9th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Markets and Migration the following questions, without notice : -
As honorable senators can see for themselves, the illustration depicts a crowd of workless men-
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) . - Order ! The honorable senator in asking a question must not make a statement founded on a newspaper illustration.
– The Commonwealth Government does not bring immigrants to Australia except those who have been requisitioned by a State Government, or those who have been nominated by persons who guarantee to find employment for them on their arrival. The illustration depicts a crowd of men who happened to be in a building where the placard, “ Australia, work guaranteed,” appeared, but the men were applying for work from the local corporation, and not for work in Australia.
– In view of the statement that the New South “Wales Labour Government has decided to provide immediate employment for persons out of work, will the Commonwealth Government set on foot works in Victoria, not only to prevent a possible exodus to the adjoining state, but also to relieve distress generally throughout the Commonwealth 1
– Before action was taken by the New South Wales State Go- vernment. the Commonwealth Government had issued instructions to all departments to speed up all works for which money had been provided, in order to assist in overcoming distress through unemployment.
Charges Against Official
– Hae the attention of the Minister for Home and Territories been drawn to a statement made in another place reflecting -on the career of a responsible official in the Northern Territory? If so, does the Government contemplate instituting an inquiry into the allegations made?
– The statement referred to was brought under the notice of the Government, and a reply was immediately furnished in another place. That reply, having been followed by a further charge, a further reply is being made in another place to-day.
– With reference to the following question asked by Senator McHugh on the 25th June: -
I am in a position to furnish the following replies : -
3 and 4. The stock was designed by the Commonwealth Railways Department, and the parts are interchangeable, as far as is requisite, for proper railway working.
– On the 26th June Senator Grant asked -
Information on the subject was not available in .Melbourne at the time, but the Federal Capital Commission, which was consulted, now advises that no leases have been granted under the Church Lands Leases Ordinance.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has the Government, after considering the resolution passed by the House of Commons relative to British -women who may marry aliens retaining their nationality if they so desire, arrived at any decision thereon? If so, is such decision favorable or otherwise?
– The Government has given consideration to the resolution, and has decided that it cannot usefully initiate any action in connexion therewith. The matter is one which must be finally decided by the British Government conjointly with the Governments of those dominions which have adopted Part II. of the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act.
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1925, Nos. 100, 101.
Defence Act- Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1925, No. 103.
Forestry Position in Australia - Report by Mr. C. E. Lane-Poole, Commonwealth Forestry Adviser.
.- I move-
That Ordinance No. 1 oE 1025, Territory for the Seat of Government, relating to the declaration of titles to land and the facilitation of its transfer, be disallowed.
Those who take an interest in affairs, at Canberra will recollect that the Federal Capital Territory comprises about 1,000 square miles, and from time to time thf matter of the leasing of those lands for long terms, especially in the Capital city, has frequently come under review in this chamber. Section 9 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act of 1910 relates to the disposal of . Crown lands, and reads as follows : -
No Crown lands in the Territory shall be sold or disposed of for any estate of freehold except in pursuance of some contract entered into before the commencement of this act.
The opinion is’ widespread throughout the Commonwealth that lands at Canberra are not available for settlement except on the leasehold principle, but recently the Government drew up a document styled “ Ordinance No. 1 of 1925 relating to the declaration of titles to land and the facilitation of its transfer.” This document is fairly comprehensive, consisting of no less than 65 closely printed pages, and comprising no less than 179 clauses, with sub-clauses and sub-headings too numerous for me to enumerate. In addition, there are no less than 21 pages of schedules, of which there are nineteen in all, printed in very small type, and containing, I have no doubt, a vast amount of information, all of which may or may not be necessary in connexion with the transfer of land at Canberra. But I particularly wish to invite the attention of the Senate to clause 17 of the ordinance, which appears under the heading “ Part TV. - Future grants of freehold and of certain Crown leaseholds.” The clause reads as follows: -
That conveys to my mind that it is intended -to dispose of some of the land in the. Federal Capital Territory under- a freehold title.
– A great deal of land in the Territory is already freehold, and has not been taken over.
– This ordinance refers to that particular land.
– I have not read the document from cover to cover, and I am not sure that even if I had read it once 1 should be able to appreciate thoroughlyall the pitfalls that are, no doubt, contained within its many clauses; but I should like to know from the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) if my fear that freehold titles are to be granted is well founded. If se, I should like to know, in view of the section which I have read from the Seat of Government Administration Act, where these lands are situated, whether or not they are to be disposed of by public auction, and, if so, whether with or without an upset price, and I particularly should like to be informed of the area that may at present be regarded as available for freehold settlement. There is another portion of the ordinance which should not be allowed to pass unchallenged. I refer to schedule No. 18, and before reading it I wish to remind the Senate that every effort to secure a competent title to land has for many ages been resisted by governments. For a long time, even in Australia, it was most difficult for a person to secure a proper title. For the Torrens title we are indebted to a South Australian, the late Sir Robert Torrens, who, in the face of very strong opposition in the parliament of that state, succeeded, after a number of attempts, in placing upon the statute-book a measure known as the Torrens Transfer Act.
– The Boers had a law of that description in the Transvaal before the Torrens title was introduced here.
– I should be very glad to hear the honorable senator enlighten us on this important subject at a later stage; but, unfortunately, ever since the introduction of the Torrens Act, governments in all states of the Commonwealth have at all times placed difficulties in the way of people requiring transfers of land. This is because they resent the idea of rent-paying victims escaping from their respective landlords. In the state which I assist to represent in this chamber, if any person, wishing to . escape from the principle of landlordism, buys a home site, the State Government, in addition . to demanding transfer, registration, and other fees, pounces upon him and forces him to pay stamp duty to the amount of 15s. for every £100 paid for land. This, of course, is typical of the practice in the several states. The tax is imposed, in my opinion,- for the express purpose of punishing any person who attempts to escape from a rentcollecting landlord. From the viewpoint of a Government representing landlords, the policy may be quite right, but 1 fail to see any justification for it. I invite the attention of honorable senators to what this Government proposes to do under the provisions of the 18th schedule to the ordinance. This schedule is as f follows : -
It seems to me that the Government, in addition to placing an excessive upset price on the blocks which it is vainly endeavouring to lease at Canberra, wishes to go one better than the State Governments by making it even more difficult for persons to secure the right to build homes in Canberra than it is in any of our capital cities.
– Are the fees less in New South Wales?
– If the honorable senator takes the trouble to go to the Registrar’s office in Sydney he will find that every conceivable precaution is taken by the New South Wales Government to tax the people. The regulations are set out in a document about 3 feet long and 2 feet wide containing eight or nine columns of closely printed matter, and in addition to taxes levied by the Government, the unfortunate purchaser of land has to pay certain legal fees, the amount of which I would not attempt to forecast.
– The fees in Queensland are slightly higher than in the ordinance now before the Senate.
– The 18th schedule, which I have just quoted, provides a fee of 17s. 6d. for the registration of a memorandum of transfer where the value of the land transferred does not exceed £50; a fee of £1 5s. where the value exceeds £50 but does not exceed £100, and an additional 15s. for any fractional part of any additional £100 of such value. I should like to know how much extra work is involved in the case of land above the value of £50.
– It is a matter of responsibility.
– It represents only an infinitesimal additional expenditure of ink in the legal document, but it furnishes an opportunity for solicitors to sit back in their office chairs and fleece their unfortunate clients. This principle, I have no doubt, was mainly responsible for the upheaval which, we believe, took place in Russia not so long ago, and I would not be at all surprised if similar trouble occurred in Australia some day. Just imagine a good-looking and well-educated man like Senator Drake-Brockman suggesting that the writing of the figure £100 instead of £50 represented extra responsibility. It is the greatest outrage that I know of.
– A solicitor does not get those fees.
– They are paid to the Treasury.
– But every respectable solicitor increases his fees according to this scale.
– A purchaser of land is not bound to employ a solicitor.
– I am aware of that, but it is very desirable to employ a solicitor if there is any legal work to do.
– And the honorable senator objects to paying a solicitor the union rate.
– It is just as desirable to employ solicitors to undertake legal work as’ it is to employ a competent tradesman to do his particular class of work. At the same time I consider that, as their fees have not to be submitted to the Arbitration Court like those of workmen in the different trades, they are occasionally too high.
– Legal fees have been regulated by the court for a much longer period than have the wages of labourers.
– I quite agree with that statement; but who regulates the court? These fees should be reviewed, and many of them should not be charged. Take, for instance, the first-mentioned fee. Upon first bringing land under the provisions of this ordinance, and upon the registration of an estate of freehold in possession derived by settlement, will or intestacy, the fee is at the rate of Jd. in the £1 sterling. To-day land is not particularly valuable at Canberra; but we are fully aware that it will become more valuable with the passage of time, and it will not be long before it is exceedingly valuable. Yet whenever land there becomes subject to the provisions of this ordinance it is proposed, for i some inscrutable reason, to charge the lessee the apparently nominal sum of 1/2 d. in the £1, which will amount to a considerable fee when applied to a big sum. I should like to know from the Minister (Senator Pearce) if he is prepared to withdraw the ordinance and, as he did in another case, submit it to the Senate as a schedule to a bill. It will be remembered that some time ago, because of its alleged importance - which I do not deny - the Northern Territory Crown Lands Ordinance was submitted to the Senate in the form of a schedule to a bill. Honorable senators had the opportunity to debate the bill at its first and secondreading stages, and then to deal in detail with each clause of the schedule. Although the alterations made were not great in number, I believe that the bill as it left the Senate was much more satisfactory than an ordinance containing the provisions of the schedule would have been, had it been merely laid upon the table of the Senate and allowed to become law after the passage of a certain length of time. I suggest that the Minister should agree to the disallowance of this ordinance, and take the step that I have mentioned. Some honorable senators have admitted to me that they have not read the whole of this document. 1 dare say that that applies to the majority of honorable senators. I freely confess that I have not done so; but those portions of it that I have read lead me to believe that it is intended, in part at least, to depart from the principle laid down in the Seat of Government Act, of which I approve. That is the reason that I have moved the motion.
– Senator Grant has taken a mostextraordinary action. The greater portion of his speech was founded upon a misapprehension, which he could easily have cleared away. Had he asked whether this ordinance proposed to give any power to confer freehold, or whether it” was an indication of the Government’sintention to grant freehold, in the Federal/ Capital Territory, he would have received an answer in the negative. The “ ordinance does not, in the slightest degree, alter the land laws in relation to the Federal Capital Territory. The Seat of Government Act expresses theland policy of the Government in regard to the Territory, and that is leasehold,, not freehold. The honorable senator hasbeen sufficiently long in the Senate toknow that when £he Federal Capitate Territory was acquired by the Commonwealth freeholds were already in existence there, having been granted by the state of which he is a distinguished’ citizen. Some of those grants of” freehold were in course of acquisition;-, that is to say, the freehold could be acquired after compliance with certain conditions that at that date had not been wholly complied with. Surely the honorable senator does not ask the Senate; to say that the Commonwealth Government should violate contracts that were entered into between the State of New South Wales and individuals in that state.. The state is not now in a position tocarry out those contracts. When it acquired the Territory the Commonwealthalso took over the responsibility for seeing; that those contracts were observed. I canassure Senator Grant that I have the support of every honorable senator on thisside, at any rate, when I say that it is* the determination of the Government tohonour those contracts. I quite believethe honorable senator’s statement that hehas not read this document, because he has quite misconceived its meaning. It is not the basis of our land policy, Tt is-. brought into being merely for the declaration of titles of land and the facilitation of its transfer. Its object is to provide the legal machinery for the land transactions that take place under a measure in which the land policy is expressed. Whether a person acquires * a freehold or a leasehold, his title to it has to be registered. Prior to this ordinance, for the sake of convenience, that action was taken under the Real Property Act of 1900 of the State of New South Wales; the Commonwealth merely carried, on under that act. It is obviously extremely inadvisable to legalize land transactions in Commonwealth Territory under a state act, with state administration. So soon as we could conveniently do so, we took action to have Commonwealth legislation and Commonwealth administration for the transfer and acquisition of leaseholds and freeholds. Has the honorable senator any objection to that? Does he still want the Commonwealth to utilize state legislation ? Does he still want any person who purchases a leasehold in the Federal Capital Territory to be compelled to go to the state officials to have the lease registered, and to have- that done by state machinery ? If he could induce the Senate to disallow the ordinance, he would thus compel unfortunate lessees and others to avail themselves of that very legislation which he spent a considerable time in denouncing.
– Could we go back to the state law if we wanted to do so?
– I presume that if this ordinance were disallowed we should have to fall back upon the state law.
– And the federal authorities would have to be consulted even then as to the nature of the leases that would be issued.
– That is not laid down in this ordinance at all, but it was dealt with last session. Honorable senators will remember that the ordinance and regulations which were before them then determined the conditions under which leases could be granted. Senator Grant moved a motion for the disallowance of that ordinance and the regulations made under it, but he could not get the Senate to agree with him then any more than he will get it to agree with him now. The ordinance now under notice provides the legal machinery for the registration of titles.
– Am I to understand, then, that certain land at Canberra will be held under a freehold title?
– Certain lands in the Federal Capital Territory are held under freehold titles. As I have already pointed out, they were ‘ being acquired under a conditional purchase scheme from the New South Wales Government when the Commonwealth Government took over this territory from the state. If the purchases then in process have not been completed, they will be completed at some time, and then the question will arise as to the registration of the freehold title. A contract was entered into by the New South Wales Government, in each case, that when the conditions of purchase were completed by the purchaser he would receive a freehold title. When the Commonwealth Government acquired the Federal ^Capital Territory, it also took over the contractual liabilities connected with it. Section 17 of this ordinance provides that when an agreement to purchase any freehold land at Canberra is completed, a freehold title shall be issued to the purchaser.
– Would acceptance of Senator Grant’s proposal mean the violation of our contract?
– Of course. The honorable senator has specially objected to .section 17. If that section is not accepted, we shall not be able to honour or register any freehold titles.
– Is it proposed when these pending purchases are completed that the purchasers shall remain in possession of freehold land in the Federal Territory ?
– Every government that has been in office since the Commonwealth acquired the Federal Capital Territory has acquired some of the freehold land in it. There is not a year passes without the transfer of some of it to the Commonwealth.
– The Government buys the land as opportunity offers ?
– Has the Government power to acquire compulsorily these freeholds ?
– It has, and it has exercised the power. When,. once a freehold is acquired, we do not part with it. The land is leased subsequently.
– Is there any freehold land within the city area ?
– No; all the freehold land within the city area has been acquired by the Government. I think that I have effectively answered most of Senator Grant’s arguments against the ordinance. He referred at some length to the fees that have been prescribed. “When I compare these fees with those provided for similar purposes by the State of Victoria - I notice that the latter cover page and a half of the Transfer of Land Act 1915 - I am astonished at. our modesty.
– There is no increase in the Victorian fees according to the value of the land transferred.
– Oh, yes, there Is. On page 4687 of volume 5, “ Public Works to Wrongs,” of the Victorian Statutes, I find the following paragraph in the schedule of the Transfer of Land Act relating to applications to bring land under the operations of the act: -
When the title is of any other description, Or when the application is to be registered in respect of an estate of freehold on a transmission, and the value does not exceed £150, 10s.
When the value does not exceed £300, £1.
When the value does not exceed £450, £1 10s.
The amount increases to £3 when the value of the land does not exceed £1,000. It will be seen, therefore, thatthe fees increase according to the value of the land. It seems to me that there are fees, as Senator Grant said, “ for every conceivable and inconceivable thing.” The honorable senator remarked that our fees were much more liberal than those of the New South Wales Government. I have pointed out that they are much more liberal than fees for similar work in Victoria. I think, therefore, that as we have a more liberal scale than either of the two most populous states of the Commonwealth, there is not much room for objection.
– Is the Government prepared to review these fees ?
– No. When citizens of this country set out to obtain wealth, under the system which has enabled Senator Grant to flourish so well, by acquiring the freehold or leasehold of land and taking advantage of less fortunate citizens, who have to rent the houses, I think the Government is entitled to some little revenue from them, for it must be remembered that the Government undertakes to police and protect the property that they acquire. Under all the circumstances, therefore, I feel sure that the Senate will not adopt Senator Grant’s proposal for the cancellation of this ordinance.
– The Senate is indebted to Senator Grant for drawing attention to this ordinance. Section 69 seems to me to be a departure from what has been settled law in British countries for a very long time. It reads -
No title to land adverse to or in derogation of the title of the registered proprietor shall be acquired by any length of possession by virtue of any statute of limitations relating to real estate, nor shall the title of any such registered proprietor be extinguished by the operation of such statute.
That seems to cut diametrically across the land policy of the British Empire that has been accepted since the time of James I., and I think we are entitled to some explanation of it. As it is intended to abolish freehold land tenure in the Federal Capital Territory the matter may not be of very great moment, but the section may also apply to leasehold. Circumstances may arise in which a property has been held in one family for two or three generations, but the occupier may quite innocently have neglected to register his title. It would appear to be possible under this regulation for the original owner to reappear, say, after 50 years, and resume possession of the land simply because the occupiers omitted to register their title.
– The section can hardly apply to leaseholds, for leasehold land can only be transferred with the consent of the Minister, and all transfers must be registered.
– That may be so; I have not had an opportunity to carefully examine the ordinance. I disagree with the remarks of the Minister respecting the fees chargeable for transferring land in Victoria. These have no connexion with the value of the land to be transferred. . In Victoria, if one title is lodged for transfer, a fee of 10s. is charged, and in cases where several titles are lodged at the same time an extra 2s. 6d. is payable for each title for the reason that a memorandum has to be placed on each title. The fees provided in this ordinance suggest tome that :sn attempt has been made to combine the ?fees chargeable under the Victorian Stamp Dirties Act, and those payable under the Transfer of Land Act.
– Has the act that I read been amended ?
– I cannot say, for I do not know exactly which part of the “Victorian statute the Minister quoted, [t may be that he was quoting the fees for ^bringing land under the Transfer of Land Act. A great deal of land is stil held in Victoria under the old system of conveyance. When any of that “4and is brought under the Transfer of Land Act, there is a contribution to an assurance fund, and that contribution varies according to the value of the consideration. This assurance fund is provided in order to meet claims which may be made against the Government in certain circumstances. For instance, if a title proves to be defective, the rightful owner of the land may be entitled to claim against the state for deprivation of his title. But although there is only one set fee there is, in addition, a stamp duty to be paid, which increases according to the increase in the value of the consideration, but not altogether in the same ratio, the scale being somewhat higher on small -sums. It seems to me that this section of the ordinance is an attempt to combine <the fees payable under a Transfer of Lands Act with those which may be necessary sunder a Stamp Duty Act. There may be nothing wrong in that, so long as it is not also intended to impose a stamp duty, and thus penalize the purchaser of land <bo th ways. I have had no opportunity to go through the sections of the ordinance in detail, but in regard to these two point3 alone I think we are indebted to Senator Grant for bringing the matter under our notice.
Question resolved in the negative.
Consideration in the House of Representatives.
Messages received from the House of Representatives intimating that, as requested by the Senate, it had agreed to resume the consideration of the following bills at the stage reached last session : -
Lands Acquisition Bill. ^Northern Territory Representation Bill.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The chief amendment now proposed in the amendment of the sinking fund law is to enable all moneys received in respect of reparations under the treaty of peace with Germany to be credited to the National Debt Sinking Fund. It now seems certain, with the acceptance by Germany of the experts’ plan of reparations known as the Dawes Report, that the Commonwealth may rely upon regular cash payments as ite share of reparations, and as it is the aim of the Government to reduce’ as speedily as possible the large burden of war debt, it is considered that extraordinary receipts arising out of the war should be hypothecated for this purpose. It is singularly appropriate that reparation moneys received from the enemy in the late war should be applied towards extinguishing the debt created for the purposes of prosecuting that war. It will be remembered that a committee of experts was appointed to suggest a practical plan which would enable Germany to balance her budget, to stabilize her currency, and to meet her obligations to the Allies under the Treaty of Versailles. The amount of Germany’s annual payments involved two leading questions: first, how much could be raised and Bet aside in Germany for the Allies, without imperilling Germany’s financial position; and second, how much it waa possible to transfer to Germany’s creditors abroad. Under the experts’ plan, Germany will pay the following amounts during the first five years : -
The annuity for 1928-9 is to become the standard payment thereafter. This standard annual payment, however, is subject to increase if the prosperity of Germany increases as measured by the prosperity index embodied in the experts’ report. These amounts are payable in German currency, and it rests with the Reparations Transfer Committee to decide to what extent they can be transferred by deliveries in kind or in cash without endangering the stability of the German currency. In some quarters it is believed that it may not prove possible, at any rate for some years, to transfer more than £50,000,000 annually. The annual payments by Germany include all treaty charges, which, in addition to reparations proper, include the costs of armies of occupation, Belgian war debt, expenses of control commissions, clearing house charges, restitution of identifiable objects, &c. The amount applied to the treaty requirements, other than reparations proper, is a first charge upon the annual payments by Germany. These are allotted by the Reparations Commission, and the balance remaining is distributed to the Allies on a fixed basis, of which Great Britain’s share is 22 per cent. The Commonwealth will receive 4.35 per cent. of the amount allocated to the British Empire. The annuities will be paid by Germany either in cash or deliveries in kind. During the earlier years, when deliveries in kind will predominate, the dominions will be paid their proportion of cash available, and credited with their proportion of deliveries in kind. The latter credits will be paid in later years as cash reparation receipts are available. It will be seen how difficult it is to make an estimate of the amount that will be credited to the Commonwealth in respect of reparations. However, making a reasonable allowance for, alternatively, the minimum and maximum non-reparation charges, the share of reparations to be allotted to the Commonwealth will be. -
Having made a rough estimate of the amount of reparation moneys to be credited to the Commonwealth, it is quite impossible to go further and forecast in what periods and in what amounts the cash will be paid. The fact, however, remains that in March last we received from the British Government an amount of £135,475, and during the present month £122,217, these being the first payments on account of reparations. Authority is now sought to pay this amount of £257,692, and all subse quent receipts, tothe National Debt Sinking Fund.
As the sinking fund law is being amended in this direction, the Government is taking advantage of the opportunity afforded to obtain authority to pay the following amounts into the National Debt Sinking Fund: -
Dealing with the first of these provisions, I remind honorable senators that it has been agreed between the states and the Commonwealth that all future loans raised shall be subject to a sinking fund contribution of 10s. per cent. per annum. When the states loans are. raised by the. Commonwealth, such as migration loans and loans for ordinary developmental works, the sinking fund contributions of the states will be paid to the Commonwealth. The loan of £10,300,000 raised for the states during the current financial year, and the moneys required for the Grafton to South Brisbane railway, are subject to this arrangement; but in order to legalize the payments to the National Debt Sinking Fund of the states sinking fund payments, special provision had tobe made in the States Loan Act 1924, and in the Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Act 1924. A general provision in the Commonwealth Sinking Fund law to enable payments of this nature to be made to the National Debt Sinking Fund, will obviate the necessity to make a special! provision in each Loan Act authorizing the raising of loans for the states.
The second provision referred to deals with payments into the sinking fund out of revenue in excess of the annual contributions provided in the act. The object of this amendment is to enable the Treasurer to pay into the National Debt Sinking Fund any surplus arising on revenue account from time to time, which it may be desired to apply to debt redemption. Last year, the surplus to the extent of £4,915,755 was applied to debt redemption. ‘ In the absence of the authority now being sought, this amount was made available under the provisions of the Loans Redemption and Conversion Act, and the War Gratuity Act, respectively, but it is highly desirable that such moneys should be handled by the National Debt Commissioners, and the proposed amendment of the Sinking Fund law will enable this to be done.
– Will that mean that the Treasurer of necessity must hand over any surplus he has to the National Debt Sinking Fund?
– No; it is for the Government of the day to determine to what extent, if any, a surplus shall be handed over, but once it is handed over it will pass out of the control of the Treasurer into that of the National Debt Commissioners.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Under the Export Guarantee Bill passed last session, £500,000 was set aside to give assistance to primary producers. It Was estimated that £29,000 would be required to get the growers of doradilla grapes out of their difficulties. After careful administration on the part of the department, the exact amount required was £22,000, but according to the Crown La.w officers the provisions of the Export Guarantee Act would not enable this to be paid out of the £500,000. The doradilla grape is used for the manufacture of spirit within Australia, and it is claimed that this payment does not come within the scope of the Export Guarantee Act, although the greater part of the spirit manufactured from it is exported from Australia. That, in a nutshell, is the reason for this bill. As was appropriately remarked in the other branch of the legislature by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), the measure seems to be a purely technical one, amounting merely to the crossing of a “ t “ or dotting of an “i.” I was astonished at the view taken of the act of last session by the Crown Law authorities, but in order that effect may be given to the wish of Parliament this bill is required.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
– I move -
That this bill be now read a second time.
The measure has been brought down for the purpose of making a comparatively innocent little innovation. The provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, as to the procedure to be observed in the conduct of an election, are applied, by section 4 of the Referendum Constitution Alteration Act, to the taking of a referendum under that act. The Electoral Act was amended in 1922, in some minor respects, in relation to the procedure at the polling, and in order to bring the two acts into harmony, it is necessary to make the consequential amendments in the Referendum. Constitution Alteration Act which are set out in clauses 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7 of the bill. As the law now stands, the Chief Electoral Officer is required, under section 6a of the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act, to print, and post to each elector, a pamphlet containing the arguments for and/or against a proposed law, if within nine weeks after the passage of the measure through both Houses, arguments az-e forwarded to him in favour of, or against, a proposed law, authorized respectively by a majority of those members of both Houses supporting or opposing a proposed law. Under the existing provisions a very small number of members opposing a proposed law might enforce the issue of a pamphlet, and so involve the Government in a heavy expenditure which might be considered by a majority of members to be unwarrantable or unnecessary. This might, in addition, seriously delay the submission to the electors of a proposed law or even prevent the taking of a referendum in conjunction with a Senate. election or general election, where the holding of the election could not, under the electoral law, be deferred - for the period necessary to give effect to the law relating to the issue of the pamphlet. The Government, therefore, proposes to make the issue of the pamphlet permissive. If Parliament authorizes it, well and good; but it is not proposed that the pamphlet shall issue automatically. I remind honorable senators that, if it were issued unnecessarily, tremendous expense would be incurred to no good purpose. There are about 3,000,000 electors On the roll, and honorable senators can well imagine how great would bo the cost of printing the largo number of pamphlets that would be required, to say nothing of the cost of searching for the names and addresses of electors and posting the literature. In the case of an unimportant proposed amendment of the Constitution, such heavy expenditure would not be warranted.
– I do not think that this bill is the innocent measure that the Minister (Senator Pearce) would lead the Senate to believe. I venture to say that in clause 3 we shall find something more than innocence. It refers to the issue of a pamphlet only by the permission of Parliament, but when we cast our minds back to 1911 and 1913, we recall that, following upon the reference to the people of proposals for alterations to the Constitution, pamphlets were automatically distributed. Not only was their issue authorized, but the Commonwealth Electoral Officer was instructed to post them. Perhaps I may read, for the information of honorable senators, the section of the Referendum Constitution Alteration Act 1906-1919 that this bill proposes to amend. Section 6a of the act states -
If within nine weeks after the passage of the proposed law through both Houses there is forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer -
The present bill, however, proposes a substantial alteration, for it states in. clause 3-
Section six A of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section : - “ (3) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section a pamphlet containing arguments relating to a proposed law shall not be printed and posted in accordance with this section unless, within one week after the passage of the proposed law through both Houses, those Houses decide by resolution that the pamphlet may be so printed and posted.”
This means that any party or organization, which is desirous of combating any argument introduced in connexion with a proposed alteration of the Constitution, must have its arguments ready within one week after the passage of the proposed law and submit them to this Parliament. It seems to me that that would restrict considerably the operation of the original act. I can imagine circumstances arising in which the present Government might bring down a proposal to alter a law of the Commonwealth. Certainly this Government would receive plenty of publicity so far as the press of this country is concerned, but if the Opposition were in power it would not. But, leaving that aspect of the matter out of consideration, why restrict the liberty of the people of Australia, who eventually must decide whether or not the Constitution is to be altered ? Why should the consent of Parliament be required to the issue of the pamphlet? The Minister, in his speech, has not given any valid reason why the past practice should be departed from. When the referenda of 1911 and 1913 were taken it was simply necessary for the leaders of the parties for and against the proposals to authorize the issue of the pamphlet. That, it seems to me, was a fair arrangement. I think that a lapse of nine weeks was allowed after the passage of the measure before the arguments, pro and con, were required to be presented. Now, however, it is proposed that the consent of Parliament shall be obtained before a pamphlet can be distributed or posted.
– Will not the present proposal operate fairly, irrespective of which party is in power ?
– I do not contend that it is one-sided, but no matter how elaborate may be the debates in Parliament and the reports in the press regarding a proposed amendment of the law, I think that the same liberty as obtained previously should be allowed for amplifying the reports published in the press and the statements made in Parliament.
– Does the honorable senator argue that the Opposition will be placed at a disadvantage?
– I contend that the Opposition of to-day may be the Government of to-morrow, and if that change took place the present Opposition would not be helped by the press of Australia in the circulation of ins views to such an extent as would the. present Government. I do not wish to import any political significance into this debate, but I point out that the amending bill is restrictive in character. I could imagine the necessity for its introduction if anything of an expensive or detrimental character had happened during the last referenda campaigns, but, so far as I know, nothing took place to warrant the introduction of this bill. Pamphlets should be issued not as a matter of privilege, but as a right. Let us be careful what we do. It will be within the competence of a majority in any Parliament to prevent the issue of this pamphlet. We can all imagine what could happen. Suppose, for example, that after a keen fight in both Houses we had just disposed of a measure to alter the Constitution. The majority, which was responsible for forcing the alterations through Parliament, could - I do not say it would - prevent the publication and the posting of a pamphlet setting forth the views of the Opposition. Senator Lynch has suggested that this restriction would cut both ways. To a certain extent it would; but why not leave well alone, and allow pamphlets to be prepared and sent through the post as hitherto? The limitation of time within which a pamphlet may be prepared will not permit of arguments being prepared for or against the proposed alterations. It may be argued that” if a measure to alter the Constitutionhas been debated for three or four weeks, both sides of the argument should be well known. Possibly they would, but a vital alteration, if made at the last moment, would complicate the situation very materially.
– The honorable senator is under a misapprehension. It is the resolution authorizing the printing of the pamphlet, not the actual preparation and printing of the document, that must be passed within one week.
– The Minister will admit that this provision may prevent the publication and posting of a pamphlet by the Electoral Office for the information of the electors. Why should Parliament step in? Nothing has been adduced by the Minister to prove the necessity for this course.
– It may assist to keep down public expenditure.
– No one is more in favour of public economy than I am. Senator Lynch would not say that it would be a real economy to deprive electors of every facility to hear arguments for or against any proposed alteration of the Constitution. I remind the honorable senator of the 1911-13 campaigns when he and I, with other members of the Labour party of that day, spoke from many platforms throughout Australia in support of proposed alterations of the Constitution. On that occasion we quoted extensively from a pamphlet containing views authorized by the party to which we belonged combating arguments authorized by the party in opposition. Surely the honorable senator will not say that money spent in the preparation and issue of that document was wasted.
– Does not the honorable senator realize that under the existing law pamphlets must he issued giving; arguments for or against even formal amendments of the Constitution.
– I submit that, in any proposed alteration of the Constitution, we should follow the course adopted hitherto.
– Even if the proposed amendment be purely formal?
– This provision is not limited to formal amendments of the Constitution.
– But the act provides for that.
– The clause which I quoted a few minutes ago states clearly that Parliament shall decide whether pamphlets shall be printed and posted.
– This amendment merely makes permissive what hitherto has been mandatory.
– The amendment is comprehensive, and as any proposed alteration in the Constitution may have far-reaching consequences, the procedure hitherto adopted should be followed. If this were the only alteration of the principal act for which the bill provides, I should oppose the second reading, but as the bill contains other provisions of which I approve, I shall not do so. For example, it is proposed to provide that when a mistake is made by a returning officer in connexion with the voting rights of any elector, the elector concerned shall be eligible to vote upon the signing of a declaration. Paragraph b of clause 6, which seeks to amend section 20 of the principal act, also has my approval. As this is more a measure for committee, I shall not detain the Senate. In committee I shall endeavour to have proposed new sub-section 3 of section 6 deleted.
– I intend to oppose the second reading of the bill. When the last proposed amendment of the Constitution was before us, those who were opposed to the alteration, as well as those in favour of it, had the right to set out their views at length in a pamphlet that was printed and circulated at the cost of the Commonwealth. By that means every elector was placed in possession of arguments for and against the contemplated alteration. In their wisdom the electors rejected the measure. It is well known that the Government and its supporters have the good-will of the press of Australia, with the exception of the Labour Daily in Sydney and a few other newspapers, so that they will not have to rely upon a printed document to be issued to the electors for the presentation of their views. At present, the Opposition is undoubtedly at a very great disadvantage. Under the principal act, which clause 3 seeks to amend, the views of both parties may be set out in a pamphlet and posted to every elector in the Commonwealth.
Whilst something may be said for the amendment on the score of expense, we ought not to lightly amend the Constitution, which represents the considered opinion of the ablest public men and constitutional authorities in Australia. It has been amended a number of times, and several unsuccessful attempts have been made to introduce further amendments. The Government now wishes to make optional the publication and circulation of pamphlets containing the reasons for or against a proposed amendment. If the press of Australia were about equally divided in the representation of political views, it would be an entirely different matter. As we cannot be sure that the views of the Opposition will be effectively stated in the daily press of Australia, I shall not support the proposed amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Application of Electoral Act).
– Owing to the amendment of the Electoral Act, the numbering of the sections has been altered. It is therefore necessary now to alter the numbering in the bill, so that it will refer to the proper sections in the Electoral Act.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section 6a of the principal act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following subsection : -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this section a pamphlet containing arguments relating to a proposed law shall not be printed and posted in accordance with this section unless, within one week after the passage of the proposed law through both Houses, those Houses decide by resolution that the pamphlet may beso printed and posted.
– I intend to oppose this clause, because it will restrict the opportunity for electors to get full information about a proposed alteration of the Constitution. As Senator Grant has pointed out, we should not amend the Constitution lightly, and we should give reasons for or against any alterations. Before the Constitution of Australia can be altered a majority of the electors in a majority of the states must agree to the proposal. I can foresee a very big amendment cropping up, such as one to give to the Commonwealth Parliament greater powers in relation to trade and commerce. As a matter of fact, such a proposal should have been placed before the people within the last two or three years had promises been kept that were made by certain honorable gentlemen who had the guidance of the destinies of Australia. I refer particularly to the promise that was made by theRight Honorable W. M. Hughes when he was Prime Minister, that within a certain time the people of Australia would be called upon to say whether ornot they favoured an alteration of the Constitution in relation to industrial matters. Despite the publication of Hansard, despite the influence of the press, despite all the machinery that the different parties control, no reason has been advanced by the Minister, on the advice of his responsible officers, for departing from the existing system. Had a sound reason been given I should have been found in agreement with the proposal. We know that to-day nearly every citizen in Australia purchases a newspaper. The average man or woman would rather go without his or her breakfast than without a daily newspaper. That newspaper takes into the home its opinion of any proposal. Why, then, should any barrier be placed in the way of taking to every citizen, with the authority of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, statements for and against any proposed alteration of the Constitution, so that when an elector enters the ballot-box he or she can say, “ I have had every assistance to enable me to decide whether or not the Constitution should be altered”? That assistance has been forthcoming in the past. The procedure may be costly, but all elections and all referenda proposals that are placed before the people are costly. Why should the Government, for the sake of saving a few pounds, deny to every citizen the right to obtain all the information available ? I say advisedly that when the citizens of Australia are asked to decide whether the Constitution should or should not be altered they are called upon to decide a much more important matter than is involved in the election of members of this Parliament. If this is an attempt . at economy by an alleged economy government, it is a very sorry exhibition. I shall content myself with voting against the clause, and I hope that the majority of honorable senators will support me.
– At one time, when submitting proposed amendments to an act, the Government was good enough to furnish honorable senators with a document showing how the act would read when amended, and setting out the sections that it was proposed to omit. That procedure has not been followed with this bill. The Minister (Senator Pearce) has assured honorable senators that the bill is not a very important one. He said that all it proposed was to leave it to Parliament to decide whether the pamphlet should issue. This clause is the crux of the bill, and if it is agreed to any government, which necessarily must have a majority in the Parliament, will be at liberty to say whether a document setting forth the reasons for and against any proposed amendment shall or shall not be printed. That should not be countenanced by the committee. The provision which this clause amends was inserted in the act only after a great deal of consideration had been given to it. The documents that were printed when the last referendum was held were extensively read. They placed before the electors in the most forcible and concise way that the best brains on each side could devise, the arguments forand against the proposed alteration. I do not want that privilege to be withdrawn from the electors. Every honorable senator knows that it is quite impossible to have a notice inserted in the daily press unless it happens to coincide with the opinions of the proprietors of the different journals. I have no doubt that should the Government propose to alter the Constitution the Labour party would be confronted with that difficulty. It is quite true that a certain amount of expense is involved, but that should not greatly concern us. The length of the document could be curtailed or extended at the option of the Government of the day. Parliament would be acting wisely if it allowed the present provision to remain.
SenatorLYNCH (Western Australia) clause should encounter any opposition, especially from such a practical-minded honorable senator as Senator Grant. I understand that it will result in a saving of something like £15,000 in connexion with the preparation of the pamphlets alone, quite apart from the cost of posting and distribution.
– Is that all?
– That, interjection does not surprise me, remembering as I do that during the discussion on the action of the Government in letting abroad a contract for the construction of two cruisers the honorable senator dramatically exclaimed, “What is a million?” If by some means the whole of the taxpayers could be combined in the person of the honorable senator, I imagine that he would think twice before he would agree to the expenditure of much less than £15,000. He knows as well as I do that during the last 24 years many amendments of the Constitution have been made to which both parties agreed. He will admit that the position to-day is that pamphlets setting forth the arguments for and against any proposed alteration of the Constitution must be forwarded to every elector. This amendment merely proposes to vest iri Parliament the right to say whether a proposed amendment is sufficiently important to warrant the issuing of these pamphlets. What is the purpose of this opposition from honorable senators? Is it dictated by a desire to oppose anything that emanates from the Government? Whether it be in the Treasury or in the hands of a private individual, it is not for Senator Grant to say that money should be spent needlessly and uselessly. This proposal does not take from Parliament any right that it should possess. The Government, unlike Senator Grant, wishes to save the taxpayers’ money. It is its duty to do so. Senator Grant asked. “What is £1,000,000?” The spending of £15,000 is nothing to him, so long as it is other people’s money. Another feature of this matter appeals strongly to me. Honorable senators opposite suggest that the Government, in making this proposal, is actuated by the knowledge, that they say it has, that the capitalistic press will support it. My opinion of this; latter-day Labour party is that it desires”, by hook or by crook, to get the capitalistic press against it. It regards such opposition as one of the chief weapons in its armoury. If acceptance of this clause will ensure the support of the capitalistic press for honorable) senators on this side of the chamber, the Labour party, on their own showing, and with due regard to their own practice, should vote for it.
– We can beat both the honorable senator’s party and the capitalistic press.
– The honorable senator was very annoyed on one occasion because the capitalistic press did not report him.
– If any reliance can be placed upon the line of reasoning honorable senators opposite usually adopt, they should be doing their utmost to put the capitalistic press in opposition to them. The fact of the matter is, however, that they are trying to occupy two positions at once. They are trying to square the circle, which is mathematically impossible. I am surprised to learn that they attribute to the capitalistic press so much influence in .the moulding of public opinion.
– Because the capitalistic press did not report the honorable senator on one occasion, he moved a motion for their exclusion from this chamber.
– And when the time., came to vote on that motion a good many . honorable senators opposite, who spoke in favour of it, were absent. When they _ were wanted, like the comrades of . the boy who stood on the burning;, deck, they were not to be found-. I submit that the clause indicates., that the Government desires, to take a step, . in the right direction. It wishes t& ,say.e the taxpayers’ money. Apparently Senator Grant ‘ desires to spend £15,000, or more even when a purely formal matter like dotting an “ i “ or the crossing of a ” t” in the Constitution requires ‘to “be done. ‘
– I could understand Senator Lynch lecturing honorable senators on this side of the chamber for their opposition to this clause if the question at issue was a purely formal amendment of the Constitution. It is quite evident that the honorable senator’s eagerness to attack his one-time friends on this side of the committee has prevented him from reading the bill. I can find nothing whatever in it about amendments of a purely formal nature. The bill deals with any proposed law to alter the Constitution. The Minister himself did not indicate what would be the cost of issuing a pamphlet to the electors, but his seventh- day adventist colleague took it upon himself to lecture his erstwhile friends of what he called the latter-day Labour party upon the need for economy. It ill becomes this “. johnny come lately,” of the Nationalist party, who might also be known as the “ Paddy go early “ of the Labour party, to lecture us. He took the first opportunity to leave us.
– Is the honorable senator mixing up the Seventh Day Adventists with the Latter-day Saints 1
– I cannot picture Senator Lynch as either a latter-day or an early-day saint. He spoke about a formal amendment of the Constitution; but we do not alter the Constitution for fun. The honorable senator also referred to the capitalistic press. I should like him to understand that we believe in freedom of the press just as much as we believe in freedom of speech. We do not wish to control the press, or to instruct it as to whom it shall report or whom it shall not report. It ought to know its own business better than Senator Lynch or any one else. We have no proof that the issuing of a pamphlet to the electors in connexion with any proposed amendment of the Constitution would cost £15,000. If Senator Lynch is really concerned about economy in government, he is on the wrong side of the committee. He has never supported a Ministry which was so regardless of economy as is the one which he is supporting to-day.
.- Instead of tending to minimize the ex- penditure in connexion with any proposed alteration of the Constitution, I think this clause will tend to increase it. It has to be remembered that what one honorable senator might consider to be formal another might regard as important. If we enact that no pamphlet shall be circulated respecting any proposed amendment of the Constitution unless a resolution agreeing to that course has been passed by both Houses of this Parliament, we may cause a great deal of expense to the country, for when any amendment of the
Constitution is proposed we shall have to discuss, probably for a good while, whether or not a pamphlet shall be issued on the subject.
– When it was proposed that the Commonwealth Governmentshould take over the state debts, every one was in agreement. ‘ ‘
– But many proposals may be made upon which members may differ considerably. Senator Lynch well knows that when the last amendments to our Constitution were proposed the keenest interest was manifested in the matter. If it had been necessary on that occasion to have a motion passed by both Houses of this Parliament before a pamphlet on the proposals was issued for the edification of the electors, a very long discussion would undoubtedly have occurred. The government of the day, however, prepared its case, and the Opposition prepared its case, and a pamphlet was issued. ‘ For some reason best known to himself, the amendments which Senator Lynch then favoured are not now acceptable to him. I do not think that the Government has introduced this proposal merely in the interest of economy. It has apparently occurred to the Government, or to those in charge of the Commonwealth Electoral Department, that expense would be saved to the country if any proposed referendum on an amendment of the Constitution could be held on the same day as an election. I do not think that either the Government or the officers of the Electoral Department had any thoughts as to the possible importance or otherwise of such proposed amendments. As to the cost of issuing a pamphlet to the electors, I agree with Senator Grant. An expenditure of £10,000 or £15,000 in such a way, in order that the electors might be thoroughly informed on what was proposed, would be thoroughly justified. No one suggests that in the case of purely formal amendments it would be necessary to state the case for and against in pamphlet form. Surely Senator Lynch is sane enough to agree with me that thousands of pounds should not be expended in sending out the case for and against to every elector in the Commonwealth, when merely formal amendments of the Constitution are to be submitted to a referendum. That would be a waste of money.
– But it has to be done now.
– It has not to be done. A big expenditure is incurred only when important amendments are proposed. I do not understand why the Government is anxious to push this bill through in its present form, but if one of the objects is to economize by holding a referendum and an election on the same day money will be saved. If the measure has any other purpose I do not clearly understand what it is, and I hope the Leader of the Senate will satisfy those who are in doubt about the matter.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Action at scrutiny).
– These amendments are consequential on amendments previously made in the Electoral Act, and are bringing the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act into conformity with that act.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
– (By leave.) - I wish to make a personal explanation. I paired with Senator Guthrie under the impression that the pair was to last for an hour. I regret that, in the division just taken, my misunderstanding of the position led me to vote in Senator Guthrie’s absence.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
During the war, under the War Precautions Act, the Government had the power to register aliens. It was a precautionary measure enabling the Administration to keep track of aliens throughout the Commonwealth, and during the troublous postwar period it was thought desirable to pass an act providing for the continuance of that power as part of the Commonwealth legislation. Accordingly, the Aliens Registration Act 1920 was passed. That act was administered through the state police, and considerable difficulty arose between the Commonwealth and the states as to the use of the state police for this purpose, the states desiring to charge for the service rendered to the Commonwealth. Eventually some of the states refused to allow their police to be employed for the purpose of registering aliens, and by. 1922 the Aliens Registration Act had practically become a dead letter. Last year the Government thought it advisable to repeal it, but on further consideration came to the conclusion that it would be well not to repeal it, but to leave it on the statutebook in a state of suspension, ‘ to be brought into operation by proclamation if at any time required. If events were likely to lead to war, and there were in the community numbers of aliens who might become disaffected because of their connexion with another country with which relations had become strained, any country as an act of self-protection would obtain the addresses of these aliens and keep track of them. Therefore, the Government has thought it desirable to keep this precautionary measure onthe statute-book, and have it brought into operation whenever the circumstances warrant it. The object of this bill is not to repeal the Aliens Registration Act, but to allow it to remain on the statute-book in a state of suspended animation, so that it may be brought into force by proclamation in the circumstances I have . set out.
– Would it be administered by the state police?
– That matter would be determined by the administration of the day. It might be administered by the Commonwealth police, or the better plan might be to utilize the services of the state police, as was done on the last occasion. There are no Commonwealth police.
– The Commonwealth police originated from the throwing of an egg at Warwick !
– No; from the throwing of a bomb at Serajevo.
.- In moving the second reading of this bill, Senator Pearce casually declared that at one time the Government thought the Aliens Registration Act should be repealed, but that on further consideration it came to the conclusion that it should be simply suspended. The Minister also declared that at one tune the act was administered by the state police. Now he thinks .that, lest an emergency such as a national crisis should arise, the act should not be repealed, but merely held in suspension, so that its provisions might be re-imposed, at the whim of the Government of the day, or in other words by a proclamation. This bill stipulates that “ the operation of the Aliens Registration Act 1920, is hereby suspended until a date to be fixed by proclamation, on which date the suspension shall cease.” I think that the Government should have adhered to its original intention, which was to repeal the act altogether. I decidedly object to having anything in the nature of precautionary war legislation hanging like the sword of Damocles over the Parliament or the people. Undoubtedly the bill is a relic of the regulations framed under the War Precautions Act. It was neces-‘ sary during the war to enforce the registration of aliens, and in 1920 the Aliens Registration Act was passed for the purpose of continuing the supervision exercised during the war. I did not happen to be a member of this chamber in that year, but on perusing the debates I find that by’ clause 13 of the bill as introduced all hotelkeepers were required to keep a register, and enter in it the name and nationality of every alien, the date of arrival of the steamer by “which the person concerned reached the Commonwealth, and his place of abode or destination. . There were other obnoxious provisions in the bill brought down at that time, but Parliament deleted them, and it would have been a good job if the measure had been rejected. I have already admitted that legislation of this character is necessary in times of emergency or national crises, but no such conditions exist at pre-
Gent. In the event of such an occurrence, who has the greater right to impose legislation of this character - Ministers or the Parliament of the nation ? God forbid that Australia should be faced with another crisis such as that which the world experienced between 1914 and 1918’, but, if it should be, would it not be the duty of the Government of the day, should Parliament be in recess, to summon it immediately and request it to pass the legislation necessary for the protection of the people ?
– What need would there be to do that, if the emergency arose and the necessary legislation was in existence?
– I have had painful experience of the results of granting too much power to any body of men, even under war precautions legislation. I have also had painful experience, as a citizen of Australia, .of a Government clinging to the last shred of power granted to it under war precautions legislation.
– If an alien wishes to avoid trouble he will be able to do it by becoming naturalized.
– The Government may desire to suspend the act because of the great influx of aliens into Australia at the present time, but I should like to see the measure repealed. I presume that I shall be in order in referring to the subject of passports.
– Passports are not dealt with in this bill.
– Nobody can leave Australia unless a passport has been obtained.
– The difficulty is due not so much, to the laws of Australia, but to those of other countries with which our law must comply.
– I rose simply to point out the necessity to repeal the Alien Registration Act rather than merely to suspend it. I shall take an opportunity in committee of testing the feelings of honorable senators on the subject. One becomes accustomed to many objectionable restrictions, and I know that the Government does not wish to give up the power it has enjoyed under the war precautions legislation; but I object to giving such great power as that conferred by .this act to any Ministry in times ‘ of peace. Ministers should be directly under the control of Parliament.
– I cannot understand why the Government has introduced a bill of this nature at the present juncture. Some time ago we were informed by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) that the Government had decided to repeal the act, and there was every justification for its repeal. But what has happened in the meantime to induce the Government to alter its opinion? There is no war in progress, and there is no serious talk of war. No national emergency has arisen, and therefore one asks himself the reason for the desire to suspend rather than to repeal this act. Honorable senators who are familiar with its provisions know how drastic they are. Although they might have been justified in a time of war, they are quite unnecessary now. Is it because there is industrial unrest in the Commonwealth that the Government refuses to repeal the act? Is it that Ministers desire all the powers in peace time that they possessed during the war years? If that be the Government’s motive, the Opposition should make a strong protest. There is a proper way in which to deal with every situation. If the Government thinks it will strengthen its hands by keeping the act on the statute-book - I have in mind a matter that has been seriously discussed in another places - and if the Government wishes to be buttressed, in a time of peace, with war-time powers, to enable it to deal with trade unionism and what it stands for, I think that every unionist - which includes, I believe, every member on this side of the chamber–will do all he can to prevent the Government from effecting its purpose.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that all trade unionists are aliens?
– What is the definition of an alien?
– All persons, other than those who are British by birth or have been naturalized, are aliens.
– Many reputable men who have come to Australia, such as citizens of the United States of America, fall within that, category.
– If not naturalized, Americans are regarded under our laws as aliens.
– Many citizens who have engaged in business in the Commonwealth and have led good and useful lives amongst us are, strictly speaking, aliens. According to this bill they will still be treated as such. If there was not some motive, why did not the Government bring in a bill to repeal the principal act ? There ie no warrant for it to-day. Nothing conduces more to unrest, industrial and otherwise, than the retention of legislative measures which, while justified in war time, are no longer needed.
– The honorable senator had forgotten all about the act.
– I had not, and I am now protesting against the action of the Government in not seeking to repeal the act, instead of suspending it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The operation of the Aliens Registration Act 1920 is hereby suspended until a date to be fixed by proclamation, on which date the suspension shall cease.
– I move -
That the words “ operation of the “ be left out.
If this be agreed to I shall move the omission of all the words after “ hereby,” and the insertion of the word “ repealed.” My purpose is to secure the repeal of the act, not to leave it in a state of suspended animation. I do not wish the Government to have power to re-enact the measure at its own sweet will. Senator Findley has pointed out that it may be re-enacted by proclamation to deal, not with a war emergency at all, but with an industrial emergency. In any circumstances Parliament, not the Governor-General in Council, should be the final arbiter.
– In the debate on the second reading of the bill, the Minister (Senator Pearce) admitted that since 1922 the act had been a dead letter, and also that the Government had considered the repeal of the law, but had altered its mind. The suspension of the act may be one way out of the difficulty, but if the measure has become a dead letter, it should be repealed. I am not sure that there is not a good deal to be said for the attitude of those who hold that all legislative measures should be enacted for a fixed period, at the end of which, failing re-enactment, they should lapse. We have had experience of such laws. The Daylight Saving Bill, a war measure, became inoperative and was abolished. Nothing more is now heard about daylight saving. The Aliens Registration Act, which was passed in 1920, appears to incorporate about a dozen Statutory Rules promulgated under the War Precautions Act. Those rules dealt very drastically with alien residents in Australia over the age of sixteen years. Though the rules may have been highly desirable during the war, they have since become a dead letter, and therefore should not continue to encumber our statute-books. I am at a loss to understand the motive actuating the Government, but I recall what James Russell Lowell had to say of a certain brand of politician -
A marciful Providunce fashioned us holler, O’ purpose thet we might our principles swaller.
As the need for the act has passed, it should be repealed, instead of being suspended. What caused the Government to change its mind? Is it because aliens are arriving in Australia in such numbers ? If that is the reason, the Minister should say so, because I understand there is ample power under other acts to deal with aliens. Instead of suspending the Aliens Registration Act so that the Government may, if it thinks fit, bring it into operation again by proclamation at short notice we should repeal it.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Needham’s amendment) be left out - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolvedin the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill presented by Senator Pearce, and read a first time.
– Believing that the most pressing need of Tasmania at the present time is stability in her shipping services, I move -
That the Government forthwith give an assurance to the people of Tasmania in particular, and the people of the Commonwealth in general, that there will be continuity of transport service for passengers between Tasmania and the mainland; and in the event of any strike, lock-out, or discontinuance of this service from any cause whatsoever, the Government will immediately take the necessary action to maintain, without interruption, this vital service.
For many years the position of Tasmania in relation to her transport arrangements has been tragic. She has hardly known when at a moment’s notice she might receive an intimation that her shipping communication had been dislocated, her people restricted in their journeyings to the mainland, her visitors compelled to remain, her food supplies interfered with, and her mail services disjointed. Why has Tasmania been so constantly upon the edge of a precipice in so far as her means of communication with the mainland are concerned? . Why has there been this paralysis of so vital a service? The answer is that certain men have entered into a conspiracy against society. I ask honorable senators to carry their minds back to the last dislocation of the shipping services between Tasmania and the mainland. In November, 1924, trouble occurred in New South Wales between the Waterside Workers Federation and the Returned Soldiers’ Labour Bureau. An overtime strike was called, nominally designed to continue their seven-year-old struggle. It extended, as things do. The Czars of the Waterside Workers Federation usurped the power and authority belonging to the people in regard to the communication and cargo handling facilities of the nation. Conference after conference took place, but without avail. We saw them approaching the Arbitration Court or officials of the Arbitration Court on the one hand, and, on the other, the governments of the states that were interested. No agreement was arrived at; the turmoil continued; and for reasons that varied during the days that followed ship after ship was declared black. At one time a chartered vessel of the Commonwealth Line was held up in order to demonstrate that chartered vessels were banned from Australian coasts. Then, in order to meet the wishes of certain folk who desired to get off the New Zealand articles, trouble was started on a ship that sailed under those articles-.
Systematically these conspirators were using every class of employee in the maritime service in order to complicate the position. With malignant ingenuity stewards are called out so that a ship may be prevented from sailing. Donkeymen are told that they must refuse steam so that the overtime strike may be continued. Then in order that mercantile operations may be still further hampered, the order is given that under no circumstances shall any person be engaged for waterfront work in New South Wales except at the Communist Hall, Sydney. Men were invited to act in a perverse manner on board ship so that the officers would be compelled to dismiss one of their number, and thus furnish an excuse for the remainder of the crew to down tools and leave the vessel. I could quote many other examples of what has been happening of recent years in the shipping industry along our coasts. In all this sordid business Tasmania has had no say, but her mails, her people, her visitors, and her food supplies have been seriously interfered with.
Let me describe, briefly, the position of Tasmania early this year. In the first week of January all the ships that usually travel to her coasts were held up. When one realizes that Tasmania is an island state, and that her only means of communication with the mainland is by sea, one cannot be surprised that her isolation, in consequence of this shipping hold-up, was attended by many tragic happenings’. Let me quote the case of a young girl who had been nursing her aged mother on the mainland. On account of the heavy work which the nursing entailed, it became necessary for the girl to recuperate her strength, and she went to Tasmania. She had very little money, and for that reason, as well as on account of the state of her aged mother’s health, she was able to remain away for only a few days. It quite staggered her, therefore, when as she was about to return, she learned that shipping communication between Tasmania and the mainland had ceased. The blow became doubly severe when, on the very day that the boats ceased running, she received a telegram informing her that her mother’s health was worse. She made desperate efforts to find some means to return to the mainland, but, of course, could not discover any, and her trouble was intensified when, while she was still seeking for a way out of her difficulty, she learned that her mother was sinking fast. That is an example that could be multiplied many hundreds of times. Many working people who go from the mainland to Tasmania for a holiday must return to their homes within a stipulated period in order to resume their occupations. They realize perfectly well that unless they do their means of livelihood -will be lost. Frequently these people have wives and children, or others, dependent upon them, and it is nothing short of a calamity to them when, by one fell stroke, they are cut off from their employment by a shipping hold-up.
On the 11th January the Commonwealth Government decided to send the Largs Bay from Sydney to Tasmania to take to their homes on the mainland the people who were stranded, but the moment an attempt was made to get the boat away from the wharf in Sydney the crew left it. The Government then sent the Hobson’s Bay to the mouth of the Tamar. While this great liner could remain quiescent there awaiting her passengers, the small boats which had to be used to transport them to her side had anything but smooth journeyings. The people they had to carry were not, for the most part, good sailors, and I need not describe to the Senate the pitiable condition of some of the women and children when they reached the Hobson’s Bay. There was a heaVy ocean swell to be negotiated, seasickness was general, and only those who were agile could get from the ferry boats to the liner with any degree of ease. Fortunately, there were no accidents in transporting the passengers, but there were numerous narrow escapes.
Conditions such as these have prevailed in Tasmania for the last six years. I might naturally be asked the reason. My reply is that it is due entirely to the impotent jealousy of a few people in this Commonwealth who are determined to bring down the level of the great majority of our people to that of the muddy minority. This kind of thing must be stopped. The citizens of the Commonwealth have decided in their minds that they must have in power a Government that is prepared to say to these people, “ Stop ! “ The people demand a Government that will stand for the observance of law and order. Some people speak glibly about liberty when what they want is not liberty, but licence. May I be permitted to quote the following from Maine’s Popular Government, page 64: -
If a democracy were to allow a portion of the multitude of which it consists to set some law at defiance which it happens to dislike, it would be guilty of a crime which hardly any other virtue would redeem, and which, century on century, might fail to repair.
If that great jurist be right, if his statement can. be taken as the experience of the years, it is obvious that when there arises a state of affairs such as has arisen here, the Government should act decisively, swiftly, and sternly. It is unthinkable that it should remain for any length of time possible for the people of Tasmania to have the whole of their business, their mails, and their affairs generally, held up because of the wickedness of one or two irresponsible men. It is not a multitude that is behind these constant dislocations of the shipping services. The Nairana, for instance, has been held up at the Launceston wharf because two of her men have detemined to go out on a “ jollification,” and she has had to remain there until these men have seen fit to return. Am I asking too much when I request the Government to take such action as will make a continuance of these tactics impossible? The people of Tasmania heard with a great deal of pleasure that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) had said to a deputation that waited upon him on Tuesday that he would not interfere with the course of the law; that the law must be obeyed and order preserved; and that the seamen must keep within the law if they desired to escape the penalties of its disobedience. I hope that that attitude will be fully maintained. When we have a body of persons disseminating poisonous illusions, which have no possibility of conscious reality - the destruction of all arts, the annihilation of everything that is an incentive to progress, it is time for the Government to step in and say, “ This must cease.” When you have a combination of. men like Walsh and Johannsen, alias Johnson, or whatever his name may be - apparently he himself forgot what his name was before he was 21 years of age - who are as Czars among a certain class of workers - when we have men who are usurping the powers of the state in an endeavour to sovietize industry, under the- guise of nationalizing the various activities of the people, it is high time for the Government to intervene. The activities of these individuals will mean the nationalization, not of industry, but of the misery of the people. I should like to read extracts from a Labour newspaper, reprinted in the Hobart Mercury of 12th January, 1925,which define their attitude. “ Between the capitalist and the working class economically there is nothing in common . It was sometimes necessary to compromise with capitalism, but the leaders oftheworking class should tell their comrades that that was done in the interests of immediate production, andus a step to the complete overthrow of capitalism.” This statement was mode in an article published recently in the West Australian Worker by Mr. T. Walsh, Federal President of the Australian Seamen’s Onion. “ To achieve socialization the working class must be organized ona class basis -so strongly organizedand so ‘ class conscious ‘that they regarded themselves as members ofa class whoso function it was to govern in place of the capitalistic class, continued the article. To ensuresuccess the working class would have to be internationally united. That was why patriotic Labour politicians, with their ‘ anti- G ermanism,’ ‘ anti-Americanism.’‘or WhiteAustralianism ‘ were enemies of the working class. If industry was to be socialized the working class must be served by the Army, the Navy, and the air service. He did not say that Labour would not compromise with capitalism and save bloodshed, but in order to compromise the working class must be supreme. To tell the working class that the present platform and methods of the Labour party were sufficient to enable themselves to be lifted out of servitude was to mislead them. It should be told that it could not achieve the emancipation of its members until they were organized industrially and politically. “ There was a school of Labour politicians which considered arbitration a substitute for the class struggle. Arbitration could not overcome differences between employers and workers, because the workers wanted the ownership and control of industry. The Arbitration Court, however, was a useful instrument for the adjustment of certain differences. It was capable of being used in the immediate interests of the worker, and, like other unions, the Seamen’s Union went into court as the cheapest and easiest means of adjustment. “ When a dispute comes within the scope of the court,” Mr. Walsh continued, “ the Seamen’s Union finds it useful to force the shipowners into the court. Some disputes, however, are not capable of adjustment by the court, andon my advice the seamen fought the maritime strike of 1919 outside the court with great success . . “ 1 will have no hesitation in advising members of the Seamen’s Union again to seek redress outside the court immediately the atmosphere is favorable . . . “ Now you have my idea of arbitration and how I view it from a class stand-point.”
– Mr. Walsh is a fine advocate of industrial arbitration !
– The Government must surely discriminate between a proper and an improper use of collective power. It is very easy to conceive of a situation arising in Australia in which there will be one big union with enormous voting power, and I am firmly convinced that if the Government does not regulateunionism, unionism will regulate the state. Imagine what would happen if the aliens, that we so often talk about here, came in and controlled the unions ! I know of one place where there are persons of 22 different nationalities at work, and they are all members of a union. If that happened generally, Australia would be in specific danger. The Government regulates our companies and our corporations in the interests of the community, and I say that it should regulate unionism. Something should be done immediately in this direction. The Government should act quickly and strongly. We have had, in Russia, an illustration of the improper use of power. In that country the power of the Czar was broken by the magic power of the people’s will. Power then passed from theCzar to the proletariat; but there was no reduction in the violation of the liberty and freedom of the subject. Lenin and Trotskywere imperialistic social bodies whether covered with the jewels of the Romanoffs or wearing only tatters and rags. In Russia, under this regime, the working man has had everything that he owned taken from him. If he was so ill-advised as to buy a government war bond, he belonged to the bourgeoise, but if he owned a bicycle or a Ford motor car, or a little home, he was a plutocrat. We are coming to that position. An oligarchy to-day controls various unions, and is doing everything it can to destroy industry. I say to our honorable friends opposite, who belong to unions, that unless they take care, these forces, which are overwhelming certain sections of the working class in Australia, will destroy not only Australian industry, but also Australian trade unionism. They are forcing the members along the pathway towards a sovietist revolutionary state, with, as I said before, its nationalization of misery. The Commonwealth in general, and Tasmania in particular, is suffering from an organization which is a menacing imperium in imperio to Australian trade unionism. I believe there should he freedom to organize, freedom to deal collectively, security from arbitrary discharge, security against strikes, and free interchange of opinions, but when a compact is made, to be subject to the approval of the community, and that approval is given, it should be enforcible by the community. That may be a new basis of law and order, but it is a strong, solid, democratic basis, and one which I think we shall eventually be obliged to adopt. What is the function of government? It may be classified, I think, under three headings : national stability, national strength, and national progress. National stability surely means the elimination of misdirected statical forces. National strength is largely due to efficient administration. If that be so, the government that is charged with the administration of the law must see that it is carried out, and act swiftly and sternly when it finds conspirators working against the good of society. We have had some very striking examples of conspirators acting against the good of society in connexion with the many shipping strikes that have occurred during the last six years, and which have seriously affected Tasmania, and furnished satisfactory examples of the urgent necessity for governmental interference. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 6.23 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 July 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1925/19250701_senate_9_110/>.