinions of honorable senators representing thatstate. The article also infers that this bill is merely a piece of electioneering on the part of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), and suggests that the proposal embodies only a portion of a huge expenditure to be incurred at a later date by the Government in constructing a railway from Hay to Port Augusta. The Age is considerably perturbed’ concerning the construction of such a line, because Melbourne will be excluded, and the article concludes by stating that money will not be available for the construction of the north-south railway if £3,500,000 is expended in building a line from Kyogle to South Brisbane and relaying and regrading the existing line from Grafton to Kyogle. Senator Needham expressed the opinion that the time was inopportune.
– I did not say anything of the sort. If the honorable senator wishes to quote me, he should quote me correctly.
– The honorable senator gave us to understand that the time was inopportune. *
– I did not use such words.
– The time is always opportune to do the right thing. The honorable senator also said that our minds arc distracted.
– So they are.
– We were distracted, he said, by the volume of business to be dealt with, but a reference to the notice-paper shows that the measures to be discussed by the Senate in addition to the bill now before us include only a War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill, an Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, and a Loan Bill. Such a programme is not sufficient to distract the mind of any honorable senator. This was merely an argument against the acceptance of the bill at this stage. Senator Needham objects to the measure because, as .he said, it has been introduced at the “ fag” end of the session. This is just the time when such a measure should be brought forward, as our minds are clear and alert, and, after months of activity, we are :n i bolter position to debate it than ve, should be earlier in the session. Senator O’Loghlin, at the outset, proclaimed the construction of the proposed railway as a very excellent idea. He did not continue in that, strain at any length. He said that the cost of the scheme should be carried out by the states of New South Wales and Queensland, and eventually concluded by moving that the consideration of the bill be deferred for six months. Senator Benny referred to an incident which occurred many years ago in New South Wales. The r’ailways in that state were once controlled by private enterprise, but fortunately, when private enterprise failed, the railway system was taken over by the Government. At that time the idea that all railways should be on a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge had been discredited, and the Government of New South Wales secured the services of an up-to-date engineer-
– “Very few miles of railway had been constructed at that- time.
– Why introduce such ancient history ?
– The honorable senator is only proving the perfidy of his own state.
– The expert to whom I have referred suggested that the New South Wales Government should adopt the 4-ft. 8-in. gauge, and at thattime the mileage of railways in Victoria and New South Wales was very small. Every effort was made to persuade the governments of those states to build on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, but they persisted in adhering to the 5-ft. 3-in.. gauge.
Consequently, before a general scheme of unification is completed, the Commonwealth will have to spend millions of pounds on this important work. Senator Elliott, who is, apparently, in favour of a uniform gauge, refuses to support the bill until the New South Wales Government has built a bridge over the Clarence River at Grafton. This flimsy excuse was answered by the Minister (Senator Pearce), who said that the New South Wales Government had definitely promised to construct a. bridge over the Clarence River by the time the proposed railway from Grafton to South Brisbane was constructed.
– Why is not a provision to that effect embodied in the agreement?
– It has nothing to do with the agreement.
– One clause of the agreement provides -
And whereas the said Commissioners inquired into the subject and presented a report dated 22nd September, 1921 (printed in Commonwealth Parliamentary Paper No. 141 of 1921) in which they (inter alia) made recommendations to the following effect : -
That action be taken to secure a gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in. (hereinafter called the “standard gauge”) on a railway line from Brisbane to Fremantle; and
That all railway lines of 5-ft. 3-in. gauge now owned by the said five states be converted to the standard gauge; the cost of carrying the said recommendations into effect being estimated by the said Commissioners at £21,600,000.
Further on it is provided that, on account of the failure to secure an agreement between the Commonwealth and the five states, it has been agreed - subject, I take it, to the approval of the New South Wales Parliament, the Queensland Parliament and the Commonwealth Parliament - to construct a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge railway between Kyogle and South Brisbane, and regrade, or, in fact, reconstruct the existing railway between Kyogle and Grafton. Until each Parliament named endorses that arrangement nothing can be done. The Queensland Parliament has approved of the agreement., the New South Wales Government has approved of it, and a few hours hence the Commonwealth Parliament will have expressed approval of it. I look upon the construction of a railway from South Brisbane to Grafton as being portion of an undertaking to provide a uniform gauge railway from Brisbane to Fremantle. The commissioners could have recommended the alteration of the gauge from Wallangarra to Brisbane, but I think they adopted a much wiser course in recommending the building of an alternative railway which will shorten the journey between Fremantle and Brisbane by at least 100 miles, and will probably be much less costly to construct than the re-laying of the existing line between Toowoomba and Brisbane.
– But that latter work must follow.
– Yes, butnot for a few years yet. In the meantime the person who desires to proceed from Sydney to Brisbane has to wander amidst the snow drifts of the New England Range, 4,000 feet high, around by Toowoomba, and then through further hills until he reaches his destination. Along the new route he will pass through one of the finest pieces of country in Australia from Maitland to Grafton. Possibly one or two tunnels will be required. The Minister gave us to understand that the largest tunnel would probably be built to accommodate two sets of rails. I think there can be no difference of opinion on that point. Whatever else is done the bridges, the culverts, and the tunnels should be so constructed that they will accommodate two sets of rails. I have a vivid recollection of the great cost that had to be incurred by the Government of New South Wales in altering the railway lines running from Sydney to Newcastle to the south coast; and to the west. This huge expenditure was brought about largely . because of the initial mistake in building tunnels to take only one set of rails. In the course of his remarks the Minister said that the amounts to be contributed by each of the parties to this agreement would be -
The Minister did not state the position quite Correctly, because it must be remembered that New South Wales contributes practically half of. the revenue of the Commonwealth. To arrive at the actual contribution of the people of New South Wales one must add to the £1,127,000 half of the amount contributed by the Common- wealth. . This point should be kept in mind by senators from South Australia and “Western Australia who may be inclined to oppose the bill. Wild and erroneous estimates have been made by honorable senators as to the probable cost of the Clarence River bridge, but we were informed by the Minister that it would be between £325,000 and £350,000. Any one who has had the experience of travelling throughout Australia must be fully convinced of the necessity for taking immediate steps to unify the railway gauges. During the war there was a tangible excuse for postponing the work, but the time has now come to make a commencement with it.
– Why not make a start by broadening the gauge of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle?
– If the Government borrowed sufficient money to start that work simultaneously with the construction of the Grafton to South Brisbane railway I should not object.
– Why could not the Kalgoorlie-Fremantle line be done first?
– I shall have no objection if the Government are prepared to borrow sufficient money to make arrangements to alter the gauge from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle, so that passengers on the east-west railway will not be compelled to remain at Kalgoorlie a whole day. I should support them if they took steps to unify the gauge on all .the lines recommended by the commissioners, even on that from Adelaide via Melbourne to Wodonga. In the meantime they are prepared to make a commencement at one end.
– It is in the middle.
– No. It is only proposed to make the connexion between the capitals, and Brisbane is the capital at one end. Unless action is taken by the Commonwealth Government the unification of Australia’s railway gauges will never be taken in hand. . The states will not move of their own volition, and I doubt very much whether anything practical can be done until all the railways in the Commonwealth are controlled by the Commonwealth Government. A unified gauge will permit of rolling-stock being constructed very much cheaper than at present.
– The , honorable senator does not believe that.’
– It does not require more than a moment’s consideration to come to that conclusion. Tenders for the construction of rolling-stock can be advertised all over the Commonwealth, and the successful tenderer can place his trucks on the rails at any spot and have them hauled on their own wheels to wherever they are required. At present, if 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge trucks are built at Brisbane, they have to be conveyed on- other trucks or by steamers to the places where they can be utilized. It should be obvious even to Senator Elliott that the unification of gauges will immediately bring about the standardization of rolling-stock, permitting of its construction and replacement at a much lower cost than is now possible. The transport of goods and passengers will be facilitated, and the whole country will benefit. Australia will also be brought into line with other countries. Great Britain converted its gauge 40 years ago. The United States of America has done the same. I think that all central European railways are on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. Even if it costs £3,500,000 to make a start by building a railway line from Grafton to South Brisbane, I do not think that we ought to worry about the cost. The Minister told us that the Commonwealth will bear the cost of rebuilding a bridge over the Murray River in South Australia. I shall not oppose the bill, because the Commonwealth Government proposes. to spend a large sum of money in South Australia, while the New South Wales Government is to be required to spend a large sum in building a bridge across the Clarence River, which bridge will be quite as necessary for the transcontinental traffic as is the Murray bridge. The Sydney Harbour Bridge will, no doubt, form portion of the unified railway system between Brisbane and Fremantle. “When it was decided to build that bridge the landowners of Sydney were required to contribute .a £d. in the £1 on tie unimproved values of their holdings, and the people of North Sydney, out as far as Barrenjoey, 18 miles away, were also called upon to contribute to the same extent. From that source sufficient money will be derived to pay all the expenses in connexion with the construction’ of the bridge for the first three years.
– The construction of the Sydney Harbour bridge was advocated 127 years ago. Every year that the work was delayed meant that the cost became greater, until finally, when a tender was accepted, the amount was approximately £4,700,000. And the longer we delay the work of the unification of the railway gauges in Australia, the greater will be the cost. While I give general approval to this bill, and to the agreement which has been very carefully drafted, I think that the Commonwealth should have taken the precaution to ensure that those who will derive benefits from the construction of this line, should contribute towards its cost. When the proposal to construct the Sydney Harbour bridge had advanced almost to the stage of calling for tenders, the Government of the day decided - and, I think, wisely - that part of the cost should be defrayed by the imposition of an all-round rate on land values of id. in the £1.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Newland). - This bill does not deal with rating, nor with the Sydney Harbour bridge. I ask the honorable senator to confine himself to the subject before the Chair.
– -The Commonwealth Parliament is asked to vote £3,500,000 for the construction of this railway. That money must be obtained by the Commonwealth by way of loan, on which interest must be paid, or by utilizing revenue derived from the Customs or other sources. Although I believe it is possible that under sub-section ii of section 51 of the Constitution Act, which reads -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have powers to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of . the Commonwealth with respect to -
Taxation; but so as not to discriminate between states or parts of states, this work might be done, I doubt whether it would be competent for the Commonwealth to be a party to the construction of a railway under a system to which you, Mr. Deputy President, have ruled I must not refer. Partially under that excellent system, the Sydney Harbour bridge is to be built. I have seen the report of deputations which have waited upon the Minister for Public Works in New South Wales, urging him to Construct a railway connecting Combaning, near Temora, with Grong Grong. The gentlemen who waited upon the Minister were agreeable to find, by means of a tax of 6d. per acre, the cost of the railway themselves, but for some reason the Minister would not go on with it. Another deputation -brought under the notice of the Minister the desirability of continuing the eastern suburbs railway, but the same objections were raised in that case to the method under which it was proposed vo find the money.
– I” understood that the honorable senator was in favour of the construction of this railway.
– I am also in favour of something being done to ensure that the land alongside the railway, which will be greatly enhanced in value, shall contribute something directly towards its cost.
-brockman. - That has nothing to do with this Parliament, as it is a- purely state matter.
– I value the opinion of the honorable senator, as his knowledge of these matters is almost as great as my. own,- but I think that it would have been competent for the commissioners, when they drafted the agreement, to include in it a proposal similar to that which has been incorporated in the act authorizing the construction of the Sydney Harbour bridge.
– To do what the honorable senator suggests would be to override the Constitution.
– I am afraid that section 2 of the Constitution would be severely strained, if not overridden-
– Why argue?
– Because I think that it is very unfair that the people of South Australia and Western Australia, and, to a limited extent, Victoria, should have to find a proportion of the money to construct this line, which will have the direct and permanent effect of increasing substantially the value of the land along the route, whereas the owners of the land will not be called upon to pay anything. I have heard rumours that certain people, anticipating the construction of the line, have acquired large areas of land along the route. I hope that those rumours are not well-founded, but if a provision of this kind were inserted in the -bill, SUck. action could have no effect.
– Why beat the dead horse? What the honorable senator desires cannot be done under this bill.
– I think it could have been done had the agreement been so worded. If the principle had general applications, no constitutional diffiulties would arise. Personally, I do not care where the work is commenced - whether at Fremantle, Kalgoorlie, or anywhere else - but it is work which must be done. I, therefore, hope that the bill will pass.
– This is the commencement of one of the greatest national works thatAustralia has yet undertaken. The railway passes through some of the finest country in Australia, and it will be possible, by the construction of short lengths of connecting railway, to link up with existing railways.
– If that is so, why was the railway not built earlier?
– It was not built earlier because, when the first railways in Australia were constructed, they were run through the then settled portions of the country. Afterwards, it was discovered that nearer the coast there was even finer country, but it was so densely covered with scrub that the engineers adopted the easier route, and took the railway over the mountains. If this railway from Brisbane to. Kyogle is built, it will join up with the Grafton railway. It will then be possile to connect Kyogle, Tenterfield, Dorrego, and Armidale by the construction of a few miles of railway, and thus get in touch with the whole of tie existing New South Wales main lines. Passengers from Armidale, Guyra, Dubbo, Parkes, and Cootamundra could then connect with the main southern line.
– Will those railways be national undertakings?
– No. They will be undertaken by the states, but it will be possible to link them up with the main line. It is said that Grafton is too close to the sea, but it is 50 miles from the coast. The State Government is building a. first .class bridge, capable of carrying railway and other traffic over the Clarence River. When the New South Wales Government could not get the steel for that bridge, it constructed a punt, so that passengers could be taken across the river without having to change trains, thus making it possible to travel- from Sydney to Koygle without changing. The Clarence River is one of the finest in Australia .
It is a beautiful fresh-water stream, and not a salt-water stream as mentioned by Senator Elliott. It is half a mile wide -at Grafton. By the construction of this line from Brisbane to Kyogle the railway journey to Western Australia will be shortened by 100 miles. In addition, there are railways on either side which could be connected with it.
– Why not start at the other end?
– I am prepared to start with the section from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie straightway. If a bill is introduced for that purpose, I shall support it, as I would also support a bill for the construction of a railway from Port Augusta to Hay. I hope that other honorable senators will look at the matter in the same light.
– Queensland has been accused of being the predominant influence in relation to this measure, but that is notreflected in the attendance of Queensland senators at the present moment,- as only three representatives of the northern state are in the chamber. As far back as 1888, Mr. Eddy, the then Chief Commissioner of Railways for the State of New South Wales - a man with a vision - saw that the unification of the Australian railways was necessary, and advocated it, but he lived before his time. I recollect that at a later stage in our history a subcommittee of the Rockhampton Chamber of Commerce, of which I was a member, was asked to consider a scheme, to connect Beaudesert, in Queensland, with Kyogle, in New South Wales, in order to shorten by 100 miles the journey between Sydney and Brisbane. That proposal came to nothing. Had it been proceeded with it would have been a state matter, because federation had not then been brought about. The Commonwealth Parliament was established, and in time it recognized the necessity for unifying the railway gauges of Australia. “ The advice of expert engineers was sought, and the Premiers of the states accepted the decision that eventually the unification of all the lines of Australia should be accomplished. Meanwhile, as a practicable proposition, it was strongly recommended that the capitals be linked up by means of a uniform gauge line. That was a very proper decision, and this bill provides the starting point for giving effect to it. I am afraid that the unification of the railway gauges of all the states will take a very long time, because it will involve such a large expenditure. The linking up of the capitals in that way is a charge upon the Commonwealth, but the cost of the conversion of the interior lines in each 6tate should be borne by the individual states. In the building of new lines, the eventual unification to the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge should be borne in mind, and bridges and culverts constructed accordingly. It has been stated that this line will not be useful from the point of view of defence. Its usefulness in that direction is one of the grounds on which I advocate its construction. I do not say that it will be perfect from a defence point of view, but it certainly will be very useful. Its usefulness could be impaired only by the tragic circumstance of our losing command of the sea,’ when our coastal works could be shelled, and railway communication be interrupted. So long as we retain command of the sea, this railway will be a valuable one. I hope, however, that we are more concerned with the maintenance of peace than with the possibility of engaging in war. The line will be of inestimable value for the carriage or live stock, fruit, and perishable commodities, quite apart from the passenger aspect. The journey between Sydney and Brisbane will take from four to five hours less than it does at present, and that will be an important saving in time. I think that the proposed adjustment of the expense is a very fair one. After working expenses have been met, interest on the capital will be paid to the Commonwealth and the states.
– That is only in the event of a profit being made.
– When the north coast railway between Brisbane and Rockhampton was constructed, it was said that it would not pay for the grease used on the axles. Yet, right from the jump, it was a payable proposition, and to-day it is scarcely able to cope with the traffic. This line will be similarly profitable. It is suggested that the bridge across the Clarence River should first be built. That is ridiculous. It recalls to my mind an action by the late Sir Thomas Mcllwraith, in Queensland, many years ago. That statesman had a very wide vision. He foresaw the great advantage that would follow the construction of a transcontinental railway from Port Darwin to Keppel Bay, and, in anticipation of it, he had constructed, at Port Alma, a wharf which would accommodate such a line. For 40 years that wharf was a “ white elephant.” That experience may be repeated if the bridge over the Clarence River is constructed before the railway from Grafton to South Brisbane is authorized. I do not think that honorable senators should take a narrow parochial view of this matter. If ever there was an Australian line, this- is it. I am prepared to support similar proposals in other states.
– How will this line assist the citizens of Victoria?
– This is an Australian project, which will benefit every state. On the river Murray, works estimated to cost £2,000,000 are in hand. The people of Queensland do not complain of having to share in that expenditure, because they recognize that a great benefit will result from those works.
– It is being undertaken in part, in Victoria, and, therefore, it is truly Australian !
– I hope ,that this measure will be regarded from the Australian point of view. I give it my. hearty support.
– When federation was established I hoped that state boundaries would be obliterated, and that provincialism and interstate jealousy would disappear as mist before the noonday sun. Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since the Commonwealth Parliament came into existence, and my hopes are still far from being realized. The discussion on this bill indicates one thing very plainly, and that is that interested states are prepared to vigorously advocate any proposition that will, in their opinion, give them an advantage. I give place to no honorable senator in my desire to see the unification of the railway gauges of Australia, with a consequent removal of the present drawbacks to travellers and trade. But I looked to the Government to bring forward a scheme which would be essentially an Australian one. This proposal is not in that category, and it does not purport to unify the railway gauges of Australia.
– It is portion of a scheme for the unification of the gauges.
– The unification of the gauges was agreed upon by a conference that was held a year or two ago.
– Is not this an instalment of that scheme?
– No. Unification of railway gauges relates to existing lines, and not to new lines. This is a proposition to regrade portion of a railway from Grafton to Kyogle, and to lay down a new line from Kyogle to South Brisbane. Is there in the Constitution any provision that gives this Parliament such a power ? If there is, I am not aware of it. I do npt think, that the framers of the Constitution desired or anticipated that the Commonwealth Parliament should undertake railway construction in the different states. We are told that this line, which is to traverse portions of New South Wales and Queensland - but particularly New South Wales - will run through the best country in Australia. The Treasurer says that it will be the most profitable line in Australia, and that it will pay from the commencement.
– So it will.
– Is it not re- markable that the Government of New South Wales has not, so far, constructed a line which would be the most profitable in Australia, and would pay from the commencement? No state would delay the construction of a railway, that promised to be profitable from the date of its opening.
– I agree with the honorable senator that this line should have been built years ago. New South Wales has been negligent in the matter.
– But Senator Cox has told us that it was not built because the country is so heavily timbered that the Government thought it better to build a railway over the mountain tops into. Queensland. Of course, I do not believe that.
– This proposed route had not been suggested then.
– That is merely another reason why the line was not built before. What sort of an agreement is it, anyhow? Certainly it cannot be regarded as an agreement between the Common wealth and the various states for the unification of the gauges, but it may’ be an agreement between the Commonwealth and the Governments of Queensland and New South Wales. The Queensland Parliament, I understand, has ratified it, the New South Wales Government has accepted it, and this Government is now asking Parliament to ratify it, notwithstanding that there is no mention in it of the construction of a bridge over the Clarence River, to cost, at least, £1,000,000.
– It is estimated to cost £350,000.
– Well, let us assume that the estimate will not be exceeded, and that the bridge will cost £350,000. There - is nothing in the agreement that binds New South Wales to erect the bridge, which is all-essential.
– The erection of the bridge is nothing to do with the Commonwealth.
– I am iri agreement with the honorable senator. Therefore, I hope he will vote for the amendment submitted by Senator O’Loghlin. Something has been said about promises. We know what may happen. The present Government in New South Wales may not be in power in the near future, and its promise may not be honoured. When the east-west railway was being considered by the Federal Parliament, a definite promise was made by the Government of Western Australia that it would convert the existing railway from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle to the standard gauge.
– Part of it.
– That promise was made by the State Government, and the Western Australian senators of that time declared that it would be carried out. Dp to the present, nothing has been done.
– That promise was conditional on the east-west line being built within a certain time.
– I was not aware of that. In any case, what difference could it make to Western Australia?
– It was a condition of the agreement.
– But why should Western Australia evade its responsibilities because the east-west line was not built within a certain time? If that is the way in which State Governments may evade their obligations, I am afraid I cannot think too highly of such promises.
The Leader of the Senate, in moving the second reading of the bill, delivered a very interesting speech, but much of that which he had to say in support of the bill, like- the flowers that bloom in the spring, had little to do with the case. He told us, for example, .that at one time no less than 800 Victorian railway trucks were held up at Albury and that traffic was congested ; he also informed us that Senator Guthrie, on one occasion, sent to Geelong for fodder to be forwarded to his station property in New South Wales, and that the transaction occupied five weeks. What had that to do with this proposal ? Nothing whatever.
– It had something to do with the unification of the gauges.
– This bill is not part- of that scheme.
– It is.
– This is a proposal to construct a section of new line, and to re-grade portion of an existing railway. The Minister also said that one reason why the- unification of the gauges had not been proceeded with earlier was that Victoria was not prepared to join in the agreement arrived at by the conference of Premiers. That agreement related’ to a unification scheme costing, approximately,’ £21,000,000, of which amount the Commonwealth was to be responsible for onefifth, and the states for four-fifths. Victoria and South Australia, whilst accepting the standard gauge and agreeing that its adoption was essential to the development and the safety of the Commonwealth, withheld assent for the present. That decision had relation to the unification scheme to cost, approximately, £21,000,000.
– And I said that Victoria was not prepared to go on with it. This proposal is part of the unification scheme. If the honorable senator will read the commission’s report he will see that clearly.
– This is not a part of the unification scheme, and Victoria, at the conference of Premiers, was not a party to it. I find that the cost of the work of unification of the gauges, on the estimate of £21,000,000, would be, in the “ state of New South Wales, £1,657,000, and that the New South Wales quota for the whole would be £7,094,388. The cost of the work in Victoria would be £8,324,000, and her quota in the comprehensive scheme would be £4,939,349. The proposal now before the Senate will cost, approximately, £3,500,000, of which amount the liability of Victoria will be £810,000. There is nothing in the agreement to compel New South Wales to pay its quota of the bigger scheme.
– But we will do it, and will not repudiate our obligations, as Victoria did with regard to Canberra.
– It should be done in a business-like way. This should be an all- Australian bill. There should be a definite and binding agreement between the various states in regard to the comprehensive scheme for the unification of the gauges. Otherwise, New South Wales and Queensland might take the stand thai as their ‘ section had been completed, the other states should be called upon to face the whole of the liability for work within their .respective, territories.
– I think the honor.able’s senator’s argument is an insult to the senators from New South Wales.
– I cannot help what the honorable senator is thinking. I am looking at the matter from a business point of view. Western Australia, as we have seen, did not honour its promise to standardize the line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle. ‘ The Minister told us this afternoon that it was because the east-west line was not completed within a certain time. I would be a wholehearted supporter of a comprehensive scheme, and I believe every other honorable senator would also endorse such a proposal for the standardization of the gauges.-
– But the honorable senator would not care to start anywhere .
– The Minister is wrong. This proposal is not part of that scheme. It is one for the construction of a railway through portion of New South Wales that is represented by a member of the Country party. It may be that there is something in what some people’ say that it is” a vote-catching proposition, and that if it had not been for the pact between the National and Country parties we would have heard nothing about it.
– It was discussed long before the formation of the present Ministry.
– And a much more liberal scheme was under consideration, by the previous Government.
– It never saw the light of day.
– This scheme has not been seriously considered by the states as part of the unification proposals. No data have been furnished to either House. We are asked to vote upon a scheme concerning which we know little or nothing. Railway construction is not undertaken in Victoria unless the proposition has first been submitted to the railways standing committee for investigation and report, and, after the committee has submitted its report, the government does not necessarily adopt its recommendation. We have no such report, such as other parliaments have, to guide us in respect to this railway. Honorable senators opposite are prepared to blindly follow the Government in a proposition of this kind.
– Some of the honor- . able senator’s own colleagues are supporting the bill.
– I do not know how honorable senators from Tasmania intend to vote, but, if they support the proposal, they will be doing something which I am not prepared to do. If the Government has money to spend on constructing railways of this character, and on relaying and regrading a state railway, they should also pay some regard to the requests which have been made by the people in Tasmania. Ever since the inception of federation, the government of that state has been agitating for better communication with the mainland. The members of the Labour party have always supported their representations, and have been anxious to assist in establishing better communication between the island state and the mainland. To-day Tasmania is at the mercy of a shipping combine. I believe it is said with some justification that a certain amount of exploitation is going on, and that the combine is not playing the game with Tasmania. Would not money be spent to better advantage if the Commonwealth Government subsidized a line of steamships or established a line of its own to facilitate trade between the mainland and Tasmania ? If I were a representative of that state, I would seriously hesitate to support this proposal The Government is deaf to the requests repeatedly made by the people in that state.
– That is incorrect.
– It is not. If the Commonwealth Government can build a new railway in the interests of a certain section of the community, probably to placate interested parties, why cannot it spend a million or two in providing a steamship service between Tasmania and the mainland.
– It is incorrect to say that the Government has turned a deaf ear to the interests of Tasmania.
– It has in regard to shipping communications.
– No; we are subsidizing a line at present.
– That is a mere bagatelle. The Tasmanian people wantsomething more than that. If I were a member of the Tasmanian Government, I would utilize every means at my disposal to get the Commonwealth Government to do what the people of Tasmania desire. This is an opportunity for Tasmanian senators to strengthen their claims. An agitation should be started in Tasmania to move the Commonwealth Government.
– The Tasmanian people will be very grateful to the honorable senator.
– I am sure the honorable senator will not be grateful if anything I do has the effect of stirring the Government into a state of activity. This is not an Australian proposition, and is not a scheme which appeals to any true Australian. It is not a proposal to unify the railway gauges of Australia. If it were it would have little or no opposition from any member of this chamber or of another place. The Government is simply playing with an important national undertaking. In these .circumstances taxpayers in Victoria should not be asked to meet the expenditure incurred in constructing new lines in New South Wales or Queensland. This work should be undertaken by the Governments of those states, especially as we are told with emphasis that the railway will be a payable proposition immediately it is open for traffic.
Senator REID (Queensland) [3.221.- As practically every honorable senator who has spoken during this debate has expressed himself strongly in favour of a uniform gauge, it is astonishing to find any opposition to a national proposal such as this.
– This is not a scheme for a uniform gauge.
– As it is the commencement of the construction of a line
Qf a standard gauge which will eventually benefit the whole Commonwealth, I intend to support the bill. Queensland was in favour of unification long before the inception of federation, and entered into an agreement with New South Wales to construct railways to connect with the lines in that state. The Queensland ‘Government constructed a line to link up with the Tweed River district in New South Wales, and in doing so provision was made in the construction of tunnels for the gauge to be converted to the 4-ft. 8-J-in. to connect up later with the New South Wales system. That proves that Queensland has always been in favour of a uniform gauge for the Commonwealth. The New South Wales authorities, however, discovered that a better route than that originally proposed was available in New South Wales, and in consequence the connexion has not been made. The Queensland Government is not going cap in hand to the Federal Government as has been suggested, and would be prepared to construct a railway from South Brisbane to the border at its .own expense as the distance is not very great.
– It has been a long time thinking about it.
– Not at all. As I have stated, long before the inception of federation the Queensland Government built a line to connect with the Northern Rivers district. Queensland has more money invested in railways per head r? population than any other state, and it cannot, therefore, be said that it has been in any way dilatory in the matter of railway construction. , I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) that the present proposal is the first step towards the Commonwealth assuming control of all railways, which is necessary from a defence and a commercial point of view. Western Australia,. New South Wales, and Queensland, which are the most progressive states, are always prepared to incur risks which will not be undertaken by other states. The Honorary Minister (Senator Wilson) has lately urged the necessity of finding additional markets for our produce. ‘ If the” proposed line is constructed the products from the Northern Rivers district in New South . Wales can. be disposed of in . the Brisbane market, and also shipped overseas, and Queensland produce will also be more readily transported to New South Wales. The Commonwealth Government has undertaken the work of unifying the gauges throughout the states, and up to the present New South Wales and Queensland are the only states to participate in the scheme. The parliaments in both states have already ratified the agreement, and shown their willingness to find the money for this developmental work.
– It is Commonwealth money that will be spent.
– Only part of it will be Commonwealth money. Even if the Commonwealth shares in the cost of developing a portion of state territory, it will be a payable business proposition. The building of this line will enable a through connexion to be made between Cairns, in the North of Queensland, and Fremantle, in Western Australia. It will be something to boast about when the few people there are in Australia can claim that they are able to provide such a huge transcontinental railway service. Queensland has displayed an excellent spirit in the matter. Although its railway system is already connected with that of New South Wales, it is willing to go out of its way to make a further connexion, and considerably shorten the journey between Brisbane and Sydney. Other states have not done so much in the matter of interstate railway communication.
– Victoria has probably a dozen connexions with the New South Wales system.
– They are purely country lines, to transport general produce. I am speaking of a transcontinental line, that will run from Cairns, in the north-east of Australia, to Fremantle, on the west coast. Queensland already has that connexion, but it is accepting the responsibility for building another line to connect its railways with the southern railways. I think all honorable senators are in favour of having a uniform railway gauge in Australia; a start has to be made somewhere, and as the states of New South Wales and Queensland have definitely agreed to make that start. I think it is only right that the Commonwealth should help them. I should be willing to extend that principle, but I regret that the State of Western Australia is not prepared to undertake the widening of the gauge of the railway between Fremantle and Kalgoorlie. The 3-ft. 6-in. gauge at the western end of the east-west railway is a great handicap to the transcontinental service. We ought to look at the matter from a broad point of view. Australia is not provided with waterways, and is entirely dependent on railways. We ought to have a uniform gauge from one coast to another, and if South Australia would only enter into’ the scheme, and permit of the connexion being made between Hay and Port Augusta, we should have it. As this bill proposes a definite step towards bringing about a uniform gauge in Australia I shall vote for it, and I trust that the Senate will pass it.
– Senator Reid claims that New South Wales and Queensland are the only states that are prepared to accept the proposal now before the Senate, and that South Australia has not branched out in any important railway development, because it is afraid to do so. I should like to point out to the honorable senator that without any assistance from the Commonwealth Government, South Australia is engaged in building a line from Adelaide to Port Augusta, on a 5 -ft. 3-in. gauge, which can, when necessary, be altered to a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. It has, in fact, done more than either Queensland or New South Wales has done in the building of a trans-continental railway. I do not know how Senator Gardiner will vote on this bill. He commenced his speech by saying that it was a roads-and-bridges measure, and that the honorable gentleman who was responsible for its introduction was a roadsandbridges member. He said that he did not mind where the line commenced because, in any case, it was a one-horse railway.
– I was trying to represent my party.
Senator HO ARE. Yes, and doing it very well. Many railways have been built in Australia along routes which have not proved to be the best from a commercial point of view, but which were adopted owing to political “ pull.” In my humble opinion the Grafton to South Brisbane railway has been proposed because of the political “ pull “ of an honorable member in another place. I wonder why this railway route has not been surveyed as in the case of otherlines. We are told that the line will cost £3,500,000, but, as a matter of fact, no one knows what it will cost, because there has been no preliminary survey.
– Of course it has been surveyed. How otherwise could an estimate of the cost be made?
– The honorable senator knows that the line has not been surveyed.
– It has been recommended by the Standing Committee of Public Works in New South Wales.
– It has not been submitted to the Commonwealth Public Works Committee. When an honorable senator asked why the line had not been submitted to that committee for inquiry, the Minister said that the SolicitorGeneral advised that it was not necessary to refer it to the Public Works Committee.
– What is the use of the Public Works Committee, anyhow?
– If the Public Works Committee is a useless body it should be abolished, but while it exists its functions and powers should be recognized by us. If this railway had been a clean and above-board proposition, and if the proposal for its construction had not been due to political “ pull,” it would have been submitted to the Public Works Committee, and the Government would not have endeavoured to dodge its responsibility by sheltering behind technical points furnished by the Solicitor-General. A very definite procedure is laid down in the Public Works Committee Act in these terms - (1.) No public work of any kind whatsoever (except such works as have already been authorized by Parliament, or which are authorized during the present session, and except works for the naval or military defence of the Commonwealth exempted by Order in Council from the operation of the act) the estimated cost of completing which exceeds Twenty-five thousand pounds, and whether such work is a continuation, completion, repair, reconstruction, extension, or a new work, shall be commenced unless sanctioned as in this section provided. (2.) Every such proposed work shall in the first place be submitted and explained in the House of Representatives by a Minister of State, in this section referred to as “ the Minister “. (3.) The explanation shall comprise an estimate of the cost of the work when completed, together with such plans and specifications or other descriptions as the Minister deems proper, together with the prescribed reports on the probable cost of construction and maintenance, and estimates of the probable revenue (if any) to be derived therefrom, such estimates, plans, specifications, descriptions, and reports to be authenticated or verified in the prescribed manner. (4.) Upon motion made in .the usual manner by the Minister or by any member of the House of Representatives the proposed works shall ‘be referred to the committee for their report thereon.
This railway, estimated to cost £3,500,000. should have been submitted to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. A very different ‘ course was adopted in regard to a line in which another state was interested. That work had to be considered by the Public Works Committee, and, notwithstanding the fact that the committee reported favorably upon it, it has since received very scanty consideration from the Government. The Minister trotted out as his main argument the fact that the building of this line from Grafton to South Brisbane would be part of a scheme for unifying the railway gauges of Australia, and he dwelt upon the disadvantages due to the absence of a unified gauge, laying particular stress on the delays that take place at Albury. How in the name of fortune will the building of the Grafton to South Brisbane railway relieve the pressure of transhipment at Albury? If the Government were really convinced that the railway gauges of Australia should be made uniform they would realize that the states could easily be linked up by a uniform gauge railway that would obviate the transhipment difficulties at Albury and otter places, which the railway now proposed to be built will not do. The first step to bring about the unification of gauges ought to be the unification of lines already in existence. What i3 there to prevent the Government from reducing the main trunk lines in Victoria and South Australia to a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, thus giving a uniform gauge between New South Wales and Kalgoorlie. I have already pointed out that the South Australian Government is building a 5-ft. 3-in gauge line from Adelaide to Port Augusta. That could easily have been converted to 4 ft. 8i- in. We should then have had a standard gauge line to Kalgoorlie. A line from Fremantle to Perth could also have’ been easily constructed. Personally, I do not care where the work of unification starts; it must be carried out sooner or later. But I do not see why we should start at the top end of Australia when we have at Albury and other places such conditions as were pointed out by the Minister. It has been said that some honorable senators are adopting a parochial attitude in regard to this matter. I should prefer that the conversion to a uniform gauge should be started at Perth, in Western Australia; but better, even, than that would be “a commencement simultaneously at both ends, as in- the case of the eastwest railway. It is claimed that in the building of this railway a commencement is being made with the unification of the gauges. That statement I consider to be absolute rubbish. In South Australia we have a considerable length of trunk line. I consider that we should first extend the east-west standard gauge line towards either Perth or Melbourne. The Minister stated that as this line is to be constructed on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, it comes within the definition nf unification. The north-south railway would come under that definition. When the Northern Territory was handed over to the’ Commonwealth, a promise was given that that line would be constructed. If that line comes within the Minister’s definition of unification, why has it not been constructed? The people of South Australia consider that they are labouring under a grave injustice. If unification of railway gauges means the construction of new lines, we say that the Government has neglected its duty in not constructing the northsouth railway in preference to the Grafton-Kyogle line. Some have said that there is nothing in the agreement to bind New South Wales and Queensland to contribute towards railways in other states. We must leave that to their sense of justice. In all probability, they will stand by the compact; but, on the other hand, they may not. New South Wales has not carried out a certain contract regarding a railway to Canberra, although I believe that she is now prepared to construct it provided that the Commonwealth Government will lend , the money. In my opinion, the whole of the unification of the gauges should be undertaken by the Commonwealth, as I fail to see how the states can ever find the money for a scheme which will cost many millions of pounds. I agree with Senator Gardiner that it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to take over the whole of the railways of Australia. If that were done, it would be possible to bring about this much-desired unification. The break of gauge in the various states means a loss of millions of pounds to the country. In South Australia we have three different gauges, namely, 3 ft. 6 in., 4 ft. 8^ in., and 5 ft. 3 in. Such a state of things should no longer be tolerated. The Commonwealth should complete the work of standardizing all our railways, and should own and control them. If that were done, they would be run more cheaply, and the public would reap the benefit. I am surprised at the Minister speaking of unification of railway gauges starting at one end, and then pointing out the difficulties which exist in two of the states. If we are honest, and believe in a uniform railway gauge, let us believe in it whole-heartedly, and not endeavour to camouflage it as the Minister tried to do when introducing this measure. The existing line should be converted to the standard gauge.. The money proposed to be spent on this undertaking would be better spent in that direction. I hope that Senator O’Loghlin’s amendment will be carried if for no other reason than that it will be an intimation to the Government that it mUSt go on with the survey of the line, and submit to Parliament an estimate which will approximate the actual cost of the railway. In connexion with a line’ to cost £3,500,000 there should be no guesswork, but before the Senate is asked to agree to its construction a proper survey should be made, and accurate figures supplied.
– Surveys have been made.
– Portion only of the route has been surveyed, . but not the whole length.
– One part has been completely surveyed, and a trial survey has been made of the remainder.
– What does the Minister mean by a trial survey? When a bill is before Parliament, we want something more than the records of a trial survey. A proper survey should be made, so that there will be no guesswork. Parliament would then know both the route and the cost, and be in a position to determine whether it was justified in voting money for the construction’ of the line. , >
– The trial survey refers to 27 miles only.
– Probably that is the most mountainous part of the route. One would think from what has been said by some honorable senators that the construction of this railway would bring about international prosperity. If it were not for the political “ pull “ which is behind this measure, the construction of this line would have been submitted to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. We should then have had no cause for complaint.
– The Government did not dare to do that, because it knows that it gets the truth from the committee.
– That would have spoilt the Government’s case. I hope that the amendment will be carried. A delay of six months will not make much difference to the building of the railway, but it will enable facts to be placed before iia, and permit of an intelligent vote being given. I support the amendment.
– I confess, at the outset, that I have to moderate my enthusiasm in respect to this measure because of the extremely pessimistic tone of the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat. He is a veritable Cassandra regarding this line, . but I hope that his prognostications will not be justified. I do not think that they will be. Cassandra met a most undesirable and unpleasant fate. I hope that the honorable senator will be immune from such a catastrophe as befell her; but that remains to be seen.
– She was never in the Senate.
– Not in person, but she is represented by an extremely good deputy. I hasten to explain to the honorable senator that in referring to his speech I intend nothing derogatory to him, or to the bill. I have merely alluded to his remarks to explain that I cannot speak as freely and cheerfully concerning this measure as I should have done had he not immediately preceded me. I freely admit that there are certain phases of this bill concerning which I am not quite satisfied. Naturally, taking the same view that has to a great extent been taken during the secondreading debate by other honorable senators, I feel somewhat aggrieved that this work of unifying our railway gauges, of which this bill forms an integral part, did not have its starting point at what is obviously the best starting point - the port of Fremantle.
– Do not be parochial.
– I have no desire to be that. I hope that I am able to view this matter with an open mind, and indeed from a national point of view. I shall not withhold my support because the bill before us does not absolutely and entirely meet with my direct wishes. I believe, and I think that honorable senators generally believe, that this is a start with a federal system of unification of our railway gauges’. In my opinion, this Parliament could consider no subject of more importance. With no other question is bound up to the same extent the prosperity, happiness, and safety of the people of Australia. That being so, I think that it would be better if we adopted a truly Australian spirit, and cast aside for the time being those little parochial differences which undoubtedly exist in this Senate. I was interested in the speech of Senator Findley. He looks at this question from a purely Victorian point of view - I might say, an Early Victorian point of view.
– The stone “ age “ point of view.
– Senator Findley apparently knows that railways do exist - in Victoria, at least - although they have no right apparently to exist in other parts of Australia. I was amused that the honorable senator should say that this proposal could not be part of the railway unification scheme, because it provided in part for a new line. I take it that a line which reduces the journey between two capitals by 100 miles must be a very valuable adjunct to the railway systems of Australia. That forms a good reason for supporting this bill. I was somewhat amused to hear certain honorable senators refer to the amendment as a proposal merely to postpone the matter. I may be somewhat slow in the up-take - to use an expression which Senator Grant will understand - but in all other parts of Australia, when an amendment is moved providing that a bill be read. “ this day six months,” the result is the irrevocable demise of the bill. I refuse to regard this amendment as a proposal merely to postpone the measure; it is the most deadly form of attack that could be made upon a bill. There is another point upon which the Government might have given us a little more information. I understand that there is a body called the Public Works Committee upon which are members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate. It would be a very good thing if that committee had to review proposals for the expenditure of Commonwealth funds, whether they comprise the whole or only a part of the expenditure upon any work. That has not been dome in this case, and I very much regret it. I shall not, however, condemn what] I regard as the most valuable general principle of our federal legislation because of some petty defect in detail. I have alluded to this line as a most valuable adjunct to the railway systems of Australia. From the federal point of view of defence, from the sentimental point of view of the better linking up of the states of the Commonwealth, and from the state aspect of its value to commerce, such a line will, in my opinion, be invaluable to Australia. Therefore, in spite of the defects to which I have alluded, I am able to give the bill my support - at all events, on the motion for its second reading.
– I have listened with a great deal of attention to the speeches that have been delivered. I am sure that Senator Kingsmill has never committed any sin, because he has such a very pliable conscience. After having pulled the bill to pieces, and pointed out its many faults, he quietly informed the Senate that he intended to support it. The broad Australian spirit which has been displayed in this chamber to-day is certainly inspiring to a good Australian.
– The honorable senator means a South Australian.
– Whenever the honorable senator leaves Queensland, he enters foreign territory. He can never see anything but Queensland. I want to see Perth and Brisbane linked up. From Perth to Sydney the distance is approximately 2,600 miles. Why not, first of all, construct a uniform gauge railway over that distance ? That would remove the obstacle presented by South Australia and Victoria. If sufficient tact had been shown by the federal authorities, both of those states would have fallen into line, and we would have been .able to proceed with, the unifying of the gauges at least from Kalgoorlie to Sydney. The people who travel between Melbourne and Sydney are as’ worthy of consideration as are those who travel between Sydney and Brisbane. The Albury station is a disgrace to a civilized community. A greater number of people travel between Melbourne and Sydney than travel between Sydney and Brisbane.
– The Commonwealth Government offered to deal with that.
– There is nothing to prevent the New South Wales Government from running a 4-ft. 8^-in. line from Broken Hill to a point on the east-west railway. The Government of Western Australia might be induced to convert the line from Kalgoorlie to Perth to a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge, and a direct line of that gauge would then be run from Perth to Brisbane. The people of South Australia and Victoria are to be asked to put a lot of money into this scheme, but, when the time comes to provide a gauge of 4-ft. 8J- in. from Adelaide through Melbourne to Sydney, the other states will not support it so enthusiastically as they support this proposal. If the line from Broken Hill is constructed, Victoria and South Australia will he told “there is a uniform gauge across Australia. What more do you want?” Those states are as much entitled to consideration as are New South Wales and Queensland. The latter state has received a good deal from this Parliament at different times, and is never afraid to ask for more. What I admire about the Queenslanders is the way in which they stand together. Recently they have exercised so much influence that they have been able to get anything for which they asked. South Australia, on the other hand, must be content with promises. The Minister (Senator Pearce) has informed us that communications are passing between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia in relation to the north-south line. The South Australian Premier, at great inconvenience to himself, is in Melbourne to-day. Why not invite him to the bar of the Senate and hear a statement by him ? The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has not yet seen him, although an urgent wire was sent yesterday acquainting him of Mr. Gunn’s intentions. If any one came down from Queensland to see the Prime Minister, he would be met with open arms. The Honorary Minister (Senator Crawford) smiles. He knows that what I say is true. I expect that Tasmanian senators will not vote for this bill. They surely will not have the temerity to do so when their state is not financially interested in it. Western Australia, Victoria, and South Australia have, in the past, fought for Tasmania, and I hope that honorable senators from that state will not assist the Government to do what is not in the best interests of Australia as a whole. South Australia has been waiting for fourteen years for the north-south line. A definite agreement was entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia, under which that line was to be constructed,- yet the work has not been begun.
– In thirteen years only 54 miles have been constructed.
– And that has been at the wrong end. This Government never completes anything that it undertakes to carry out. Last night an inspired! question waa asked in another place, and we now have reason to hope that the railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs will some day be pushed on with. But we cannot get any definite information as to the time when the work will be commenced. The Grafton to South Brisbane railway has been discussed for only a few months, yet a bill is introduced to authorize its construction, and I expect that work upon it will shortly be undertaken. The Government has whipped up its supporters, and some honorable senators who are really opposed to the bill will vote for it, so I have nodoubt that it will be passed. I hope that the Government will not overlook the interests of other big states. South Australia has a greater claim to the north-south railway than Queensland has to this line, because Brisbane is already connected by rail with Sydney. Why not give us a railway to open up and develop new country in South Australia ? I hope that the amendment will be carried, in order that honorable senators may have time in which to consider the measure, and the Public Works Committee may be able to inquire into it and place before Parliament a report based upon expert evidence after a full survey of the proposed route has been made.
– The attitude of those honorable senators who are opposed to the measure is extraordinary. They declare that they are in favour of the unification of the railway gauges, but they are not prepared to support this proposal, which is part of the unification scheme, and is intended to complete the connexion on the standard gauge between New South Wales and Queensland. The Victorian representatives in this chamber wish unification to begin in Victoria. The South Australian members want it to begin in that state, whilst some of the Western Australian members consider that the scheme should begin at the Fremantle end, and end heaven only knows where. I rose particularly to reply to the unfair attack, by innuendo and otherwise, that has been made on the state which I have the honour to assist in representing. The inference clearly has been that once New South Wales has secured the construction of this portion of the unified railway system of Australia, it will not lend its assistance to proposals to continue the scheme into other states. Indeed, it has been suggested that New South Wales will repudiate its obligations once this miserable few miles of railway within its own borders have been completed. As a representative of that state in this chamber, I strongly resent such imputations, particularly when made by representatives of Victoria, a state which deliberately pledged itself, upon the inauguration of the Commonwealth, to the construction of the Federal Capital in Federal Territory, but which, ever since, through its press and its representatives in this Parliament, has done everything possible to postpone the honoring of that agreement.
– I rise to a point of order. Senator Duncan has stated that the public press in Victoria, and the members representing Victoria in this Parliament, have done everything possible to retard the building of the Federal Capital. I say that statement is incorrect so far as the Victorian representatives are concerned, and I ask for its withdrawal.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Newland). - I did not hear the statement complained of. In any case I do not know that it is unparliamentary, but if the honorable senator takes exception to it I shall ask Senator Duncan to withdraw it. Does the honorable senator Object to it?
– I say that the statement is incorrect, and that it should not have been made.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- That is not a point of order.
– I must confess that I am speaking with some feeling, because I feel that it is my duty to defend the honour of the state which I represent. Its integrity has been attacked in this debate, and statements have been made that once this small railway proposal has been built. New South Wales will repudiate its agreement with the other states. I protest against such imputations.
– There is no agreement. It has never been ratified.
– There is an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Queensland, and when this work has been carried out the New South Wales representatives will honour the undertaking to further the general unification scheme. It may be news to some honorable senators that New South Wales, as a state, has nothing to gain from the construction of this proposed railway.
– We are told that the line will traverse the best country in Australia.
– It is quite true that the railway will open up some of the very best country in Australia. Certain areas on the New South Wales side could not be bought for less than £60 an acre to-day. On the Queensland side the land is not quite so good. Upon the completion of the line, the whole of the trade from that magnificent province in northern New South Wales will be diverted from Sydney, its present destination. Almost the whole of it will go to Brisbane. Queensland, and northern New South Wales will benefit by the construction of the line. For many years there has been a feeling of resentment in the north coast districts of New South Wales because there is no direct railway connexion with Queensland, as is now proposed. It has been referred to as the missing link. The absence of this section of railway, perhaps more than anything else, has been responsible for the growth of the new state movement in nor- thern New South Wales. Senator Hoare complained that a survey should have been made, that honorable senators should have been furnished with certain information about the line, and that the matter should have been referred to the Public Works Committee. This proposal does not come within the purview of the Public Works Committee of this Parliament. It is the outcome of an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the states of New South Wales and Queenslaud for the expenditure of certain sums of money. Almost every day this Parliament is distributing largesse without reference to either of the’ committees of this Parliament, and although, in this case, the Commonwealth will contribute a substantial sum of money, the two states concerned will pay their quota, and, in addition, New South Wales will contribute one-half of what the Commonwealth will be called upon to pay. Queensland, the second most powerful state in the federation, and a state with immense possibilities, will also contribute through the Commonwealth its quota of the total expenditure. When we remember what will be the quota furnished on the per capita basis by some of the other states, I almost feel inclined to suggest that New South Wales should send the hat round and take up a collection.
– Does the honorable senator think that, as the representative of his state in this Parliament, he is doing his duty if he does not seek information, through the Public Works Committee, as to the probable cost of this line?
– This proposal has been before the Parliaments and people of New South Wales and Queensland for a number of years. It has been reported upon by the State Public Works Committees of those states many times, and engineers have repeatedly gone over the route from one end to the other.
– Why, then, did not New South Wales construct the line?
– If it had been constructed by New South Wales, it would not have been on the standard gauge, throughout the whole of its length. The line on the New South Wales side would have been on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, and from the Queensland border to Brisbane it would have been on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. All the difficulties experienced at Albury and Wallangarra would have been repeated. It is infinitely better, and cer tainly much cheaper, to bring about railway unification in this way than, as has been suggested, to convert the existing narrow-gauge railway from Wallangarra to Brisbane, a distance of 223 miles, to the 4-ft. 8^-iu. gauge. The proposed line will be 100 miles shorter, and, in addition, it will open up new country, and increase the wealth of Australia. From this point of view, the arguments in its favour are unanswerable. It is part of the general unification scheme. It-is infinitely better, where possible, to standardize the gauges by the construction of new and direct lines. For this reason, I am a strong supporter of the proposed railway on the direct route from Sydney across to Adelaide, cutting out the deviation down to Melbourne and back again to the Murray.
– If the honorable senator suggested starting at the Fremantle end there would be no objection from Western Australia.
– Of course not, but in that event the South Australian representatives would probably make as much trouble as they are making in connexion with this scheme. When South Australia gets the direct railway on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge from Sydney, Adelaide will not be cut out, as is feared by some honorable senators. The only state that is likely to suffer from the general unification scheme is Victoria, but Victoria is already admirably served by existing lines. This “may be regarded as one section of a standard-gauge railway from one end of Australia to the other. As we shall have to begin somewhere, what better purpose can be served than by starting where the railway is likely to serve the greatest number of people? The population of Queensland is growing enormously. New South Wales has already over 2,000,000 of people. It is, therefore, very desirable that we should supply the missing link between the railway systems, of the two states, especially if in this way we can advance the. general scheme for the unification of the whole of the railway systems of Australia. It is obvious, of course, that that work cannot be completed for a great number of years, but we should make a beginning. I hope that the bill will be carried, but, as a representative of New South Wales, I am not going to plead for votes. New South Wales does not care very much whether the line is built or not. We are accustomed to the interests of that state being ignored by the Senate, owing to the constitution of this chamber. New South Wales, with a population of over 2,000,000, should have greater representation than states with a comparatively small population.
– Are they the sentiments of a big Australian?
– Yes. New South Wales is always being asked to sink her identity in favour of other states.
– The representatives of the smaller states are supporting this proposal.
– I know that. In reply to the statement that the representatives of New South Wales were pleading for the support of honorable senators from other states,. I can only repeat that the people of New South Wales do not care whether or not this work is undertaken in the way proposed in this bill. We would like to see the line constructed, but if a majority of the states is opposed to the scheme, New South Wales is quite capable of protecting her own interests. The day is not far distant when New South Wales and Queensland will be forced . into closer association because of the opposition displayed towards her by other states.
– Senator Duncan has shown great indignation because he is afraid that sufficient support will not be forthcoming to enable this measure to be carried. New South Wales, in consequence of her population, is worthy of all the support we can give her ; but in safeguarding the interests of such an important state we should not be unmindful of the interests of other states. As a majority of the states are not parties to the agreement embodied in this bill, I intend to vote for the amendment moved by Senator O’Loghlin. I am pledged to a scheme of unification, and when a genera] system which will benefit the whole Commonwealth is sumbitted I shall support it.
-brockman. - But the honorable senator does not believe in a start being made.
– The honorable senator, who considers himself a big Austraiian, believes that this work should be commenced at Fremantle. If there is anything in the contention of Senator Drake-Brockman that the Commonwealth Government has power to construct the proposed line without the approval of the states, I should like to know why the Commonwealth Government has not completed the trans-Australian line. I trust the information given by the honorable senator is correct, because I intend to use it on some future occasion.
– I did not make the statement attributed to me by the honorable senator. I shall correct some of his ignorant statements, if not all, although I know it is a big job to undertake.
– I suppose I must submit to the honorable senator’s insults. He presumes to know everything. Senator Cox, who advocates the construction of the line, stressed the point that the New South Wales Government will construct a bridge over the Clarence at Grafton, where, he says, there is a punt on which the trains are carried across. If that is the case, the New South Wales Government must be 500 years behind the times, otherwise it would have constructed a bridge at that point years ago. The transAustralian railway starts and ends in a desert, and if unification is necessary the portion of the line between . Kalgoorlie and Fremantle, and Port Augusta and Adelaide, should be converted to the standard gauge before any new lines on the 4-ft. 8$ -in. gauge are constructed.
– Why does not the State Government of Western Australia do its portion of the work ?
– Senator DrakeBrockman stated that the Commonwealth Government had the power to do the work if it so desired. We were informed that the trans- Australian railway was constructed to facilitate the transport of troops, but if that work had to be undertaken with the line as it is at present, such an important work would be practically impossible unless unnecessarily long delays occurred. It is regrettable that the Commonwealth Government has allowed the line to remain in its present unfinished state. We have been informed by the Minister (Senator Pearce) that the Commonwealth Government was prepared to make available sufficient money to convert the line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle, but the offer was not accepted. If it is practicable for the
Government to undertake the work, I should like to know why it has not been commenced long ago.
– I cannot allow Senator Graham’s speech to pass without comment. The honorable senator has sought to give to an interjection I made this morning a meaning which I certainly did not intend to convey. If he had listened to me he would not have used my statement in the way he has. I did say, and I now repeat, that, for purposes of defence, the Commonwealth Government has power under the Constitution to build railways in any portion of Australia. It is perfectly clear that under our defence powers that can be done, but only for the defence of the Commonwealth. This Parliament certainly has no power to undertake the construction of railways in any state for developmental purposes. If it is desired - and, in my opinion, it is very desirable -that there should be a linking up of all the capital cities of Australia on one gauge, the work may be undertaken by the Commonwealth in conjunction with the states provided that the states themselves are agreeable. A start has been made, after a good deal of negotiation and many attempts to put thescheme into force. At one stage all the states excepting Victoria were in agreement in this regard. The representatives of Victoria adopted the attitude that unification should be brought about only by reconstructing railways or building new lines through territory alreadynot served by railways.The Commonwealth Governmenthas taken Victoria at its word, and has commenced to carry out the second recommendation of the royal commission which considered this vital question by constructing the first section. If honorable senators will refer to the report of the royal commission, they will see attached to the report plans showing that this railway, which is marked by a red line, should first be built. The commission also recommended that the Kalgoorlie to Fremantle and the Port Augusta to Adelaide sections should then be converted. The Commonwealth Government has entered into negotiations with the states, and has come to an agreement with New South Wales and Queensland. The Government is wise in having entered into an agreement with New South Wales in this regard, because that state, as men tioned by Senator Gardiner and Senator Duncan and others, has nearly one-half of the population of Australia. Nearly onehalf of the cost of the unification scheme, when carried out in its entirety, will fall upon the taxpayers in that state. It is therefore necessary and desirable that the people in New South Wales should be committed up to the hilt before an attempt is made to do anything in the smaller states. Some reflection has been cast upon that great state in the matter of adhering to its honorable understanding. One honorable senator went back 60or 70 years, and raked up an old dispute that occurred originally in regard to the construction of railways in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. It is possible that that dispute resulted in a number of lines of different gauge being laid down throughout Australia, which is very much to be regretted. I do not wish to judge New South Wales before the inception of federation, but I have no hesitation in saying that since that time New South Wales has honoured its obligations. I do not think the Government of that state, having pledged its honour to assist in carrying out a uniform system of railways throughout Australia, will endeavour to shirk its responsibilities when construction is being undertaken in South Australia and Western Australia. Some honorable senators believe that everything should be in black and white, and should be embodied in an agreement. I believe NewSouth Wales will stand more strongly to an honorable undertaking than to an indefinite agreement such as that entered into by South Australia, which is always being referred to. I agree that a lot can be said in favour of unification being commenced by reconstructing the line from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie. Fremantle is the front door of Australia, and it is very desirable from every point of view that Fremantle should be connected with the rest of Australia with a uniform gauge as soon as possible. If the arguments of Senator Graham and Senator Needham are carried to their logical conclusion, when a proposition is brought down forthe South Australian portion to be constructed they will be opposing it, although, of course, they will support the construction of the section in the state which they represent. Persons naturally commence to smile when honorable senators and members of another place speak about considering this proposal from a broad Australian national point of view-. This matter should be viewed from that stand-point, and if my two colleagues from Western Australia were only viewing a national undertaking in the broadest possible sense, instead of in a narrow parochial way they would be supporting instead of opposing this bill. I can only judge them by their attitude in the Senate to-day.
– The honorable senator can be abusive, but he should not be prophetic.
– I am not abusive. Some honorable senators opposite have misquoted what I said for the purpose of abusing me. It was that as much as anything else that brought me to my feet. I never start abuse, but I always reply to it, and if my friends think that they are going to get away with political propaganda at my expense in the Senate or elsewhere they are very much mistaken. I have just as much kick coming back as the kick I get in the first place. I support this bill, and I hope the Senate will support it. I hope that when the right honorable gentleman who loads the Government in the Senate replies, he will make it very definite and clear, as I really think it is, that this is the first section of a scheme to establish a uniform railway gauge between Fremantle and Brisbane, and that it is the intention of the Government, as I think it is, to proceed with the work as rapidly as possible, so that one will be able to enter a train at Fremantle and stay in it until it reaches Brisbane. I trust that that unfortunate dislocation of traffic and commerce that now exists will soon be a thing of the past. It breaks one’s heart to have to travel now on the lines of varying gauges from Fremantle to Brisbane. I am glad the Government has dared to tackle this proposition. Starting with a Labour Government many years ago, many governments preceding the present administration have talked about it, but done nothing. It was left to the present Government to take the first step, and I hope the other steps will follow in rapid succession.
.- In setting out to unify the railway gauges of Australia, the most sensible course to adopt is to make a start where the Commonwealth has already spent many millions of pounds - that is te say on that long ribbon of steel rails running through Western Australia and South Australia. It would be very desirable if the Western Australian Government could see its way to broaden the gauge at its end of the east-west railway, while the Commonwealth Government commenced operations at the South Australian end of that line. I do not take a parochial view of this proposal. It is a national undertaking to bring about a uniform railway gauge in Australia, and I am sorry that the destinies of this country should have been so stupidly controlled in the past as to render it necessary to incur such a huge expenditure at the present time on the conversion of the railway gauges. One would think that those people who administered the affairs of the various colonies would have had sufficient vision to avoid the necessity for breaks of gauge at the various borders. However, they have left us the load to carry, and it seems to me the wisest course is to commence at. the South Australian end and extend the uniform 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge from Port Augusta through Adelaide and Melbourne to Brisbane. I see nothing wrong with the railway proposed to be built from Grafton to South Brisbane, except that I think the Government propose to commence operations at the. wrong end. Apparently, the line will open up country for New South Wales and Queensland, and while I, as a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, would not be backward in taking whatever steps are necessary to unify the railway gauges, I also think that something should be expected of the states. If the states have country which is likely to be developed by the construction of a railway line, the responsibility for building that line should rest on those states, and not oil the Commonwealth. It was certainly the responsibility of the Commonwealth to build the railway connecting Western Australia with South Australia, because owing to the poorness of the country through which the line would pass no advantage was expected to be derived by either state from its construction, and because such a line had to be built for strategic purposes. At that time the people of Australia generally had “ the wind up.” I do not think that it will be necessary for many years for the people of this country to concern themselves about building railways for defence purposes. In developing country, the first, idea one has in mind is to. provide the best means of transport, and then one has to take into consideration the possibility of having to defend the country ; consequently, every endeavour is made to build railways that, while affording the best means of transport for ordinary passengers and produce, also meet the requirements of defence.
– Will not the proposed line fulfil those requirements?
– It may do so, but my argument is that it is starting at the wrong end, and that we should continue the good work on which we have already spent many millions of pounds, gradually extending the standard gauge towards the east.
– That is the Government’s intention. We are endeavouring to come to an agreement with, the Government of South Australia on that point.
– South Australia has now a Government with a vision that will in all probability bring its railway construction into conformity with the great system we hope to have in Australia. If I had sufficient, information about the proposed railway possibly I should not oppose it. Although every provision has been made to supply information to members of Parliament to guide them in the expenditure of public money, advantage has not been taken of the opportunity afforded to supply that information which was necessary before we were called upon to commit ourselves to a work of this nature. In the past we have been transporting people and merchandise from state to state with no great difficulty, and I fail to realize the urgency for this bill. Therefore, I hope the committee will agree to the amendment moved by Senator O’Loghlin, and defer the bill for six months. In the interval the Government can supply Parliament with better information than is now available as to what can be done at both ends to bring about a unified railway gauge between Brisbane and Fremantle. Why should this project be rushed . through when there is every possibility that the South Australian Government will intim’ate its willingness to fall in with the Commonwealth Government’s scheme? If the job were mine I should commence from where the Commonwealth has already carried out a good piece of work, that is to say, I should extend the standard gauge from Port Augusta, through Adelaide, and Melbourne to Sydney and Brisbane. I am not a military man, and know nothing about military strategy; but I know that there must be always prompt railway connexion by the shortest routes between the various capital cities of Australia; even if they are built where they may possibly be bombed from the sea. It seems to me that quite a lot of information is needed before the . Commonwealth embarks on a proposal to connect two capital cities by means of this line. The line will develop territory in two states, and those states will most likely profit by the expenditure of Commonwealth money. If, on inquiry, it is found that this railway will be useless from a strategic point of view, but of great benefit to the people of two states, surely it should be regarded as the responsibility of the people of those states to build it, and not the responsibility of people of other states who are already required to build whatever railways they need for their own development. Sufficient information should -be placed before Parliament to show that this railway will be justified, and that it means not only the linking of the capitals, but, also, that it will be possible to use it in times of danger to the advantage of all. If we could have a standard gauge line of railway connecting all our capital cities it would be a very fine thing. But I think that the Government is going about this matter in the wrong way. There are three different gauges at present between Port Augusta and Sydney. It is there, in my opinion, that the money should be spent. Although the lines in South Australia are of a different gauge, it would not cost a great deal to convert them to the standard gauge. The proposition before us means new construction altogether, and is, therefore, quite different. If inquiry were made, it might be shown that, from an Australian point of view, this line is not justified, although from a state point of view it might be all right. I do not know whether that is so. Although I am not an advocate of sitting down for years and dreaming of things, but generally like to be up and doing, I feel that we should not decide this matter hurriedly. The Government is to blame, because it has not supplied the Senate with the information that should have been placed before it. Consequently, I shall vote for the amendment moved by Senator O’Loghlin.
.- This bill is too important to allow me to record my vote without expressing my opinion as to its merits. I have listened with interest to the lectures which have been given to me by more than one honorable senator. I have been told what I ought to do. I know what I ought to do, and, knowing that, I intend to do it to-day. This measure has given me a great deal of thought. I entirely approve of the policy which has for its object the unification of the railway systems on the mainland of Australia. I do not agree with those honorable senators who have tilted at past Parliaments and statesmen of the various states because they did not have sufficient vision to realize the needs of Australia, and, therefore, constructed railways in one state of 3-ft 6-in. gauge, in another of 4-ft. 8?-in. gauge, with 5 ft. 3 in. in still other states. It is not given to all people to have wide vision in these matters, especially when they are widely separated. I. take it that those statesmen were actuated by a desire to develop their own states. Australia, as a Commonwealth, was not then known. They used their best efforts to develop their individual states, and did good work. I do not think that they are deserving of censure for acting in the interests of their individual states. I have been troubled to determine whether the proposal before us meets, to a reasonable extent, the desire of the people of Australia for the unification of our railway gauges, or whether it is a proposal to assist in the development of one or two states at the expense of the whole Commonwealth.
– The railway will belong to the states, and not to the Commonwealth.
– That does not affect the position. If the railway systems of Australia were unified, would thehonorable senator suggest that the railways ofVictoria should become the property of the Commonwealth?
– They should all become the property of the Commonwealth.
-We are not dealing with that question to-day.
– In Victoria, the main line is down, but in this proposal the railway has yet to be built.
Senator PAYNE.; The main lines in Victoria will have to be re-laid.
– And, in some parts, re-built.
– I have been guided largely as to my attitude in this matter by the map which is attached to the bill. Knowing the. country as I do, the map has proved very useful to me, and should prove useful to other honorable senators also, in enabling them to arrive at a conclusion. If honorable senators; will refer to the map, they will see the existing main line of railway from Wallamgarra to Brisbane - a distance of 227 miles. That section, which is of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, would, under the proposal for the unification of the gauges of our main lines, have to be reconstructed and relaid. Those of us who have travelled over that line must recognize that a considerable portion of it runs through country which is not productive from a railway point of view. Much of it is poor grazing country. Certainly there are rich patches, such as the Darling Downs, but for the greater part the line runs through poor country. The proposal to strengthen and relay that portion of the line between Grafton and Kyogle, and to construct a new line from Kyogle to Brisbane, refers to a length of about 180 miles of railway, namely, 97 miles of new construction, and about 85 miles of existing lines to be converted. In that we have a shorter length of railway than from Wallangarra to Brisbane, which would have to be completely reconstructed to conform to the uniform gauge.
SenatorFindley. - The new line would cost more, as the estimate is ?3,500,000, as against ?1,848,000 in the comprehensive scheme.
– Even if the cost were double, it appears to me that if” we could convert the line from Maitland to Brisbane into a main line, in conjunction with the general unification of the gauges throughout the Commonwealth, we should be doing a good work indeed, because the country which that line serves is, for the most part, infinitely more productive than the section between Wallangarra and’ Brisbane.
– There is no comparison between them.
– That being so, the position appears to be that there are really two proposals before us; first, the conversion of the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, which means the reconstruction of the line betweenWallangarra and Brisbane; and, second, the building of a line from Kyogle to South Brisbane, together with the strengthening and relaying of a portion of the line from Kyogle to Grafton. We have to decide which should be regarded as- a. national undertaking, and, in. the interests of Australia, be accepted.
– Even if -this line is constructed, it will not render unnecessary the other work. We shall have to do both.
– I ask the Minister whether, if this line is constructed, it will absolve Australia from any obligation to convert the line from Wallangarra to Brisbane ?
– Of course it will. The interjection is absolutely wrong. The honorable senator who made it could not have read the report of the commission.
– Then I take it that the construction of this railway will absolve the Commonwealth from converting the other line, to standard gauge.
– The commission pointed that out.
– The comprehensive scheme was for the unification of the gauges on all the railways.
– I am speaking of the conversion of the main line of railway between Wallangarra and Brisbane. On those grounds I intend to vote in favour of the second reading, and am prepared -to accept the responsibility for my action. Although I come from a small state, I try to view all these matters from a national stand-point. That is the only safe policy. When proposals in the inte rests of Tasmania are brought forward, honorable senators representing that state say, and say truthfully, that what will benefit Tasmania will benefit the Commonwealth. The same is true in relation to this measure.. The interests of Tasmania are wrapped un in the interests of the mainland, and vice versa. The Government is to be commended for bringing this proposal before us, because it gives us an opportunity to support a truly national work.
– Those honorable senators who have argued in favour of the amendment have made the imputation that the Government brought down the bill for merely political reasons. I point out to them that this Government inherited from the previous Government the scheme for the unification of the railway gauges of Australia. If honorable senators consult the Governor-General’s Speech, delivered on the 28th June, 1922, when the Hughes Government was- in power, they will find that paragraph 14 of the Speech set out that that Government proposed to take up this matter of the unification of gauges, and press it to a conclusion. When the present Government came into office, the negotiations had been carried forward to a certain stage, and it has merely continued them to the present stage. I would urge those Victorians and South Australians particularly who have been criticizing the scheme to ask themselves what would have happened to the River Murray Waters Agreement if Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania had said: “How will this benefitus? In what way is this a national scheme, seeing that it affects only three states?”
– Probably those states did object.
– They did not. What they said was, “ This scheme will benefit the people of Australia as a whole.” The contribution of the Commonweal til Government in that case was quite different, from the contribution that it proposes to make towards the cost of this railway. It was an absolute gift. There was to be neither payment of interest aor repayment of the amount advanced. Senator Needham said that if this railway were a part of the uniform gauge scheme he would vote for it. There is not the slightest doubt that it is. The scheme recommended by the royal commission that inquired into the matter is the only one that is before the people of Australia to-day. The commission put forward a scheme estimated to cost £21,600,000, for connecting the state capitals. That is set out in” certain paragraphs, which are as follow: -
A line from South Brisbane to Kyogle and Grafton.
The maps attached to the report actually sketch those works.
– Have the Parliaments of the states mentioned ratified the agreement?
– That is not the question. The Parliament can be consulted only when definite action is taken. This is the first occasion upon which any agreement between the various governments concerned has been possible. Senator O’Loghlin contended that the royal commission did not refer to the construction of new lines. He and others who have made that statement cannot have read the report of the commission. If they will turn to pages 2 and . 5, and refer to the map attached to the report, they will find that the commission definitely recommended the construction of several new lines,- of which this was one. Their estimate of £21,600,000 included the sum of £6,873,000 for new lines. Senator O’Loghlin also says that the agreement with the other states can have no effect until it has been before the Parliaments of those states. I refer him to clauses 2 and 3 of the agreement, which make provision for parliamentary sanction being obtained. Parliamentary sanction must follow, it cannot precede, a proposal. Let us assume that the Commonwealth proposed to start with the Fremantle section. Obviously, before that could be brought into the terms of an agreement, the Governments of all the states would have to assent to it if it were part of the uniform gauge scheme. Had this matter been referred to the Public Works Committee a peculiar position would have arisen. In the first place, the Commonwealth Government will not be the constructing authority; there will be three parliamentary bodies, of which the Commonwealth Government will be one, and they will comprise a joint constructing authority.
– The Commonwealth Government is putting money into the scheme.
– I remind Senator Kingsmill that we refer to the Public Works Committee only those public works that are to be carried out by the Commonwealth.
– I merely said that I thought it ought to have been referred to the Public Works Committee.
– If that had been done the three Public Works Committees might have brought in conflicting reports regarding the route, and it might have been difficult to reconcile them. The Murray Waters Scheme was not referred to the Public Works Committee, either when the original grant was made or when it was increased. Senator Benny and others expressed a doubt as to whether this line could be constructed for the ‘amount estimated. That estimate was made in 1917, when the prices of railway material were absolutely at the peak. To-day, they are at least 20 per cent, lower than they were at that time. Senator Elliott referred to the building of the bridge over the Clarence River. The Government of New South Wales has given a definite undertaking that that bridge will be built by the time that the railway is ready. It has estimated that the cost will be from £320,000 to £350,000. The railway will take three years to build and the bridge should, therefore, be completed long before it is required. Senator Findley made a most extraordinary speech. He started off by saying that on all questions he took a broad national view. He had not gone very far, however, when it was evident that his views were bounded by the suburbs of Melbourne. He complained that there is no provision in the bill to compel New South Wales to contribute her share of the cost of converting the Victorian maintrunk line to the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. Who is to blame for that ? Victoria could, had she desired, been a party to this agreement, and New South Wales and Queens- land would then have been bound to contribute their share of the cost of the conversion in Victoria. If honorable senators will read the preamble they will see that the responsibility of the mainland states in connexion with the unification scheme recommended by the commission is definitely set out. Mr. Theodore, speaking to the bill introduced in the Queensland Parliament on the 19th September, reported at page 991 of Queensland Hansard, said -
Thereis one other point that I think ought to be mentioned in justice to the whole question of the uniform gauge and that is, that this is necessarily only the first step towards a uniform gauge in Australia. We must not think that Queensland is getting a wonderfully good bargain out of it, and that we are adopting it simply because we are getting a good bargain. We have entered wholeheartedly into the question of contributing towards a solution of the uniform gauge problem, and Queensland was one of the few states at the Premiers’ Conference which were willing to adopt the whole scheme. The expenditure of £21,000,000 is for what is known as the No. 1 section.
Again he said -
We are taking on this agreement with our eyes open in that direction. The true cost to Queensland of the larger conversion of the trunk railway line scheme, costing £21,000,000, will be about £2,600,080. … We are committing ourselves with our eyes open to further obligations than the £410,000 which is involved in this agreement when the other states come in and express their willingness to go on with the larger scheme of linking up the trunk lines. Our obligations then will be higher than the amount just mentioned, but, in any event, are estimated not to exceed £2,600,000 or £2,800,000.
– What other states approved the agreement?
– New South Wales and Queensland approved the agreement. When the other states do so, Queensland will have to shoulder its liability in respect to the complete scheme. That is what Mr. Theodore said. I share the view of honorable senators who have said that the time is ripe for us to deal with this matter. It is one of Australia’s gravest and greatest problems, and the sooner we get on with the work the better. I shall welcome the time when we shall be able to proceed with the section from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie. The Government should lose no time in pressing on with that and other sections, so that before many years have elapsed there will be a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge line fromFremantle to Brisbane.
Question - That the word “ now “ proposed to be left out, be left out (Senator O’Loghlin’s amendment) - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … …8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee, without amendment or debate.
Standing and sessional orders suspended ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Assent to the following bills re ported : -
Income Tax Assessment (LiveStock) Bill.
Audit Bill 1924.
Appropriation Bill 1924-25.
Income Tax Collection Bill 1924.
Bankruptcy Bill 1924.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That the reports of proceedings of conferences relating to the improvement of the cotton industry in Australia, laid on the table of the Senate on 8th October, 1924, be printed.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with a message intimating that the House of Representatives had agreed to Numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8 of the amendments made by the Senate, and had not agreed to amendment Number 6, but in place thereof had amended clause 8, as indicated by the annexed schedule.
That the message be considered in committee of the whole forthwith.
In committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message) :
Clause 8 -
– (1.) In calculating the taxable income of a taxpayer the total assessable income derived by the taxpayer from all sources in Australia shall be taken as a basis, and from it there shallbe deducted -
such part of the assessable income of a taxpayer whose taxable income does not exceed Six hundred pounds -
as is paid by him to any legally qualified medical practitioner, public or private hospital, nurse or chemist in respect of any illness of, or operation upon the taxpayer or his wife or any of his children under the age of twenty-one years; and
not exceeding in the aggregate the sum of Twenty pounds as is paid by him to any undertaker for funeral and burial expenses arising out of the death of the wife of the taxpayer or of any of his children under the age of twenty-one years; and ….
– The Houseof Representatives has agreed to all the amendments made by the Senate, with the exception of that in clause 8, to leave out the words, “ whose taxable income does not exceed £600.” While not agreeing to this amendment, the House of Representatives has amended the clause by omitting “£600,” and inserting in lieu thereof “£900.” If this amendment is agreed to, persons whose taxable income does not exceed £900 will, in compiling their income tax returns, be entitled to deduct from their income expenditure incurred in connexion with medical and funeral expenses. As this is a fair compromise, I trust the committee will accept it. I move -
That the committee doesnot insist on its amendment not agreed to by the House of Representatives and agrees to the amendment made by the House of Representatives in place thereof.
– I trust the committee will not agree to the amendment made by another place. When this provision was under consideration a majority of honorable senators strongly supported the proposal thatno limitation should be imposed. It was decided that all persons whether rich or poor should on making up their returns be allowed to deduct the expenses incurred in consequenceof sickness. I do not know why any distinction should be made between the rich and the poor.
– Distinction is made in connexion with all income taxation.
SenatorFINDLEY. - We tax those who are best able to contribute towards the revenue, but no distinction should be made in the case of sickness or death, as such trouble is sufficient without having to pay taxation on the expenditure incurred. I read in the press to-day that an honorable member in another place said that if the amendment made by the Senate were adopted it would be an incentive to the well-circumstanced people to engage the services of a highly-paid medical man in order to escape taxation. Can any one imagine a person saying, “I shall engage the services of a highlyskilled surgeon, send a member of my family to the best hospital, spend £500 in doctors and hospital fees, and by so doing avoid paying, say, £25 in taxation.”
Another argument advanced is that medical services are a luxury. No one requisitions the services of a physician unless he is really needed. No distinction is made in payment of maternity allowances. The rich and the poor can collect it if theyso desire. I trust the committee will oppose the motion.
– It has been the practice in the past for the Senate to agree to the amendments made by another place, but I trust that on this occasion the commits tee will adhere to its previous decision.
– The House of Representatives accepted seven of the amendments made in this chamber.
– Even if that is so, there is no valid reason why this important amendment should not be insisted on. An honorable member in another place said that the services of medical men should be regarded as a luxury, but I consider they often amount to cruelty. As no distinction is made in the payment of maternity allowances there should be no differentiation in this instance. One of the arguments used against a Labour Government, of which the present Minister (Senator Pearce) was a member, when it introduced a bill to provide for the payment of the maternity allowance, was that there should be no distinction. To-day, the same Minister, when associated with a different group, is now adopting a different attitude.As a taxpayer is not now compelled to include as income 5 per cent. of the value of his home, and no distinction is made in other instances, I intend to oppose the motion.
– Section 23 of the principal act is sub-divided in paragraphs from a to n and provides clearly and definitely that taxpayers, irrespective of their income, shall be allowed certain deductions. The same principle is operating under the Maternity Allowance Act and War Pensions Act, but it is. now proposed by the House of Representatives to interfere with the decision of the Senate. At the same time, it must be remembered’ that the concession asked for, although affecting a large number, is of a very limited character. I trust that the Senate will adhere to its amendment.
Question put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . .. 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Resolution reported ; report adopted .
In committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ amendments) :
Clause 8 -
Section twenty-seven of the principal act is amended by inserting at the end thereof the following sub-section: - “ (7.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding sub-section, where the salary allotted to an officer by the classification is less than the. salary fixed for that officer by or under a determination made under the Arbitration (Public Service > Act 1020, that officer shall, so long as he occupies the office to which he is assigned by the classification, continue to receive the highersalary fixed by or under the determination.”.
Bouse of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit sub-section 7 and insert the following sub-sections in place thereof: - “ (7.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding sub-section, where the salary allotted to an officer by the classification is less than the salary which that officer would have been entitled to receive, under a determination made under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1920 at the date of the publication of the approval of the classification of the last classified section of the Commonwealth Service, that officer, so long as he occupies the office to which he is assigned by the classification and the salary to which he would be entitled under the Classification continues to be less than the said salary which he would have been entitled to receive at the date of the publication of the approval of the classification, shall continue to receive the. said higher salary. (8.) For the purposes of the last preceding sub-section, the salary which an. officer -would have been entitled to receive under a determination includes such emoluments as are prescribed.”.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The new sub-section 7 of section 27 of the principal act permits officers to receive automatic increments right up to the date of the approval of the last section of the classification. Under the clause as amended in the Senate an officer ceased to be eligible for these increments immediately the classification of his section was approved by the GovernorGeneral. Obviously, this would be to the disadvantage of the officer whose section was classified early, and to the advantage of one whose section was classified later. The clause as amended in the House of Representatives will remove this anomaly. The new sub-section 8 is to admit of the preservation to female officers of remuneration in the way of allowances, but not salary. Being allowances, they are not covered by sub-section 7.
Motion agreed to.
New clause 8a -
Rouse of Representatives’ Amendment. - After clause8, insert the following new clause: - “ 8a. Section twenty-eight of the principal act is amended by inserting therein, after the word ‘shall’ (first occurring), the words subject to sub-section (7.) of the last preceding section.’ “.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This is merely consequential upon amended clause 8, and is necessary to avoid conflict of provisions between that clause and section 25 of the principal act.
Motion agreed to.
Section forty-eight of the principal act is amended by adding, at the end of sub-section (1 ) thereof, the following proviso: - “ Provided that a person appointed to the Commonwealth Service, either before or after the commencement of this Act, who owes his appointment to the passing of a competitive examination, shall not be entitled to have any period of employment which is permanent service or Service in a permanent capacity within the meaning of paragraph (a), (b), (c) or (d) of thissub-section reckoned for the purposes of this Act as service in the Commonwealth Service.”.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - After “ not “ insert “ unless in any particular case the board otherwise determines.”
.- I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
This clause deals with prior service in the state. Cases may arise where on their merits it would be equitable to allow appointees from examinations with previous state service to count that service. The amendment will provide for this.
Motion agreed to.
Section ninety-seven of the principal act is amended by omitting paragraph (a) of subsection (1.) thereof, and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: - “ (a) for determining the amounts or scales of salaries to be paid to officers of the Second, Third and Fourth Divisions in the several Departments, or in any . specified Department or part thereof;”
House of Representatives’ Amendment. -
After “ thereof “, paragraph a, insert “ and for defining the seniority of officers in those respective Divisions “.
.- I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
There is no express provision in the principal act to empower the board to determine what constitutes seniority. The amendment will rectify this omission.
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is necessary on account of the fact that the judgment of the High Court in the Cameron appeal indirectly affects assessments for war-time profits tax, because the assessments for that tax are based upon the profits as ascertained for purposes of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Honorable senators will recall the facts concerning the Cameron appeal which I stated to the House upon the second reading of the bill relating to the valuation of live stock for the purpose of assessments of income tax. These facts apply “with equal force to the present bill. The reason is that all live stock owners who were liable to be assessed for wartime profits tax were required by the Wartime Profits Tax Assessment Act and regulations to bring their live stock to account in their trading accounts from which the profits were calculated, at the same values as were prescribed for income tax purposes. As the High Court ruled that the income tax regulations relating to standard values for live stock were invalid and unconstitutional, it follows that they are invalid and unconstitutional for the purposes of the war-time profits tax. The reasons why the Government could not accept the judgment of the court for application to all income tax assessments affected ave those which prevent the application of the judgment to all affected war-time profits tax assessments. The bill provides that for “the purpose of all war-time profits tax assessments, a livestock owner shall bring his live stock to account for purposes of the calculation of his war-time profits at a value to be selected by himself, within the limits of the minimum and maximum values prescribed by Statutory Rules 1923, No. 177, now known as Income Tax Regulation 50. The live-stock owner is, however, permitted to accept as correct, valid, and effectual the existing assessments, so far as they are based upon the live stock values which have been included in his assessments. Acceptance of the existing assessments in this respect will mean that, if the taxpayer does not give written notice to the Commissioner of Taxation, within three months of the passing of the bill, he desires to have his assessments amended so as to include the live stock at the values selected by him under Income Tax Regulation 50. It should be stated, for the general information of taxpayers throughout Australia, that this bill will not apply to the calculation of capital employed in the business and represented by live stock. A taxpayer’s capital in this respect would, in respect of all live stock not purchased by him, be calculated upon the value of the live stock at the date when it was acquired’ by him. That is the law as expressed in sub-section 4 of section 17 of the act. The Commis sioner of Taxation points out that this would probably operate to the disadvantage of many taxpayers whose assessments have been regarded by them as closed, and, therefore, in order that all those assessments shall not be disturbed, he is prepared to treat the existing calculation of capital represented by live stock as correct, valid, and effectual. As there have not been any appeals to the High Court on this question under the Wartime Profits Tax Assessment Act, it is not necessary to make any provision in the bill for successful appellants to have the benefit of the court’s judgment in their cases, as was necessary in the Income Tax Assessment Act Amending Bill.
– Those who opposed the war-time profits tax, and pointed out the impossibility of enforcing its provisions, we’re undoubtedly on good ground. I find, on looking through the preliminary statement supplied by the Treasurer in connexion with the revenue of the Commonwealth, that in 1923 our actual receipts from this tax amounted to £286,757. The estimate for the year 1923-4 was £250,000, but the amount received was approximately £72,500. I believe that the act has gradually been getting into a state of desuetude. Although the war has been over for six years, the Government, apparently, is still collecting taxes on war-time profits. Instead of employing a large and expensive staff to prosecute these men - in some cases the action taken amounts to persecution - the Commonwealth Government should abandon any further efforts to collect this tax. The whole principle of the act was wrong. It was part of our system of direct taxation, which necessitates a great deal of work without producing very much revenue.
– Has the department a machine for calculating this tax?
– When the honorable senator sees the reply to my question regarding the cost of these machines, he will be astounded. This bill adversely affects the stock-owners of this country, and is another of those measures which are a direct tax upon industry. I am surprised that Senators Thompson and Elliott, who know something about stoc k raising, should be in favour of persecuting the people who, since the war began, have been doing the actual work of the Commonwealth.
– Why tax anybody?
– I agree that, with such a magnificent source of revenue available and untouched, it should be unnecessary to impose many of the taxes which are now levied. The time is opportune for the whole question of our federal revenue to be reviewed. This tax certainly should be abandoned. It is wrong to employ enormous staffs, and house them in palatial buildings in each of the large cities of the Commonwealth, to persecute the very people who are doing the work of Australia. I enter my protest against this kind of legislation.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 6.26 to 8 p.m.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
It is customary to ask Parliament from time to time to vote lump sums for the payment of pensions which are granted under the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Parliament has in this manner voted a total sum of £61,250,000. The actual expenditure on invalid and old-age pensions to 30th June last was £53,991,661, and the estimate for the current year is £7,000,000 ; so that the total expenditure up to the 30th June next will be £60,991,661, leaving in the trust fund an unexpended balance of £258,339. This margin of £258,000 is insufficient to ensure that moneys will be available for paying pensions as they fall due in the early part of next financial year. The first pension pay day in 1924-5 falls on the 2nd July, and, as the revenue of the period will not be sufficient to cover this payment, it will be necessary to set aside in the trust fund at the 30th June next a sum sufficient to cover pensions for at least one pay day. It has been the practice for some years to pay into the war pensions and oldage pensions trust accounts the whole or portion of the surplus remaining at the close of the year, so that the moneys will be available for the payment of pensions in the following year. If the present buoyancy of the customs and excise revenue is maintained, it is obvious that the current year will close witha larger surplus than was forecast in the budget, and it is desirable that an appropriation be available, so that portion, at least, of the surplus can be hypothecated for the payment of old-age and invalid pensions. Parliament is, therefore, being asked to grant an appropriation of £10,000,000. When this bill is passed, it will be the fifth consecutive appropriation granted for £10,000,000, and the amount will be sufficient to cover the payment of pensions for about eighteen months. This practice has been adopted by Parliament for some years. Of course, the amount that is paid into the trust fund is governed by the surplus that is available.
.- I think that under the act many hardships occur which wise administration would remove. In common with other honorable senators I very often have to deal with hard cases. A case of peculiar hardship came under my notice the other day. An old lady had been left an interest in a place that was not of very great value, but, on account of the increased value of the land in the locality, the valuer-general, when he last fixed the values, increased hers to such an extent that her pension was reduced.
– Having merely an interest in the property, I presume that she was not able to dispose of it?
– That is so. The increased value placed upon her property had the effect of adding to the amount which she is called upon to pay in rates. The land is of no greater use to her.
– Could she not dispose of her interest in the property?
– No. I think that a pensioner is allowed to possess property to the value of £400 before a reduction is made in the amount of pension. It should be greater thanthat. When the act next comes before us, if the Senate holds the view that there should be no distinction between rich and poor, we may be able to include in it a provision similar to that to which we agreed in regard to medical services.
– Has this particular case been referred to the Treasurer?
– Yes. The law is against her. The letter that was sent to me set out the facts very clearly, and I forthwith sent it to the Pensions Department in Sydney. I received the reply that the act limits the amount of property which may be held. That is very hard on a person who has to live upon 17s. 6d. a week. I realize that, until the amount of pensions is increased, these hardships will continue to occur. I intend to go fully into the matter, and when we next have an amending bill before us I hope that we shall be able to liberalize the provisions relating to the value of property that a pensioner may hold before a reduction is made in the pension. There are some forms of property with which an old-age pensioner cannot dispense. I do not know whether any good purpose would be served by calling upon them to do so. I am not complaining of the action of the department - it is simply obeying the law ; but I think we are drawing the line very finely when an increased value given to a property by the valuer-general has the effect of decreasing a person’s pension.
, - I think that the work of the valuer-general in New South Wales is worthy of the highest possible commendation.
– Is the honorable senator inferring that I am complaining of the action of the valuer-general?
– No. But at the same time the impression may be left upon the minds of some honorable senators that the valuer-general is not doing hiswork efficiently and satisfactorily.
– We are not so dull as that.
– He is doing probably the most valuable work that has ever been done in connexion withlandvalue taxation in any part of the Commonwealth. I have closely studied his work, and I can say that it is immeasurably superior to that of previous valuers. On the north coast of New South Wales, which is the richest and best part of that state, the work done by the local valuers has been a byword and a reproach. When the valuer-general has completed the valuation of the whole of the lands of the state, the increased value will probably amount to 100 per cent.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
In the Loan Estimates for the current year, provision was made for £3,230,000 for construction and extension of telegraphs and telephones. Material to the value of £2,500,000 has been ordered, and it is now found that the whole of this material will be delivered during the current financial year, thus leaving only £730,000 available to install the equipment. This amount is insufficient for that purpose. In the ordinary course of events, the result would be that valuable material would be lying idle until Parliament appropriated further moneys next year. Moreover, it would necessitate the dismissal of many temporary employees, notwithstanding that urgent work is awaiting their attention. In order that the most economical use may be made of the equipment on order; the Government is asking Parliament to appropriate a further sum of £600,000 for construction and extension of telegraphs and telephones. This will enable the material to be converted into a revenueproducing asset at the earliest possible moment after its delivery, and will enable the department to more promptly meet the requisitions of prospective telephone subscribers. About 50,000 additional subscribers’ lines will be connected during this year, and this means that a considerable volume of trunk-line traffic will have to be provided for. The amount now asked for will permit of men being employed on trunk line and other extension work, and will allow works which have been approved by the Parliamentary Works Committee to be started. In particular, it will enable a good deal of the preliminary work in connexion with the Sydney-Newcastle and NewcastleMaitland cable to be put in hand in readiness for laying the cable itself the moment it arrives. As it became necessary to introduce a further Loan Bill, advantage was taken of the opportunity to include the following provisions: -
In the main Loan Bill for the current financial year £811,804 was provided for post office buildings. Of that amount £602,598 will be required to continue, and, in some cases, complete, works in hand at the 30th June last. The Postmaster-General, who has returned recently from a visit to the United Kingdom and Europe, states that the provision made in Australia for post-offices is very much better than anything he saw made in other countries, including Great Britain. He found that in many of the. cities and larger provincial towns of the United Kingdom the post-office buildings were not owned and controlled by the postal authorities, as is the case in Australia. The business was in the hands of shopkeepers in much the same way as our allowance post-offices are being conducted. We should congratulate ourselves that so much is being done to provide these valuable conveniences for the people. The sum of £173,891 will be required for works provided on the 1923-4 Estimates which had not been commenced at 30th June, and only £35,315 is therefore available for new proposals for 1924-5. It has been decided, therefore, to make a further sum of £90,000 available for post-office buildings. This amount has been allotted to new buildings’ and additions to existing buildings in the directions where the accommodation is most urgently required.
In view of the additional amount provided for new buildings, it was necessary io provide further moneys for the acquisition of land, as, in a number of cases, bo site has yet been secured for the proposed new buildings. Provision has therefore been included in the bill for £10,000 for the purchase of land for post and telegraph purposes.
Provision was made in the original loan estimates for £110,000 for the establishment of the Federal Territory. This amount was to cover approximately two months’ expenditure, by which time it was hoped that the Commissioners under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924 would have been appointed. The Commissioners would thereafter make their own arrangements for borrowing moneys for the purposes of the establishment of the Territory. It is hoped that these appointments will be made within the next few days. A further £100,000 is provided in the bill to cover the expenditure in the Territory from 1st July last until the date of the transfer of the control to the Commission.
In 1915 and 1916 two’ areas at Fairy Meadow, New South Wales, were compulsorily acquired for the purpose of obtaining material for use in connexion with buildings in the Federal Capital Territory and other places. After lengthy litigation in connexion with the amount of compensation to be paid in respect of the acquisition, the High Court has now given final judgment in the matter. It is estimated that £18,500 will be required to pay the compensation for the acquired areas and other expenses in connexion therewith, and provision for this amount is included in the bill.
The total of the schedule to the bill is £818,500, which is appropriated by clause 4. Clause 2 authorizes the Treasurer to borrow £850,000. This amount, in addition to providing for the expenditure included in the schedule to the bill, will also covet1 flotation expenses and possible discounts in connexion with the raising of the loan.
– Can the Minister say what is the area of land at Fairy Meadow for which £18,500 will be required, and how much has already beer, paid on account of that transaction ? .
.- I should like the Minister also to state if some of the material required for postal and telegraphic works is being obtained in Australia, or if we are depending upon importations. Since we are borrowing mirney for these works, the sooner we start to put our own house in order the better. I am not complaining about the amount required-, because 1 recognize that the works are necessary, but I think we should do all we possibly can to obtain the necessary material in Australia.
The Minister also mentioned a decision of the High Court in connexion with litigation over the compulsory acquisition of two areas of land at Fairy Meadow. Surely we are not obliged to borrow money to pay law costs incurred by the Commonwealth Government?
The Minister further stated that the Government hoped to be able to announce within a few days the appointment of the Federal Capital Commission. Is it not possible for the Minister to make the announcement prior to the adjournment, so that senators may have an opportunity to express an opinion on the appointments?
– There is an item, Home and Territories Department, works, services, and acquisition of land in Federal Capital Territory, £168,000. I should like an explanation on that proposed expenditure.
– As far as I have been able to ascertain the actual cost of the land at Fairy Meadow at 30th June last, was £12,500, but litigation costs have increased the amount to £18,500. As the asset is to be provided for out of loan, obviously we must include the cost of its acquisition. Therefore, the total cost is the amount shown in the bill.
In reply to Senator Needham, I may say that wherever possible all material required for postal purposes is obtained in Australia. It is gratifying to know that we are now able to obtain copper wire from the splendid industry established at Port Kembla, New South Wales. This was not possible a few years ago.
It is impossible to comply with Senator Needham’s request to make an announcement as to the personnel of the Federal Capital Commission before Parliament rises. The honorable senator himself should realize this. Parliament has been working so strenuously during the last, few weeks, that all Ministers have been busily occupied preparing measures, and attending to the business of Parliament. We have not had time to look through the scores of applications that have been received for appointment to the Commission, nor is it likely that we shall have lime before Parliament rises.
Referring to the question asked by Senator Duncan, there were certain small areas of freehold land adjacent to the Federal Capital area which, for various reasons, were not acquired. In some cases old people were in possession of small farm properties, and for humanitarian reasons the Government did not deem it desirable to dispossess them. Some of these areas are now being made available, and the Government is taking advantage of the opportunity to acquire them. The balance of the vote is for buildings in course of erection.
– What is the area of the land at Fairy Meadow?
– I am sorry that I cannot give the honorable senator an answer just now. I did not expect the question to be raised on this bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
– Can the Minister say if there is provision in the schedule for the erection of a new post office at Laidley ? That building was burnt down some time ago. Laidley is an important agricultural district, and it is necessary to replace the post office building without delay.
– Provision was made in the main loan bill for the Laidley post office.
.- As a member of the Public Works Committee I am able to inform Senator Needham that all the officers who have appeared before that committee are strongly in favour of purchasing locallymanufactured material whenever it is available. It is, of course, impracticable to obtain telephones manufactured in the Commonwealth, and consequently the instruments have to be imported.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is submitted to give effect to the policy of the Government announced in the budget to assist in the organized marketing of our- primary products oversea. Provision is made for the guarantee of advances by the Commonwealth Bank or any other prescribed bank on butter, cheese, and dried fruits exported under the control of the two boards which are to be brought into existence under the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill and Dried Fruit Export Control Bill recently passed by Parliament. Assistance is to be granted to the extent of not more than £500,000 for the export and marketing of other primary produce. Advances will be made only against butter, cheese, and dried fruits packed, graded, and passed for export under supervision of Customs officials. These advances will not exceed 80 per cent, of the market value as determined by the Minister. It is anticipated that about 30,000 tons of sultanas, lexias, and currants will be exported next year, and1 it may be necessary to guarantee advances to the extent of about £1,000,000 against these fruits. It has not yet been ascertained to what extent advances will be required against dairy produce, but it has been stated that a considerable quantity of butter and cheese will be financed by exporters without Commonwealth assistance. Interest at current rates will be charged on the advances made by the Commonwealth or any other bank, and it is hoped that wilh, the rer organized system of marketing under the boards to be appointed, the advances will be repaid in full with interest. Should there be any losses, through unforeseen circumstances, in connexion with the advances, power is given in the bill to repay such losses from the Consolidated Revenue. Clause 5 enables assistance to be given in connexion with the marketing abroad of primary products other than butter, cheese, and dried fruits. Many requests are at present before the Government for assistance in connexion with the export and marketing of other primary products. The bill also provides that each application must first be investigated and reported on by a board, such as the Board of Trade, before any assistance is rendered. Even though the board recommends assistance^ the Government will exercise its own discretion as to whether it adopts: its recommendation. Help may be in the form of a guaranteed advance by a bank, a straight-out gift, a loan, or a subsidy under specified conditions, which will be determined by the circumstances of each case. The Board of Trade is not mentioned in the clause, because’ that board is not a statutory authority, and the Attorney-General’s Department advises that for this reason it is not competent to name the board in the bill. The amount authorized by the bill for this form of assistance is limited to the £500,000 mentioned in the budget. It is not possible to state what amount of money will have to be found out of revenue for the purposes mentioned in the bill. It is -the policy of the Government to insist on efficiency both in production and marketing before giving assistance. With up-to-date methods on the part of the producers, and proper business handling of our products, the help proposed to be given should not result in a heavy loss to the revenue. The measure will undoubtedly give much-needed encouragement to those producers who to-day are seriously concerned in securing financial assistance until their products are sold in the markets of the world. The method of financing is preferable to the practice adopted in the past of drawing from the Treasurer’s Advance. Clause 5 provides - (2.) A return showing the reports, and recommendations ‘ made, and the. assistance granted, under this section, shall be laid before each House of the Parliament on the thirtyfirst day of March, the thirtieth day of June, the thirtieth day of September,, and the thirtyfirst day of December in each year. (3.) If either House of the Parliament be not sitting on each or any of the dates men.tioned in the last preceding sub-section, the return shall be laid before that House within fourteen days* of its next sitting.
It will be seen that full information must be submitted to Parliament.
– What will happen in the event of any loss ?
– If any loss is incurred^ the Government will have to pay ; but as provision is made for an advance of only 80 per cent, of the market value o£ the product, and as all shipments will be insured against loss, there is little, if any, risk. As honorable senators are aware, primary producers have been experiencing difficulty in obtaining the necessary financial assistance in the matter of marketing. When large quantities of butter are available during three or four months of the year, the surplus is rushed to the British market, where it is purchased and placed in cool stores, and then disposed of when there. is. a shortage. Honorable senators will remember that I mentioned the purchase of 125’ tons of . butter for the Australian pavilion at the Wembley Exhibition. It was an opportunity to secure a huge advertisement for Australia., but there was some difficulty in getting the agents who held the butter in sufficient quantities to give the necessary advances for it, although, during the covering period, it was likely to realize 4s. a cwt. over the then ruling price in London. The Government could not undertake the matter themselves ; it was not actually a function of the Government to do so, but eventually, after considerable difficulty, I made a satisfactory arrangement with the agents. That is the sort of difficulty this bill is intended to overcome. Dried fruits are in the same position as butter. They have been sent to London, and, instead of the agents competing to secure the highest prices, they have actually been in competition to secure the lowest prices. When a buyer who requires 500 tons of sultanas calls for quotations, he works, one agent against another, and the agents themselves are so keen to sell that they proceed to undersell one another. They are obliged to do so because of the financial’ position. By the last mail I received a letter* giving thehistory of a large sale of dried fruits on the lines I have just outlined. The Dried Fruits Export Control Board will be able to- regulate sales and feed the market in a proper business-like way, to the great advantage of the producers in Australia. The difficulty Australian producers have experienced in marketing their products for some time past has been the financial position. It is as bad to-day as it has ever been. We have sought to overcome it by the bills already passed dealing with the export of butter and dried fruits. The bill now before the Senate puts the whole business in’’ order, and provides a scheme under which we hope to arrange for the export of our produce in a business-like way.
.- This bill is a piece of pernicious legislation that I never ‘ expected to- see introduced into the- Commonwealth Parliament. It cuts right across my conservative grain. For the present Government to introduce it after the professions Ministers made during the elections is most extraordinary. If this bill is passed, the Minister will have £500,000 to advance to his friends. He can do what he likes with the money . I have the highest respect for the characters of Ministers, but legislation of this type is calculated to open the door to the worst forms of. corruption in public life. The huge sum of £500,000 is to be set aside to make advances on produce, and the Minister quite innocently says that advances are to be made up to 80 per cent, of the value of produce, lt is not a safe margin. Wheat may be 6s. 6d!. a bushel to-day, but where will the Minister be if he makes an advance on 80 per cent, of that value, and the price drops 40 per cent. ?
– He will fall in.
– Of course he will. It is not sound business to advance up to 80 per cent, on the market value of any kind of produce.
– The 80 per cent, is the maximum to which an advance may be made.
– There is a safe and sound way of transacting financial business, and there is also a slipshod way of doing it. It has been my good fortune to see quite a number of bills introduced to relieve the primary producers, and on nearly every occasion I have found that the sharp practical business men have made a lot of money, while the producers have been left in a worse position than before. I give place to no man in having a wide and broad sympathy for the primary producers, but I shall not be carried away by everything that is branded by Ministers as being for the advantage of those producers. I can see no advantage for them . in this kind of legislation. It was never intended that the Commonwealth Parliament should make advances to primary producers up to 80 per cent, of the value of their produce. On a previous occasion I said that three golden balls should be put over Parliament
House. I hope that all Ministers will have their offices converted into pawnshops.
– My nose is not the right shape.
– The man who within the next two or three years will not be able to smell something from this kind of business will have a very queerly shaped nose. It opens the doors widely for designing men to come along and help themselves. I can remember when there was a great wheat pool in Australia, and when some of the wheat was inferior in quality. Some gentlemen whose integrity was their only asset were able to buy £500,000 worth of wheat from the pool without being required to deposit one shilling. Who ‘ would not undertake a business risk of that kind ? I understand they made quite a handsome profit. They would have been fools if they had not availed themselves of the opportunity to secure the wheat on the terms open to them.
– Was that the Commonwealth pool, or the New South Wales pool?
– It was the New South Wales branch of the Commonwealth pool, and expert commissioners on the Commonwealth board, appointed because of their wide experience in dealing with wheat, permitted that sale to take place. I can imagine another good wheat season, and some long-headed gentlemen, realizing that, as the result of heavy rain, wheat which promised to be good might not be up to the standard, purchasing thousand of. pounds’ worth of it. They may keep the good’ quality wheat for inspection by the Minister or his officers, and keep all the water-damaged wheat out of sight. What protection has the Minister from such people, who are looking for opportunities to make money ? He has none. Wheat firms, like John Darling’s or Lindley Walker’s, employ experts whose future depends upon the skill and ability with which they perform their duties. If the Minister could have the services of such men, he might, with a well-organized department, enter into business of this nature, and 4make advances on wheat; but, with all the respect I have for Senator Wilson, I contend that i’t is a class of business which is too risky for him to embark upon without a skilled department to help him. It is also too risky a business for the Commonwealth to engage in. Fancy the .Commonwealth Parliament become a money-lending bank for primary producers ! If the primary producers would benefit by this bill, there might be something to be said for it; but it will benefit only the men who are making money out of the primary producers - the men who are buying the wheat, the butter, and the dried fruits, and speculating in them, and scheming to take the Government down. Surely Ministers have had sufficient experience to know that it is not wise for a. government, unprepared to transact business of this character, to embark upon it. What staff have they? What staff will they require? What will happen if some buyer from a wheat district of New South Wales, hundreds of miles from the seaboard, comes along, and says. “ All the buyers ‘in my district have pooled their resources. We have £50,000 worth of wheat of a most excellent quality, and we want to get into the London markets. Will you give an advance of 50 per cent, on it to enable us to do so? “ The Minister, of course, would send an officer to report on that wheat. I do not suppose he would advance the people’s money without doing so. All I have to say is that I hope that any officer who is sent to make a report in such circumstances will remember that portion of our daily prayer, “ Lead us not into temptation.” Has the Minister a department equipped for this sort of business ? The Public Service is already overworked. Are we to call into existence another department for this purpose ? Where are our safeguards to prevent people from imposing on the Government ? I do not know the cause of it, but from one end of this country to the other people seem to lack that conscience that prevents them from trying to take each other down iu a business deal, and any business deal that will rob the Government is not looked at in the way that business deals with private individuals are viewed. To take down the Government appears to be fair play with a certain class of people. I shall oppose the bill strongly. T should like the Minister to tell us of any success that has followed the passage of this kind of legislation. Of course, Ministers are breaking it to us gently, giving us a little at a time : first a bill to make advances to hop-growers, and. then a -bill to make advances to dried fruit producers. Have the hopgrowers of Tasmania got out of their difficulties ? Are they happy? Are they in a satisfactory financial position? Having been given assistance, are they now able to carry on their business, or are they still worrying the Minister to give them further assistance?
SenatorWilson. - Where are the Tasmanians to answer that question?
– Probably they are engaged in negotiations with the primary producers of that state for a further loan from the Government. I may not be a born financier, but if I was a primary producer, and knew that the Government was prepared to advance 80 per cent. on the value of my produce, I should soon have the market price of produce sufficiently high that 80 per cent. would more than pay for the expenses of production. A margiu of 20 per cent, is not sufficiently wide to justify the Government in advancing money on any kind of produce. No banking institution would do it. Banks will not advance more than about 66 per cent, on good security, and even then they have valuators who are experienced, and whose values’ never approximate to those of the seller. Not only does the Government propose to. make advances on perishable produce, but the value of that produce is determined largely by the output of other countries. Australian wheat might be bringing 9s. a bushel on the London market, but one good season in Russia might reduce that price by half. What would happen then to the 80 per cent. advance? If, before our wheat upon which the people’s money has been spent is taken to the waterrside, and placed upon vessels to be shipped to the London market, other countries, situated closer to that market have caused a glut, what will become of the 80 per cent. advance? The workers of this country will have to pay these advances, and the real primary producers will be crushed by them. They will get none of the money, as the speculators will get it. The Minister knows that as well as I do. The man buying wheat will take the best of the wheat and place it on the market as his own, and thus obtain a reputation for good wheat ; and be will most likely get an advance of 80 per cent, on the inferior wheat which is left. Will there be experts to grade it? So far I have dealt only with wheat, but the bill will cover butter, cheese, and dried fruits also, and in connexion with each, experts will be required to determine their value.
– We have that organization now. No fruit can leave Austialia except after scrutiny by the Customs officials.
– I know that we have an organization for dealing with all the commodities that are exported from Australia, but has the Minister an organization that will deal with the requests of all the people from one end of the Commonwealth to the other, who want to borrow money under this bill? The Minister must see that he has no such organization.
– Not until we get the board.
– Then the Minister will commence to build up the organization. The risk would be great enough for a firm with years of experience in this class of business behind it, but it spells certain failure for the Government, because it has no such organization. Eighteen months hence we shall hang our heads in shame and sorrow when confronted with the scandals that are always present when public money is distributed for schemers to take. They will take this money quickly enough. I know that the Minister has a tremendous, in fact, an almost illimitable capacity. The very fact that he took the Wembley Exhibition in one stride, turned down three titles, ranging from duke to knight, and yet came back plain Mr. Wilson, is proof of his capacity. But with all his capacity, and his many good points, I doubt his ability to handle the produce of Australia in a business way, when 80 per cent. of its value is to be advanced.
– I would not attempt it myself.
– Perhaps I have misunderstood the bill. It may be only to assist a few of the Minister’s friends, in which case I have no doubt that they will be assisted. But if it is a bill to deal with the whole of the primary producers of Australia, the Commonwealth Government has neither the staff nor the equipment necessary to satisfactorily deal with such a huge undertaking, and it will make an absolute failure of the undertaking if it attempts to do ‘so. There is no chance of success, as the project has neither beginning nor end. The scheme has not been properly thought out. The bill has been brought before us by Ministers in the expectation that at this stage of the session no one would bother about it, and that it would go through. In effect, the Government says, “ This is a bill to help the primary producer ; who dares to raise his voice?”
– Senator Gardiner.
– I dare to raise my voice against every confidence trickster. The “ rich uncle from Fiji “ never deceived me. It is impossible to get something for nothing, and it is just as unreasonable to talk of giving the primary producer something for nothing. Having given the Minister my opinion, perhaps a little too candidly, and roughly-
– I like it.
– I “ hope that the Minister will tell us of the success that has attended the legislation passed to assist the hop-growers of Tasmania. If that legislation has failed to assist them, what is the use of fooling with the whole of the produce of Australia? This bill is fooling with it. It is the same as writing an invitation to the producegrowers of Australia to accept Commonwealth money to help them over their immediate difficulties. What would then happen ? The Minister knows what took place in connexion with wire netting. The sum of £250,000 was offered to those who desired to fence their holdings against rabbits. How many primary producers benefited from that?
– In my state, none, but in the state represented by the honorable senator, many. I gave the information to-day in reply to a question by Senator J. B. Hayes.
– Then the people of New South Wales got something out of it?
– Yes; about £28,000.
Senator GARDINER__ The Government, with a great flourish of trumpets, spoke of what it proposed to do for the primary producers, but two years have passed, and what has it done?
– I thought the honorable senator said that we were doing too much.
– Promises are of no avail. The primary producer is too hard-headed to be fooled by these “ catchy “ proposals. Some little board or company which has been exporting produce for some time may be satisfied with this legislation, but it will not satisfy the real producer. I warn the Government not to proceed further with legislation of this character. It is undesirable, unnecessary, and dangerous, and will place a burden on the people of the country: The Government has launched out into a business which requires experience and brains, and even then success is not always achieved. The venture is fraught with failure because of the incapacity of the Government to deal with a business of this character and magnitude.
– From the hurried glance whichI have been able to give to this bill since it was circulated among honorable senators, it appears to me to present extraordinary features which require more explanation than the Minister has yet given us. Particularly does that apply to clauses 4 .and 5. The bill contemplates two kinds of advantages.
– It is similar to measures for which the honorable senator voted last week.
– It goes further. Clause 4, sub-clause 1, provides -
The Treasurer may, if he thinks fit, guarantee to the Commonwealth Bank or any other prescribed bank carrying on business in the Commonwealth the amount of any advance made by the bank to a board in connexion with the financing of any scheme for the export and marketing of the produce under the control of the board.
There we have some degree of responsibility, seeing that upon the advance being made by the Commonwealth Bank, or any other prescribed bank, the Treasurer may guarantee to the bank the amount of the advance that it has made.
– That is what we did last week.
– Sub-clause 2 of clause 4 reads -
Any guarantee made in pursuance of this section ‘shall not be to an extent greater than eighty per centum of the market value of the produce in respect of which the advance is made.
A lot could be said whether 80 per cent, is a fair margin or whether it is not too risky.
– That depends upon the capacity of the board.
– I consider that a wrong principle is embodied in this clause. Sub-clause 5 provides -
Where a ‘guarantee is subject to conditions and it. appears to the Treasurer that any of those conditions have not been observed, he may revoke the guarantee, and, upon notice in writing of the revocation of the guarantee being given to the bank to which the guarantee was given, the Treasurer and the Commonwealth shall be relieved of all liability under the guarantee not incurred before the date of the notice.
Under clause 4 the Treasurer may, if he thinks fit, guarantee to the Commonwealth Bank, or to any other prescribed bank, the amount of any advance made by it to a board. Certain conditions are prescribed. After the guarantee has been given he may find out that the board has not observed those conditions, and he can revoke the guarantee. The consequence will be that the bank will be left to nurse the baby. That is an extraordinary principle to embody in a measure of this ‘kind. It has not been adopted anywhere else. No tame is stipulated within which the conditions must be observed. They may be observed up to the time that the guarantee is given and the advances made by the bank, but subsequently they may be broken. A bank would not make an advance up to SO per cent, of the value of the produce unless it were given the guarantee. Clause 5 contemplates another species of advance. It will be made, not by the bank and not to the board. but by the Minister, upon the receipt of a report and recommendation from any body of persons . constituted to advise him upon matters relating to trade and commerce. The total liability that may be incurred under that clause is £500,000.. Of whom and by whom will this body of persons be constituted?
– What does the honorable senator suggest in order that we may live up to what we did last week ?<
– Last week we provided for the proper constitution of boards to take control of these matters. Clause 4 contemplates action by those boards, but under clause 5 a totally different kind of action may be taken and the board be ignored by the. Minister.
– I do not know from what provision of the bill the honorable senator gains that impression.
– Clause 4 specifically deals with boards that last week? we legislated to create. It provides for advances to those boards, and it does not impose a limit of £500,000 upon the expenditure that may be incurred. The only limit is that the advance made may not exceed 80 per cent, of the value of the produce. It appears to me that clause 5 is an extremely dangerous one. The Minister may be able to remove my doubts. They ought to be removed.
– I am sure that every honorable senator must have been deeply pained to hear that the conservative instincts of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) have been violated by this measure. I did not know that he had any conservative instincts.
– I cling tightly to what is good.-
– We all do. We were also deeply pained to hear that the radical instincts of Senator Duncan were violated by the measure. Last week we passed a bill dealing with the marketing of produce. This bill simply safeguards the marketing of that produce. Senator Duncan has made the point that the provisions relating to this guarantee are dangerous. There will be a triple guarantee - -by the board, by the Commonwealth Bank, and also by the Treasurer, if he thinks fit.
– What has the honorable senator to say in regard to the revocation of the guarantee after an advance has been made ?
– .That provision safeguards the Treasurer.
– It does not safeguard the bank.
– The Commonwealth Bank will guarantee up to 80 per cent, of the value of the produce. But before that happens the board will have to advance the money. Then there will be a further guarantee by the Treasurer. Surely that is sufficient ?
– I was hoping that Senator Benny would give a lucid explanation of the measure. It is not customary on the second reading of a bill to deal in detail with, its clauses, but as we are passing legislation somewhat hurriedly it is essential even to closely analyse the provisions of this measure. I believe that at this stage the bill will do more than the Minister says it will do. Last week we passed measures providing for the appointment of boards to control the export of butter and dried fruits. If this bill had dealt with those two matters alone, there would have been some sense in it. Clause 5, however, contains a drag-net .provision. Clause 3 provides -
The Minister may, by notice in the Gazette, declare that the produce specified in ‘ the notice, the export and marketing of which is controlled by a board, is produce to which this act applies, and thereupon that produce shall be deemed to be produce to which this act applies.
Primary produce includes wheat, wool, skins, butter, fruit, gold, coal, tin, and so ‘ forth ; and clause 5 distinctly provides for the granting of assistance in relation to the export and marketing of primary produceThere is the drag-net. Does the Minister argue that £500,000 will be sufficient to control the marketing of wheat, wool, and any other primary produce that he cares to specify? As Senator Duncan pointed out, clause 5 takes from the board all control, and gives it to the Minister, who may act upon a report or recommendation of any body of persons constituted to advise him. How is this body of persons to be constituted? Will it be entirely separate from the proposed board or boards? If it is not to be a separate body, where is the necessity for clause 5 ? Suppose there is a board to control the export of butter and cheese, and another to control the export of dried fruits. They would be advisory bodies. Yet clause 5 proposes to erect a superstructure! The bill reminds me of the old saying, “Put a hegger on horseback and he will ride to the devil.” Because Parliament has provided for two boards to assist the Minister in the management and control of the export of butter, cheese and fruit, ‘ he now wants to have further boards appointed to control the export of all primary produce.
I agree with Senator Gardiner that legislation like this should not be presented to the Senate in the dying hours of the session. If this bill had preceded two other measures that have been passed recently there would have been a different vote in connexion with both of them. It would be dangerous, as Senator Gardiner has pointed out, to enter into a guarantee of 80 per cent, of the value of a commodity that is fluctuating in price. Wheat and wool to-day are at peak values. I am glad that the producers are in such a fortunate position, but no one can say how long present prices will hold. There may be a drop to-morrow. Is itfair that the Commonwealth Bank should guarantee 80 per cent, of the value of those products on the present day prices? I have a clear recollection .of my own experience with the Commonwealth Bank. I approached the institution some time ago, on behalf of a body with which I was associated, for a loan against a security valued at £25,000, and increasing in value yearly. All that I could get was £9,000. If Senator Duncan is serious in his criticism of the bill, he will vote against the second reading, or endeavour to amend it in committee.
– I shall endeavour to amend it in committee.
– Clause 5 certainly needs amendment. It refers to action that may be taken by the Minister following the receipt of a report or recommendation from any body of persons constituted to advise the Minister.
– I thought I stated who would constitute that body.
– The Minister may have attempted to do so, but I do not think he dealt adequately with the provisions of either clause 5, or clause 4, which Senator Gardiner so freely criticized. In my opinion, £500,000 is not nearly sufficient to control the whole of the products.-
– I never said it was.
– But clause 5 suggests that £500, Q00 will be sufficient. There appears to be no provision to safeguard the general taxpayer, who will have to foot the bill in the event of losses being incurred. When the measure is in committee, it should be amended in such a way that if losses are incurred, the owners of the products will bear them, either wholly or in part. I agree with Senator Gardiner that the administration of. this measure will be altogether ‘ too big a task for Senator Wilson, or any other member of the Ministry,, without the assistance of a number of expert advisers. If the bill survives the second reading stage it should be materially amended in committee.
– I am satisfied from the Minister’s second-reading speech that he does not understand the bill. This may be a candid statement, but since we are here to conserve the interests of the people, there is nothing to be gained by a lack of candour. I remember quite well, and Senator Wilson must also remember, what happened in connexion with a wheat guarantee scheme in South Australia. The amount of the guarantee was 3s. a bushel, but unscrupulous operators bought up considerable parcels, and resold the wheat in Queensland for 8s. a bushel.
– And in Kalgoorlie for 12s. a bushel.
– The South Australian producers are now suing the South Australian Government for £2,000,000 in connexion with that scheme. Legislation of this nature requires very careful consideration. Would the Minister guarantee 80 per cent, of the value of wool at present prices?
– 80 per cent, is the maximum amount of the guarantee.
– Clause 7 reads:
There is hereby appropriated, for the purposes of this act, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the sum of £500,000, and such further sums as are necessary, from time to time, for the purposes of this act.
What does that mean? Does it mean £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 ? When the bill is in committee I intend to submit an amendment limiting the appropriation of any further sum to £100,000,000. This will to some extent safeguard the interests of the taxpayers. I know that Senator Wilson is anxious to do the best that he possibly can for the primary producers of Australia, but he is not alone. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber are just as anxious as he is to protect the interests of the primary producers. We also owe a duty to the general public, and should see that the public money is not >unwisely appropriated. It will be necessary, as Senator Gardiner has pointed out, to secure the services of a large number of experts to advise the Minister in connexion with the scheme, otherwise the taxpayers of Australia may be very heavily penalized.
I join in protesting against the presentation of an important measure like this at such short notice. Sub-clause 5 of clause 4 is particularly objectionable. It cuts across the common law in relation to guarantees.. It reads: -
Where a guarantee is subject to conditions and it appears to the Treasurer that any of those conditions have not been observed, he may revoke the guarantee, and, upon notice in writing of the revocation of the guarantee being given to the bank to which the guarantee was given, the Treasurer and the Commonwealth shall be relieved of all liability under the guarantee not incurred before the date of the notice.
It is quite right that if the Minister be advised that the conditions of the guarantee are not being complied with he should revoke the guarantee. But what is the date of the notice ? A messenger boy from the Minister’s office may carry it about in his pocket for perhaps a week before the bank gets it, and yet from the way in which the clause is drafted it would appear that the date of the notice ‘governs the situation. Surely that is wrong. I doubt whether any bank would enter into any guarantee in such circumstances. The latter part of the sub-clause ought to be struck out. I am very dissatisfied, too, with the faulty construction of clause 5, which provides -
This looks as if we intend to give to the Minister a blank cheque to make regulations constituting all sorts of boards. It is unfair to bring in a bill like this and expect honorable senators to assimilate its intricate provisions at such short notice.
Senator WILSON (South Australia-
Honorary Minister) [9.45]. - Senator Gardiner emphasized the point that public funds were not being sufficiently safeguarded’; but he should remember that before any advances are made the board will be .in possession of the produce which will all have been carefully packed and graded under “the supervision of Customs officials. The board will then approach the bank for the money, and before making an advance the bank will obtain a guarantee from the Commonwealth Government. The bank will, of course, make the necessary inquiries concerning the market value of the product before ito negotiations are completed. When once an advance has been made by the bank the produce will be the security. Senator Duncan seems to be under the impression that the Treasury may withdraw its guarantee, but if that were done the bank would not, give a release until the guarantee had been satisfied. The bank will notify the board if. the guarantee has to be met, in which case- the Treasury will have to supply the amount required. Senator Gardiner suggested that legislation such as this would assist only the speculators, but it does not do anything of the kind. The Government has been asked to introduce this and other similar measures in consequence of the unfortunate position. in which primary producers have been placed owing to the actions of speculators.
– There were more speculators than primary producers in the lobbies when the bills submitted with the intention of assisting primary producers were under consideration.
– From 75 per cent to- 80 per cent, of the persons who attended1 a recent meeting at Scott’s Hotel were primary producers, which clearly indicates that those engaged in. the actual work of production are keenly interested in the measures which the Government have submitted to Parliament. Senator McHugh said that I was quite incapable of administering the act,, and I candidly admit that if its provisions are to be effectively administered, the assistance of. the best experts available must be obtained. We have passed two bills under which boards have been appointed to control the marketing of primary produce, but immediately a measure containing the necessary machinery to give effect to those measures is introduced, considerable opposition is shown. If the two bills which have already passed’ are to- have the desired effect, this measure- must also be passed to enable the necessary financial arrangements to be made. Provision is made in clause 5 for inquiries to be conducted, and if that is done public funds will be adequately safeguarded. It is also provided that the Minister may grant assistance on the advice of a competent body, which, as I stated in my secondreading speech, will be the Board of Trade. For the information of Senator Gardiner, who referred to the hop industry in Tasmania, I may mention that three or four weeks ago the Government advanced £25,000 to the hop-growing industry to enable its produce to be marketed. Three weeks later I received a deputation from the hop-growers-, who had discovered that they had several thousand bales more which they wished to dispose of. A little later I informed’ another deputation that inquiries would have to be made before the Government would consider any further requests from the industry. The Government would not think of rendering assistance unless an industry was well organized, and was making every effort to market its produce in the best possible way. If Senator Gardiner, who said that the primary producers had never sought the assistance which is being given, had been in attendance at the deputations which have waited upon me in Victoria and in South Australia during the lasttwo months, he would see. that there has been a most persistent demand for help.
– What is the use of passing legislation unless money is made available to give effect to it ?
– It would be useless. It is the duty of the Government to assist those who are producing the wealth in this country, but it is not the duty of the Government to trade-
– What of private enterprise-?
– I have on other occasions explained the attitude of the Government in regard to private enterprise. In the past there has been a method of giving assistance for the export of produce by means of advances out of the Treasurer’s Advance, but as that is an unbusinesslike way of doing things, the Government prefer to present to Parliament four times a year a full statement of the assistance granted under this bill. I trust that honorable senators will agree to the bill.
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.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 - (1.) The Treasurer may, if he thinks fit; guarantee to the Commonwealth Bank or any other prescribed bank carrying on business in the Commonwealth, the amount of any advance made by the bank to a board in connexion with the financing of any .scheme for the export and marketing of the produce under the control of the board. (5.) Where a guarantee is subject to conditions, and it appears to the Treasurer that any of those conditions have not been observed, he may revoke the guarantee, and, upon notice in writing of the revocation of the guarantee being given to the bank to which the guarantee was given, the Treasurer and the Commonwealth shall be relieved of all liability under the guarantee not incurred before the date of the notice.
– I move-
That the words “ financing of any scheme for the “, sub-clause 1, be left out.
I do not object to any proposal to finance schemes for the export and marketing of butter, cheese, and dried fruits, because we have already passed bills appointing boards to control the export of those commodities, but I think there should be some limitation, and that we should proceed very carefully. We should confine advances to the export and marketing of the commodities I have already mentioned, instead of launching out on a wild scheme of marketing all kinds of produce. My amendment would assist the Government in the onerous duties ahead of it.
– The honorable senator will see that advances can only be made to finance a scheme under the control of a board. To control the export and marketing of other produce besides, butter, cheese, and dried fruits, it may be of advantage to set up separate boards, or it may be more convenient to make use of an existing board. It may also be of advantage to utilize the machinery of existing organizations in England and Australia for handling Australian produce, and thus avoid the expense of creating, new boards.
– I think that sub-clause 5 is unnecessary. Sub-clause 4 already provides -
Any guarantee under this section may be subject to such conditions as the Treasurer specifies.
The Treasurer may specify all the conditions covered by sub-clause 5. Indeed, it would be an implied condition that if the conditions he may specify were not complied with he could revoke his guarantee. In any case, I flunk it would greatly improve sub-clause. 5’ if all the words after “ revoke the guarantee “ were omitted. If those words were omitted, the common law would operate. In other words, the moment the bank received notice of a revocation its authority to make further advances would cease. It would appear that the draftsmen are suffering from overwork. They have loaded up the clause with unnecessary provisions. The last line contains a provision which I have difficulty in understanding, and which, I think, will hamper the operations of the measure. The words “ before the date of the notice “ mean prima facie that a letter sent to the bank, and dated, say, to-day, would end the liability of the Minister, although it might not be received by the bank for possibly a week.
– Cannot the bank look after itself ?
– If the bank is well advised, as no doubt it will be, it will say that it will not advance a penny under the act. But that will not help the producer very much. If, however, the bank should do so, .1 invite the honorable senator’s attention to what may happen. A large sum might have been advanced, but the letter giving notice might not reach the bank for some days. The clause should specify that the time at which the notice is received by ‘the bank is the. vital moment.
– It should be the date on which the notice reaches the bank.
– I move-
That all the words after “ guarantee,” subclause 5 (second occurring), be left out.
Senator WILSON (South Australia-
Honorary Minister) [10.18]. - I ask the honorable senator not to insist on his amendment. It is astonishing to find how lawyers differ. Only to-day Sir Robert Garran carefully considered this clause, and he is of the opinion that it is necessary. The draftsman are of the same opinion. No bill can provide against recklessness or carelessness. It is the duty of the people concerned to see that the notification arrives at the bank on the proper day. The clause, as it stands, can do no harm.
– Have the banks been consulted ?
– Not yet.
– I suggest that the Minister deferconsideration of this clause. Is it necessary to pass it to-night ?
– I protest against this method . of legislation. What is meant by the words “ the date of the notice “? Is it the date of the letter, or the date of its receipt by the bank?
– A guarantee does not operate from the day that it is sent, but from the day that it is received by the bank.
– The clause states “ upon notice in writing of the revocation of the guarantee being given to the bank.”
– We frequently find a similar provision in other acts. Notice can be given to a shareholder by leaving it at his last-known place of address, although the man may be in England. Even if the Minister will not accept my amendment, he should agree to the following words being substituted: - “before the notice is received by the bank.”’
– I cannot accept that amendment.
– Then the Minister does not intend that it shall apply as from the date the notice is received by the bank.
– Yes; I do.
– The Minister has asked me to withdraw my amendment.
I am endeavouring to meet him in every way, and am suggesting a way out. I do not want to insist on it unnecessarily.
– There is only one course left for Senator Elliott. He should vote against the clause. No one can read this clause without being convinced that it ends the guarantee, so far as the bank is concerned. No bank will accept a guarantee which may be revoked at any time. The Minister stated that the Solicitor-General said that the clause was all right, but, unfortunately, the SolicitorGeneral cannot share our responsibility. The legislature is responsible for its own actions. The very draftsmanship of this clause justifies its being thrown out. When a clause pretends to give a guarantee, and also makes provision for revoking it, we should vote against the whole clause.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority … 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 - (1.) The Minister may, upon the receipt of a report and recommendation from any body of persons constituted to advise the Minister upon matters relating to trade and commerce, grant assistance in relation to the export and marketing of primary produce.
– In my second-reading speech I asked who would constitute the body of persons to advise the Minister, and whether it would be a body apart from the respective boards that are to be appointed. The Minister said that it would be the Board of Trade, but he added that that could not be provided for in the bill. I now ask why we cannot do that? If we stipulated that the board should be the Board of Trade, we would know where we were. Otherwise there will be a doubt in the minds, not only of the members of Parliament, but of people outside. I suggest that sub-clause 1 be amended by specifying that the body to be constituted to advise the Minister shall be the Board of Trade.
– I mentioned in my second-reading speech that the reason that we could not provide in the clause that the Board of Trade should be the body to advise the Minister was that the Board of Trade is not a statutory body. The Attorney-General’s Department has advised that for that reason it is not competent to name the Board of Trade in the bill.
– Who will be the body?
– The Board of Trade, but, for the reasons I have given, that cannot be stated in the bill.
– We are legislating blindfold.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 - (1.) There is hereby appropriated, for the purposes of this act, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the sum df Five hundred thousand pounds and such further sums as are necessary, from time to time, for the purposes of this act.
.- I move-
That the following words be added to subclause 1 : - “ provided that the total amount advanced shall not exceed £1,000,000.”
I am opposed to any board having the right to dip to an unlimited extent into the public purse. The Minister (Senator Wilson) smiles. No board in this or any other country where constitutional government prevails should have the rightto do what this clause proposes to allow the board to do. The clause provides -
There is hereby appropriated for the purpose of this act out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £500,000 and such further sums as are necessary.
That may mean £10,000,000 or £20,000,000. If we had a board that did not know its business, and a Minister not so alert as Senator Wilson is, we should not know to what extent this country would be involved in expenditure. The only body that should have unlimited power in regard to the public purse is the Parliament. That is a principle for which I shall always stand. We are most careful when we are considering money bills. They are scanned closely. Every item of expenditure is examined by honorable senators. Yet we propose to give to a board that is not yet created, and the personnel of which we do not know, unlimited powers in regard to expenditure. A million pounds should be sufficient. If it is necessary to grant another few millions, Parliament should be called together to vote it. That is Parliament’s business. I am not prepared to allow even a Minister to say to a board, “ Spend a million pounds.” We have had instances of that kind in the past. A man once left this country, went to the other side of the world, spent a few millions, and on his return said,. “ Vote this amount.” Possibly Parliament did not desire to have it spent, but it was voted because the credit of the country was at Stake. I hope the committee will accept the amendment, because it is based on a sound principle.
.- For the sake of Australia, I hope that the committee will not agree to the amendment. I trust that the value of Australian products will be more than £1,000,000. It will be a sorry day for us if that is not so. The board will handle 32,000 tons of dried fruits, in addition to the butter that will be held in cool storage and that will be on the water. I am not in a position to say that the amount required will be £1,000,000, because I believe that the greater portion of the butter will be financed by the owners. So long as the scheme is run on business lines, the greater the amount the better for Australia. No honorable senator has the right to talk flippantly about dipping into the Treasury.
– I did not use the expression in a flippant manner.
– It is flippancy to say that any one will be allowed to dip into the Treasury, in view of the strict scrutiny that will be- exercised. The Government will be exceedingly careful,, and I am certain that the board will be worthy of the task with which it will be entrusted.
– lam dissappointed at the refusal of the Minister to accept the amendment. Such a proposition as this is unheard of. We are asked to vote £500,000 and as much more as is required. Are honorable senators, with their- eyes open, going to give the Government power of that kind?
– I do not think that we should.
– In our estimates everything is calculated to the nearest shilling. Why should we say to any department, “You can have the use of as much money as you require for the purposes of this act “ ? The word “ purposes “ could easily be interpreted in such a way as to cover the whole of the primary produce of Australia. The Government could finance a wool pool to the extent of £100,000^000, and we would be responsible. It could finance a wheat pool for £100,000,000 and we would be responsible. It could finance a butter pool for £20,000.000, and we would .be responsible.
– I wish the butter pool required it.
– But the honorable senator surely does not desire that Parliament should provide in this way for advances? Can the Minister point to a bill- passed by this or any other Parliament which contains such a provision ? I cannot. Surely £500,000 is somewhere near the amount that it is anticipated will be required? The amendment proposes to limit the expenditure to £1,000,000. If the Government does not want to accept the amendment, let it fix the amount’ and we shall vote it. I- believe that we are. legislating along wrong lines.
– The amounts mentioned by the honorable senator could not be expended .because there would not be that surplus revenue available. The clause provides for the utilization of only the surplus revenue that is available. There will be. nothing like a surplus of £2.0j000,000;
– We. are going too far with legislation of this kind. I ask the Minister (Senator Wilson) to fix any sum beyond which the Government will not go, and let honorable- senators have the credit of saying that a limit has been placed upon the amount which can be spent. If the Minister is not prepared to do that I shall not allow the clause to pass without putting up a fight on it.
– The amount will be limited by the circumstance that so much money as the honorable senator has mentioned will not be available-.
– That is an additional reason for limiting it. Surely it is. not beneath the dignity of the Government to fix an amount? When the Minister fixed £500,000, he anticipated that that would be somewhere near the sum which would be required. Precedent guides us - in all our legislation. That which we do to-night is followed to-morrow. Once we get on to the downward track our descent will be swift. I am very glad that Senator McHugh called my attention to this matter. I congratulate him. upon having that keen regard for the proper handling of financial matters that one might expect in an old parliamentarian. It is pleasing to find a young man in his first Parliament picking out the weakest part of a bill. If the Minister will say, “ We recognize that this is a had principle, and we are prepared to fix an amount within reason,” I have not the slightest doubt that Senator McHugh will withdraw his amendment. We know that the Minister’s intentions are all right. I fear only his ability and capacity to handle all the revenues of this country. That also applies to any Minister. What further sums beyond the £500,000 will be required? If the Minister is not prepared to limit himself to £500;000 more than is provided he must have something in his mind that he has not told us, and the Government must have some intention, when the House rises, of advancing amounts which it dare not ask Parliament to vote. The. Minister leaves himself open to that suspicion. Senator McHugh put the case, very clearly. He said that if a greater amount were required, the simple way of obtaining it was- bor call Parliament together to’ vote it. The. Minister will later be pleased if he now agrees to limit his expenditure. It will make him more careful. It would be expecting too much to ask honorable senators to imagine me in a ministerial office. If I were a Minister my good nature would not allow me to refuse requests for advances if my power to draw upon the treasury were unlimited. ‘ Senator Wilson’s administrative capacity would certainly be strengthened if he had unlimited power to comply with the wishes of every deputation that asked for an advance. As far as I am concerned, it is not going to be unlimited. The Minister may secure the passage of the measure, but unless he is prepared to accept a reasonable amendment in the direction indicated - I do not care what it is, provided the amount is fixed - I shall not support it.
– I think Senator Gardiner is unnecessarily alarmed. The clause at first sight may appear to be unusual and, perhaps,, unnecessary; but I remind the honorable senator of the experience of the Government of which, he and I were members in connexion with pools formed during the war and financed by the Government. At one time the Government was guaranteeing an overdraft at the Commonwealth Bank of £21,000,000 for’ the wheat pool. That did not mean that the Government had to take £21,000,000 from the Consolidated Revenue. As a matter of fact, at no time was it necessary to draw upon the Consolidated Revenue for the financing of the wheat pool. We had not then established a trust fund, but we acted as if actually we had to place money in a trust fund to meet the guarantee. In other words, the Consolidated Revenue was liable to that extent. We are proposing now to do by statute, on a very much smaller scale, what was done during the war by executive act. It may be necessary to finance the operations of two boards. Therefore, we must establish a trust fund for the purpose of the guarantee. If, as is proposed by the amendment, we limit the amount to be placed to the credit of the fund, we shall seriously hamper the successful working !of the scheme. It may so happen that both boards controlling the export trade in primary products will reach their peak, in the shape of advances, at a given time, and the guarantee may be £2,000,000 or £3,000,000. I cannot say. But as we shall be expressing the guarantee by statute, we shall have to pay into a trust fund the actual amount represented by the guarantee, although it may never bie used.
– Why then is the amount of £500,000 mentioned in clause 5?
– Because that is the amount which we took out of the surplus and ear-marked for the purpose. But for the fact, that the Treasurer had announced that this sum had been earmarked, and that Parliament had appropriated it, that amount would not have been mentioned in the bill.
– What is meant then by sub-clause 4, which states that the total expenditure and liability shall not exceed £500,000 ?
– That deals only with the particular advance, not with advances for other forms of primary production such as dried fruits or butter. I remind honorable senators that when they pass an ordinary Supply Bill, Parliament is asked frequently, for £1,000,000 as Treasurer’s Advance for the ordinary governmental administration. In thisbill the Commonwealth is expressing its intention to stand behind the advances to be guaranteed by the banks, and as the banks will be limited in their advances to ‘ 80 per cent, of the market value of the products, we are asking Parliament to give the Government authority, if it becomes necessary to do so, to pay into a trust fund the money that may be necessary to cover the amount of guarantee, though actually it may not be needed for that purpose. The Government may not have to find a single penny of the guarantee. If honorable senators will examine the proposal closely they will realize that any limitation of the amount would, probably ham-string the measure. It is unfair to expect the Government to prophesy what will be the maximum amount to be guaranteed when the export operations are at their peak. It is quite possible that the advances for- butter and dried fruit may reach their peak at about the same time. Suppose the amount is £10,000,000. Would it be a great misfortune if the Government had to guarantee advances to that extent? Would it not rather indicate that the business, instead of being worth, say, £1,000,000, had increased to £10,000,000 ? There is no risk whatever. The value of butter and . cheese exported last year was £6,000,000, and the value of dried fruits £1,500,000. Probably with a favorable season those amounts will be largely exceeded this year, but that will not be a misfortune. I appeal to those honorable senators who really wish to help the primary producers not to insist on the proposed limitation. The Government is not likely to indulge in any wild schemes of finance, and certainly the banks, in their own interests, will not take undue risks.
– I hope that Senator Duncan has benefited by the Minister’s explanation. Before the Minister addressed the committee he remarked, by way of interjection, that the amount of £500,000 referred to in clause 5 was to be taken out of the surplus revenue. I have searched the bill in vain for any mention of surplus revenue. The Minister in charge . of the measure (Senator Wilson) stated that he could not estimate what amount of money would be necessary - it might be £1,000,000 or £10,000,000. Senator Wilson is probably nearer the mark than is Senator Pearce. If within the next six months we are to reach the peak period in the export of dairy produce and dried fruits or other primary products, why not specify in the bill the amount that will be required ? The Minister has been advised that the value of butter and cheese exported last year was £6,000,000,. and I think he added that the export of dried fruits totalled £1,500,000. If so, why not fix the amount in the bill at £7,000,000 ?
– Because that amount will not be required.
– Now we are getting some information. If additional money is not required, where is the need, in clause 7, for the provision to appropriate further sums as may be necessary from time to time ?
– Because further sums may be needed.
– The Government and its supporters are speaking in different voices. The Minister in charge of the bill made one statement, and the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) made another. Now their supporters .are speaking, all in different voices. It is probable ‘that Parliament will adjourn this week, and re-assemble some time next year. Can any honorable senator say, if between now and the re-assembling of Parliament, the amount required will be £10,000,000 or £7,000,000?
-brockman. - It is quite conceivable that it may be.
– Senator DrakeBrockman is again to the fore with advice. Why not insert the amount in the bill so that we shall know what we are doing ?
– Because the amount may not be required.
– As usual the honorable senator is backing and filling. If Senator Drake-Brockman will move for the insertion of a definite sum, say, £7,000,000 or £10,000,000, I shall support him. I am not opposed to the interests of the primary producers, but as one of the custodians of the public purse I should like to know where we are in connexion with this matter. There has been some talk of companies limited and unlimited. It appears that, in this bill, we are being asked to guarantee a concern that may be known as “ Wilson Unlimited.” If we agree to this provision we must be prepared to share the responsibility. If the Government will say that £5,000,000, £7,000,000, or even £10,000,000 may be required between now and the time when Parliament reassembles, I shall support it; but surely we cannot give to (his or any other Ministry the authority to advance unlimited sums of money. . If, as the Minister has stated, the £500,000 mentioned in th<bill has nothing to do with the guarantee, why has it been inserted ?
– This is one of the most important, if not the most important, clause in the bill. It seems that some honorable senators are taking an unduly serious view of the question. Some are apt to over-estimate, and have already over-estimated, the amount required as a guarantee. The sums mentioned should not represent the total value of the exports of dried fruits, butter and cheese for the whole year. It is only from the time that the produce is shipped until a sale is effected that a guarantee is required. The same money is turned over many times during the course of a year. I am quite in accord with the suggestion, and I think it is only fair that a definite sum should be stated. We have been informed by tie Minister (Senator Pearce). that the value of the butter and cheese exported last year was approximately £6,000,000, and that of dried fruits £1,500,000.
– The butter for export is received within three or four months.
– It should be easy for the Customs Department or some other department which keeps an eye on our exports to ascertain how the incidence of this guarantee will fall, and from that determine what sum is needed. As a matter of fact, no money is needed, because the credit of the Commonwealth is behind the whole undertaking. The bill apparently has been compiled by some such method as a person standing at a distance, throwing the clauses haphazard into a receptacle, and waiting for them to adhere to one another. I do not blame the draftsman, because I think he has been ignorant of the intention of the Government. There must be close co-ordination between the Parliamentary Draftsman and the Government to enable him to ascertain exactly what is required. The measure has, I think, been prepared in a great hurry, and for that I am sorry. The better course to pursue would be to limit the amount of the guarantee, and if the Government is constitutionally, if not, as Senator Gardiner would say, actually the representative of the people, we should give it the power which it undoubtedly ought to possess to use the guarantee for the benefit of assisting those industries. If we are to assist to the extent suggested, this bill should be passed. Perhaps I may be pardoned for referring to clause 5, which relates to other primary industries which may be assisted. Those other industries are strictly limited to the extent of £500,000. “That amount is to cover all other primary production except that expressly named.
– Where is that stated in the bill?
– I thought that was definitely provided, but on perusing the measure I find that it is not. I can only assume that that is what is meant. At least, that is understood. If, for the purpose of comparison, honorable senators will refer to clause 8 they will see that two industries are expressly mentioned, which reminds one of the legal maxim expressio unius est exclusioaltervus - the mention of one necessitates the exclusion of another. Any one of a speculative turn of mind could have no more exciting medium - except, perhaps, the Melbourne weather - than to gamble on the interpretations which might be placed upon the provisions of this bill. At all events, I think I go to the extent of saying that the Government mean well, even if its intentions are not as clearly expressed as is intended. The intentions of the Government, so far as I understand them, are good. There should be some indication of the amount required, which, in my opinion, is not as much as some honorable senators believe. As I have stated, the amount actually needed as a guarantee is only that required between the time when the produce is shipped and sold and the proceeds are received, which may occur three or four times during one year. All that is required is a working capital, whereas some honorable senators are thinking of the turnover. With a working capital of a few thousand pounds the turnover may be ten times as great. There is an indefiniteness about the bill which I do not approve, and which I should like rectified.
– To use a colloquialism, some honorable senators are “ flogging a dead horse.” I agree with Senator Kingsmill that the drafting of this measure would not secure a first prize in a competition. I am afraid that even the Government is not fully au fait with its meaning. I have been perusing its provisions, and I believe that several honorable senators are more at sea than Ministers, and even more so than I am. The amount that may be paid out of the trust account is strictly limited by clause 8, which reads -
From the amount, from time to time, standing to the credit of the Trust Account, there may be paid -
any amounts which become due and payable under any guarantee given under this act or under the Dried Fruits Advances Act 1924;
the amount of any advance made under the Dried Fruits Advances Act 1924; and
the amount necessary to meet the cost of any assistance granted by the Minister under section five of this act.
That clearly sets out the amounts which can be paid out of the trust account. No limitation is imposed in connexion with the guarantee account. The Treasurer may guarantee advances by banks to the extent of 80 per cent. of the market value of the produce. Even if we accept the amendment and fix a definite sum the amount of guarantee that the Treasurer can give will not be affected in the slightest degree.
– I can assure the honorable senator that it will.
– If that is the intention of the Government I am inclined to think that it has not given effect to it. The limitation imposed is in the amount of the guarantee which the Treasurer can give in respect to the advances made by the banks. The Treasurer may to an unlimited extent guarantee advancesmade by the banks, provided the banks comply with the provisions of clause 4. The financial assistance provided under clause 5 is strictly limited to £500,000. The trust account is defined by clause 8. There is no need to fear that the Government has unlimited powers in respect to the amount that may be acquired by it for the trust account mentioned in clause 7.
– With regard to some of the provisions of this bill, the Government have made certain definite statements, and yet those whoare conversant with the law express quite contrary opinions. Some of the clauses came as a surprise to me. When some time ago the Government announced that it proposed to set aside £500,000 for the purpose of assisting the primary producers of Australia, many people thought that £500,000 would be the full extent of the assistance to be given. But now we are told that the boards created for the purpose of controlling the export and marketing of dried fruits and butter may obtain unlimited financial assistance from the Gov vernment, up to 80 per cent. of the value of the produce exported. Is it the intention of the Government to assist all sections of the community which may require assistance ? After the last election campaign, during which Ministers denounced on every platform state interference of all descriptions, and collectivism, and cried out against those who were said to be restricting the liberty, of the subject, and interfering with freedom of trade, no one anticipated that they would immediately proceed to depart from all they had previously said, and indulge in this kind of legislation. Senator Wilson, who . is a business man, sees no risk in giving a guarantee up to 80 per cent., but I see very grave risks in it. ‘The Commonwealth Bank will certainly advance the money, but it will do so only on the guarantee of the Government, and whatever loss is sustained will be borne by the Government. I do not think that Ministers should have the power to grant unlimited financial assistance to any producers. If the committee agrees to Senator McHugh’samendment Parliament will know what amount of money is made available.
– No money will be made available. There will merely be the guarantee.
– But the Government’s guarantee is equivalent to money. Sub-clause 4 of clause 5 provides -
The total expenditure and liability incurred under this section shall not exceed £500,000.
That provision conveys to most honorable senators the meaning that £500,000 will be the maximum expenditure, yet clause 7 provides -
There is hereby appropriated for the purpose of this act, out of the ConsolidatedRevenue Fund, the sum of £500,000 and such further sums as are necessary from time to time for the purposes of this act.
I confess that I do not understand what that really means. We have had two sets of explanations, one from Ministers, and one from legal senators, yet they both differ. Until we get to some agreement on the matter we shall not reach finality. Because of the rush at the close of last session, bill have had to be introduced this session to amend much of the legislation then passed. If we pass this bill in its present form we shall probably have another bill next session to amend it
– If clause 7 had come after clause 8 the bill would have been much clearer. All honorable senators feel that the assistance to be afforded to any particular form of production should be limited, and it is limited by sub-clause 4 of clause 5,. to £500,000. If a section of the community comes to the Government for assistance, the Government cannot advance more than £500,000 to those persons.
– On peanuts?
– It does not matter what the product may be as long as the Government thinks that it i3 worthy of assistance. Honorable senators may smile at the reference to peanuts, but when the boll weevil occasioned trouble in the cotton production of the United States of America, the oil extracted from peanuts represented £11,000,000 to the people of. the States, and replaced, to some extent,, that obtained from the cotton seed. The fear that the Government could give unlimited sums of money to different ventures is removed by the fact that the absolute total amount they may advance is limited to £500,000. Clause 4 deals with guarantees in a totally different way. If £80 is advanced, the- Government must have £100 worth of produce as security. This clause is perfectly safe, because every guarantee must have & corresponding security. The bank will not take any security unless it is sound, and the advances against such security are restricted to 80 per cent of its value. Therefore, the Government have some control of the position; it gets that control by holding £100 worth of security for every £80 advanced, and thus the financial, position is safeguarded.
– Senator Pearce drew an analogy between this bill and the wheat pool.
– He was wrong. There is no analogy between the two.
– Senator Pearce tried to make out that the Government of the day advanced up to £21,000,000 to the wheat-growers. He drew attention to the fact that I was a member of that Government. It was war time, and we .were confronted with two alternatives - first, that the wheat might get into foreign hands, and, second, that there being no ships the buyers might buy from the producers at a very low rate. We, therefore, bought the wheat, and on the wheat purchased we raised the money from the banks. It was not raised all at once. First, we obtained £8,000,000. The banks wanted an additional per cent, interest, but they did not get it, because, when negotiating for it, they knew that there was a Government that was prepared to finance it with its own bank.
– It could not have done without the assistance of the private banks.
– At that time we had as manager of the bank a gentleman who, while he did not want to take the risk, said that if the banks persisted in their demands he would risk his institution. In that case no authority was given to draw millions of pounds from the Consolidated1 Revenue. Senator Millen is reading three clauses which have three distinct purposes. My chief objection to this clause is not connected with the financing of the wheat pools; I object to any Minister being empowered to expend an unlimited amount. Imagine an unscrupulous Minister managing this department, and being brought before the court for the wrong use of money. He could tell the court that Parliament had voted the sum of £500,000, and “ such further stuns as are necessary “. This is not money voted for the purpose of guaranteeing an overdraft, as Senator Millen seems to think.
– I said that it was to be advanced against security.
– Senator Millen gave me the impression that he thought that clause 7 had the same effect as clause 4, under which the Government gives a guarantee up to 80 per cent. It is nothing of the kind. A guarantee of 80 per cent, can be made by the Government, and it can. still draw from the revenue for the purposes of the act.
– I said that if clause 7 came before clause 8 the position would be clear.
– I think that clause 7 should be left out altogether; there is no reason for it. If the Government has the right to guarantee, the over-‘ draft at the bank, what money is required from the Consolidated Revenue for financing this scheme ? Senators Pearce and Reid and others seem to think that we are going into the butter and dried fruit business for the first time, and that, therefore, a huge capital is required. That is not so. All these businesses are going concerns, and no huge capital is necessary. If there is dried fruit to export, the producers form their own capital. If the Government was not interfering, there would be nothing in the way of these concerns getting their fruit on the world’s markets. The real trouble fs that the world’s market price is not great enough. For that reason this bill has been introduced. Let us look at, the bill from an appropriation point of view. Are we to permit the Minister to use as much money as he wants ? The committee cannot say that it has not been warned against doing so. When people ask, what is the use of the Senate, I want no better answer than this bill. A Parliament that will give to a Minister, in addition to the sum of £500,000, as much money as he considers necessary, will not find favour with the -electors. The only control that Parliament exercises over a bad government is the control of the purse-strings. But here is a clause which takes that power from Parliament. I shall not vote for measures of this kind, but will resist them with all the force and endurance that I possess. Has this ever been done before ? The Minister has at his disposal the means of obtaining the information to answer that question. I challenge him to produce any act which gives permission for the appropriation of such sums of money as may be required. The amount has always been specified. When I asked him to limit the amount, I did not stipulate a small sum, but I desired that Parliament should perform its proper functions. Parliament should not permit any Minister to have more money than is required for the purpose in hand. If the business in hand is to grant unlimited finance to the primary producers of Australia, there is no justification for Parliament entering into it. Of course, by doing this, we may be doing a good turn to some one, but is it right to vote an unlimited sum of money to help the primary producers or any others section? I rose chiefly to point out that Senator Pearce’s statement that the £21,000,000 guaranteed to the bank on another occasion was not on the same conditions as are contained in this bill. We shall not buy the butter or the dried fruits from these people. The Government will never own these products. It is true that in wartime wheat was bought by a Labour government, which paid the farmers 3s. 4d. a bushel) together with the profits, less cost of handling. On that wheat we raised money, but we did not pay for one bushel of wheat that was not delivered, and the banks did not advance any money until the wheat was in the possession of the Government. Nor did we borrow money in excess of the value of the wheat. But here it is proposed to vote. £500,000, and such other sums as Senator Wilson thinks necessary for the dried fruit or butter business.
– Whether the Minister says “ No “ or not, that is what the bill means. This bill gives to the Minister, not only £500,000 from the Consolidated Revenue, but such additional sums as he thinks are required. When this bill is passed, the Minister will be justified in pledging the credit of this country.
– Subject to the limitations of sub-clause 4 of clause 5.
– Clause 7 provides for the appropriation of £500,000, aud such further sums as are necessary, from time to time, for the purposes of the act. Is it the intention of the Government, and its supporters, that we shall .advance to the primary producers of Australia whatever sums they require”? Senator Pearce spoke of £6,000,000 in the case of butter. Frequently butter is sold, and the money turned over, within a month of production. It may be sold before being shipped, or it may be sold at the factory. In one month we may,, turn, over butter to the value of £1,000,000, and have money enough for the purpose. There is no occasion for unlimited money being advanced by the Treasurer. I have in .mind an association of persons engaged in the butter and. dried fruit trades who are prepared to form a huge combine to control the market. The Government should put the matter clearly before the community, and get an expression of the community’s confidence in it before that is done.
– A poll of the producers must be taken.
– Before the last election it was said that there would be no interference with private enterprise on the part of the Government. The Government is not only entering into trade, .but is entering into it with the deliberate vote of honorable senators placing unlimited sums at its disposal for the purposes of this act. The amount is to be limited only by the judgment of thu Minister. I admit that if a Minister does a wrong act he can be punished. I go further, and say that governments will not escape as they have escaped in the past. There will be a revision of the old method of impeachment. Things have been done by this Government that, will yet be brought to light, and I shall live to see the day when those who are guilty will be brought to justice at the bar of the House. The Government has defrauded tho people. I am not prepared to give to the Minister an unlimited sum of money in view of what this Government has done to buy a majority.
– Senator Millen, said that the matter was determined by subsection 4 of clause 5, which reads -
The total expenditure and liability incurred under this section shall not exceed £500,000.
Might I direct his attention to the fact that that deals only with section 5. The clause in dispute, to which Senator McHugh has moved an’ amendment, is clause 7, which reads’ -
There is hereby appropriated for the purposes of this act, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the sum of £’500,000, and such further- sums as are necessary, from time to time, for the purposes of this act.
– That covers clauses 4, 5, and 8.
– >Yes. It nullifies clause 5 altogether, so far as the £500,000 is concerned. Surely Senator Millen does not contend that our responsibility ceases with sub-clause 4 of clause 5, and that we are voting only £500,000. The honorable senator has forgotten clause 7. He is a student, and a master of the English language. If he can show that clause 7 does not give the Government unlimited power to ex pend an unlimited sum of money, I confess that I do not understand the English language. Senator Millen went further and said that if clauses 5 and 7 were transposed, the matter would be definite. Transpose them as you will, clause 7 will still give the Government power to spend to an unlimited extent.
– Clause 5 provides that only £500.000 can be spent in respect of all primary production.
– I have heard Senators Pearce, Wilson, Kingsmill, Millen, Elliott, and Drake-Brockman all give different versions of what clauses 5 and 7 mean. Hence the necessity for us to get down to what is colloquially called “ tin tacks.”
– I am afraid that w© shall have to vote against the bill.
– The honorable senator should vote against clause 7, or in favour of Senator McHugh’s amendment. If he does that he will be supporting sound finance. I see that Senator Millen is anxious to speak again. If he endeavours to explain the way in which sub-clause 4 of clause 5 governs the whole bill I shall listen to him. He will have to explain away the words in the last line of clause 7.
– Under clause 7 the whole of the money is provided for financing the objects of the bill. The sum of £500,000 obviously relates to the action that it is proposed to take under the provisions of clause 5. Under that clause the Minister can advance, if he so pleases, without any security up to £500,000 to assist any section of primary production.
– That is an admission !
– It is one of the reasons for the bill being brought in, and a very necessary one-, too. I now want to deal with clause 7, which governs the whole of the clauses under which any money has to be found. Senator Gardiner argued that the Minister will have unlimited power to deal with this money. Will he? The Minister will guarantee to the bank up to 80 per cent, of the value of any primary produce or other commodity that may be given to the bank for export.
– Who will value the commodity ?
– The value will be the current market rate,
London parity price. The bank holds papers for £100 worth of goods, as security for an advance of £80. How, then, can the expenditure be unlimited? All advances will be made against the security that is held. The Commonwealth must take certain risks. There will be variations in market prices, but they may be upwards as well as downwards. Those who have had dealings with the London market know that it varies. I have had an experience, extending over twenty years, of sending goods to the London market, and although there are variations the operations over a period usually balance out.
– The personal equation will operate.
– Of course it will. Advances will be made only against the security that is held. That is why it will be necessary to have something additional to the £500,000, all of which sum may be used for the purposes contemplated by clause 5.
– Cannot the Government guarantee up to £80 for every £100 worth of primary products, and, in addition, use whatever money it requires for the purposes of clause 7 ?
– No. Under clause 1 a certain sum is to be appropriated to cover all the operations of the bill.
– To cover only the guarantees ?
– No. The guarantees may run into any sum so long as there is security against them ; they will be limited only by the security that the bank holds.
– I enter my strong protest against the manner in which the- Government is conducting its business. The bill came to this chamber two or three hours ago. Up to that time no honorable senator had seen it, and no one has had much opportunity of carefully analysing its provisions. This rushing of business is not in the best interests of the country. There has been so much confusion and doubt in respect to the provisions of the bill that I think it would be advantageous to the Government, and to the people of Australia, if its consideration were postponed until to-morrow.
– That is the typical Melbourne attitude.
– It would be far better to meet next week and the week after, and understand “what we are doing, than to be in the position that we are in to-night,
– The honorable senator’s home is in Melbourne; he is not concerned about the convenience of others.
– Apparently, to the Government and some of its supporters it does not matter what the bill means or what its intentions are. Ministers themselves do not understand it. Senator Millen said that if certain clauses . of the bill were transposed it would be a better bill and more easily understood. Senator Drake-Brockman said that a -prize would not be given to those who drafted it. Other honorable senators have -given various explanations of it. We would be better able to see its true meaning if we went home and had a sleep. Honorable senators are half asleep now. It is but natural to feel sleepy at midnight. Many of us have been on our feet, more or less, for the last eighteen hours. It is “ over the odds,” after such a long stretch, to ask honorable senators to discuss a measure which involves the expenditure of millions df pounds. Senator Millen says that the Government can advance £500,000 to any section of the primary producers without security. Is that the way in which we should conduct the business of the country?
– That is the maximum amount that can be expended on all primary production.
– Let us assume that it is. I know that £500,000 is neither here nor there with the Ministry, when it is money that belongs to the taxpayers, hut it is all important to the taxpayers. When money is advanced there surely should be some security behind it.
– The matter was fully explained in the budget, and discussed at length.
– Other large sums have been advanced. Something in the vicinity of £250,-000 has, under the provisions of another bill, been set aside for financial assistance to thosewho are engaged in the dried f ruits industry. It is problematical whether that amount will be returnedtothe treasury. Probably it willbe ifthe (growers make good. We are told that the advancesunder this bill will be up to80 percent. ofthe value of the products. According toSenator Millen, that will be a perfectly safe business. The value of the security will depend upon world’s parity. Prices of commodities overseas fluctuate from- day to day.Senator Millensays that whilst the balance may be an adverse one today it may be favorable to-morrow, and in the long run it is evened up.
– The guarantor willsuffer the loss, but will not participate in Any profits thataremade.
– We shall take all the risks and make good any losses that are sustained, but we shall get none of the profits.
Sitting suspended from 12 midnight to 1 a.m. (Friday).
– We have entered our protest against certain clauses of the measure, including the one under consideration. We object to their ambiguity. The legal members supporting the Government, in an endeavour to explain the provisions of this bill, have got into such a hopeless tangle that the committee should not pass it. No member of the committee should vote for a clause, such as this, which may mean guaranteeing, without security, the expenditure of millions of pounds. We should thoroughly understand the legislation, and have some idea of its effect before we pass it. No honorable senator can. claim to understand all the provisions of thisbill.
– Does the honorable senator understand them?
– It is because I and otherhonorable senators on thisside of the chamber have doubts in respect to some of the provisions of the bill that we are not going to take any risks. We are going to voteagainst this clause.
– The trouble is, that if we do not pass this clause the producers will suffer.
– I do not agree with the honorablesenator.
– Where will the money come from except under the authority of this measure?
– The postponement of the bill will not seriously affect the primary producer. When legislation was introduced to assist our primary producers, we were told that it would not entail the expenditure of one penny of publicmoney. We now find that three bills must be passed. When the first measure was under consideration no one had any idea that it would be followed by two other bills. It would havebeen much better if the entire scheme had been included in one comprehensive measure. We should then have known what we were doing. Having entered our protest against this clause, we throw the responsibility on the Government and its supporters.
Question - That the words proposed to be insertedbe so inserted (Senator McHugh’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Newland). - Before putting the question, I deem it advisable, in the discharge of my duty and to preserve the rights of the Senate in connexion with the introduction of bills of this nature, to make a few observations concerning the measure. It seems to me to have come to the Senate in a somewhat unusual form. It is not quite the same bill that it was when I first saw it. The title describes it as “A Bill for an Act to impose a tax upon Lessees in respect of certain payments received by them for, upon or in consideration of the assignment or transfer of leases.” It appears to me, after reading clause 4 and other following clauses, that the bill contains provisions which are usually contained in a bill other than a measure imposing taxation - provisions more akin to those included in what we know as assessment bills, such as income tax assessment and land tax assessment. Section 55 of the Constitution provides that ‘ Laws imposing taxation shall deal only with the imposition of taxation, and any provision therein dealing with any other matter shall be of no effect.” On previous occasions it has been pointed out that this is a provision to safeguard the Senate against “tacks” to money bills. However, it was laid down by the first President of the Senate (Sir Richard Baker) that, “ except where the conduct of the business of the Senate is concerned, the Chair ought not to’ be called upon to decide a question involving the interpretation of the Constitution.” I shall therefore content myself with drawing the attention of the Senate to the bill, leaving it to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to take any further action if he deems it desirable to do so.
– As you, sir, were good enough to intimate to me that you proposed to make a statement to the Senate concerning the1 nature of this bill, I had the attention of the Solicitor-General directed to its provisions. I now wish to place on record the views of the Crown Law authorities as to the bill in its relation to the Constitution. They state -
Section 55 of the Constitution differs from sections 53 and 54 in applying to “ laws,” not ’ proposed laws.” The penalty for disregard of its provisions is the invalidity of the extraneous matter. It is a question of law for the courts, not. a question of parliamentary procedure. The better view is that the section does not. forbid provisions for assessment and collection being included in a tax bill. (See Sir E. Barton’s view, summarized in *Quick and Garran, pp. 677-8.) Assessment is certainly included in imposition. It is a question of ascertaining the amount of tax imposed. Collection is also included. “ Imposing “ means “ laying upon.” The burden which is laid upon the taxpayer is having to pay the tax. The requirement is not that laws imposing taxation shall only impose taxation; but that they shall deal only with the imposition of taxation, i.e., not with any matter foreign to the imposition of taxation. In any case, the incorporation by reference, in a tax bill, of laws for assessment find collection, is clearly permissible. It has been done in every tax bill passed by the Parliament, e.g.. Customs Tariff 1902 and Excise Tariff 1902, and every subsequent tariff; Land Tax Act 1910, and every subsequent Land Tax Act; Estate Duty Act 1914; every Income Tax Act beginning in 1915; Entertainments Tax Act 1916. The validity of this incorporation was decided by the High Court in Osborne v. Commonwealth, 12 C.L.R., 321; see pp. 335-40, 343, 349-53, 354-7, 362-8. This is clearly not within the mischief of the section - even assuming that assessment and collection are not matters ‘‘dealing with imposition”; because there is no “tacking,” and no depriving the Senate of the power to amend the assessment provisions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That this bill be now read a second time.
As this measure is admittedly one of the most technical with which we have had to deal this session, it is desirable that I should state its principles as clearly as possible. Notwithstanding the hour, I trust honorable senators will bear with me, because my remarks may be somewhat lengthy and, perhaps, involved. That will not be due to any desire to weary the Senate, but merely to endeavour to fully explain the provisions of the bill. The proposals deal with three principles -
In. regard to the first principle, the question arises as to whether the profit on a sale of a lease is profit on the realization of capital, or whether it represents in fact commutated rent received by the vendor from the purchaser of the lease. Arguments have been advanced against the proposed tax on the ground that no tax is imposed upon a casual profit which may be made on the sale of freehold lands, and, therefore, no tax should be charged on the profit, if any, on the sale of a lease. There is, however, a wide difference between the two classes of sales. It is quite true that both a freehold and a leasehold tenure represent a capital asset, but the values of the two assets are arrived at on very different bases. In the case of a freehold, its value is usually steadily increasing with the expansion of settlement in the country. A leasehold estate is gradually diminishing in value, until, at the termination of the period of the lease, there is no value left. All value for a freehold property is always realizable irrespective of the time it has been held, and usually an unearned increment is secured by the owner when he sells. In the ea36 of a leasehold estate, its value cannot exceed the capital value of the difference between the economic rent at the . relevant date of valuation and the rent reserved in the lease agreement. If the lessee is at all times paying the full economic rent for a property, it has no profitable sale price, because any person could give profit for the lease, and at the same time continue to pay the full economic rent. This shows that any profit which may be realized by the sale of a lease is really the capitalized difference between the true, economic rent and the) rent reserved by the lease. It is agreed by all parties that the rent received by another person is a proper subject for income tax, so, therefore, there cannot be any reasonable ground for objections to- the present proposal to impose a special tax on what is really rent in another form. It should also be borne in mind that under the Income. Tax Assessment- Act a deduction is allowed to a purchaser of a lease of the annual sinking fund required to amortize for the un expired period of the lease the price he paid for the lease. The purchaser, therefore, does not only not pay any tax on the annual sinking fund mentioned, but he secures a reduction in the rate of tax applicable to the remainder of his income. If the purchaser were deprived of his deduction, there would not be any justification for taxing the vendor on the profit on the sale. The tax was only proposed in the first instance because the purchaser was allowed to deduct the sinking fund required to amortize his purchase price. When I deal with the second principle, namely, the method of levying a tax as is proposed, it will be seen that the tax will not yield as much revenue as was previously collected under the Income Tax Assessment Act. This bill deals only with profit on the sale of leases. It cannot deal with losses on such sales, but it is proposed to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act next session so as to permit a vendor who makes a loss> on the sale of a lease to deduct that loss in his income tax assessment.
The bill provides for the imposition of the tax in the following manner : - The total profit on the sale of a lease is to be divided by the unexpired’ period of the lease from the date when the sale takes place, and the quotient is to be added to the taxpayer’s income which is taxed for income tax. The rate of income tax which would be applicable to the aggregate amount thus obtained is to be the rate of tax under this bill, which is to be charged on the actual amount of the profit on the sale of the lease which has been received in any year. It is to be noted that the rate of income tax on the vendor’s income assessed for income tax is not to be increased by the aggregation of the profit on the lease with his income. The vendor of the lease will merely pay tax on the profit on the sale of his lease at the rate applicable to that profit in aggregation with his taxable income, if any, assessed for income tax. Some may say, ‘ Why not tax the profit on the sale of the lease at the income tax rate which would apply to it if it were assessed by itself, and not in aggregation with the taxpayer’s income ?” That would be unfair. The vendor is already to escape some tax formerly chargeable to him when lease profits were treated as income. He escapes by paying income tax on his ordinary income at the rate applicable to it when assessed alone. If he were also to be assessed on his lease profit at the rate applicable to it when assessed alone, a further loss of revenue would be sustained, especially in view of the fact that the purchaser of the lease is obtaining the benefit of a lower .rate of income tax on his income, by obtaining a deduction in his assessment of the sinking fund to amortize his lease purchase price.
Before deciding to apply this tax retrospectively, ‘ as proposed in the bill, the Government gave most earnest consideration to every phase of the question. There were four possible courses which might have been provided for -
Very serious consideration was given to the possibility of following the last course with the object of limiting the imposition of the tax to future assessments. It was found, however, that if that course were taken it would involve the Taxation Department in the handling and inspection of all returns and correspondence of every taxpayer for all past years back to the year 1916-7. The Commissioner of Taxation estimated that the total number of returns throughout Australia which would have to be handled and inspected would be at least 4,000,000. In no other way could the department determine which taxpayers would be entitled to revision of their assessments. Not only would this immense number of returns have to be examined, but they would first have to be obtained. In all cases, the returns for past years which could be regarded as finalized, have been detached from the other papers, and stored separately in various places; and in. some instances the oldest returns have been destroyed. The work of obtaining all the returns even before any handling or in- spection was undertaken, would be sufficient to occupy a special staff for a considerable time. The work of handling and inspecting the returns would necessitate the appointment of a special staff in each state in order that the ordinary work of assessment and collection of current taxes should not be interfered with. The Commissioner 6f Taxation having estimated that the loss of revenue in the shape of refunds, together with the costs which would be incurred in making the refunds, would probably exceed £250,000, the Government decided that it would not be possible to apply the Dalrymple judgment to every taxpayer. Strong support for this decision was found in the precedent recently created by the taxation authorities in the United Kingdom. In that country, during the war and post-armistice period, bonuses were paid to employees by the Government and others to meet increased cost of living. Under the British Income Tax Act employees’’ salaries are not averaged like other income, and these bonuses were not averaged. A test case was eventually carried by the employees to the House of Lords, which decided in their favour and against the Crown that this cost of living basis must be averaged. Many employees had paid the full tax without averaging, and thus became entitled to refunds under the judgment of the House of Lords. The Crown, finding itself f aced with the liability to make refunds involving several millions of tax, steps were taken to introduce a special bill to validate all past assessments, and thus prevent the refunds being made; This furnishes us with a precedent for the retrospective nature of this bill. It has been finally decided that the only reasonable course to follow is that which is expressed in the bill. Considerable agitation against the retrospective application of this tax has been raised, apparently on behalf of persons who would be called upon to pay the tax. These persons should bear in mind that the tax was only imposed in the first instance because purchasers of leases had been granted a deduction in each year of a portion of their purchase price. If the tax were abolished, a purchaser who is out of his money would have to be deprived of his deduction, and would thus pay income tax, whilst the vendor who received the money on the sale, and was thus better able to pay the tax, would be allowed to go free. The question to be decided was, therefore, whether the vendororthe purchaser should be required to pay. The tax has been imposed on the person who has received the payment, and not on the person who makes the payment.
The necessity for this bill arises out of the recent judgment by the High Court in what is known as the Dalrymple case. In that case the appellant had sold a lease of his pastoral property, and the Commissioner of Taxation had demanded, under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915-1921, payment of income tax upon the part of the total amount received by the vendor which represented the value of his leasehold estate in the property. Mr. Dalrymple claimed that he could not be taxed on the amount in question because -
The High Court upheld the appeal on the first ground stated by the taxpayer, and did not give any judgment upon the question of the tax being constitutional or otherwise. The judgment of the court means that, as regards all assessments issued under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915-1921 to vendors of leases, the taxpayer was legally entitled to deduct the amount received for the lease as representing the value of an asset sold. There was, therefore, no tax payable in any of those cases, and the obvious intention of Parliament to collect tax on such amounts was reduced to a nullity. It will be interesting to honorable senators to know the reason why the tax was first imposed. When the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915 was passed by Parliament it forbade the allowance of any deduction in respect of the depreciation of a leasehold estate, hut it granted a deduction of the sinking fund required to recoup the amount of any fine, premium or foregift, or consideration of that nature which a lessee may have paid to the owner of a property for the purpose of securing a lease. This deduction was allowed, because another section provided that the person who received the fine, &c, should be. taxed upon the amount he received in each year under that heading. There was no deduction then allowable of the sinking fund required to recoup any amount paid by a purchaser of a lease for its transfer or assignment to him by an existing lessee. The section forbidding deduction in respect of depreciation of lease, &c, reads as follows: -
A deduction shall not, in any case, be made in respect of any of the following matters: -
Any wastage or depreciation of lease or in respect of any improvements ‘on leasehold property, or in respect of any loss occasioned by the expiration of any lease:
Provided that when it shall be proved to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that any taxpayer has paid any fine, premium or foregift, or consideration in the nature of fine, premium or foregift for a lease or a renewal of a lease of premises used for the production of income, the Commissioner may allow, as a deduction for the purpose of arriving at the income, the sinking fund according to calculations based on the prescribed tables for the calculation of values required to recoup the taxpayer the amount so paid for the lease or a renewal, of the lease.
Another section referred to is section 14 d of the 1915 act, which provides -
The income of any person shall include - (a)… (b) … (c) … (d) money derived by way of royalty or from bonuses, premiums, fines, or foregifts demanded and given in connexion with leasehold estates.
The government of the day acceded to numerous requests which were made ‘to extend the law to the latter amounts, but in doing so it stipulated that the vendor of the lease should pay tax on the profit he received upon the transfer or assignment of his lease. The law was amended accordingly. Briefly stated then, the tax was only imposed upon a vendor of a lease because the purchaser was allowed a deduction of an annual proportion of his purchase price. The judgment of the High Court in the Dalrymple case does not in any way affect the deduction allowable to a purchaser of a lease. It merely excludes from taxation the amount received by a vendor. The revenue is, therefore, a loser in two ways - by losing the tax from the vendor ; and by losing tax from the purchaser through the allowance to bini of a deduction in his assessment, thereby reducing his taxable income. Acceptance of the Dalrymple judgment for application to all past assessments would involve the Treasury in refunds exceeding £250,000, including the heavy expense which . would be incurred in amending the assessments. Section 12 b of the Income Tax Assessment Act (No. 2) No. 39 of 1916 amended section 20 of the principal act as f follows :-
Section 14 d was amended by the same act to read -
The income of any person shall include - (a) . . . (B) … (c) … (d) money derived by way of royalty or bonuses and premiums, fines, or foregifts, or consideration in the nature of premiums, fines, or foregifts demanded and given in connexion with leasehold estates, and the amount of any payment received by a lessee upon the assignment or transfer of a lease after deducting therefrom -
the part (if any) which in the opinion of the Commissioner is properly attributable to the trans-‘ fer of any assets belonging to th* lessee; and
so much of any fine, premium, or foregift .paid by. the lessee or any amount paid by the lessee for the assignment or transfer of the lease as in the opinion of the Commissioner is properly attributable to the period of the lease unexpired at the time of the assignment or transfer by the lessee.
It was claimed by Mr. Dalrymple that the word “ assets “, in section 14 d i that« I have just quoted, included the lease itself.
As announced in the budget speech, the Government accordingly decided to introduce suitable legislation for validating all past assessments of this tax, and to continue it in the future in a form free from possible constitutional objections. Clauses 6 and 7 of the bill validate all previous assessments. Clauses 2,. 3, and 4 deal with the impositon of the tax in future years. It is considered undesirable now to attempt to recover tax under this bill in respect of old payments of the kind mentioned in the bill. The measure, therefore, validates all past assessments which have been made, sets out the basis of taxation for the future, and relieves from liability to tax all payments received prior to the 1st July, 1921, and not yet assessed by the Department of Taxation. It is considered that the last-named payments are very few, if any. It is proposed, however, that, in regard to any original assessments for past years which may be found necessary, the Commissioner of Taxation shall make them provided they are in respect of any payment received by a lessee for the option or in consideration of the assignment or transfer of a lease after the 1st July, 1921. This limitation follows the principle expressed in section 37 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, 1922-23, viz., that re-opening of assessments should not be made after the expiration of a period of three years from the date when the tax on the original assessment was payable. Clause 8 of the bill permits Mr. Dalrymple to retain the benefit of the judgment of the High Court in his appeal, and it allows a similar benefit to be given to any other taxpayer who has lodged with the Commissioner of Taxation an objection to his assessment on the value of a lease transferred or assigned by him. The number of persons who lodged objections is not known. If the judgment of the court, were accepted and applied to all ‘past assessments, it would be essential to amend the law to discontinue the deduction allowed to the purchaser : otherwise it would be very simple for any person, so minded, to enter into fictitious arrangements whereby all his income would be absorbed by the deduction allowable to a purchaser. The Government considers it would not be reasonable to discontinue the allowance of the deduction to the purchaser, and consequently proposes to continue the imposition of the tax in the future.
The bill now before the Senate provides for the imposition of a tax on the profits on the transfer or assignment of leases, separately from the imposition of the income tax. This course has been taken so that there cannot be any possibility of a successful challenge being raised to the validity of the tax under section 55 of the Constitution. The Income Tax Assessment Act will thus deal with what is generally recognized as income, while this bill deals with another class of receipts which it is considered desirable should be taxed. The proposed tax will not apply to the proceeds of the sale of a lease of a mining property, other than coal-mining, where the Commissioner of Taxation is satisfied that the lease has been assigned or transferred -
by a bona-fide prospector; or
These exemptions were in the Income Tax Assessment Act and have been transferred from that act to this bill. It is also proposed to exempt the proceeds of the sale of leases from the Crown which are leases with a right of purchase or perpetual leases without revaluation of rent. These classes of lease are to all intents and purposes freeholds, and as it is not the policy of the Income Tax Assessment Act to tax profits on the sale of freehold lands, or to allow any deduction in the assessment of a purchaser of a freehold in respect of any part of his purchase price, these particular classes of lease will be dealt with as freeholds. A vendor of other classes of lease will nob be taxed, and the purchaser will not receive any deduction in respect of the proceeds of the sale. I have set out at length the principles upon which this legislation is founded, but possibly my doing so may shorten the debate.
– What revenue does the Government expect to get from this legislation ?
– I cannot give the honorable senator any estimate.
– I rise to a point of order. I am sure the Senate is under a debt of gratitude to you, Mr. Deputy President, for having called attention to the manner in which this bill infringes the Constitution. You were good enough to quote the ruling of Sir Richard Baker, when President of the Senate -
Except where the conduct of the business of the Senate is concerned, the Chair ought not to be called upon to decide a question involving the interpretation of the Constitution.
That was a sound ruling. So far as this bill is concerned, however, I desire a ruling on the Constitution, because it involves the procedure of this Senate. I say this in no spirit of opposition to the Minister (Senator Pearce), but when his attention was drawn to the fact that the Constitution was being trespassed upon-
– I do not admit that.
– I am sorry that the Minister does not admit it, because the matter could easily have been overcome by submitting a bill in accordance with the Constitution.
– It is in accordance with the Constitution. I have had the advice of a high legal authority, which 1 have read to the Senate.
– Let us see what the Constitution says. Section 54 of the Constitution reads -
The proposed law which appropriates revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the government shall deal:only with such appropriation.
Dealing with tax bills, section 55 provides -
Laws imposing taxation shall deal only with the imposition of taxation, and any provision therein dealing with any other matter shall be of no effect. Laws imposing taxation, except laws imposing duties of Customs or of excise, shall deal with one subject of taxation only; but laws imposing duties of Customs shall deal with duties of Customs only, and laws imposing duties of excise shall deal with duties of excise only.
– Where is there a clause in this bill that deals with anything but the imposition of taxation ?
– Clauses 4 and 8. I have quoted from the ruling of Sir Richard Baker, that, except where the constitutional point involved affects the business of this Senate, the Chair should not be called upon to give a decision. I take it that this bill does affect the business of “this Senate, Mr. Deputy President, and I ask for your ruling whether it is in order. In doing this, I hope that the Minister will not say that I am trying to interfere with him. The matter could be overcome by introducing the bill in a manner that would comply with the Constitution, I have no desire to discuss the matter at greater length. I have had a fairly long parliamentary experience and I have found that when a matter of procedure has been brought before the chamber, it has been customary for Ministers’ to place correct procedure before the convenience of the Government. I ask you, Mr. Deputy President, to rule whether this bill is in order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Newland). - Senator Gardiner has already pointed out that it is not the duty or the function of the President of the Senate to rule upon constitutional matters. I intend to follow the precedent set by previous Presidents, namely, that in matters of this description, when the President calls attention to the fact that there is a doubt in hie mind whether the bill is strictly in compliance with the Constitution, he has performed his. duty. The High Court and not this Senate is the interpreter of the Constitution. If the Leader of the Government chooses to go on with the bill, it will be a matter for the High Court to determine later the question of its constitutionality. It is not for me to give a ruling.
– Can the Senate itself give a ruling?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - No.
– If we are bo discuss this bill, I ask the Minister to adjourn it until to-morrow. When discussing the business with him before the last bill was dealt with, I said that I was prepared to get through two billstonight; but after listening to the complicated description of the bill given by the Minister in a very technically worded explanation, I, personally, am unable to deal with it at present. Further, I think that the Senate has already sat long enough for one sitting. The Minister himself was not able to deal with this measure. He read a long statement dealing with the bill which must have taken hours to prepare. It is not a fair thing to ask the Senate to go on with it now. I regret very much the way that bills have been placed before us in the last days of the session. Parliament does itself no credit when it deals with measures in this hurried manner. In so doing we are not legislating as the people desire. If the Minister will not adjourn the debate, I refuse absolutely to discuss the bill.
– I also enter my protest against any proposal to rush this bill through. I listened carefully to the explanation of the bill given by the Minister, and, having heard it, I am not prepared to discuss the measure now.
.. - Surely the Minister does not intend to go on with this bill now?
– It must be discussed now, as we stall have other matters to deal with.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I remind honorable senators that we are now dealing with the second reading of the bill, and that if they fail to discuss it now, they will have no further opportunity to do so at this stage. Does Senator Needham desire to continue ?
– Not at this stage.
– I do not desire to speak on the second reading if the Minister proposes to rush the bill through. Itis impossible for any honorable senator to do justice to this measure in the peculiar circumstances in which it has been presented to the chamber. You, Sir, in. your capacity as Deputy President, expressed a doubt as to the constitutionality of the bill. If we pass it, its validity may be tested in the High Court, which may rule it out altogether. A weakness in a previous act was discovered by the High Court. The Minister himself was not able to grasp the full meaning of the bill - I say that, with all. due. deference to him. He has the benefit of the advice of gentlemen who, no doubt, thoroughly understand the measure, but other honorable senators- have not that advantage. In ordinary circumstances the Minister,, in moving, the second reading of a bill of this nature would not raise the slightest objection to the adjournment of the debate’ if requested by the Leader of the Opposition.. This time, however, he says “ No,” giving as bis reason: that Parliament is about to go into recess, and that the bill must be passed, through all its stages this morning. The measure is so intricate that merely on the explanation read by the Minister it is impossible for anyone to thoroughly understand it. I£ we had before us :n cold, print the Minister’s speech, we should be in a better position to dispose of the measure than, if we proceeded with it forthwith. I shall’ accept no responsibility concerning this measure if the Minister is. determined, to. go on with it now. It is not “playing the game “ for the: Government to force a measure of this kind through this chamber at express speed. Thousands of pounds may be saved to the people of Australia, if we postpone the consideration of this bill for a day or two.
– If it is unconstitutional, one or two more retrospective bills will no doubt be introduced.
– That is what we have been doing for some time. First, we pass a bill in a hurry, and afterwards find that the job is unfinished and must be done again. Much of the time of Parliament is occupied in amending existing legislation that has been rushed through. It would be better for the Government, here and. now, to say that we already have done sufficient work for one sitting. We have been here since 11 o’clock yesterday morning. Honorable senators are not in a fit state to do justice to the country’s work, and should have a rest. If we went home and had a sleep we could return physically and mentally fit to do our work. Has the Government made up its mind to go .right ahead? It so, nothing can be gained by prolonging the discussion. I feel sure that Government supporters do not desire the business to be done in this way. If they feel as I and other honorable senators feel they will enter a protest against it, and if that protest is sufficiently vigorous, the Government will probably postpone the consideration of the bil.
– I also lodge a protest against the bill being pushed on with, at this early hour of the’ morning. It is a most important bill, which singles out a particular class for taxation. The Minister (Senator Pearce) referred to the ordinary income tax being provided’ -for by the Income ‘Tax Assessment Act,, and said that this ia a tax which the Government feels it is necessary to impose. How does he distinguish it from ordinary income tax? If it is not an income tax. it must be- a wealth tax or a land! tax.
– I say that it is> an income tax.
-We should not be called upon to discuss a bill involving such tremendous interests at so early an hour of the morning.. We should be given an opportunity to study its provisions.
– If measures are to be postponed it will be necessary for us to come back next week.
– I would sooner do that than decide upon a bill on the spur of the moment.
– I intend to vote against the motion for the second reading of the bill. The Minister, when introducing it, read a carefully prepared statement which was very involved and difficult to assimilate’. The constitutionality of this legislation has been challenged,, and I intend to give the benefit of the doubt to the taxpayers. I am opposed to retrospective: legislation. The Government would be well advised to drop the bill. It is a means for levying additional income tax. The time has arrived for the Government to decrease rather than to increase the taxation burden that rests upon the people. It is well known to honorable senators that if a man buys a freehold property for £20,000 and sells it for £30,000, he is not liable to pay income tax on the difference of £10,000. But if, on the other hand, he sells a lease .he will .be liable under this . measure to ‘ pay5 income tax on any profit that he makes. Is there any equity :in that? The Government has laid it down as a principle that- it is improper to tax profits that are made on the sale of a freehold. Therefore, I say that it is absolutely wrong to tax any profit that is made on the sale of a leasehold. The Minister has been advised by the Grown Solicitor that the course which he is pursuing is- a safe one. I shall err on the side of caution, especially as the- Government is not likely to be embarrassed by the loss, of this small amount of. revenue.
– It is only £250,000!
– Whether it is £250,000 or £500,000, the legality of the proposed legislation .has not been established. I am not reflecting on the Crown Law Department, but frequently, advice which it has given has not stood, the test of an appeal to the High Court. For the reasons that I have stated I intend to vote against the second reading df the birr
– I do not quite follow some honorable senators who have entered very vigorous protests against receiving the bill at this hour, and who have complained that they have not had an opportunity to discover what is in it. Ever since the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) brought down his budget, I have known that these taxation proposals would, in the near future, be presented to Parliament. That information was in the possession of every honorable senator. I have also been bombarded from all parts of Australia with communications from all sorts of people concerning this particular measure. With some, I entirely agree. Others, I regard as the quintessence of impertinence. They have been couched in the most impertinent language, and have endeavoured to direct honorable senators as to what they should do, with threats of what will happen if they do not comply with the demands made. Those gentlemen will not influence the course of action that I propose to, take. I hold very strong views respecting retrospective legislation. I did my best yesterday to have that ill cured in another piece of legislation, but the Senate was against me. On a matter of principle I am not prepared to give way an inch to anybody. My principles are opposed to retrospective legislation of any kind. I hold very strongly the view that once Parliament has placed on the statute-book any law, that law must stand until it is altered, and it should not be altered so as to operate retrospectively. I shall not be a party to passing any kind of retrospective legislation, the purpose of which is to impose any sort of a burden on His Majesty’s subjects. If retrospective legislation were introduced for the purpose of giving relief to taxpayers, I should take a different stand. Bub I have on every occasion hitherto. opposed, as I shall on every occasion in future, oppose legislation imposing retrospective taxation on citizens of this country. Where is this policy going to lead us?
– This bill is not retrospective except in the sense that every income tax bill is retrospective.
– BROCKMAN. - Clauses 6 and 7 are certainly retrospective. The Minister may, if he wishes, call them validating provisions, but clearly their purpose is to validate improper and unlawful collections that have been made in past years. It is of no use to play with words. This legislation is definitely retrospective.
– Is it not intended to prevent evasions?
– It is not. It definitely proposes to impose an obligation on a certain number of individuals. It may be perfectly right to do that, and, so far as its future application is concerned, I shall be prepared to support the Government in this class of legislation; but I cannot be a party to any proposal to make taxation legislation retrospective. In due course, and when the bill is in committee, I shall once again .test the feeling of honorable senators concerning this aspect of the bill.
– Do so on the second reading.
– I am not prepared to- do that. I shall support the second reading, because in my opinion the measure in certain respects is necessary. I ask those honorable senators who, in their indignation against its retrospective provisions, are inclined to object to the second reading, to examine the bill on its merits, and, in committee, if they so desire, to amend its retrospective clauses. I shall invite them to assist me in that matter. Let me now say a word or two on the constitutional aspect of the bill. I am not prepared to say, definitely, that it is either constitutional or unconstitutional. There is certainly a doubt which you, sir, have raised. If it is passed, I have no doubt that the individuals concerned will, at a very early date, seek the opinion of learned counsel, and if they are advised that it is unconstitutional, they will lose no time in testing that opinion in the High Court.
– Is there any necessity to test it?
– I do not know if Senator Duncan considers himself capable of giving a ruling as to its constitutionality. Possibly, I know more about constitutional law than he does, and yet I should not care to say that the bill is unconstitutional. All I can say is that the proper place to test that question is not in the Senate, but in the High Court.
– It will cost the Government a great deal of money.
– If the . measure was obviously unconstitutional, I should say that the Senate would be wise to reject it at once. But we should not forget that the Government is acting on the advice of Sir Robert Garran, who is recognized as a sound constitutional lawyer. He, no doubt, has given this subject very careful consideration, and if he has intimated to the Government that the measure is within the four corners of the Constitution I should not like to say that he is wrong. Therefore, I invite honorable senators to eliminate this consideration from their minds altogether, to agree to the second reading of the bill, and to deal with its retrospective provisions in committee.
– I wish to deal with the bill on what I consider are its merits. I am not complaining about the late hour of its introduction, because I knew some time ago that it would be brought before the Senate, and in the meantime I have given the subject a good deal of thought. Notwithstanding what Senator DrakeBrockman has said, I intend to vote against the second reading, because I am opposed to the imposition of taxation on one section of the community, while another section is allowed to go free. It is well known that no taxation is levied on many transactions, some of them representing huge profits, which are being made every day in the week. Why should the unfortunate lessee of a property be called upon to pay taxation on the profits resulting from the sale of his lease, which, perhaps, may have been rendered necessary owing to his failing health, whilst the owner of a freehold, who may be making a much larger profit for a lesser expenditure of effort, escapes taxation altogether when he sells? If the Government is prepared to introduce legislation to tax all profits, paying due regard, of course, to losses incurred, I shall be prepared to give it my most favorable consideration, but 1 shall never be a party to legislation that imposes special taxation on one section of the community only. The retrospective provisions of the bill will also have my most strenuous opposition. We should not dream of enacting a retrospective law imposing penalties on individuals for certain civil acts. Why, therefore, should we legislate to tax lessees on profits made in former years, and allow owners of freehold properties to escape ?
– If the Senate does not pass this bill, eliminating, of course, the retrospective provisions, no pastoralist is likely to pay income taxation in future.
– I could understand a proposal to levy taxation on profits on the sale of leases if such transactions were made in the ordinary course of trade, but I object to retrospective taxation, to penalize bona fide lessees who, by the expenditure of capital and energy, may have effected substantial improvements to their leaseholds. Why should they be singled out and be required to pay taxation on the profits of the sale of their leases, and owners of freehold properties, who may be making much greater profits, be allowed to escape taxation ? Can the Minister justify this differentiation? I cannot, and because I cannot I intend to oppose the second reading of the bill. If the measure does get into committee I shall do my best to prevent the retrospective provisions of the bill from being adopted .
– In the legislative bill of fare placed before us this morning we seem to be singularly unfortunate. Indeed, it is very questionable whether it is worth while staying up to partake of it. Apiece of legisation which we recently passed was incomprehensible but good in intention. This bill is nearly as incomprehensible, and its intentions, to some extent at all events, are far from being respectable.
– Respectable !
– Yes; by that I mean worthy of respect. I refer in this connexion to the retrospective action contemplated under this measure. That is something which can be altered, and that I have no doubt will be done when the bill is in committee. “ Another aspect of the measure which requires careful consideration is that it comes to us with a slur on its character. It is a matter of doubt whether it is constitutional or not. It is also a matter of grave doubt whether, if we forge this money-extracting weapon which the Government wish us to forge, it will not have such a flaw in it that it will break in the hands of the Government, and inflict upon it harm which cannot be overcome by any solatium it may receive in the way of revenue. After all, however, it is the wish of the Government. It will have to handle this weapon if we forge it. For my own part I wish, so to speak, to take the objectionable portions away from the weapon before it is handed over to the Government. I do not intend to go so far as to vote against the second reading, but I shall support that stage of the bill with a great deal of doubt. As Senator Drake-Brockman has pointed out, the constitutional aspect of the measure cannot be decided at a moment’s notice. But if it is unconstitutional the responsibility in the use of the weapon will lie wholly and solely with the Government. I disclaim all responsibility. If the bill is not unconstitutional it is at all events extremely unusual to bring down one which carries within itself its own taxation assessment measures. I do not think it necessary for me to expatiate upon the merits of supporting a bill imposing a tax, and in which the method by which the tax is to be assessed is also provided. It must be obvious to honorable senators that we cannot amend a bill imposing taxation, but we can amend a measure providing the means by which taxation shall be collected.
– We should have two bills.
– There is no doubt about that.
– “Why not vote against the second reading?
– If we oppose the second reading it may be withdrawn.
– It is better that it should be withdrawn and two bills introduced.
– There is no doubt as to its constitutional aspect. Every clause deals with the imposition of taxation.
– And the method of imposing it.
– It has been carefully reviewed, and there is no doubt on that point.
– Of course, I am not detracting in any way from the merits of the advice given to this or any preceding ‘Government. No doubt my remarks may be considered in the future, and Will be studied by generations to come. We find, however, that mistaken advice is very often given. I could point to several instances in which governments have acted on unsound advice.
– On whose advice has this doubt been cast?
– I gather, on the. advice of a gentleman who was at one time a President of this Senate.
– He never saw this bill. Ha is dead.
– Then probably he may see it.
– On what legal advice does the honorable senator cast any doubt upon the constitutional aspect of the bill? The Deputy President did not quote any legal authority.
– The words of the. right honorable gentleman who leads the Senate impel me to remember to a far greater extent that the responsibility in this matter is upon the shoulders of the Government.
– On. what legal advice is doubt thrown?
– In the words of the “ digger,” “ Why pick on me?”
– Doubts have been raised in the Senate concerning the constitutionality of other measures, and when they have been tested in the High Court they have been held to be invalid.
– We have an answer to the point from a gentleman who, although perhaps not a lawyer, has delivered many lengthy judgments on the subject of taxation. This bill endeavours to include all classes of leases, except perpetual leases and accruing freeholds. That is, to me, one of its objectionable features. Some developmental properties held under lease are being worked for the good of the community. I allude to pastoral leases. There are also other classes of leases which are detrimental to the community, and in connexion with their sale very large profits are made. Fairly heavy taxation should be imposed on those who traffic in such leases. I allude, for instance, to the leases of hotel properties. The ingoing or goodwill purchased should be taxed.
– Can we discriminate ?
– I certainly would, and it is in the best interests of the country to do so. One class of leases concerns an industry which is aiding the development of the country and building up industry for the good of the community, but. the other concerns an industry which is distinctly ‘bad for the country. I speak, of course, without prejudice concerning the consumption of spirituous and other liquors. It would be wise indeed to differentiate between the trade in these leases.
– The principle is the same.
– Yes, but the effect on the community is different. This is a subject upon which I hold strong views, because it involves a variation in the method of taxation, according to the value to the “community of the source of income or the industry from which the income is derived. That should be a vital point in our taxation laws, and in years to come will be more vital than it is to-day. Honorable senators will see that I have, good grounds for objecting to the bill. Some of its unsatisfactory provisions can perhaps be deleted in committee, while others cannot- ‘I am filled with curiosity as to what is to become of this measure, and, in’ the interests of legislative scientific research, I intend to give it a chance by voting for the second reading.
– I have come to the conclusion that the only course we can reasonably adopt in regard to this measure is to vote against the second reading. Earlier in the sitting, in the case of another measure, I calmly and earnestly pleaded with the Minister in charge ofthe bill to adopt the few words in one of its provisions which, to me, would have cleared up a difficulty that I think the Government, when it comes to administer that measure, will find itself in. The Minister would not listen, and now, if we agree to the second reading,, what earthly chance wil! we have, as it is useless to expect any amendment being accepted.
– The honorable senator will have the alternative of voting against the third reading. -.
– It would have been bad enough had the measure l.een submitted to us in the form in which it was originally circulated. We had an opportunity of studying the clauses when it was in its original form, but it cannot now be recognized. Had it by any chance passed another place as it was first submitted, it would have been commended to us just as warmly as this measure has been. Having had the opportunity of perusing the original measure, I placed it before an accountant, with most amazing results.
– The calculations the honorable senator referred to me were ou the old basis of assessment.
– Which were deleted by another place this afternoon. If I had had an opportunity of placing the measure as it now stands before the same authority the result, most likely, would have been exactly the same. The measure, as originally circulated,, was prepared by the draftsman presumably after those expensive machines to which reference has been made had been brought into the fullest use by the Taxation Department, and this is an example of a result obtained by the gentleman to whom I have referred. If a leasehold with twenty years to run were sold for £20,000, and the vendor had no other income in the year of the sale, and was paid in cash, the tax payable would be £1,340. If in a misguided moment the agent persuaded the vendor to accept £5,000 in cash and three annual instalments of £5,000 each, the total tax payable would be- £4,668. That calculation is worked out by an exofficial of the Taxation Department, which drafted this bill.
– The honorable senator is talking about something that is not in the bill.
– It was worked out by an ex-official of the department responsible for the bill as it stood in print for weeks, and now we find amendments rushed in at the last moment. If a leasehold with fourteen years to run is sold for £14,000, and the vendor has an income of £3,000 in the first year, and no other income in .succeeding years, and if he takes an instalment of £6,000 in the first year, and the balance of £8,000 in the next year, his tax will be £1,758. If he accepts £4,000 a year for three years, and the balance of £2,000 in the fourth year, his total tax will be £2,992. If he accepts seven yearly payments of £2,000, his total tax will be £1,918. If a man sells a leasehold with ten years to run for £10,000, and has other income amounting to £1,000 a year, and if he accepts payment in two instalments of £5,000 a year, his tax will be £1,200. If he’ accepts five annual instalments of £2,000, his tax will be £1,650. These figures were not disputed by the taxation officials in attendance at Parliament House when they were brought under their notice, and they hurriedly drafted another scheme, which we are now assured will be all right. But it has been brought in at 2 o’clock in the morning, and we have had no chance to examine its very fine points. The Minister read a carefully prepared statement, particularly interesting in what it did not reveal, which showed that the Dalrymple case was based on two grounds, one of which was upheld, while the other was not decided. It is correct that the court gave no decision on the. second ground, but it indicated its view with sufficient clearness to induce the Government not to attempt to provide in the Income Tax Assessment Act for the taxation of leaseholds. The Government knew perfectly well that any provision for the taxation of leaseholds in an income tax measure would be declared invalid, because the court indicated very, plainly that such an impost was a tax, not on incomes, but solely on capital. The Minister cannot escape from that fact. If we pass this bill we shall be approving of the principle of imposing a levy on wealth. For that reason, quite apart from the constitutional aspect which the Deputy President has very properly raised, this bill ought to be rejected.
Senator COX (New South Wales) T2.52 a.m.]. - It is interesting to hear Victorian senators complain about delay and waste of- time. We always hear them whining in this way at the close of a session. If time is wasted in this Senate, it is wasted by no one more than it is by Senator Findley and Senator Elliott. Senator Elliott has been quoting a lot of figures which are absolutely obsolete. Senators representing other states are anxious to get away to theirown homes, yet Victorian senators, who can get to their homes every night, are attempting to block the passage of this bill. Let- them do it by voting,’ instead of talking, against it.
– Before this bill goes to a vote on the second reading, I want honorable senators to realize the responsibility they will take if they defeat it. To give one instance, which can be multiplied many hundred times, within the last few weeks’ the lease of an hotel at Queanbeyan which, three months previously, was sold for £12,000, has been sold for £15,000. Those who vote for the rejection of the bill will be voting deliberately to allow that profit of £3,000 to escape taxation. Honorable senators have seen reports of the allotment of leases by the Queensland Land Board. There have been cases in which, within a few weeks after allotment, leases -have been sold at profits ranging from £5,000 to £12,0Q0. Honorable senators who vote for the rejection of the bill will be voting to relieve the people who make these profits from any taxation by the Commonwealth. They must accent the responsibility for their action. Some of the biggest incomes people are making in Australia to-day are derived from the fact that, owing to the rapid increase in the price of wool, the value of pastoral leases has appreciated; yet, if this bill is rejected, the profits ‘made on the ‘sale of leases by people whom honorable senators opposite are fond of referring to as “ beef barons “ or “ wool barons “ will escape taxation”. The Government’s proposals were foreshadowed m the budget, and have been discussed atvarious times since the budget was delivered. I want it to be understood that when provision was made for the taxation of the profits derived from the sale of leases, a deduction was allowed under the Income Tax Assessment Act to the purchasers of leases. This deduction will still remain, and yet honorable senators propose to deprive the Treasury of the taxation that ought to be reasonably imposed on the profits made on the sale of leases. I appeal to honorable senators on the Government side who have found fault with certain provisions of the bill to allow the second reading to pass, and deal with those provisions in committee. If, then, they are not satisfied, they can vote against the third reading. But if they vote against the second reading they will be voting against all the provisions of the bill, including those which cover the cases to which I have just referred as reason ably subject to taxation. They will also be creating a most unjust discrimination by exempting from taxation some of the richest people in Australia, who are earning tremendous incomes by the sale of pastoral leases, and leases of hotels, while at the same time providing in the Income Tax Assessment Act for the taxation of all other classes in the community. I appeal to honorable senators, even at this late stage, to re-consider their attitude, and to vote for the second reading. If, in committee, they wish to test the question of the retroopectivity of the bill, they can do so. If they do not wish it to apply beyond last year, I shall not complain ; but the Government, having outlined this proposal inthe budget-sheet, and not having heard a single protest up to now, is entitled to expect honorable senators to vote for the second reading, so that those classes of the community who are justly entitled to pay taxation shall not be permitted to evade it. It would oe class taxation of the worst character to allow people with big incomes to escape, while taxation is imposed on persons with smaller incomes. Persons who derive large incomes because of the accretion in value of their wool, and others, who, because of the increased population making public houses more valuable, will escape taxation, while those with smaller incomes will be forced to pay.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and. bill read a first time.
Bill returned from House of Representatives with amendments.
Senate adjourned at 3.7 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 October 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1924/19241009_senate_9_109/>.