10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Force Act and . Defence Act - Regula tions amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No. 1.
Federal Capital - Report of the Federal Capital Commission to the Minister for Home and Territories for the quarter ended 31st December, 1925.
Land Tax Assessment Act - List of Applications for relief from taxation, financial year, 1924-25.
Superannuation Act - Third Report of the Superannuation Fund Management Board, for year ended 30th June, 1925.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Sir Victor Wilson) read a first time.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 21st January, vide page -254):
Department of Markets and Migration-.
Proposed vote, £110,866.
– When the committee reported progress yesterday afternoon I had asked a few questions about the Institute . of Science and Industry. The Honorary Minister (Senator Crawford) gave me certain information, but I feel sure that the Minister for Markets and Migration, the Hon. Sir Reginald Victor Wilson-
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– I am very pleased to be able to use the title, and congratulate the honorable senator on his acquisition of it.
– The honorable senator should also congratulate the country.
– Yes, I congratulate the country on what led up to the granting of it. I want to find out whether the Minister can see any way out of the apparently inextricable tangle into which this very troublesome subdepartment of his has got. I want to know what the Governmentintends to do, so far as the Minister can take the Senate into his confidence at the present juncture, and what prospect there is of placing this proposition on a practicable, workable basis. I do not propose to recapitulate all I have said in regard to the institute, because I have said many things, none of which I regret, about it; but I have always recognized that there may, perhaps, be still a ray of hope - that, at last, taking example by what has occurred in other countries, we may be able to put this very’ necessary part of our governmental activities on a sound basis. I know that the Minister is deeply interested in it. I know also that it is causing him a lot of worry, and that no one will be more pleased than himself if he can at last arrive at a solution of the many problems which have vexed, not only himself, but also the public of Australia, in connexion with this institute: I should like to know if he has any information to give to the Senate?
[11.9]. - Senator Kingsmill was quite . correct in saying that the Institute of Science and Industry has caused me some worry and anxiety. For some time the Government, realizing the great importance that science must play in the development of Australia, has had on foot various inquiries into the operations of the institute. Incidentally, I may say that I have received a great deal of valuable assistance and many useful suggestions from Senator Kingsmill. A special sub-committee of Cabinet has been appointed to see whether or not a good workable basis can be arrived at. We have been fortunate in having the services of Sir Frank Heath, who has been travelling throughout Australia investigating very carefully, for the guidance of Cabinet, the problems confronting various States. His preliminary report came to hand a few days ago, and Ministers are now awaiting his full report covering the whole of the Commonwealth. But the Government does not intend to delay action until that is received. It is already taking steps to reconstruct the institute, and place it on, as Senator Kingsmill suggests, a proper workable basis. In the course of a few weeks Sir George Knibbs will complete his term of appointment as director of the institute. I am sure that every one appreciates the work he has done; but the Government is anxious to enlarge tha scope of the operations of the institute. I trust that honorable senators will remain patient a little while longer. In the course of a few days 1 hope to be in a position to submit to the Senate an outline of a workable basis for the institute, which Ministers believe will prove of advantage to the country.
– I think the Government ought to be censured for its extravagance on several of the items of expenditure covered by this vote. For instance, I notice that the Institute of Science and Industry has been very lavish in its expenditure in connexion with the hop industry. It has spent £1 on it. I hope that that will not occur again. ‘ I trust that the institute will be more careful, and that it will not indulge in lavish expenditure of this description.
There are many industries in Australia into which the institute could make further research. No one who has watched the operations of the institute has been very satisfied with the amount of work hitherto accomplished. As an honorable senator suggested yesterday, it might very well have proceeded with investigations into the shale oil and fishing industries. Australia imports millions of gallons of petrol every year, although we have in this country potential supplies of oil that might supply the whole of our requirements if proper methods of utilizing thom were ascertained. Better work could be done in that direction than by wasting our efforts in straining to give a kind of fictitious encouragement to industries already established. We have a Tariff Board at work, but the only thing that it can prescribe is continuously higher and higher duties. On the other hand, if we applied a little more scientific research to many of the problems associated with our primary potentialities we should make far greater progress. With Senator Kingsmill, I hope that the institute will be given a. little more impetus in the direction of making further researches into the problems confronting us. I was pleased to hear what the Minister (Senator Sir Victor Wilson) had to say in that connexion. So far I do not think we have obtained value for the money spent. At any rate, I hope that the institute will not continue spending such exorbitant amounts as it spent last year on the hop industry.
Senator Sir VICTOR WILSON (South Australia - Minister for Markets and Migration) [11.13]. - I remind Senator Ogden that, according to their own statements, the difficulties of the hop-growers of Tasmania are not capable of being handled by the Institute of Science and Industry. Their chief difficulty is to market their produce. I have been told by deputation after deputation that Tasmania can grow hops equal to any in the world, and that they are doing it. Therefore, there is no need for us to provide any sum of money for the Institute of Science and Industry to investigate the hop industry. There are, however, certain features in connexion with the industry in which the Department of Markets and Migration is playing a very important part. Quite recently it divided £22,000 among the hop-growers of Tasmania, and it has made an advance of about £20,000 on Tasmanian hops now in England. I can assure Senator Ogden that my department is as anxious as he is that the very best should be done for the producers of his State.
– New Zealand hops are now being imported into Tasmania.
– More shame to the people of Tasmania, seeing that they grow hops themselves. But that is a matter with which the Senate cannot deal. If Tasmanians are prepared to import New Zealand hops and pay a duty on them it is their own concern, but I very much regret it.
I remind honorable senators that the shale oil bounty is still available.
– But it is not sufficient.
– The bounty can only be paid after an exhaustive inquiry, and a favourable recommendation, by the Tariff Board. If the bounty is not large enough I suggest to the honorable senator that he should ask his friends to submit a case for reconsideration.
– The Institute of Science and Industry has been making investigations in different directions for a long time, with a view to helping established industries and assisting in the launching of new industries. If there is one commerical activity that should be encouraged by the Government and the Parliament it is the newsprint industry. The institute has been making inquiries into the possibility of successfully launching this industry, and it has been demonstrated beyond doubt that newsprint can be manufactured here, from Australian material, equal to any that can be produced in any other part of the world. All doubts on that point were removed by those associated with the Amalgamated Zinc Company, which, having secured options over big timber areas in Tasmania, had the wood tested abroad by experts, and proved that the newsprint could be commercially produced in Australia. The institute, in a measure, having helped those associated with the proposal, and the money of the shareholders having been expended in that direction, one would have thought that the Commonwealth Government would give some substantial measure of assistance to an industry which, according to the prospectus, and according to those who were closely associated with the proposal, would give employment to 5,000 persons. The Government, however, merely offered a bounty, which was not worthy of the name of a bounty, and there was also a binding, stipulation that the dividends in connexion with the industry should not exceed 10 per cent. Are such conditions imposed in connexion with the establishment of any other industries in this country?
– Is the honorable senator supporting capitalism ?
– I am supporting a proposition that would have meant much to Australia. I think that there is much behind the statement made prior to the last election that the price the Government paid to the press of Australia for its support was that there would be no newsprint industry established here.
– The honorable senator is evidently losing sight of the fact that the 10 per cent, condition contained a proviso that if the profit was greater than 10 per cent, the bounty would cease.
– Such’ conditions are not laid down in connexion with the establishment of any other industry.
– Can the honorable senator mention a similar case with which a comparison can be made?
– No similar industry exists, and therefore an exact comparison is impossible. Obviously every encouragement should have been given to this industry by the Government.
– We gave it-
– Nothing of the kind. What did the newspaper proprietors do? They appeared before the Tariff’ Board, and the general manager of theMelbourne Argus, a consistent newspaperso far as fiscalism is concerned, spoke on. behalf of the newspaper proprietors - freetrade, protection and revenue tariff advocates - and declared that they were opposed to the imposition of a duty on newsprint.
– Does the honorable senator know that the Labour . press took the same view ?
– I am not concerned about that matter.
– I cannot imagine the Melbourne Age supporting that view.
– The Age supported the. Government, because it did not want the newsprint industry established, in Australia. Although it professes to be a’ protectionist newspaper, it desires to. get its own newsprint in the cheapest possible way. What is to be said of a Government or of newspaper proprietors who profess to believe that high protection means prosperity to the Commonwealth, but who, because they want cheap paper,, oppose the establishment of an industry ‘ that would prove one of the most important in this country? The request of the newspaper proprietors was, apparently, acceded to. The paper used in wrapping parcels - every little bag in which children buy lollies - if not made in Australia, carries a duty of 40 per cent. And so with practically all paper other than newsprint. But, according to this so-called protectionist Government, a duty on newsprint would be unwarranted. What is the use of fooling with the people’s money, and asking the Institute of Science and Industry to make inquiries into the possibility of establishing new industries when the Government is indisposed to give assistance where it is deserved? The statementsI have made should be seriously considered;, and no opportunity should be lost for the establishment of the newsprint industry. I hope that the Tasmanian senators will speak to-day. Their voices were still last year when they should have vigorously denounced the Government for the abandonment of this industry. When they should have been persistent they remained practically silent.
– Did they not receive an overwhelming majority at the recent elections ?
– It was not accorded them because the people of Tasmania favoured the abandonment of the newsprint industry-. From one end of the country to the other they were very anxious to see it established. It might have saved us from the spectacle of Tasmania’s parliamentary representatives importuning the Government for financial assistance for that State.
– Did not the Government make an offer ?
– It was not a protectionist offer. When the proposal was seriously discussed there was a duty of £3 a ton on newsprint from Canada. A reciprocal trade arrangement was entered into between the Commonwealth and Canada, and that duty disappeared so far as Canadian’ paper was concerned. Those interested in the industry were, therefore, placed in a worse position in Tasmania when they received the Government’s offer.
– What did they fall out about?
– Because no proposition, especially one like the newsprint industry, could succeed with a bounty such as that offered by the Government, and under the conditions laid down in regard to profits.
– But the Labour newspapers supported the duty.
– That may. or may not be the case. I cannot speak for all the newspapers iri Australia. I was returned as a Labour man pledged to support the platform of the Labour party.
– How does the honorable senator explain the fact that his leader in this chamber is an out-and-out freetrader ?
– Senator Gardiner is entitled to speak for himself. Having drawn attention to this matter, I hope that honorable senators from Tas mania will have something to say, not in praise, but in condemnation, of the Government for its attitude with reference to this proposal.
– I do not know that I can accept Senator Findley’s invitation to condemn the Government for what he regards as ica delinquencies in connexion with this proposal to establish the newsprint industry in Australia. I am afraid the honorable senator is ignorant of the facts when he says that the Tasmanian representatives in this Parliament have been silent on the subject, but I agree with his remarks concerning the attitude of the . united press of Australia towards the proposal. It was not calculated to advance the best interests of Australia, though it may have been in the interests of the newspaper proprietors individually. I cannot understand why newspaper proprietors claiming to be protectionists regarded the establishment of the newsprint industry in Australia merely as a commercial proposition affecting their individual businesses. I feel very warmly on the subject. Fortunately, the whole of the press in Australia did not oppose the scheme. Certain newspapers did all they could to ensure the establishment of the industry.
– Is the honorable senator satisfied with the attitude of the Government?
– I am not in a position to say all that I would like to, because the report of the Tariff Board has not yet been tabled. In all fairness to the Government, we should wait until we have an opportunity to study that report which, I understand, will be before us within the next few .days. When that document is available to me, I shall take full advantage of the opportunity to say what is in my mind. ‘ I am confident that we are going to have the industry established in Australia.
– Not as the result of any action that may be taken by this Government.
– The indications are . that the necessary capital will be raised in the Mother Country. I am rather pleased at this turn of events because investors in Great Britain will not be under the influence of the united press of Australia. This is plain speaking. Senator Findley knows that the Prime
Minister made a definite proposition, based, I presume, upon a report furnished to him by the Tariff Board. The Prime Minister was informed by the company concerned that the proposal was not’ sufficiently attractive, and that further evidence would be tendered in justification of the request for an increased bounty and’ a deferred duty. Mr. Bruce, I understand, stated that if this evidence were forthcoming the additional encouragement necessary to ensure the establishment of the industry would be given. These additional particulars were not furnished. One cannot say too much at this stage pending the report of the Tariff Board. I am hopeful, and, in fact, I urge the Government to see, that the details of the proposal showing the full extent to which the Government was prepared to encourage investors to establish the industry in Australia, are supplied to the High Commissioner in London , so that they may be studied by prospective investors in the Mother Country.
– The gentleman principally associated with the first proposition will still be interested in the venture.
– The gentleman referred to had an option for the purchase of the Van Diemen Land Company’s concession, and the Amalgamated Zinc Company had options over certain other portions in that area. I feel confident that if full information as to what is offered by the Government is made available in Great Britain the necessary capital will be raised.
– Have we not the money in Australia ?
– Yes; but the honorable senator knows that the press in this country exercises very great influence, and it has damned the scheme.
– The honorable senator is now backing up Senator Findley.
– On this aspect of the proposal I am in accord with that honorable senator.
– What is the attitude of the Tasmanian press towards the enterprise ?
– With the exception of one newspaper, in the north-west, the Tasmanian press opposed it. In fairness to the Government we should withhold any criticism until the report of the Tariff Board has been tabled. Senator Findley had something to say concerning the proposed limitation of .profits. The honorable senator is a member of & party- which is continually urging that some restriction should be placed upon capitalistic enterprise so’ far as profits are concerned, but when he thinks he has an opportunity to embarrass the Ministry he entirely alters his views. The company that was interested in the scheme agreed to a limitation of profits provided it could get the necessary encouragement to establish the industry. Apparently the honorable senator thinks that it is the duty of every honorable senator to criticize the Government.
– The honorable sena- tor wrote to me in regard to the proposition. He was very warm on it then, but apparently has cooled off, and now supports the Government.
– I do not know to what the honorable senator refers.
– The honorable senator sent me a letter with his compliments.
– If the occasion arises I shall send him another, because I want the co-operation of all honorable senators in this matter. I am just as enthusiastic, and will work just as hard for the establishment of this industry as ever I have done. I hope that the Government will place it in the forefront of its legislative programme.
– It ought to- havebeen in the Governor-General’s Speech.
– I would have been pleased to ‘see it there because the industry is of the greatest importance to- the Commonwealth. It is highly essential that Australia should be se -contained so far as the production of newsprint is concerned. At present, fortunately, we are getting newsprint cheaply, but not many years ago we had to pay a very high price for it. I believe in giving every Australian enterprise adequate protection. If the evidence qf the Tariff Board dis- closes the need for a higher bounty and duty, provided they are not unreasonable, I shall as a protectionist, do all I can to force the hands of the Government to encourage the establishment of this industry.
Senator Sir VICTOR WILSON (South Australia - Minister for Markets and Migration) [11.44]. - I listened with interest to Senator Findley’s remarks. I remind the honorable senator that members of the Tariff Board are charged with the duty of inquiring into and advising the Government as to the effect of the tariff on Australian industries. It would have been as well, therefore, if the honorable senator had waited for the report of the board before he attempted to criticize in detail the scheme for the establishment of -the newsprint industry in Australia. Provision was made whereby, when the company showed a profit exceeding 10 per cent., the bounty should automatically cease. That was a very wise provision. Senator Findley would be one of the first to criticize the Government if it used public money to assist any industry to pay a dividend greater than 10 per cent.
– Does that provision operate in respect of all bounties that are given by the Government?
– There are qualifications in every case. Take, for instance, canned fruit. Provision was made whereby, when the returns exceeded the actual cost of production, the bounty should be lowered to an amount corresponding with the increase. I assure Senator Findley that, during my experience as a Minister of the Crown, I cannot remember a more careful or exhaustive investigation having been made by the Government than it made in this particular case. He was quite wrong when he said that the Government had no desire to see this industry established. The Government is exceedingly anxious to assist any industry that can legitimately increase production, but it is not prepared to use public funds to enable big dividends to be paid. I ask the honorable senator to await the report of the Tariff Board.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £3,446,104.
– In Division No. 110 there is an item “ Commonwealth Elections, £98,930.” The time is opportune to say a word or two with regard to those elections. It appears to me that the big percentage of informal votes cast constitutes a stigma upon Australia. Many reasons can be assigned for the large informal vote. It is essential that our electoral’ legislation should be . fully and completely reviewed, to obviate, as far as possible, a similar experience in the future. I urge upon the Government the necessity of speedily arranging for that to be done, so that some of the provisions may be tightened up, and the possibility of informality in voting minimized in the future.
– Is the honorable senator referring to electors who intentionally made their votes informal ?
– I am not. Where such action could be proved, I should have the names of the electors removed from the electoral roll. I am referring to those electors who, for various reasons, unconsciously cast informal votes. One could mention 50 contributing causes, but that which stands out prominently above all the others is the interference to which electors are subjected on polling day. Before they reach the entrance to the polling booth they are given, probably, a dozen “How to vote” cards, all differently marked. Even though they possess the ordinary degree of intelligence they become so muddled by the conflicting advice that they render their votes invalid. It may be necessary to legislate to prevent that in the future. The electors should be educated by the party organizations up to polling day, but it should then cease. I congratulate the Government upon the fact that it is the first to control the destinies of Australia by the will of a majority of the people. That position is unique, and it has been brought about by the registration of a 90 per cent. poll. I feel sure that the people realize the value to Australia of the present Government.
– The honorable senator made that possible, and he should be knighted for it.
– I contributed to it, and probably suffered the loss of a number of votes, because of the compulsory voting provisions of the act.
– The Government would have won an additional four seats had it not been for compulsory voting.
– Some honorable senators are never satisfied. I am a fair man and I believe that we should be content with a reasonable majority. We can now fairly claim that, for the first time in the history of federation, the Government represents the majority of the electors. That places upon us an added responsibility, and I hope that the legislation of this session will be so framed that it will make for the development of ibo Commonwealth and the welfare of its people.
– If Senator Payne suggests that the percentage of informal .» votes cast at the last election was greater than at previous elections, he is quite wrong. The statistics show that at the 1923 election the percentage of informal votes for the House of Representatives was 3. I do not think that that can be said to be a very high percentage. It was approximately the same at the election recently held.
– T was referring to thf Senate election.
– The percentage of informal votes in connexion with the Senate at the 1923 election was 9. At the election just held it ranged from as low as 7 per cent., in some States to as high as 9 per cent, in others. A comparison between the two houses indicates that the higher percentage in connexion with the Senate was caused by its more complicated system of voting, and the fact that a greater number of candidates had to be voted for by each elector The recent election disclosed certain weaknesses in our electoral act. The Government has considered the matter, and it believes that, whilst the experience is fresh in the minds of members of the two Houses and evidence relating to weaknesses is available, an inquiry should be held into the electoral law and procedure. It, therefore, intends that there shall be appointed a select committee representative of the two Houses, to inquire into the law and procedure in certain directions. A motion, of which notice has been given in another place, will prove acceptable to the Government with slight amendment, and’ when it has passed that chamber the Senate will receive a message asking for its early concurrence so that the inquiry may proceed forthwith.
– I was pleased to hear the announcement of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), but I should like him to emphasize it by saying that no time will be lost in setting the committee to work.
– The motion is on the notice-paper in another place for 11th February. As soon as it is agreed to by the Senate, the committee will be appointed.
– There is no doubt that our electoral law requires review, particularly that phase of it which deals with elections to the Senate. No honorable senator can justify the electoral law as it stands to-day.
– Because of its inequity; because it destroys minority representation.
– Is the honorablesenator advocating proportional representation ?
– The Labour party does not favour proportional representation.
– The Labour party has not committed itself to any particular electoral law. It is true that we have made provision on our platform for electoral reform; but no member of the party is pledged to proportional representation or any other particular form of electoral law.
– We have seen some of Mr. Lang’s electoral reform.
– I speak of the electoral law as it relates to the election of honorable senators, Mr. Lang has sufficient trouble without our adding to it. I have said that under the present system minority representation is destroyed.
– Under the block vote it always is.
– The present system works out in exactly the same way as the block system worked out in the earlier years of federation. We had the block system in the election of 1910, and Labour secured 31 out of 36 senators. I remember Senator Pearce saying on that occasion that the electoral law would have to be amended to prevent the destruction of minority representation. I. have been a victim, of the law, as well as a victor under it. When I was re-elected in 1922, I said that, although victorious under a system that had previously been the cause of my defeat, I still opposed the system. Although 1,250,000 electors voted for the Labour party at the last election, not a representative of that party was returned to this chamber. Over 500,000 primary votes were cast for Senator Gardiner, but he was not returned.
– Because someone else secured more votes.
– I am speaking of the first choice of the people. Some system should be devised whereby minorities can secure some representation.
– New South Wales has representatives in this chamber.
– I know quite well that all the States are represented here, but I remind my honorable friend that if there had been a double dissolution there would not have been a Labour senator left. I have a fair amount of philosophy in my nature. When I have been defeated I have not growled. I have endeavoured to be neither elated by sucness, nor depressed by failure, and whatever the next appeal to the electors may have in store for me, I am not bothering my mind about it this morning. I welcome the announcement of the Minister that an inquiry will be held.
– Can the honorable senator suggest an alternative system?
– I honestly admit that I am not prepared, at the moment, to commit myself to any alternative scheme. When the present, scheme was adopted, ex-Senator Mulcahy, who was regarded as an electoral expert, was appointed to assist the then Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) in drafting the new law. He drafted it, Parliament adopted it, and he went down as a victim by the wayside. He told the late Senator Bakhap that the law was good enough for him, and that it would bring him back. It did not do so. I am not going to emulate ex-Senator Mulcahy by suggesting a new scheme. In reply to Senator Payne I point out to him that when death robbed this side of a representative the Nationalist party insisted upon a Nationalist filling the vacancy. It used to be understood that when the representative of a party died the vacancy should be filled by a representative of the same party.
– That practice was first departed from in Queensland.
– New South Wales honored it. It was honored in Victoria, but South Australia departed from it. One would have thought that the Nationalists, having swept the polls, and with a majority in the Senate, would have given at least that much represenation to the party that previously had it.
– That is a matter that rests with the States.
– It does not rest with the States. If it was not for the party organizations, none of us would be here. The ex-Premier of New South Wales first departed from the old system. Senator Sir Victor Wilson contested the election without the backing of a party organization”, and, although he polled a record personal vote, he was not returned. The reason for his non-return was that he had no party organization behind him.
– I am glad the question of the informal votes case at the last election has been raised. Between 70,000 and 80,000 electors in New South Wales voted informally. I have previously suggested that the returning officers should be asked to state the reasons why votes were declared informal. I have no fault to find with the returning officers of New South Wales. When ‘ returning thanks after my re-election, I said I was satisfied with the way the people had voted, with the work of the returning officers, and with the way the Labour party had conducted its campaign. I am inclined to think that returning officers would stretch a point to make a vote formal rather than informal, so I am not, therefore, blaming them for the large number of informal votes. With 70,000 informal votes in New South Wales, there would probably be 3,000 in each constituency. It would be easy to examine the papers and to lot the people know why the votes were informal, so that condidates at the next election would be able to explain where electors had erred. In some places in New South Wales cards were issued by the National party asking the electors to vote 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 for the National condidates, but not advising them how to vote for the remaining candidates. Some electors voted, ai advised, for the National candidates, but left the rest of the card blank. If the reason for the informal votes is made known it will be possible at the next elections to obviate a repetition of some of the mistakes made last time. I am not very keen on the appointment of the proposed committee, although I raise no objection to it. I am satisfied with the existing system. Either minorities or majorities must rule, and I believe in majorities ruling. The great objection that I have to the present system is that it requires 500,000 votes to return a senator for New South Wales, while in Tasmania 25,000 or 30,000’ votes will, return one. In Western Australia, 60,000 votes are required.
– The honorable senator is not an Australian.
– I am not a Tasmanian or a New South Welshman, but I believe in a majority of the people of Australia, ruling. The Nationalists and the electors were fortunate in having a majority of Nationalists returned, but under the present system New South Wales could have returned five,Victoria four, and Queensland three Nationalists - who would have represented nearly 5,000,000 people - Western Australia could have returned three, Tasmania three, and South Australia three Labour senators. Those nine Labour senators would have, represented only 1,000,000 people, whereas the other twelve would have, represented nearly 5,000,000. If we are going to alter the system it should be altered in the direction of providing for majority representation.
– Does the honorable senator argue that ‘New South Wales should have more representation than the smaller states?
– Certainly I do. Five hundred thousand people should have more representation than 25,000. 1 admit that the change cannot be made without altering the Cbnstitution, and T understand that one of the Government’s proposals is to have a meeting, of both Houses of Parliament with a view to revising the Constitution. When we do that we might discuss this phase of the question, because I am not prepared to hand over more powers to a Parliament constituted such as this. I am anxious to know whether the Minister sees any objection to the returning officers giving the reasons for the informality of votes. I want this information supplied, so that on the platform we may have the opportunity to- tell the electors why, in so many cases, they vote informally.
– That information has already been published in Tasmania.
– The select committee will, no doubt, call returning officers as witnesses, and not only ask them for the information they have at their command, but also cross-examine them to ascertain on what ground they have formed any opinions they may express. It will be far better to obtain their views in that way than merely to get a departmental memorandum, on which the person supplying the information cannot be cross-examined. That is one of the matters into which the select committee will inquire.
– Will the report of the select committee be available this session ?
– I see no reasonwhy it should not be. There is, however, another point to which I wish to refer. I want to remove any possible misapprehension on the part of honorable senators. It is not proposed to refer to this select committee the . method of electing senators. That is a question which, if it is to be reviewed, should properly- be reviewed by a Senate committee, and not by a joint committee of both Houses.
– Will the select committee be empowered to inquire into the . conduct of the last election ?
– Everything appertaining to it?
– When the motion for the appointment of the select, committee is before the Senate the honorable senator will have the opportunity to discuss the subjects with which it will deal, and, if necessary, he can move an amendment to enlarge the scope of the inquiry.
.- The Minister did not quite see my point. What I am anxious to secure is the opportunity for the returning officers to examine the ballot-papers and state definitely the causes of the informalities. If the returning officer in- the western suburbs of Sydney is given the opportunity to examine the ballot-papers in his division he will be in a position to say that 2,000 votes at the recent Senate election were informal for a certain reason, 200 informal for another reason, and so on.
– The select committee will get all that information.
– But in order to get it the ballot-papers will have to be opened.
– Informal ballotpapers can be scrutinized at any time by a properly authorized officer.
– I am satisfied if the committee will have power to ask the returning officers to do what I suggest should be done.
– The last statement of the Minister (Senator Pearce) indicates that I was somewhat premature in the conclusion I formed regarding the scope of the proposed select committee. I understood the right, honorable gentleman to mean that the committee would inquire into not only the conduct of the recent election, but also an alternative method of electing the Senate. The Minister now tells us that it is a matter for the Senate itself, and not for a joint committee of both Houses, to propose any alteration of the law in respect to the election of the Senate, and I, therefore, ask him if the method of electing the Senate will be reviewed by the Government or by the Senate itself prior to the next election with a view to seeing whether or not an alteration should be made.
– The matter will receive the consideration of the Government.
– T am sorry to hear the Minister say that (he proposed inquiry into the electoral system will not include an investigation into the method of electing the Senate. It seems to me that there is not very much wrong with the system of electing members of the House of Representatives, but that there is something very seriously wrong with one which gives no representation in this chamber to a party that may poll 45 per cent, of the total votes throughout the Commonwealth. In 1910 no Nationalist was elected to the Senate.. During the war the reverse happened. With one exception all the senators elected belonged to the Nationalist party. Again at the recent election, although 45 per cent, of the people voted for the Labour party, not a single candidate of that party was elected to the Senate. I can say quite frankly that it does not matter to me whether there is in the Senate a Labour or a Nationalist majority, so long as we get the best men who will carry out the real intentions of the Constitution, and not sacrifice this chamber to the needs of party organization and party propaganda. There is something decidedly wrong with an electoral system which denies to a section of the commu nity polling nearly 50 per cent, of the votes any representation in the Senate. It tends towards discrediting this chamber. Of course, that might suit the wishes of some honorable senators, who sometimes say, although certainly in a very low tone of voice, “ The Senate ought to be abolished.” I suppose they are all hoping it will not be abolished until their term expires. I am a believer in the proportional system. I think the Senate ought to be elected on a proportional basis’, and later on in the session I think I shall submit a motion to ascertain the views of honorable senators as to whether or not some such system should not be applied to the election of senators. The present method cannot be defended except on the ground of - party advantage and party interest. It was designed by the present Minister for Home and Territories expressly for the purpose of enabling parties to run any number of candidates without prejudicing the chance of a party victory. It is based on the old unfair, and inequitable system of “ first past the post.” The present New South Wales Labour Government cannot claim to be democratic, because it is proposing to go back to the dark ages and adopt the “ first past the post “ method. An electoral system should be designed to give the electors the best and freest opportunity to elect the most suitable men, irrespective of party, but our present system is designed to secure advantage to the party, which is just what Mr. Lang is doing in New South Wales by proposing to revert to the old block vote. It is a reflection on our democratic institutions, and on this National Parliament that we still retain the block vote for electing senators. I ask the Minister (Senator Pearce) whether, even at this hour, it may not be arranged to have the method of electing the Senate considered, and whether we could not have a joint committee of both Houses dealing with the whole problem.
– It will be a joint committee, but it will not- deal with the method of electing senators.
– Why not?
– The honorable senator can discuss that matter when the motion for the appointment of the select committee is before the chamber.
– I am a strong supporter of proportional representation, and I should like to give effect to it. . At any rate, I should like to have the matter’ fully inquired into, because any one who looks at it fairly and squarely can raise no objection whatever to proportional representation on the grounds of equity.
.- If I may be allowed for a moment to digress from a subject which is of concern only to us, and take up mother subject which concerns the whole of Australia-
– Do not try to be sarcastic.
– I am not trying to be sarcastic, I am trying to be truthful. After all, the subject which is being discussed is a purely party question; it is purely a matter which concerns the election of the Senate, and the Senate will continue to exist. No matter how they are elected, senators will continue to represent the people. What I want to discuss at present is a little developmental work for Australia.
– The honorable senator will not get that if the right kind of men are not elected.
– I am not frightened at the possibility of not getting the right kind of men here, but I should like to see the discussion a little more, shall I say, on utilitarian lines. I am not blaming Senator Ogden, because I was almost tempted to voice my humble opinion on the matter he raised, but I refrained even from good words. On page 280 of the schedule. Division 110, “ Under control of Home and Territories Department,” an item of £3,000 is pro vided for forestry research. It is a significant fact to me that so important an item as this finds such a humble place in the Estimates. I had hoped that it would have a special division to itself. However, I rise first of all to congratulate the Government on what is being done, and, secondly, to ask if the Leader of the Government in the Senate is in a position to give us any idea of what will be the future forestry programme. We know that a good deal of work has already been done by the Commonwealth in this direction, and I am pleased that it should be so. Senator Sir Henry Barwell, when speaking, referred to the tendency there is for the finances of the States to become more difficult, and those of the Commonwealth to become more easy. The outcome of this is that in many of these subjects, such as forestry and others, following the example found necessary in the other great federations of the United States of America and Canada, the money necessary for research which might have been spent by the States will be spent by the Commonwealth. Some time ago the Commonwealth Government appointed an extremely able officer to take charge of its- forestry research, and I think it has every reason to be satisfied with the work he has done, but it is time that our operations were a little more amplified. I take it that it will first be necessary to pass a Forestry Bill, in order to define in the case of the Commonwealth, as in the case of the States, the duties, responsibilities, and, above all, the qualifications of the officers whom it is necessary to employ. There are plenty of forestry operations which need to be carried out by the Commonwealth. The Territories are increasing in number and importance and in their demands for proper development. The subject of a forests school at once jumps to one’s mind. The necessity for having such a school is exemplified by the fact that when we look round the various forestry departments in Australia we find that out of six State departments four are controlled by men who have had no forestry training. This renders the position a little more difficult. Nearly all the trained experts in forestry, strange to say, are now situated in the Commonwealth Forestry Department or in the Forestry Department of Western Australia, whose legislation precludes the employment of any one in a responsible position in the Forestry Department who is not trained in forestry. I hope that when the federal bill is. brought in it will form a feature of the Commonwealth legislation. Of course it need not be brought in unless the Commonwealth Government desires, as I hope it does, to give some degree of permanency to this department. I know that the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce), who is in charge of this department, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) himself, take a lively interest in the subject. It would be their wish, I am sure, to see this proposal as fully developed under federal control as is possible without infringing upon the prerogatives of the States. The forestry school is a subject that the Commonwealth authorities can very well take in hand, since it would be absurd to have more than one such school in Australia. The local jealousies and the State bickerings about where the school should be situated would be overcome if it were erected and managed under federal control. I hope that will be done, and done soon.
But there is another matter, and that is the actual forestry work to be done in the Federal Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, the Mandated Territories, and Papua, and even little Norfolk Island must come in for its share of attention. I presume that the school will be established at Canberra. Considerable discussion has taken place over the important question of raising hardwood for the purpose of manufacturing paper.
– We cannot find a market for our hardwoods at the present time.
– Exactly, and, therefore, the best thing to do is to convert them into the high-priced article that we are very much in need of. In this direction a. large and lucrative industry could be developed.
– Why did the Government import timber for buildings at Canberra ?
– That is one of those eccentricities for which one cannot account. The scientific research undertaken by the Government shows that, in spite of the trend of public opinion to the contrary, paper more than equal to that produced from softwoods can be made out of our hardwoods, more particularly those hardwoods that are used in an immature condition. This test took place in Western Australia. I hope that the great bulk of the areas of those State’s which contain large tracts of mountainous country, which is practically useless for anything else, will be used, within the next twenty years, for growing crops of young hardwood trees for the purpose of manufacture into paper pulp. The Electrolytic Zinc Company proposed to use hardwoods for the manufacture of paper, and it was proved that this timber, particularly when used in an immature condition, yielded paper of a better quality than that produced from softwood. I lay stress on the point that the wood is best used in an immature condition in order to bring home to honorable senators the fact that it does not take many years for the grower to get his crop off the* ground. Hardwood can be raised almost like, a wheat crop. The trees can be thinned out, and at the age of, say, twelve years, they give an enormous yield.
– Would the Mallee timber answer the purpose?
– No. The pulping qualities seem to be confined to the larger trees. All the eucalypts are suitable,’ and particularly the mountain ash and the karri in Western Australia. It is probable that a great deal of our . mountainous country, which is now neglected and unoccupied, could be put to a useful purpose in the production of pulping timbers.
– Our industrial laws would have to be altered.
– The labour problem harasses us at every point, but it would not make very much difference so long as we could get efficient service in return for’ the high wages paid. Even in parts of the Northern Territory - and I suppose some folk wonder at the term “ forestry “ being applied to that territory - and in the corresponding portions of Western Australia and Queensland there is one of the best tanning materials in the world, in the form of the ridge gum - Eucalyptus alba. It is much superior to any other tanning material in Australia, both by reason of quantity and the resultant leather. This timber occurs practically all over the Northern Territory wherever there is rising land.
Then, again, the possibility- of planting teak in portions of the Mandated Territories and Papua has to be considered. When I visited Java some time ago the Forestry Department there had just finished planting some 500,000 acres with teak, although it was realized that it would be 80 or 100 years before an axe could be put into it. Java was looking ahead, as all countries must do, realizing that the benefits resulting from afforestation are derived by subsequent generations. Even in Norfolk Island I understand that the lack of a pOlicy of re-afforestation threatens the destruction of the pines there, which are very useful for the purposes for which softwoods are required. There is plenty of work for this department, and I hope that next year it will be given a more conspicuous and definite position than it now occupies.
With regard to forestry research, I hope that the Forest Products Laboratory, which is a very important part of any forestry scheme, will be re-established. If it must be re-established under even a reorganized council of the Institute) of Science and Industry, I hope that its direct management will not be taken away from the gentleman who now presides over the Forestry Department, because I am satisfied that we. have in him the best and most independent-minded forester available, and one with perhaps more forestry ideals than any of the foresters who have come to Australia. It will be necessary in future for the Commonwealth, with its probably abounding revenues, to give some assistance to’ the States in the matter of forestry problems which cannot be dealt with by the State Forestry Departments. . I feel that I am now dealing with a subject which has no party significance whatever, but one that is approved by both sections of Parliament. Taking that into consideration, the Government should have no hesitation whatever in adopting a go-ahead policy.
-(Senator Newland). - The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I am glad that Senator Kingsmill occasionally raises his voice on this subject, and I hope he will continue to do so, even at the risk of exhausting his time limit. I feel, with him, that we are not doing enough iri the direction to which he has referred. A Minister cannot do what he would like to do unless he is supported by parliamentary opinion. If, therefore, Senator Kingsmill, or any other honorable senator, expresses favorable opinions with regard to afforestation, a healthy parliamentary opinion will be created, and it will be much easier than it has hitherto been for a Ministry that wishes to do something to assist the movement. I am not complaining that nothing has been done. We are doing the necessary preliminary work. First of all we have obtained the services of Mr. Lane Poole, which are very valuable to the Commonwealth - in fact, I do not think the people quite realize how valuable they are. This officer is a safe guide in these matters, and his services could be made more useful if there were a definite plan of action. Although forestry research is a modest title, it covers a multitude of activities that have been commenced. I agree’ with Senator Kingsmill that if we are to go on with the policy there should be a proper forestry act, and there should be a forestry bureau. It will be noticed that reference is made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the intention’ of the Government to establish a forestry bureau. The reason that no immediate action has been taken is, as my colleague, Senator Sir Victor Wilson, told the committee this morning, that a sub-committee of the Cabinet is considering the question of the re-organization of the Institute of Science; and Industry. One of the questions that come up for consideration is what is to be done in regard to forestry and forestry research. There are two avenues in which the Commonwealth can give practical assistance: one is the* encouragement of forestry and afforestation, including the education of foresters, and the other is forestry research. The proposal put forward by Mr. Lane Poole is that these two activities should be to some extent separated, that the administrative side should be under a Minister and the Forestry Bureau, and that the research side could be mora properly placed under the control of the reorganized Institute of Science and Industry. That suggestion is receiving consideration. Realizing the lack of trained foresters in Australia to guide the several State Governments in their forestry policy, the Commonwealth Government is establishing a central forestry school at Canberra.. The States, after some hesitation, have undertaken to supply the necessary students, who will be trained entirely at the expense of the Commonwealth Government, but the State Governments will be expected to provide for their sustenance.
– Is it the intention of the Government to train men who are already in the Forestry Departments of the different States?
– Yes. In addition to students who may enter the central school at Canberra from the State Universities, provision will also be made for the training of men already on the staffs of the Forestry Departments of the different States. Certain of the States propose to send some members of their staff for instructional purposes. In addition to the amounts on the Estimates now before the committee, there is provision in the Estimates for the Federal Capital Commission of between £12,000 and £15,000 for the erection of the school at Canberra. So that no time may be lost in forwarding the project, the Government has obtained the services of Professor Jolly, of the Adelaide University, for the training of foresters in the school at Adelaide. Students will take the course at the Adelaide University under Professor Jolly until the buildings at Canberra are ready, which will be in about twelve months’ time. We have also had interesting reports from Mr. Lane Poole as to what can be done in Papua and the Territory of Kew Guinea. These reports are in the hands of the printer, and will shortly be circulated amongst honorable senators. We hope soon to make a commencement there on the lines of his recommendations. Mr. Lane Poole has also furnished reports on a forestry policy for the Federal Capital and at Jervis Bay. The Federal Capital Commission is this year spending from £18,000 to £20,000 in those two territories, so that substantial progress will be made during the present financial year in addition to what has already been done by Mr. Weston. Mr. Lane Poole has not yet reported on. the Northern Territory. He is doing a certain amount of work for two of the States which have asked for his services, and when he has finished he will visit the Northern Territory and submit a recommendation to the Government as to what should be done there. It is gratifying to know that the State Governments are anxious to get the advice of one who is regarded as the foremost expert in forestry in the southern hemisphere.
– Will there be any duplication by the Commonwealth Government of work at present being carried out by the States ?
– No. We are endeavouring to co-ordinate the activities of the States. No State Forestry Department could be expected to do work which properly belongs to the central authority. I can assure honorable senators that what is being done by the Commonwealth Go vernment is highly appreciated by the various States.
– I should like the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the administration of the electoral law. I believe in simplicity. The present system is too complicated. Very few people understand the precise value of votes given to the different candidates, and I regret very much that there was such a large number of informal votes at the last election. Senator Thomas has just told us that there were no less than 70,000 or 80,000 informal votes in his own State. That is most unsatisfactory, because sometimes 70,000 or 80,000 votes may be sufficient to affect the result of an election. The Minister’s statement that 9 per cent, of the votes at the last election were informal is rather staggering. According to some honorable senators opposite, the present method of voting is on all-fours with the firstpastthepost system. If it is, why not revert to the old method of voting by placing crosses, instead of numbers, opposite the names of candidates.
– If the honorable senator’s party had only one candidate, the Nationalist four, and the Country party five, the candidate representing the honorable senator’s party would be sure of election.
– lie would be entitled to election if he got a majority of the votes. Under, that system there would be fewer informal votes.
– I think the honorable senator will find that there were just as many informal votes under the first-past-the-post- system as there are under the present method of voting.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. When Senator Newland was first elected to the Senate there was nothing like such a high percentage of informal votes. If in practice the present method of voting works out the same as- the old system, why should we retain it?
– Because, if we did not, those parties which believe in preselection would get their candidates elected, and those parties which do. not approve of pre-selection, would have no chance at all.
-(Senator Newland). - Order ! I remind honorable senators that they may not discuss the general conduct of elections at this stage.
– I was merely replying to Senator Thomas’s remarks concerning the number of informal votes cast at the last election. Many people rendered their votes informal because they definitely refused to indicate any order of preference ‘ for certain candidates. They simply marked their Senate ballot-papers 1, 2 and 3. Why should they be compelled to vote for men they do not like? All public men, if they are worth anything in public life, make enemies. Frequently statements made in this House are quite misunderstood by the persons concerned, who place .their own construction upon them. I have no fault to find with a man who votes against me, but I do object te misrepresentation, and particularly to the distribution of untrue election literature. A royal commission should be appointed to investigate all of these Complaints, and to make recommendations to clean up public life in Australia. I am afraid that we are rapidly drifting towards the American graft system, under which certain men appear to have been specially trained to vilify and destroy for party political purposes the character of public men. Any party which is guilty of such practices should be punished. I hope that careful consideration will be given to what I have said, and that eventually we shall get back to a simpler method of voting for Senate candidates.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– I should like the Minister to state what governments are represented upon the Pacific Cable Board. Also, whether it is a fact that Mr. Percy Hunter has just been made chairman of that board ; who made the appointment, did the Government concur in it, and what qualifications are possessed by Mr. Hunter for the position.
.- The time is opportune to express my gratification at the fact that, in recent years, the Postmaster-General’s Department has performed a duty to the people of Australia which previously was neglected. I believe that it is now giving the public a service commensurate with the revenue that it receives from the public. During the recent election campaign a great deal of criticism was levelled at the Government by the leaders of the Labour party, who charged it with having failed in its duty because the Postal Department was not showing a profit. To the right-thinking people of Australia that is an indication that for the first time the department is giving the people the- service to which they are entitled. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), whilst in Tasmania, stressed this point in his desire to belittle the administration. He quite ignored the fact that during the last year or two the people have had the benefit of reduced postal charges, no greater sum being taken from them than is necessary to carry on this important department.
There are one or two matters of administration, however, that call for criticism. Some time ago it was decided that there should be a review of the stamps licences issued to business people. The result has been that many of the real conveniences which the public hitherto enjoyed were removed. I understand that the policy of the Government is not to issue licences to persons who use the stamps in the conduct of their businesses, but to confine them to those who supply the demands of the public at a time when stamps cannot be purchased at a post office. In quite a number of instances persons who had a very small turnover in the sale of stamps were denied licences, and considerable inconvenience was thus caused to the people. When I mentioned one or two cases to the PostmasterGeneral, he stated that the reason for declining to issue the licences was that only a small amount of business was done. That is in opposition to the declared policy of the department. The fact that only a small amount of business is being done is a proof that a benefit is being conferred upon the people.
The declared policy- of the department under the administration of the Hon. A. Poynton some years ago was to give the out-back settler every convenience possible in the matter of telephonic communication. About twelve months ago the department decided upon an increased fee for the opening of unofficial post offices after trading hours, and a decrease in the fee charged by official post offices. Very few official post offices are used by out-back settlers for the transmission of telephonic messages. There is a large group of official offices spread along the northwest coast of Tasmania which have a continuous service, and at which an opening fee is charged. They are utilized in conjunction with the unofficial offices in the back-blocks to enable the settlers to communicate with the large centres of population. Those settlers who hitherto were charged an opening fee of ls. are now called upon to pay ls. 6d. Telephones in out-back settlements are used mainly after office hours, because the average land worker is unable to get to a telephone earlier. Therefore, he is now penalized to the exbent of an extra. 50 per cent. That is a discouragement to him.
– Is the fee of ls. 6d. charged for every call ?
– Every time the office is opened. Invariably no inconvenience is caused to the person who runs an unofficial office, because it is- located in the home of a settler. No request for an additional fee was made.
– Would the honorable senator care to be at the beck and call of people night and day ?
– I am discussing the matter from the point of view of giving encouragement to those who live in outback settlements. The matter seems to have been decided by rule of thumb, without full consideration being given to it. On the north-west coast of Tasmania there are important provincial towns which are marketing places for a very large population of rural producers, who live from 15 to 30 miles distant. The offices in those towns have a continuous service. One or two unofficial offices are still charging the old fee of ls. The increase - is not a fair one, and it should be reviewed. I trust that the Minister (Senator Crawford) will bring these two matters before the Postmaster-General, with a view to having the old conveniences restored.
– I take this opportunity of congratulating the Postmaster-General upon the great amount of developmental work that has been done in recent years in connexion with telegraphic and telephonic communication in outback areas. I understand, also, that the department proposes co purchase annually ?1,000,000 worth of goods that have been made in Australia. Formerly those goods were imported.
A free wireless service with vessels coming to Australia has been inaugurated. Complaints have frequently been made to me by Australians who have returned from abroad that they were seldom able to obtain news regarding Australian affairs. During the course of the recent elections they were. unable to obtain information as to how the elections were going, or had gone. It is mostly European news that is broadcast. When I and other honorable senators were returning from Africa on the Euripides we did not receive any Australian news.
In connexion with the proposed aerial mail service between Tasmania and thi* mainland, I should like to know what steps have been taken to secure the most suitable seaplane base in Victoria.
– In reply to Senator Thomas, I wish to say that the Pacific Cable Board comprises representatives of the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, the Commonwealth of Australia, and New South Wales. Sir Joseph Cook represents the Commonwealth, and Sir Timothy Coghlan the Stat* of New South Wales. The appointment of Mr. Hunter, not as chairman o# the board, but as manager for Australia, was not a Government appointment, but was made by the board that manages the business of the Pacific Cable Company. In reply to Senator Payne’s complaint relating to telephones, the sale of postage stamps, and increased opening charges fo? unofficial post offices, and Senator Guthrie’s suggestion for the improvement of wireless services to ships,. I will take steps to have these matters brought under the notice of the Postmaster-General, who will doubtless advise the honorable senators concerned regarding them. During some time spent in Queensland, in October and November, last, I found that the Government was applauded everywhere I went for the additional telephone and’ telegraph facilities provided.
– Will the managerfor Australia on the Pacific Cable Board reside in London or Australia?
– He will reside in Australia, and will look after Australia’s part of the board’s business.
– Oan the Minister give me any information regarding the securing of a seaplane base in Victoria, in view of the fact that an aerial mail service is likely to be established between the mainland and Tasmania?
– I am unable to give the honorable senator any information on that point, but I will see that his remarks are brought under the notice of the Postmaster-General.
.- What progress has been made with the proposed removal of what is known as the “Bungalow” at Alice Springs? I understand that the Minister has been interesting himself in the half-caste station there. It is situated in a very undesirable place.
– The Works’ and Railways Department has; I understand, let a contract for the erection of the building. That work is now being proceeded with.
.- If honorable senators will refer to subitem No. 1, under the heading of New Guinea, they will notice that the £.10,000 provided in this bill is not for the same purpose as the £10,000 voted last year. The item last year was’ a grant to the administration of New Guinea for medical purposes, but this year it is to be used in the interests of native races. There is a very marked differentiation between the description of the two grants. If honorable senators had read- year by year the reports of the administration of New Guinea to the League of Nations, they would know that special stress is laid ou the urgency of- giving close attention to the medical care pf the natives. A great deal of work has been done in that direction, and no honorable senator will object, I am sure, to any vote, however large, being passed for that purpose. It is maintained by every one who knows anything, about the Territory that its future depends very largely upon conserving the health of the native races. I am sorry to find that the words used to describe the grant have been altered, and that, although the money will be spent in: the interests of the native races, it will not be spent exclusively to provide medical services.
– The purpose of the grant has been very much widened.
– The purpose is not widened as far as the health of the natives is concerned. The £10,000 grant iu the past has not been nearly sufficient to do effectively all the medical work necessary. There is scope for the expenditure of probably five times as much. The altera- tion in the phraseology suggests that portion of the £10,000 will be spent in other directions than the provision of medical services. I deprecate any reduction of the grant for medical services for the natives. It appears to me - and my second visit to the Territory confirmed the opinion I formed on my first visit - that if any expenditure can be justified it is the expenditure for this purpose. I am of opinion that the expenditure is more necessary than ever, and I would vote, if necessary, for the increase of the amount by £5,000. It is penny wise and pound foolish, after valuable work has already been done, to curtail expenditure. Bacteriological research has been carried out, a hospital has been established, medical officers have been appointed, and native medical assistants, who have been taught to render first aid, have been sent back to their tribes where they will be able tc save thousands of lives annually. After research has been made into the origin of the tropical diseases that decimated the native races under German rule for 30 years, and when the rot has been stopped, it is foolish to reduce the vote.
– The statement that the vote has been reduced is not correct. I contradict the honorable senator now, because what he is saying will, no doubt, be used at the League of Nations.
– Is it not correct that the amount pf £10,000 will not be wholly spent in providing medical services ?
– It is not correct that the amount to be spent on medical services will be reduced.
– Was not all the money provided last. year spent?
– Yes, and it will be spent this, year. The honorable senator should not make statements on this subject unless he is absolutely sure that they are correct.
– I can assure the Minister that I am the last man in the world to say anything derogatory of the medical administration in the Mandated Territory. I have the future of that Territory at heart. I want to see it prosper. I want, if possible, to see the scope of this humane portion of the department’s work enlarged, and when I read that the £10,000 would not be used for the purpose for which it had previously been voted, namely, “ for medical purposes,” but in the interests of native races-
– The honorable senator drew a wrong conclusion.
– Then I will sit down and hear what the Minister has to say. I shall be glad, if I have drawn a wrong conclusion, to withdraw anything that may reflect upon the administration.
– Honorable senators may be surprised that I show some warmth on this occasion. I do so because everything said in connexion with the Mandated Territory is closely scrutinized, including the debates in Parliament, and any statements made without proper backing are used against us at the League of Nations. I acquit Senator Payne of any intention of prejudicing Australia in the eyes of the League of Nations, because he has always shown a great interest in the Mandated Territory, and has done all he can to arouse interest in the subject in Australia. I interjected because I was quite sure that he did not think the statement he was making - and he made it under a misapprehension - would be quoted against us as the authoritative statement of a senator speaking on the floor of the Senate. The facts are all the other way. This is merely an alteration of the designation of this grant, and, to understand the effect of it, one must review the history of the grant. In the earlier years the medical services of the Territory were somewhat neglected, and when that was brought to the notice of the Government and the Parliament of the day, more energetic action was taken to bring those services up to date. Tor that purpose it was found necessary last year to make a special grant of £10,000, part of which was expended in catching up the arrears. In the mean time we have appointed as Director of Health in the Mandated Territory probably the foremost Australian specialist in tropical diseases, Dr. Cilento. He has been there for some time, and every step taken to improve the health of the natives is taken on his advice. The item referred to by Senator Payne does not represent the total amount we are spending on medical services and the health of the natives. This is a special grant not merely for the health of the natives, but also for their general improvement. We feel that it is not sufficient that we should merely look after their health, and so we have undertaken the task of raising them in the 2nane of civilization. Part of this grant of Commonwealth revenue will be used to train the natives as agriculturists. An attempt is being made to induce them to take up agriculture in their villages, in the hope of encouraging village and communal life. The native is not naturally an agriculturist, and although he lives largely on native fruits he does very little cultivation. Under this vote the Government is sending out to the villages trained men to instruct the natives and to try to inculcate in them a love of agriculture. We hope in this way to raise them in the scale of civilization. In order that their health shall not be lost sight of, part of this grant will be spent for that purpose. In addition, out of loan money - and this is where the honorable senator has fallen into error - a sum of £5,000 will be provided for the erection of a Lock hospital, to enable proper steps to be taken to treat venereal diseases. In addition to that, there are the local estimates. The greater part of the expenditure does not appear on the Commonwealth estimates. The estimates for local government have been increased, so that actually more is being spent this financial year on health and medical services than was spent last year, notwithstanding that £10,000 was earmarked last year for these purposes. I want it to be known that we are spending more than hitherto on public health in the territories than was spent last year. Furthermore, we have the typewritten statement, signed by Dr. Cilento, that the steps which are being taken are ample for the purpose of safeguarding the health of the natives, and are all that is practicable under present conditions.
– The Senate is under a debt of gratitude to Senator Payne for mentioning this matter even though he was under a misapprehension, because it has drawn from the Minister a clear and. emphatic denial of those recurring rumours on this subject, which have only one purpose, and that is to bring the Commonwealth into some form of disrepute among the nations. If this statement will dissipate those rumours and set minds at rest, some good will be done.
.- I am pleased that the Minister (Senator Pearce) has made the statement he has to-day, and if I said anything that Was likely to create in the League of Nations an impression inimical to the administration of the Mandated Territories by the Commonwealth, I am sorry indeed. I do not know, however, that I have said anything that would create such an impression. When I was in New Guinea, I was closely observant. I knew that the work, with which, I hope, the lock hospital will successfully cope, had partially ceased, and I was afraid that this cessation was brought about by a lack of funds. Therefore, noticing an alteration in the wording of the item in the schedule I thought I was justified in making the statement I did. I welcome the Minister’s remarks, because I heard for the first time to-day of the proposal to establish a lock hospital. It will do .splendid work, and is very much needed. I am quite aware that every effort has been made to belittle the Government’s administration in New Guinea, and to criticize the department which controls territorial affairs, and since my visit to New Guinea I have never lost an opportunity on the platform to deprecate these efforts, and put people right. My blood has boiled at statements in the newspapers indicating that things are happening in New Guinea which have never happened. Therefore, I welcome the statement by the Minister.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Second schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request; report adopted.
Message received from the House of Representatives, intimating that Mr. Cook, Mr. Gregory, Mr. Lacey, Mr. Mackay, Mr. McGrath, and Mr. Seabrook had been appointed members of the Public Works Committee.
Message received from the House of Representatives, intimating that Mr. Gardner, Mr. Lister, Mr. Parker Moloney, Mr. Paterson, Mr. Prowse, Mr. E. Riley, and Sir Granville Ryrie had been appointed members of the Public Accounts .Committee.
– I move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the submission of motions dealing with the appointment of members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and the Joint Committee of Public Accounts.
This morning I gave notice that at the next sitting of the Senate I would submit motions dealing with the appointment of honorable senators to these committees, but I understand now that there is business awaiting both committees and that it is desired to constitute them before the next sitting of the Senate. I therefore move this motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– I do not like to see the Standing Orders suspended at any time unless extraordinary reasons are given for their suspension. However, if there is important work awaiting the attention of these Committees of Parliament, I shall waive my objection on this occasion and allow them to get to work.
– There being an absolute majority of. the whole Senate present, and no voice raised in the negative, I declare the motion carried.
.- I move-
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-21, the following, senators be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works : - Senators Barnes, Lynch, and Reid.
Honorable senators will see that the three; senators mentioned in the motion served on the Public Works Committee during last Parliament. After a new Parliament assembles, it is the practice of this Chamber to reappoint until the end of the following June the members of Committees who were acting on them during the previous Parliament. In July next, when the newly-elected senators take their seats, the Senate will have the opportunity of electing others if it so desires, but these members of Committees who retire then will be eligible for re-election. It is with that understanding that I move this motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move - .
That,, in accordance with the provisions of the Committee of Public Accounts of 1913-20, the following senators be appointed members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts : -
SenatorsFoll, Kingsmill, and Needham.
I apply to this motion the remarks that I made: in regard to the motion I have just moved relating to the Public Works Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 21st . January (vide page 239) on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– In resuming the debate on this very important measure, it is not my intention to occupy much time, for the reason that I addressed myself very comprehensively to the second reading of the bill when it wag before us last year. I listened with interest yesterday to the speech of the right honorable the Leader of the Senate, and I venture to say that I could have anticipated almost every word he uttered, because he practically said, in a condensed form, what he said when moving the second reading last year. There was, however, one exception, and that was his admission that previous Governments had failed to administer properly that vast tract of country which has been committed to our care. Yesterday the Minister made a public confession of failure, so far as the present Government and its predecessors are concerned, regarding the administration of the Territory. He stated that no matter how good the intentions of the Minister for Home and Territories might be, the other members of the Cabinet were too concerned about other schemes to pay any attention to the development of the rich and vast tracts of country in central and north Australia. I congratulate the Minister upon this admission of failure. Then he proceeded to explain that, it was pro posed under the bill to bring about a new state of affairs in the Territory. A comprehensive discussion on the whole subject took place last session, and the principle contained in the measure was not opposed from this side of the Chamber. It is true that members of the Opposition made certain suggestions with a view to improving the bill, but they were not accepted. I take it that the Minister’s speech on the re-introduction of the bill was delivered principally for the purpose of acquainting honorable senators who have just been elected with his ideas upon the experiment now proposed. One of the reasons’ why Governments have not been successful in developing this rich country is that persons have been allowed to occupy large areas without putting them to their proper use. For instance, four lessees in the Northern Territory hold areas equal in size, to Austria, Portugal, and Scotland. I shall welcome the bill if it will have the result of preventing large tracts of country from being held out of use.
– Would it have been taken up in smaller holdings?
– Probably not, but I think that during the time the Commonwealth has had control of the Territory improvement conditions might have been imposed and the lessees might have been compelled to. put their land to greater use than they have.
– Nearly all the large leases were held under the South Australian acts, under which there was no power of resumption.
– The most important part of the bill deals with the appointment of a commission. I remember moving an amendment last year for the purpose of broadening the powers of this body. The Minister pointed out that one of the reasons for the failure to settle the country was the distance between, say, Darwin and Melbourne, and the fact that every important question had to be referred to the central office. But this bill will not remedy that defect. Even the proposed commission will still have to refer certain matters to the .Seat of Government at Melbourne or Canberra.
– That defect is partially remedied.
– It will be seen that the most important matters will have to be referred to the Minister. It seems to me that the commission should have full power in regard, for instance, to railway development. Personally, I would prefer the establishment of a provisional government in the Territory, and I would’ not be averse to Parliament voting it a substantial sum of money and telling it to proceed with the work of development. I repeat what I said last session, that the measure will not prevent- the delays that have occurred in the past. If the appointment of a provisional government is decided upon, I suggest that the people in the Northern Territory itself should be given a voice in determining its personnel . The Minister said that the Best men available would be appointed to the commission. I hope to see all important positions in this country filled by Australians, and I believe that we have men qualified to supervise the development of the Territory.
– We do not require outsiders; but there are not even very many Australians who know much about the matter.
– That is so, and I hope the Government will appoint the best men available. The commission will not be allowed to borrow money for railway developmental work except with the consent of the Treasurer, which means the consent of this Parliament. Here, again, I anticipate that considerable delay will be occasioned. I do not ask that the authority of Parliament should be abrogated, but I contend that it might be delegated for the time being to authorities in the Territory, so that they might have a free hand to push on with necessary works.
– They would apply for the money before they ‘ actually wanted to use it.
– That may be so.
– There need not necessarily be delay.
– To my mind, there would be dangerous delay in regard to such works as railway and road construction.
– They would work in the same way as the Murray Waters Commission, which anticipates its requirements a year ahead.
– I have yet to learn that that commission is doing all that was expected of it. In the appointment of the advisory councils it would be advisable to allow the residents to elect, the whole of the members, instead of only a certain number. The Governments of Western Australia and Queensland are to be asked to transfer to the Commonwealth certain portions of their States on the western and eastern sides’ of the Northern Territory. About six months have elapsed since the measure was previously before the Senate, and I hope the Minister will let us know whether the State Governments . have indicated to the Commonwealth what attitude they intend to adopt. If the scheme is to be successful, certain areas in Queensland and Western Australia may have to be included.
– No further communication has taken place. When the bill actually becomes law it is proposed again to take the matter up with the States.
– I do not oppose the second reading of the bill, but in committee I shall endeavour to have amendments inserted for the purpose of improving its machinery.
.- It is not my intention to make a lengthy speech on this bill, because at the end of last session I took the opportunity of making my opinions on the subject known. . I desire, however, to congratulate the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) on the manner in which he is administering his department, and making himself acquainted with the requirements of the Northern Territory. Undoubtedly, since this country was handed over by South Australia to the Commonwealth, it has been a sort of Cinderella, in whom nobody has taken an interest. Generally speaking, the Territory has suffered because little or no interest ‘has been taken in it either by Ministers or members. It is refreshing, therefore, to residents of the Territory to know that the present Minister in charge of the department, irrespective of whether or not they see eye to eye with him in regard to administrative methods, is anxious to do something to develop the country. I was particularly impressed by his remark that the Territory must at the present time be regarded as a pastoral proposition. I agree ‘ with him that we should not make expensive experiments such as those conducted by recent administrators, which resulted in the waste of much public money. I am satisfied that Dr. Gilruth honestly endeavoured to do his best for the Territory, but that he was many years before his time. Had there been no experiments in agriculture and sheep raising at the Mataranka and Batchelor farms, the Northern Territory would not have had such a bad advertisement. We all deplore, also, the experience of Messrs. Vestey Brothers, who, after spending upwards of £2,000,000 on their huge works at Darwin and their cattle stations, have received practically no return. Many factors have been responsible for the non-success of their venture. Labour difficulties played their part, but perhaps were not wholly responsible for the failure. The high cost of production and the decline in the price of meat were contributing causes, but I believe that, they consider that, had their request for alterations to the wharf at Darwin and certain railway concessions been acceded to more promptly, they might have been able to carry on for a longer period. I hope it is not too late even now for the works to be reopened with greater prospects of success. I do not know whether the Minister has any information as to when the works are likely to be started again. All I cm say is that it was most unfortunate that such an establishment as theirs, located where it is most needed, should have proved such a bad advertisement for the Northern Territory up to the present. The administration, and, in particular, the Minister for Home and Territories, is endeavouring to improve the present state of affairs, and it is to be hoped that in the near future sufficient inducement will be held out. to other people to undertake business enterprises in that portion of Australia. When speaking on this measure in the last Parliament, I expressed the opinion that the proposal to appoint three administrators, or commissioners, in the place of one would overload it; but, after carefully considering the arguments advanced in its favour, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps after all it would not be so undesirable, provided, of course, the right type of mr;n can bc obtained. If it is not possible to get the right men, it would be better not to go on with the scheme, because we have had sufficient experience in recent years in some of the larger departments of the Commonwealth to know that cheap men frequently prove very expensive in the end. I trust that the Minister, if he cannot get the right type of man in Australia, will not hesitate to go outside the Commonwealth to secure the services of men with a sound knowledge of developmental proposals in tropical countries.
– The Northern Territory is not a tropical country.
– A large portion of it is, and the more difficult problems relate to that part of the Territory which is within the tropics. The Minister, quoting from a rainfall map, showed that there is an abundant rainfall over the greater portion of the Territory. We have, however, to judge a country, not by the quantity of rain which falls upon it, but by what is growing upon land where the rain falls. That portion of the Territory, the coastal belt, where the rainfall is heaviest, is almost unsuitable for settlement. The cane grass grows so rankly that at certain periods of the year it is impossible to ride through it on horseback. Newcastle Waters is almost in. the centre of an immense area of rich land, extending for hundreds of miles, east and west. There are the rich plains of the Barkly Tablelands on the one side, and the Victoria River Downs and Wave Hill country on the other. This portion of Australia should some day carry an immense population. The Government would be well advised to make special provision for the construction of a railway from east to west to open up this splendid and fertile country. Every one who knows it declares that there is no finer grazing country in the world. The rainfall is about 20 inches in the year. Most of it falls during the first three months, and the season is very regular. A drought is practically unknown. It is similar to the western plains country in Queensland, where the finest merino wool in the world, is grown. A railway line from Camooweal across the Barkly Tablelands ‘to Newcastle Waters, and eventually to Victoria River Downs, and thence through the Kimberly ranges, to one of the Western Australian ports should, prove a splendid proposition, because it would open up the finest country in Northern Australia. Instead of wasting money by building a railway line through light cattle-carrying country, such as that through which the projected railway from the south will run, the Government should consider opening up the Barkly Tablelands and Victoria River Downs country in the way I suggest. I am satisfied that if we had a railway there, people would be induced to stock the country with sheep, and if they were able to get wire-netting to keep the dogs out, and had improved facilities for boring, the development would be so rapid and satisfactory that the profits earned by the first section of the railway would be sufficient to pay for an extension at some future date. As I understand that this vexed question of railway construction will come before the Senate for consideration at a later date, I shall not deal further with the subject this afternoon. No stronger argument in favour of opening up the Barkly Tablelands country has ever been employed in this chamber than that contained in the speech by the Minister when moving the second reading of this bill. I believe that the majority of honorable members in this Parliament have sufficient common sense to authorize the construction of railways where they are needed, and where they will be beneficial to Australia. It was pleasing to me to hear the Minister (Senator Pearce) stress the value of the sheep country in the Northern Territory that will be tapped if the line is taken over this route. It is far more necessary for a railway to be built in sheep country than in cattle country. ‘ Cattle men do not suffer a great deal of inconvenience if they are many miles from the rail-head. When I was in Oodnadatta a few years ago I found that thousands of cattle from the Northern Territory were travelled past the rail-head and along the route of the railway, and they arrived in the market in better condition than if they had been trucked.
– Much of that which is now cattle country will become sheep country if it is given railway communication. Sheep are being raised there now.
– I do not think that Senator Sir Henry Barwell is serious if ha makes that- statement in regard to the southern portion of the Territory.
– The honorable senator will not be in order in referring to the NorthSouth railway, except in a general way. A bill dealing with that railway is on the notice-paper, and he would be anticipating the discussion upon it.
– I remind Senator Sir Henry Barwell that sheep country is very limited in the southern portion of the Territory. He stated that sheep are there already. At a place called Ryan’s Well, a little to the north of Alice Springs, I think there are about 300 sheep.
– Four thousand sheep, from the Macdonnell Ranges, were sent to the Adelaide market by one man when I was up there.
– I suppose he could not keep them there any longer.
– They realized the highest price in the Adelaide market.
– I was shown a place where it was said sheep would do well. We saw a flock of sheep that had been brought in by black shepherds in the evening. I went 100 miles east and west of Alice Springs, and, consequently, saw the class of country that exists there. Alice Springs is situated in one of the most delightful spots that it has been my privilege to visit.
– The honorable senator visited that country during the best season that had ever been known.
– That was the first time in twenty years that they had had a heavy winter rainfall.
– I have been there in good and bad seasons.
– We made provision to carry supplies of water, but when we got there we were bogged nearly every mile of the way until we were well north of Alice Springs. Does Senator Sir Henry Barwell honestly claim that that portion of the Territory can in any way compare with Victoria River Downs, Wakefield Downs, or the Barkly Tablelands ?
– I did not say that.
– When cattle are being travelled from Newcastle Waters, or even from Wave Hill and Victoria River Downs, to the Adelaide market, instead of going straight down the route of the telegraph line, a detour is made across the Barkly Tablelands to Camooweal, Urandangie, Boulia, Birdsville, and across to Marree, which means travelling probably an additional several hundred miles.
– The question whether that should be done is dependent upon the nafure of the season.
– A far larger number of cattle go right into Queensland and down the border of that State than are taken straight down the telegraph line. I have no desire to under-estimate the value of the southern portion of the Territory. The Northern Territory is now equally the property of every State; it is not the property of one particular State. The South Australian Government handed it over to the Commonwealth, and made a very good bargain. Every State has to assist in financing it, and each is equally interested in its future welfare. The question is not one of whether South Australia wants a line built in a certain direction. The people of Australia and their representatives in this Senate now have the right to say which route they consider is the correct one.
– It is a- question of carrying out a definite obligation.
– The people of South Australia were very glad to hand the Territory over to the Commonwealth. We have since been told that they made a great sacrifice when they did bo.
– Who said that?
– I heard one honorable senator from South Australia say that he would be pleased to have the Territory handed back to that State.
– The southern portion of the Territory petitioned to be handed back.
– The South Australian Government did not take any action to assist them to achieve their object. I do not think that it should go back to the State of South Australia. The Territory is too big for any one State to administer. I ask leave to continue my remarks on the next day of sitting.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
– I desire to inform the Senate that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has appointed the hour of 3.30 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon next as a suitable time at which to receive the Address-in-Reply.
– In view of the announcement made by the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce), I desire to inform honorable senators that a few minutes after the Senate . meets’ on Wednesday next, I propose to suspend the sitting and proceed to Government House, there to present to His Excellency the Address-in-Reply, and I hope that as many honorable senators as can make it convenient to do so will accompany me.
Senate adjourned at 3.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 January 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260122_senate_10_112/>.