9th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Eon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
League of Nations - Fifth Assembly, 1st September to 2nd October, 1924. - Report of the Australian Delegation.
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended - StatutoryRules 1925, Nos. 100, 106, 130, 135.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The right honorable the Prime Minister supplies the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When will theRoyal Commission that is inquiring into the effects of federation on the finances of Western Austrafia make a similar examination in respect to Tasmania?
– The right honorable the Prime Minister supplies the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
The intention of the Government is to consider the position of Tasmania in conjunction with the consideration of the report of the royal commission on the effect of federation upon the finances of Western Australia when that report has been received. If. however, after consideration of the evidence before this commission, it is found necessary, a separate investigation of Tasmania’s position will be undertaken.
Sutherland Dock Extension
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The honorable the Minister for Defence supplies the following answers to ‘the honorable senator’s questions : -
Assent to Amending Bill
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, wpon notice -
– An inspection of certain geological areas in the south-east of South Australia was recently made by Dr. Wade, but a report has not yet been received from him in regard thereto.
When the report comes to hand it will be made available for public information with the least avoidable delay.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 13th August, vide page 1353) :
Clause 6 -
For the purposes of this act there shall be a North Australia Commission, which shall be charged with the general administration of this part of this act. …
Upon which Senator Needham had moved, by way of amendment -
That the words “ North Australia Commission,” sub-clause 1, bo left-out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ Provisional Council consisting of three members elected by the people resident in the area proposed to be controlled, and three members nominated by the Governor-General in Council.”
– When progress was reported last evening I was replying to the objection raised by the Minister (Senator Pearce) that my amendment would limit the choice of membership of the proposed provisional council to people resident in the Northern Territory. I stated that, on the contrary, the choice could be from the whole of the people of Australia, and I emphasized that in any democratic community there should not be. a departure from the elective system. My amendment provides for a provisional council, partly elected and partly nominated. Administrative control will still be inthe hands of the Government of the day. The Minister also urged that the amendment would raise the old question of taxation without representation. I do not agree with him. I hope that the committee will give careful consideration to the proposal which I have submitted.
– I did not speak at any length on Senator Needham’s amendment last evening, because I had already dealt with his proposal when replying to the debate on the second reading, and did not wish to be guilty of what might be regarded as tedious repetition. I hope the honorable senator will not think I was discourteous to him. I cannot accept his amendment. In my opinion, it is quite unreasonable at this stage in the development of the Northern Territory. Let us look at the facts as they are. The budget which has just been presented indicates that the people of the Commonwealth, not the residents of the Northern Territory, are responsible for expenditure incurred in administering the Territory. I suppose there are about 2,000 adults there, as compared with nearly 4,000,000 adults in the whole of Australia. The budget figures show that the total amount of taxation contributed by the people of the Territory is about £25,000, but the deficit in connexion with Northern Territory administration is well over £200,000, which sum has to be made good by the people of Australia. As the bill contemplates a much more active scheme of development, necessarily the expenditure in the future will be very much larger than hitherto. Does Senator Needhampropose that the people of the Commonwealth shall find the money and allow a provisional council, to be selected by about 2,000 people in the Northern Territory, to control its expenditure ?
– That is not a correct statement of the amendment.
-Senator Needham really wants to start at what should be the second stage in Northern Territory development. At present there is not sufficient population there to carry on responsible government. We propose to attract people there, and will welcome the day when, as the result of this expected increase in population, we shall be able to hand over the government of the Territory to its residents. It is ridiculous to suggest that the time has arrived for selfgovernment in the Territory. To ensure satisfactory development we must get the right men to control its affairs. There is no certainty that we shall get the best men by a system of popular selection. Members of the proposed provisional council might be elected from all sorts of motives - not necessarily because they were the best men for the position. Senator Needham, I take it, would not contend that members of the River Murray Commission should be elected by the people living in the River Murray valley, and yet that commission is an exactly similar body to that proposed in this measure to ensure the development of the Northern Territory. I trust that Senator Needham willnot press his amendment.
– The reasons advanced by the Minister (Senator Pearce) against the amendment are unsound, to put it mildly. In the first place he does not properly state the amendment. He would have honorable senators believe that we on this side of the chamber are anxious that the whole of the members of the proposed commission shall be elected by people at present resident in the Northern Territory. That is not so, and the Minister knows it. He also instanced the River Murray Commission, as an argument against the amendment. Possibly the very best men have been appointed to that commission, but I remind the Minister that commissions just as important as the River Murray Commission have been appointed, not by Governments, but by the people of Australia. Members of the Convention that drafted the Constitution under which we legislate were elected by the people of Australia. The people of Australia were entrusted with the election of the men who, in their opinion, were best qualified to frame the Federal constitution.
– Does the honorable senator contend that the residents of Canberra should elect the Federal Capital Commission 1
– I have no doubt that the people there would be able to appoint a commission as competent as the present body. If the Minister were a resident of the Northern Territory, would he not consider it an insult to his intelligence to be told that he was not sufficiently educated to take part in the election of the commission ?
– The Minister does not say that the local residents are not sufficiently intelligent.
– In effect, he says that they are not competent at the present time, and should not be given an opportunity to elect members of the commission.
– If the honorable senator were the Minister in charge of this bill would he put such a provision in it?
– When the Labour party comes into its own again, and appoints members from its ranks to governmental positions, it will be time enough for me to say what I will do. Whatever tha Labour party does will certainly be in the best interests of the people. No solid arguments have been advanced against the amendment, except that the time is not ripe for it. I have heard that hackneyed phrase ever since I have been in parlia ment. It was used against the extension of the franchise to the manhood and womanhood of Australia. In my opinion the time is over-ripe for the people of the Northern Territory to be given a voice in the government of their own affairs.
– They are going to have one, too.
– If they can be trusted with the appointment of half the members of the advisory councils, they should be given a similar privilege in regard to the appointment of the commission. The Minister remarked that if three representatives were appointed by the residents they would have the spending of the moneys of Australia, but I point out that it would be impossible for them to out>vote the three government nominees, for the chairman, who would probably be a government representative, would have a casting vote.
– Then on tie honorable senator’s own showing the members contemplated by the amendment might as well not be elected.
– The Minister’s argument is very weak. First of all he says that they could carry on at their own sweet will, but, on second thoughts, he realizes that he is wrong. He now says that it would be no use electing them, because they would be out- voted. My desire is to give the territorians an opportunity to take part in the management of their own affairs. I believe that they would do everything possible to select the best men available to act in co-operation with the government nominees, for they are as much interested as any member of this Chamber in the welfare of the Territory. They have waited long and anxiously for something tangible to be done for the country and its people. Who would be more interested in railway and road construction, and in water conservation than the residents themselves ? Certainly that work would be entrusted to the commission of three, to be appointed by the Government, but, after all, those men would be inexperienced in regard to the needs of the country as compared with the local residents, whose mature judgment should be of great assistance. Senator Kingsmill, with his happy face and sunny smile, is very familiar with some of the distant parts of Western Australia, and he realizes that some, at least, of the residents in the outback portion of - that state know more of its needs than Ministers in charge of departments responsible for works carried on there. I have no doubt that he has found the advice tendered by the local residents veryhelpful at times. Australia professes to be a democratic community, but according to the Minister (Senator Pearce) there are some people in Australia who are differently constituted from those in the various states, and if they were allowed to take a hand in the government of the Northern Territory, they would be extravagant with public money. What the people of the states are most concerned about is the great waste that has occurred in the Northern Territory. The most important step to take in the direction of eliminating that waste is to establish at least a semi-democratic form of government there. With a commission consisting of an equal number of government nominees and members elected by the residents, and with a chairman having a casting vote, the interests of the Commonwealth and of the territorians themselves would be equally conserved.
.- If anything could have shaken my resolution to vote against the amendment it would have been the speech to which I have just listened. Unfortunately for the honorable senator, however, my determination is founded upon ground which is too solid to be shaken. Until the people of the Territory are in a position to make a more proportionate contribution to the revenue which has to be spent there than is either possible or probable in the immediate future, I must favour the form of government set out in the bill. I thank Senator Findley for his kind and touching references to myself. You, Mr. Chairman, know how much a speech like that brings home to one the everlasting truth of the lines written by a former poet-laureate -
Kind hearts are more’ than coronets,
And simple faith than Norman blood.
The honorable senator’s kind heart is evidenced by his particularly agreeable remarks to myself. His simple faith is indicated by his desire and, indeed, his anxiety, to hand over to a handful of people in a very vast territory, which we hope will one day become another state, a considerable measure of control of the finances which have to be spent there, but which are contributed by persons in other parts of Australia. I am sorry that I have to announce myself to be unshaken by the eloquence of the honorable senator. I shall vote for the clause as it stands.
– It is unfortunate that, no matter how strong the arguments are, that we advance against the proposals of the Government, tney appear to carry no weight with honorable senators opposite. Our words are as seed sown on stony ground. This is not because our views are feebly advanced, but solely because of pure cussedness on the part of the Government and their supporters. It is astonishing and somewhat startling to find that honorable senators opposite, who profess to be democrats, are unwilling to give the 4,000 Australians who reside in Northern Australia any voice whatever in the election of the council which will practically govern them. They will be able to exercise only a microscopic influence on this body, through the people who residein the north-east corner of Western Australia and in the western portion of Queensland, which is to be included in the proposed North Australian area. It cannot be denied that the people who live in Northern Australia know better than any one else how the money should be spent. I say that, with all due respect to the men in Melbourne, Sydney, and possibly in Adelaide, who will be appointed to this commission. The residents undoubtedly ought to have a vote in the election of this commission.
– Would the honorable senator use the same argument in connexion with the appointment of the Federal Capital Commission?
– I certainly consider that the residents of the Federal Capital Territory, who are obliged to pay taxes, and who will be much more heavily taxed in the future, should have a vote in the election of the commission. At any rate, they should have representation on it. Does any one imagine that the best possible commission has been appointed to control and develop the Federal Capital Territory?
– (Senator Newland). - I ask the honorable senator not ‘to discuss the Federal Capital Commission, but to confine his remarks to the clause and the amendment.
– I shall content myself, with observing, sir, that the residents in the Federal Capital Territory, Papua, the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, Lord Howe Island, and North Australia should undoubtedly be given a voice in the affairs of their respective countries. No one can deny that those who control the public purse control the destinies of a country. Seeing that the residents of Papua have been’ given a small say in the election of the local council, I can see no reason for refusing the 4,000 people in North Australia a say in the election of this proposed commission.
– Would the honorable senator be willing to give the aborigines a vote also ?
– They are not asking for it. The aborigines will undoubtedly be required to work in North Australia, and I am quite prepared to say that the aborigines, as well as other people who have to do the work of the country, should not be refused a vote if they desire it. The point at issue, however, is whether or not the 4,000 Australians concerned shall be given a measure of self-government. Senator Guthrie is opposed to that. I dare say that 84 per cent, of these people are natives of this country. Senator Guthrie has had some experience there, and, unhappily for himself, had impressed upon him the home truth that one cannot pass on land values taxation. He also discovered that he could not evade it. I am surprised that he is prepared to deny to these 4,000 people a voice in the government of their country.
– How does the honorable senator know that?
– I know it, because you have said so.
– I have said nothing of the kind.
– I- must ask honorable senators to address the Chair.
– It is high time that senators who repudiate the principle that Australians should have a voice in the government of their country should be publicly exposed. If Senator Guthrie is in favour of that principle, let him show it by voting for the amendment.
– If he were in the Territory at present he would like a vote.
– I was there .for years and never had a vote. .
– When the Territory was under the control of South Australia, the residents had a vote.
– It was only after a good deal of agitation that the residents of the Northern Territory were given representation in the House of Representatives. They should also have a representative in this Chamber. The Minister has advanced no good reason for rejecting the amendment. The right to exercise the franchise was gained by the people only after a long and bitter struggle. It is an unfortunate fact that even yet the possession of property is regarded as a necessary qualification for exercising the franchise in local governing affairs throughout Australia.
– Not in Queensland, for adult suffrage prevails there.
– In New South Wales property is still considered to be of more value than flesh and blood in the election of representatives to the local governing bodies. That is also true of the other states in the Commonwealth with, perhaps, the exception of Queensland. If the Queensland local governing bodies are elected by adult suffrage, it is to the credit of that state, but I should like to know whether even there the principle of one man one vote is operative.
– It is, and voting is compulsory.
– How long has that been the practice ?
– For four years, and it has resulted in all the Labour councillors being defeated.
– The principle was undoubtedly enacted by a Labour Government.
– I must ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair. I have already given him a Rood deal of latitude.
– If adult suffrage is the rule in the election of local governing bodies in Queensland, it is an additional reason why the Government should be willing to accept the amendment.
– I believe some honorable senators opposite will yet assert their individuality.
– I still believe that honorable senators opposite will recognize that those who are pioneering in the backblocks should have a voice in deciding the conditions under which they work and live. The sooner we give them the right to elect their own representatives, and grant them some form of local government, the better for the Northern Territory.
– Notwithstanding the levity introduced into the debate, which is at times helpful, a vital principle is involved in the amendment I have submitted, the purport of which I do not think the Minister (Senator Pearce) has fully grasped. His first contention was that if we gave these people the right to elect members to the provisional council, there would be a possibility of money being wasted. That is not the object of the amendment. Even if it were proposed to give the council control in the expenditure of money, it must be remembered that those who would be elected would be men whose character could not be questioned, and who had made it possible for the Territory to be occupied. The Minister has, in effect, cast a reflection upon the intelligence and ability of worthy settlers. As regards the spending capacity of the provisional council, the Minister did not put the case clearly before the committee. Any one who peruses the amendment will see that a majority of the members of the provisional council will he directly responsible to the government of the day. The proposal is that three shall be elected by the residents in the area controlled by the commission, and three nominated by the GovernorGeneral in Council. From, the financial point of view, there is a further safeguard, as the chairman will be a nominee of the Governor-General. It has also been stated that the actions of the elected representatives to the council, if this amendment were adopted, would possibly be influenced by a desire to be re-elected at some later date; but that could also be said against the members nominated by the Governor-General. This is too important a proposal to allow political bias or party feeling to intervene. It is our duty to improve the hill wherever possible, and this is one way in which that can be done. The Minister also stated that in perhaps the near future the area under discussion may be subdivided into one, two, or three states, vested with responsible government, and that under the pro visions of the bill the residents in the Territory will become acquainted with the system of responsible government. Many of the settlers in the Territory have been residents in other parts of the Commonwealth, and are already familiar with our present system, and if my amendment were adopted effect could more readily be given to the Minister’s suggestion. I might have gone further, and have suggested that all the members of the provisional council should be elected ; but, realizing the difficulty surrounding the problem with which we are endeavouring to grapple, I thought it better to commence with three elected members. If the Minister is so strongly opposed to this amendment of clause 6, why is he supporting clause 44, which deals with the advisory council, and which reads -
That provision embodies the principle I am endeavouring to introduce in clause 6. Possibly the minister will say that the advisory council will not have the direct control of the expenditure of money, but on its advice money will be spent. If the principle of a partly elected and partly nominated council is acceptable in one instance, why is it not in another? It has been suggested that when the Seat of Government. Administration Bill was before the Senate no attempt was made by honorable senators on this side of the chamber to give the residents of the Federal Territory an opportunity to elect one member of the commission. Even if such a suggestion were not then made, it is not now too late to make improvements. The council will not have the power to spend money without the authority of the Government. Elected representatives will not be chosen solely from residents in the Territory; persons resident in any portion of the Commonwealth may be elected. As the people should have the right to say who their representatives on the council shall be, I trust the amendment which has been so ably supported by honorable senators on this side of the chamber will be adopted.
– I support the amendment. After listening to the arguments adduced this morning, I am more than ever convinced that if the Government accepts the proposal submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) it will be doing a great deal in the interests of the residents of the Territory. The franchise is valued by the Australian people, and when we grant the franchise to only one section of the people, a reflection is cast upon the whole community. The people in the Northern Territory do not enjoy the franchise, and have not the liberties to-day that they had when the Territory was under the control of the South Australian Parliament. In those days the Northern Territory sent two representatives to the South Australian Parliament, who had full voting power, and whose advice was always of great value in the South Australian Parliament. These representatives who were conversant with the conditions in the Territory were able to enlighten members of the South Australian Parliament who had never been there. Under Commonwealth control men with no experience of the conditions that exist outside the cities have been sent to the Northern Territory to administer and develop the country. If the amendment were agreed to, and three representatives were elected by the residents of the Territory, they would prove an acquisition to the commission, because most surely they would be practical men, and would voice the interests of those who live there. Who should know better than the people who live there the conditions of the Territory and its requirements ? The Government would still retain control of the administrate on, whilst at th)e same time the people of the Territory would have some voice in the government of that part of Australia in which they live. An attempt has been made to draw an analogy between this proposed commission and the Federal Capital Commission.No such analogy exists. This proposed commission will be charged with the development of one-fifth of the total area of Australia, whilst the Federal Capital Commission has the administration of a mere 900 square miles, in which not a great deal in the way of development is necessary, and from which industries will be more or less excluded. Yet honorable senators have the temerity to compare Canberra, which will be a home for the Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament and its administrative offices, with hundreds of thousands of square miles of territory which can and will be developed if properly administered and managed ! I am pleased at the absence of a party spirit from this debate. This matter is above party politics. The Northern Territory is a most important part of Australia. Prior to federation, when practical men who understood the country were charged with its administration, a fair amount of development took place. A line of railway was constructed through portion of it, and a telegraph line was erected from. Adelaide to Port Darwin. Since the Commonwealth has had control, - very little in the way of development has taken place. I suggest that one of the reasons for that is that the Territory has not had a representative link between its people and those by whom it has been governed. Senator Guthrie referred to the giving of the vote to the aborigines. He and the Government propose, by this measure, to place the people of the Northern Territory on exactly the same plane in regard to the franchise as that which is occupied by the aborigines of Australia. They will be on the same plane as restricted aliens. Although they live in a portion of Australia, they have not at present a voice in the government of Australia. They number many thousands, yet they have’ no more voice in the government of this country than people who do not live here. I appeal to the Government to give serious consideration to the amendment, because it has been put forward in good faith. We on this side are anxious to develop the Northern Territory. I do not doubt the sincerity of the statement that the Government, also, is anxious to develop it. What we have to decide is the best way in which that can be brought about. A commission upon which there were three men elected by the people of the Territory would, in my opinion, be more successful than one that did not have upon it any such representative.
– I support the amendment because of the democratic principle that underlies it. We boast of the free and broad franchise that the people of Australia enjoy, yet it appears that the Government is not prepared to extend that franchise to the people of the Northern Territory. It has been truly said that those people are represented in the Federal Parliament. That representative, however, has not the right to vote. If v.e give them a voice in the government of their country, we shall only be according them a privilege that everybody should enjoy. When the Territory was controlled by South Australia it had in the South Australian Parliament two representatives, who enjoyed the same privileges as those that were enjoyed by members representing any other part of the state. If it is right to give the franchise to the people in other parts of Australia, why should it be withheld from those who reside in the Northern Territory ? The Government would not. lose control, as it would still have a majority of its representatives on the commission; but the people of the Territory would have the opportunity to express their wishes at meetings of the commission. Who should know better than the people of the Territory the best means for developing it? We should depart from the principle of appointing to these administrative positions men who have lived only in the cities of the Commonwealth. The Government may intend to> appoint men who live in the Territory, but it has not stated that that is its intenion. If it is, then our argument is fully answered. We cannot expect the government of the Territory to be in the best interests of the people, unless we appoint to these positions men who have some knowledge of the country. Is the Government afraid that if it appoints residents of the Territory it will disappoint some ambitious men who now live in our cities ; or does it believe that the people who live in the Territory would not govern it rightly? Why not provide in the bill that those who are appointed to the commission must have been residents of the Territory for at least three years ? It will not be possible to achieve success if men are appointed who do not understand the conditions with which they have to deal. I desire that the Northern Territory shall progress.
That will not be possible unless it is more closely peopled. A greater population would be the best asset we could have from the point of view of defence, and that can be obtained only by giving good living conditions to those who go there. Population will always go where there are good conditions. I urge the Government to give the people of the Territory the right to elect three members to this commission.
– I support the amendment. I have no doubt that the proposition of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) is a step in the right direction. It would be deplorable were we to deny to the people of the Northern Territory the right to a voice in the government of the country in which they live. It has been said that they have a representative in another place. That is quite true ; but it must not be forgotten that he has not the right to record a vote upon any matter that is brought forward. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that it would be wise to appoint to the commission men who are acquainted with the conditions that exist in the country that they will be called upon to govern. It would be absurd to appoint men who have never, seen the country, and who know nothing of its conditions. I hope that the committee will accept the view that people now resident in the Northern Territory are entitled to a vote in connexion with its administration. When the Territory wa3 under the control, of South Australia itwas represented by two members in the South Australian Parliament. If it was right then to give it parliamentary representation, it is right now to give it representation on this commission. We should do all we can to encourage the residents of the Territory to come forward and play some part in its government. I stand for the franchise.
– Why should they have an enlarged power in the government of this country?
– They would only have one vote.
– But the honorable senator has suggested that they should have two members in this Parliament.
– No. I said that they had two members in the South Australian Parliament.
– Why should 2,000 people living in the Territory be equal in voting strength to 20,000 people living in metropolitan areas?
– I may answer that question by asking why should people living in the metropolitan area control the Northern Territory, which they have never seen ?
– But we are spending a lot of money there.
– I hope, at all events, that the amendment will be carried, so that the people living in the Territory will have some voice in its administration.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - (Senator Needham’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 9 agreed to.
The Commissioners shall be appointed for a term not exceeding five years.
. -Five years is certainly not a lengthy’ period, but as the appointment of the commission will be an innovation, so far as the Territory is concerned, and as its members will have to make good,’ it might be advisable to fix a limit of three years. Re-appointment should depend upon the manner in which members discharge their duties. . The period of three years is fixed in connexion with many other Commonwealth and state appointments of. this nature. There is no doubt that if the members of the commission prove, their fitness, during that period, they will be re-appointed. If, on the other hand, they are appointed for a period of five years and prove to be unfit for their duties, it may be difficult to remove them. It is not advisable to make long appointments, especially for work of this nature. There is no more reason for a term of five years in this case than in the case of members of the other branch of the legislature. Members of another place are elected for a period of three years, ‘ and they are active during their term of service, in order to make good, so that the people will re-elect them. What is good enough for a representative chamber should be sufficient for a nominee commission. The choice would not be restricted if we made such an amendment. I believe it would be beneficial from every point of view. I move -
That the word “ five,” line 2, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ three.” .
[12.351. - I think that it will be difficult enough to obtain men for these positions even for a term of five years. Obviously, men who would be. worth their salt are now following some business avocation, for which they are well paid, and if we ask them to accept appointments for a period of five years, with no guarantee of re-appointment, many of them will not be prepared to sacrifice their present positions. By fixing a three years’ term, the only men we should induce to apply for the positions would be those who had nothing to sacrifice.
– We should not overlook the fact that members of another place have sacrificed a great deal so far as their business callings are concerned, and they are required to face the electors every three years. Surely the other branch of the legislature is at least of as much importance as the proposed commission. It seems to me that the shorter the period the greater would be the incentive to the members of the commission to make good. If they were appointed for five years they might be inclined to be lazy. The amendment is sound, and not in any way hostile.
Question - That the word proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Findley’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 (Suspension of commissioner of acting commissioner).
.- The Minister is given power under this clause to suspend a commissioner or acting commissioner for certain reasons specified. The clause goes on to say that within seven days after the suspension, if Parliament is then sitting, or, if the Parliament is not then sitting, within seven days after the next meeting of the Parliament, a statement of the grounds of suspension shall be laid before both Houses. In the case of the Minister suspending a commissioner and making a statement to Parliament, will the suspended commissioner have any means of defending himself ? Is there any provision in this clause or elsewhere in the bill for a suspended officer to present his case to Parliament? It would not be quite a fair thing for Parliament to decide such a matter on the exparte statement of the Minister.
– The reasons for which a Minister may suspend a commissioner, or an acting commissioner, are inability, ineffciency, or misbehaviour, or neglect or failure to carry out the provisions of the act or the regulations made pursuant to it.
– A similar provision is included in all measures which provide for like appointments. .
– That is so. If a commissioner or any acting commissioner is suspended for any other than these reasons, he has a remedy at law. He is also protected by reason of the fact that within 60 days after the report of such a suspension is made to Parliament an address may be presented praying for the restoration of the officer concerned. The whole matter would be thoroughly ventilated. In my experience it has never been difficult to get a member of parliament to state any grievance in Parliament. The full facts would undoubtedly be submitted to the members of both Houses, no matter how forlorn, desperate, or hopeless the case might be. ‘
– I know that every citizen has the right to appeal to this, the highest tribunal in the land, but I wish to know whether, when the Minister placed before Parliament, in accordance with this provision, a full statement of the grounds of suspension, hewould also present the case ofthe suspended officer.
– I cannot answer a hypothetical case; but I should imagine that any Minister who had reason to deal with the case of a suspended officer would give all the facts.
– So long as there will be an opportunity for a full discussion of the matter it will be all right.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 (Office of commissioner, how vacated).
– This clause provides, inter alia, that a commissioner or acting commissioner shall be deemed to have vacated his office if - (b)he is wilfully absent from duty for a period of fourteen consecutive clays, except ou leave granted by the Minister (which leave tha Minister is hereby authorized to grant), or becomes permanently incapable of performing bis duties.
I cannot see any necessity for the insertion of the word “ wilfully.”
– If an officer took it into his head to go to China or Japan, for example, without mentioning the matter to the Minister, he should surely be required to vacate his office.
– I still cannot see any reason for inserting the word “ wilfully.”
– It is necessary to use the word, for the reason that a man may be unexpectedly absent from his office through reasons over which he has no control. He may be travelling from Darwin to Wyndham, for instance, and be blown out to sea. The object of the provision is to deal with cases of wilful absence.
– The. word appears in other statutes, and I suppose, because the Government and the draftsmen say it is necessary, it must also appear here. Personally, I see no necessity for its insertion.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 to 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 -
The commission shall not, without the sanction of the Minister -
create any office carrying remuneration in excess of Five hundred pounds per annum;
appoint any person to any such office; or
increase the remuneration of any officer to an amount exceeding Five hundred pounds per annum.
– I suggest to the Minister that the amount of £500 mentioned in two places in this clause be increased to, say, £600. A salary of £500 a year is not large as salaries go in the Northern Territory, and it appears to me that we shall unnecessarily hamper the commission if we oblige it to submit for ministerial sanction every proposed appointment which carries a salary of more than £500 a year.
– It is a low salary for the Northern Territory.
– I should like to see the amount increased to £700, but I certainly think it ought to be £600.
– The object of this clause is to enable the Government to retain an oversight of the appointment of all the more important executive officers, by making such appointments subject to ministerial approval. The clause covers not only the appointment of officers, but also the creation of positions. If, however, the honorable senator thinks it desirable to move to increase the amount to £600 I shall not object.
– One cannot help remarking how readily the Minister accepts suggestions from honorable senators on his own side of the committee. I give place to no honorable senator in my desire to see the best men appointed to public positions, but I believe that we shall be more likely to attain that end by providing that the appointments shall be subject to ministerial approval. I consider that the clause should be left as it is. It is perfectly clear, and it gives the commission ample authority.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– As the Minister (Senator Pearce) has undoubtedly given more consideration to the measure than I have, I do not intend to press the amendment which I suggested earlier in the debate. We hope that only men of outstanding ability will be appointed to the commission, as the whole success of the scheme is dependent upon the calibre of those selected to undertake this important work. We should, however, within the limitations of the expenditure that Parliament sanctions, give them a comparatively free handto carry out their work in the way that they consider best. At present it is impossible to say what the developments will be, and there may be some reason for keeping a check over the commission in regard to the more important appointments that it may be necessary to make from time to time. We do not know what will be the effect of this system which the Government proposes to inaugurate under this bill, and it may be that this provision may hamper the operations of the commissioners. As they will be on the spot they should be the best judges of the class of officers required, particularly for ordinary routine work. I shall not press my suggestion, but will leave it to the Minister to decide.
– I take a different view of the clause from that submitted by Senator Greene. As the Government is taking the responsibility of appointing the members of the commission and of fixing their remuneration, it should also determine the salaries to be paid to the officers of the commission.
– Why not the whole work of the commission ?
– No. It has often been said that Parliament should not be made a. tribunal for fixing the salaries and wages of government employees, and that is a contention with which the Minister has agreed. I think the clause should be amended to read-
The commission shall not, without the sanction of the Minister -
create any office;
appoint any person to any such office; or
determine the remuneration of any officer.
Under such a provision ‘the commission could not create an office, appoint an officer or determine the remuneration of an officer without the sanction of the Minister.
– Does the honorable senator mean an office carrying a salary of more than £500?
– I am in favour of leaving out the amount altogether. My suggestion might meet with the approval of Senator Greene.
– It is quite the reverse of what I was suggesting.
-I do not think so. It is admitted that the members of the commission should be men of experience possessing sufficient ability to satisfactorily carry out the important duties which they are to perform, and if that is the case, they should have the assistance of a highlycompetent staff. The clause in its present form gives the commission too much power in the matter of remuneration. The amount of salary should be deleted so that the Government would have the power to determine the salary of all officers of the commission.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 - (1.) Subject to this act, the powers of the commission shall extend to the following matters in relation to the development of so much of the Territory as is situated north of the twentieth parallel of South Latitude (in this act referred to as “ the prescribed part of the Territory “) : -
– I move-
That after the word “ harbours,” paragraph (e), the word “mining” be inserted.
I have already referred to the division of control which I consider a weakness in this measure. The Minister (Senator Pearce) has met my objection, to a certain extent by pointing out that the Government Resident is to have only matters of routine under his direction. Possibly that may be desirable in the inaugural stages, but the control of mining operations should be taken from the Government Resident and placed under the commission. The Minister previously stated that certain services, such as police, education, mines, fisheries, protection of aborigines, and other minor ones, would not be dealt with by the commission. As it has frequently been stated that the possibilities of successful mineral developments in the Northern Territory are very promising, the control of mining should be under the commission and not under the Government
Resident. ‘ The discovery of a payable mineral deposit would lead to the employment of more labour than could be provided on quite a number of pastoral properties, and as the mining industry may assume considerable proportions I trust the Minister will agree to the amendment.
– This matter was given a very great deal of consideration. At first sight it might appear that mining matters are somewhat on a par with those relating to land, and should be placed under the control of a developmental commission. A little further consideration, however, will show that that is not so. The matters to be handed over to the commission are the maintenance and operation of railways; the construction and maintenance of roads; the erection of telegraph and telephone lines; water boring and conservation; and ports and harbors. All of those matters will involve the carrying out of definite works. The Government does not engage in mining operations; it is not responsible for the sinking of a shaft, the erection of poppet heads, or the installation of a battery. Those are the functions of private enterprise. The Government appoints mining wardens merely to administer the law. It may also subsidize a company to put down” a shaft. No developmental work in relation to mining is undertaken by the Government, and it is not considered advisable to saddle the commission with a lot of mining administration. The commission will have to provide roads, railways, and water supply for an area which is considered suitable for mining development. The purely administrative services should be left to the Government Resident. We do not want the attention of the commisson to be diverted from the actual work of development to the routine work of administration.
– I think that the amendment is worthy of consideration. The Minister has stated that the control of mining involves merely administrative work, and that it would divert unnecessarily the activities of the commission. In Papua, one of the officers is described as “ Director of Lands, Mines, and Agriculture.” I refer to Mr. Stanisforth Smith.
– In Papua, the duties are administrative, and not developmental.
– This commission will develop into an administrative body. There cannot be development without administration. The argument used by the Minister could be adduced also against the other matters that it is proposed to place under the control of the commission. The maintenance and operation of railways involve administration in addition to development.
-. - The railways will be run by the commission. That will not apply to mining operations.
– The commission may be called upon to add to the length of railway communication in the Territory. It would be idle for the Minister to contend that the existing railway will be the only one in the Territory. How can that country be developed if new railways, or branches from the existing line, are not constructed.- New roads will have to be provided, and that work will necessitate administration. All the other duties of the commission also will involve administration. Having listened the other day to you, Mr. Chairman, stating the possibilities of mining, ohe wonders why that matter has been excluded from the powers of the commission. I cannot see how it would in any way hamper the commisson or divert its attention from more necessary work. I think that the amendment is a good one, and should be agreed to.
.- The Minister and I look at this matter from different angles. He regards it from the bureaucratic, routine point of view, whilst I have in mind the wider aspect of development. I am thinking of the question that confronted the Queensland Government when the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company sought to construct a feeder railway from Many Peaks to the main line, and arrangements were entered into for the carriage of ore at a given rate. I am thinking also of concessions that have been made to people who initiated big mining ventures. These are important questions with which the commission should be called upon to deal.
– The control of railways will give the commission that power.
– There will be concessions in other directions. I still think that the exclusion of mining from the powers of the commission is a weakness, and that the bill would be improved if it were included. I should like the Minister to accept the amendment.
– I move -
That the following words be inserted after the word “ Service,” sub-clause (5) - “ the North Australia Public Service and the Central Australia Public Service.”
The clause provides that the commission must utilize the services of the members of the Public Service in the Northern Territory. At present the administration of the land laws is carried out by the police, and as the commission will have control of the land, it is necessary that it should, wherever possible, utilize these officers instead of appointing other officials to deal with land matters.
– Will this provision have the effect of preventing any officer of the Commonwealth Public Service from applying for any position under the commission ?
– No. The commission may want work carried out at a place at which it has not an officer. This will enable it to utilize the services of any officer of the Commonwealth, Public Service who happens to be stationed at that place; such, for instance, as a telegraph linesman.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses18 and 19 agreed to.
Amendment (by SenatorPearce) agreed to -
That after “ 1910 “ the following words be inserted, “ or with any regulation made under any such ordinance.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 21 (Preliminary investigation of proposed railway route).
– I realize the hopelessness of attempting to amend any clause in this measure, but I desire to draw attention to the delay that will occur in the development of the Territory under the provisions of this clause. Here are some of those provisions -
This roundabout method of doing business has been in existence for a number of years in connexion with Northern Territory administration, and has been responsible for much of the stagnation which’ we all deplore. We are now launching out upon a new scheme. We are supposed to be turning over a new leaf, and yet we propose to “repeat the mistakes of the past by placing upon the new leaf the same marks that blotted the leaf which we are supposed to be turning over.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the commission should have authority to make trial surveys ?
– Assuming that Parliament had authorized the expenditure, I would like to give the commission full power to carry out surveys and get on with the work.
– That would mean a separate railway department with a staff of engineers, draftsmen, and other officials.
– We are not handling this matter in the proper way. Why should not the commission be given full authority to do what it thinks is best for the development of the Territory ?
– There are strong financial reasons against that course.
– The Government, so we are told, is “ wallowing “ in cash. It does not know what to do with its surpluses. According to the budget statement, it is giving doles to every section of the community. I am quite certain that the commission will very soon get together a large and costly staff. If we are to have development on satisfactory lines in the Northern Territory we should not allow financial considerations to weigh with us. If, in the matter of railway construction, the commission were given authority to utilize money voted by Parliament, it should be in a position to have trial surveys made, and, if satisfied as to the route, acting of course on the advice of its expert officers, it should have authority to go on with the work without delay. With all due respect to the present Railways Commissioner, I think the commission should be autonomous in regard to railway proposals for the Northern Territory. We may anticipate that it will have the confidence of Parliament, and that its members will be paid salaries commensurate with the importance of their duties. Why, then, should not it be entrusted with full responsibility? Senator Thompson, I am sure, would not approve of all this circumlocution in his business undertakings.
.- I listened with surprise to the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham). If there is one thing for which the National party has been condemned by the Labour party during the last few years it has been this delegation of authority to boards and commissions. On every available opportunity members of the Labour party have challenged this Government and its supporters with handing over to boards and commissions functions which, they contend, properly belong to Parliament. Now the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this chamber suggests that the commission to be appointed to administer the Northern Territory should have full authority to build railways without reference to Parliament.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable senator gave me. the impression that that was in his mind. When I asked him, by interjection, if he were prepared to give the commission the right to carry out surveys, he said he was, and then added that the commission should have authority to “ get on with the work “ without reference to the Minister or Parliament. If to “get on with the work” doesnot mean authority to build railways, then I. am afraid I do not understand the King’s English:
– The honorable senator forgets that I qualified the statement by saying that the commission should have the right to go on with the work after Parliament had voted the money.
– Under our Railways Act, Parliament must approve of a proposed route before money is voted.
– And properly so, too. I am not prepared to hand over to a commission rights which Parliament alone should exercise with regard to the construction of railways. The suggestion of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, if adopted, would create a dangerous precedent. I am really surprised that Senator Needham, who with other members of his party has criticized the Government for having vested certain authority in boards and commissions, should now come along with what is certainly the most extravagant suggestion I have ever heard made in this chamber. I am wondering if the agreement recently arrived at between the Shipping Board and a certain industrial organization has converted the honorable senator to his new view-point. I do not know whether or not he speaks for the whole of his party, but his suggestion represents a remarkable change of front.
– In addition to the objections which Senator Foll has raised to Senator Needham’s suggestion, there is this further objection. If the commission is to have authority to order the trial survey of a proposed new railwa route, and also to construct the line, it will need an extensive staff of engineers, surveyors, draftsmen, and other officials; It may be a considerable time before it is in a position to construct a railway line, yet if Senator Needham’s proposal is adopted it will be necessary to keep an expensive staff together. We say that, in the interests of economy and efficiency, the work should be done by the existing staff of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner.
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) [2.431. - I wish to disabuse Senator Foil’s mind of the impression that, in this matter, I am speaking for honororable senators on this side of the chamber. This is not a party measure. I am voicing my personal opinion as a member of the committee. I do not think that Senator Foll would intentionally misrepresent me, but I should like to refresh his memory and make my position clear. I said that the provisional council should be endowed with a certain sum of money by this Parliament - I think I mentioned £10,000,000 or £15,000,000- and that it should have authority to go on with developmental works that it considered to be necessary.
– Does the honorable senator think that Parliament should have no voice in the determination of the proposed railway route ?
– The commission will have a more intimate knowledge of the Northern Territory requirements than Senator Foll or any other member of this chamber. And since Parliament will vote the money for any proposed works, it follows that Parliament will still have authority over expenditure. The objection raised by the Minister (Senator Pearce) that my proposal, if adopted, would mean the employment of an extensive staff, does not carry much weight with me. I am satisfied that, in a very short time, the commission will gather around itself an expensive staff of officials. Therefore authority to carry out surveys and road construction work will not necessarily mean added administrative expenditure. The commission will have a certain work to do. Why not give it carte blanche after endowing it with a certain sum of money for the development of the Territory? Control by Parliament can never be abrogated. My proposal would do away with a great deal of unnecessary circumlocution.
– The clause provides for a roundabout method of dealing with railway construction. First of all, the commission may report to the Minister that, in its opinion, the construction of a certain railway is desirable.
– But it has no information as to the cost, and it proceeds to find out.
– A commission specially appointed for the particular purpose would surely go into matters of detail before making a recommendation to the Minister for the construction of a railway. On receipt of the report of the commission that the construction of a certain railway is desirable the Minister, under the bill, must forward that report to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. He, in turn, makes investigations, and reports to the Minister, who must then forward to the North Australian Commission the report so received. This certainly does not appear to be a businesslike method. It will entail a lot of unnecessary expense.
– It will save much expense.
– I very much doubt it. The railways of the Commonwealth are not authorized in this way.
– Exactly the same method is pursued.
– Not at all. The construction of railways is not entrusted to commissions. In the Victorian State Parliament there is a Railways Standing Committee, which takes evidence, and from time to time makes recommendations; but it does not follow that Parliament approves of them.
– Who draws the plans and takes the levels?
– Of course, work of that nature is not entrusted to a committee; but it must be remembered that the proposed commission will be appointed because of the fitness of its members for the duties allotted to them. They arp to be specially qualified to deal with railway and other works.
– I am astonished at the statements by Senator Needham. Last session, both
Senators Needham and Findley complained of the powers to be given to boards and commissions. Senator Needham deprecated the appointment of so many commissions, which, he said, took from Parliament powers which it alone should exercise. It would be most extravagant to require the commission to have a special staff of surveyors to report on railway and other works, for there would not be sufficient works in progress in the Northern Territory to keep them fully occupied. The Railways Standing Committee of the Victorian Parliament occupies a similar position to that of the Federal Public Works Committee. When a question is referred to the committee for report, plans have already been prepared, and Parliament is guided by the recommendations of the committee.
– It is true that I have opposed the appointment of many commissions, and I shall probably do so again. I objected to the appointment of this particular body; but I hope that I am sufficiently reasonable to realize that I must bow to the inevitable. Sub-clause 5 of clause 21 states -
For the purpose of carrying .out his. duties under this section, the Commissioner shall have and may exercise any of the powers conferred on him by Part V. of the Commonwealth Railways Act 1917, in relation to the construction of new railways.
I find, on turning to Part V. of the Commonwealth Railways Act 1917, that section 58, sub-section 1, reads -
Thu Commissioner shall, when so directed by tlie Minister, or as may be required for the purpose of supplying information to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, have investigations, inspections, and preliminary surveys, made of any proposed mil way route.
That shows the contradictory nature of this bill, for under a later clause a proposal, to construct a railway in North Australia, no matter what the cost may be. will not be referred to the Public Works Committee.
– The commission takes the place of the committee, and it will report to Parliament.
– The commission does not take the place of the committee at all. I desire it to be given a chance to develop North Australia; but I am afraid that the bill will seriously hamper its operations.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 22 (Procedure for authorization of construction of railways).
– I desire to secure the insertion of a clause providing that all railways constructed in the Northern Territory shall be on the standard gauge of 4. ft Si inches. Australia already has three railway gauges. Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia have the 3-ft. 6-in. system in operation, New South Wales the 4-ft. 8J-in., and Victoria and South Australia the 5-ft..3-in. We shall make a great mistake if we perpetuate the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge in the Northern Territory. When the population there increases and the western portion of Queensland becomes more thickly settled, great difficulties will occur in handling traffic between Darwin by way of the Gulf and down to Bourke in New South Wales if the railway gauge in the Territory is 3 ft. 6 in. We have an opportunity now to lay down the future policy. In view of the opinions of some honorable senators on this subject I am astonished that they agreed to construct the Kyogle to South Brisbane line on the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge.
– Does the honorable senator advocate provision for double lines and wide tunnels in Northern Territory railway work?
– I do; although I suppose that years will pass before many tunnels will be required there. I trust that we shall not repeat in the Territory the serious blunder that is being made at present in the Kyogle to South Brisbane line, of providing only single tunnels. While it is quite true that all proposals for railway construction in the Territory will be submitted to Parliament, they will doubtless come before us with a recommendation from the commission, and honorable members may be reluctant to depart from that recommendation, feeling that the commission is better informed on the subject than they are. I urge honorable senators to look at this matter in a broad way. I suppose that a good many Western Australians, and probably South Australians also, were annoyed that the east-west line was constructed on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, but that is now the recognized standard gauge throughout the world. All the railways of the United States of America, Great Britain, France, and, I believe, Germany and other parts of Europe, are of this gauge. I cannot understand why South Australia and Victoria persist in building railways of the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge when they know that ultimately they must be converted to the standard gauge. If we at once adopt the standard gauge in the Northern Territory the locomotives and rolling-stock used on the New South Wales railway system and on the transcontinental line will be available for use there, whereas if we adopt the 3-f t. 6-in. gauge this rollingstock will not be available. I move -
That after the word “ railway,” sub- clause (a), the following words be inserted : - “of the standard. gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in.”
It is absolutely ridiculous that we should do anything to add to Australia’s break of gauge difficulties, but apparently the Government intends to permit additional 3-ft. 6-in. railways to be built. We have commenced to unify our gauges - I look upon the building of the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway as the first move in that direction - and we should certainly continue the policy in the Northern Territory.
– I am sure the honorable senator has not contemplated the consequences of his amendment. Both the railway lines already constructed in the Northern Territory are of the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. If the honorable senator’s amendment were accepted and the commission desired later to link up these two lines it would be obliged to use the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge. I must say that that is a brilliant proposition. I could understand the honorable senator introducing a motion for the conversion of the existing lines to the 4-ft. 8½-in gauge, but until that is done it would be foolish for us to limit all future constructions to that gauge. Another objection to the proposal is that it might seriously hinder development. The commission may consider the building of light lines of even a 2-ft. 6-in. gauge highly desirable to develop particular districts, but the adoption of this amendment would render that course impossible. The proposal is so ridiculous that I do not think I need discuss it further.
– While I am not prepared to go as far as Senator J. Grant, I feel that it might be desirable for us to provide that the commission shall state in its report the gauge of any railway that it recommends.
– That would be done as a matter of course.
– I believe in the unification of our railways on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge; but I confess that there is something in the point made by the Minister that the commission may find it advisable to construct lines of a narrower gauge than even 3 ft. 6 in.
– The Minister completelyfails to realize that the work of railway construction in the Northern Territory so far is practically negligible. The scraps of line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta and from Darwin to Newcastle Waters are inconsequential details compared with the long stretches of railway that must necessarily be built in the Territory in the years tocome. No one knows that better than the Minister himself. Honorable senators generally should realize that we are dealing with an area of more than 500,000 square miles. I do not know whether it is intended to construct a line from the East- West railway towards Newcastle Waters, but Iunderstand that certain matters in relation to the route have beenunder consideration. If this is so, I ask the Minister if it is the intention to construct such a line on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge.
The PEESIDENT (Senator the Hon. T. Givens). - I have to inform the Senate that I have received a certificate of the choice of Charles William Grant to fill the casual vacancy in the representation of Tasmania in the Senate caused by the resignation of Senator G. M. Foster. The certificate will be laid on the table and read by the Acting Clerk.
Certificate read by the Acting Clerk.
Senator C. W. Grant made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I ask the leader of the Government in the Senate whether he can say what action the Government proposes to take in connexion willi the requests made by persons interested in the cotton-growing industry ?
. - At present the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the governments of the states in which cotton is grown, is guaranteeing a certain price, which is determined according to the grade of cotton. Representations have been made to tbe Commonwealth Government by those interested in the industry that, instead of a guaranteed price, the Government should introduce the bounty system. It has been represented that by doing so a certain amount of government control, which is necessary under the present system, could be obviated with advantage to the industry. The Government has given these representations consideration, and is sympathetically disposed towards placing the cotton industry under the bounty system, as has been done with certain other industries.
– Will it include cotton manufacturers f
– No; it will apply only to cotton-growers. Obviously, before the bounty system can be put into operation the amount of the bounty and the conditions under which it should be paid have to be determined, and under existing legislation, an investigation must be conducted by the Tariff Board. At present the Tariff Board is working overtime conducting necessary investigations into tariff matters in relation to proposals shortly to be submitted by the Government to Parliament,” and it is not possible or advisable to interrupt those investigations. It will therefore be some time before the Tariff Board can make necessary inquiries into the payment of a bounty on the production of cotton. The Government, however, recognizing that the growers require some assurance as to what their position will be, and that the planting season is arriving, has already announced, through the Prime
Minister (Mr. Bruce) that it intends to continue a guaranteed price for another year. Correspondence is now being opened up with the states concerned as to the amount of a guaranteed price, and the conditions under which it should be paid. I have no doubt that a satisfactory agreement will be arrived at with the State Governments concerned, and that the growers will be able to proceed with their planting with the assurance that a guaranteed price will be paid for the cotton produced in the forthcoming season.
– Will it apply only to annual and not to ratoon cotton?
– That is one phase of the question which will have to be inquired into.
– I trust the Government will keep an open mind on that point.
– We have an open mind. Knowing as I do the representations that have been made by the growers, I am sure the proposals we’ are putting forward will be accepted as satisfactory. A definite announcement, however, cannot be made until the states have notified their agreement. As soon as an agreement has been reached the exact terms of the guaranteed price will be made known, and this matter of the bounty will then become the subject of inquiry. Ab honorable senators are aware, export bounties are controlled by the Department of Markets and Migration, and, therefore, the administration and work in relation to the necessary inquiries will become thu duty of my colleague, the Minister for Markets and Migration (Senator Wilson). Hitherto the matter has been dealt with by the Department of Home and Territories, because that department controls the Northern Territory, which is the only Commonwealth territory interested in cotton production. I can give an assurance that the Government is in sympathy with the payment of a bounty, and will have the necessary investigations made at the earliest possible moment. In the meantime it is proposed to continue the guaranteed price under certain terms and conditions, which terms and conditions have been communicated to the states interested, and concerning which I expect shortly to be able to make an announcement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 August 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1925/19250814_senate_9_111/>.