10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J.Newlands) took the chair at 3’ p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the fact that Parliament recently passed a
Development and Migration Bill, providing for the appointment of certain commissioners, I desire to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate if the announcement appearing in the press, to the effect that certain gentlemen have been appointed, is correct, and, if so, whether the Minister does not think that Parliament should have been advised before the announcement appeared in the newspapers?
– Three of the commissioners, Mr. Gepp, Mr. Nathan, and Mr. Gunn, have been appointed, and a fourth commissioner has yet to bo selected.
– Should not the information have been given to Parliament’ before it was given to the press?
– This is the first opportunity I have had since the Senate reassembled of making a statement on the matter.
– As the Northern Australia Bill, which provided for the appointment of a commission, was passed long anterior to the Development and Migration Bill, will the Leader of the Government inform the Senate why the Development and Migration Commission was appointed before the North Australia Commission?
– There is no reason, apart from the fact that it has been somewhat difficult to determine the constitution of the North Australia Commission ; but I hope to bo able to make an announcement before Parliament rises.
SenatorFINDLEY.- Has the Government found it more difficult to appoint the North Australia Commission than to make appointments at higher salaries to the Development and Migration Commission ?
– If the honorable senator were a member of the Government he would realize the difficulty of dealing with such matters.
Senator Elliott brought up the third report of the Printing Committee.
– Is the Leader of the Government yet in. a position to reply to a question I asked on 8th July
concerning the number of boards and commissions appointed ?
– The following return has been compiled: -
– Is that return up to date, or can we assume that no further boards or commissions will be appointed before the House rises ?
– Wait and see.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the Government will reconsider its decision in connexion with the appointment of an industrial commission to visit America, and increase the personnel from eight to twelve, so that each State will have a representative of the employers and employees 1
– That suggestion has already been considered, and it is thought that with a commission of eight it will be possible to give’ representation to every State. That point will be borne in mind when a selection is made from those nominated by the employers and the employees.
– Since there are six States, and we understand that there are to be eight members of the Commission, will the Minister explain how it is possible to have a representative of the employers and the employees from each State?
– Why not enlarge the delegation to 24?
– I; am asking a reasonable question. I wish to know if it is possible to give representation to both employers and employees in each State.
– It will not be possible to do that, but it will be possible to give each State representation. The Government does not tie itself down to do so, but, when making the selection, it will bear in mind the honorable senator’s suggestion.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate if he has an answer to the question I asked last week in connexion with the outbreak of foot-rot in sheep?
– When the honorable senator asked the question I dispatched the following telegram to Mr. Julius, the chairman of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research: -
Senator Guthrie urges in view outbreak of foot-rot disease in sheep that immediate action be taken to investigate whilst disease still prevalent. Has conference veterinary pathologists made any recommendation on this? 5094 Naval Trainees. [SENATE.] Northern Territory Ordinance.
On the 9th instant I received the following reply: -
Conference veterinary pathologists gave special attention question foot-rot. Intensive field and research work already in hand at Glenfield Research Station, and special man appointed to push matters. Expect report from conference shortly.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence the following questions regarding the training of boys for the Australian Navy : -
– I propose making certain comments on the points raised by the honorable senator when discussing the budget papers, but in the meantime I ask him to place his question on the notice-paper.
Single and Double Line Tunnels
– On the 15th July, Senator Grant asked the following questions : -
In view of the loss of life and the destruction of property on the 9th instant, consequent upon the stifling atmosphere in the Ardglen singleline tunnel on the Main Northern line, New South Wales, and as practically the same conditions may exist in the proposed single-line tunnels on the Kyogle to Brisbane railway - will the Minister state what is the estimated cost per lineal yard for -
Double-line tunnels, and what is the annual estimated loss if double-line tunnels are constructed.
The chairman of the Railway Council advises as follows,: -
The cost per lineal yard is approximately : -
Single-line tunnels, £147.
Double-line tunnels, £257.
The provision of double tunnels instead of single tunnels would mean an increase in the cost of the work by approximately £280,000, and interest alone on this sum would represent approximately £15,500 per annum.
The tunnels which are being constructed on the South Brisbane-Kyogle railway are 13 per cent. wider, and the area above rail level is 20 per cent. greater than the Ardglen tunnel.
The grade in the main tunnel on the South Brisbane-Kyogle railway is 1 in 150, as against 1 in 40 in the Ardglen tunnel.
The following papers were presented : -
Boards, Commissions, Tribunals, &c- Statement showing those brought into operation by the Commonwealth Government during 1924-25 and 1925-26, and annual cost of eachboard, &c
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act - Statement re Pensions for the twelve months ended 30th June, 1926.
Northern Territory - Ordinance No. 18 of 1926- Crown Lands.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1926, Nos. 72, 91, 92, 93.
– I should like to know if the Northern Territory Crown Lands Ordinance, which the Minister for Home and Territories has just laid on the table will automatically come into force at the expiration of 30 days, or must it lie on the table for the balance of that period when Parliament reassembles ?
– Unless disallowed, it will come into force at the expiration of 30 days.
– Then I give notice of motion to disallow it. ‘
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, uyon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s question: -
The following bills were read a third time : -
Canned Fruits Export Control Bill. Canned Fruits Export Charges Bill.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill.
War Pensions Appropriation Bill. Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill.
Debate resumed from 6th August (vide page 5011), on motion by Senator Peakce -
That the .papers be’ printed.
– I had almost finished my remarks on this subject when we adjourned on Friday. I “was then about to make a few comments on the Australian Commonweal’th Shipping Line. When the bill relating to the Line was before this chamber, I advocated that accounts covering the operations of the Line should be taken out every six months, and if it were found that the Line was losing money, which I felt sure would be the case, the Government should sell the ships, and get out of the business. Considerable time has elapsed since then, and it seems to me that my prophecy has been fully borne out. There is no doubt that the Line has been losing money, and the disquieting part of the whole business is’ that, whilst a number of ships have been sold, we have no assurance that the. money received from their sale has not been absorbed in meeting the general losses that have been incurred, instead of being applied to a reduction of the capital indebtedness of the Line. My attention was particularly directed to this subject by an article in the well-known British shipping journal Fair Play, in which the following appears: -
It now appears that, during the twelve months ending 31st. March, 1925, the gross earnings of the lino amounted to £1,831,640, and the expenses to £1,967,462, showing a loss of £135,813, to which has to be added £94,317, office expenses. After allowing for brokerage fees and various commissions, the loss for the year is £209,364; but, if depreciation and debenture interest are added, it is increased to £593,879. It is stated that during the year 65 complete voyages were made by 24 vessels, which resulted in a deficit of £130,459, while additional losses on voyages completed during the previous year, together with laid-up expenses during the year, totalled £5,354, making the £135,813 referred to above, lt is pointed out that the Bay steamers and chartered vessels made a profit of £41,938, the remaining boats losing £177,751, exclusive of depreciation. The capital value of the fleet on the 1st April, 1924, was £4,103,000, from which has to he deducted £195.000 for steamers sold during the year, and £200,445 for depreciation, leaving it at £3,921,685 on the 31st March last year.
That is a loss that I do not think honorable senators would like to see continued. It has been stated that the line exerts considerable influence on the rates of freight, but I venture to say that it does not. Freights have been brought down recently without pressure .being brought to bear upon them by the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Line. My advice now, as it was three years ago, is that the Government should sell out and get out of the shipping business as quickly as possible.
– Which line was the first to reduce freights?
– The Shipping Combine.
– No. The Commonwealth Line first reduced them
– It has not the slightest influence on freights.
– It ha3 a considerable influence in that direction.
– In my opinion, it exerts no influence whatever.
It appears to me that the fears expressed regarding the film sought to be produced in Australia, founded on Marcus Clarke’s celebrated nov.el For the Term of Eis Natural Life are groundless. I do not think that such a picture would be inimical to the best interests of Australia.
– The author spoke the truth, at any rate.
– Yes, and the book in no way reflects upon Australia. If it reflects upon any country - and undoubtedly it does - it is upon the Mother Country and the conditions that existed during the period dealt with.
– They are nothing to be proud of, so why advertise them to the world?
– England, at the time of which Marcus Clarke wrote, was one of the most enlightened countries, and if she exiled citizens and condemned them to penal servitude under the conditions described, what must other nations have done at that period?
– They do not advertise the facts.
– Moving pictures, founded on the history of Prance and other countries, have been screened.
– The good episodes, but not the bad.
– That is not the case.
– Uncle Tom’s Cabin, for instance, does not remind us of the best side of the history of the United States of America.
– Quite so. 4 film dealing with Marcus Clarke’s work would be desirable if the period dealt with by the author were kept distinctly in view. The picture could be produced, under the supervision of the censors, so that prominence would be given to the date of the period concerning which the. book was written.
– How can that safeguard be provided, since the picture would be shown in all parts of the world ?
– If proper supervision were exercised, it would be better to have it prepared in this country than in Los Angeles, where, probably, it would be prepared in a way calculated to appeal peculiarly to the tastes of the American public. If it were made in Australia, the censors would see that nothing objectionable to Australian sentiment was introduced. Pictures of some of the capitals could be shown, so that picture patrons would see Australia both as it was and as it is now.
– But the intention is the very reverse of that’.
– No ;. the object is to take advantage of Australian scenery in order to have a national setting for the picture. I understand that the producers invite supervision and assistance in the production of the picture.
.- The general tenor of the discussion up to the present time has been one of utter condemnation of the budget, even by the Government’s own supporters, and I think that it is due to me, or some other honorable senator, to say a word or two in support of the Ministry that has suffered such severe castigation at the hands of its friends. No Government can escape criticism or even condemnation at times, and probably I shall have something to say along those lines ; but I believe that it has done some good things, as well as some that it would have, been better to have left undone. I commend it for the attitude it adopted in introducing special legislation last session to protect the public from the contamination of a few individuals who wanted to dictate the policy of not only the Government, but also the country. I believe, too, that its proposal to seek increased powers for the Commonwealth Parliament is to be commended. I join issue, however, with Ministers regarding some of the. matters submitted to Parliament, since they might easily jeopardize the success of the referendum proposals. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), in the budget speech, spoke of the prosperity of Australia, but I doubt whether the country is really prosperous. We may be living in a fool’s paradise and enjoying a fictitious prosperity. The Commonwealth and State debts have now reached the enormous total of about £1,000,000,000, or closely approaching £200 per head of the population. The Treasurer used figures, to support his argument, showing that there was an increased number of depositors in the savings banks, and that the sum deposited per head had also largely increased. But that is not an evidence of real prosperity. In view of the huge expenditure of borrowed money, it’ would be surprising if the working classes and the general community could not show a credit balance in the savings banks. The Federal and State Parliaments should cease visiting the pawnshop: they should, so far as is possible, discontinue public borrowing. Australia pays her way and balances her trade overseas by exporting a few commodities, particularly wool and wheat. A period of low prices for these two commodities would soon bring Australia face to face with a very serious problem: our apparent prosperity would then be shown to be fictitious. In this morning’s press I noticed a statement by the Tariff Board which is pregnant with meaning. It bears out what, on many occasions, I have told the Senate and the country, namely, that a high tariff increases wages, and that those higher wages make further duties inevitable. Those increased duties necessitate still higher wages; and so the vicious circle is pursued. We cannot forever continue in this way; we must cry a halt. The worker and the manufacturer must both be told that this state of affairs can no longer be permitted. I am glad that the Government proposes to send an industrial delegation to the United States of America, where there is a higher standard of living than we have in Australia, and where the highest wages of any country in the world are paid.
– But hot the highest effective wages year in and year out.
– Statistics, which are our only guide, show that wages in the United States of America, whether taken on the daily or yearly basis, are the highest effective wages of any country in the world, notwithstanding that in that country there is no industrial machinery such as we have here. High wages in the United States of America may be due to a greater application of mechanical aids to the workmen than there are in this country.’ I cannot think that they are due to greater efficiency on the part of the workmen themselves. I claim that Australian workmen can more than hold their own with those of any other country. Moreover, the prosperity- of the United States of America is, to a large extent, the result of a more general adoption of the system of piece-work. The Government is acting wisely in sending a delegation to the United States of America to ascertain the cause of that country’s great prosperity. The reason that unemployment is not now, and never has been, a problem in the United States of America is .in itself well worthy of investigation.
I have rejoiced to see that honorable senators, irrespective of party, have adopted an independent attitude in their criticism of the Government’s proposals. 1 should be glad if they would go further and register an independent vote. The Senate was once an independent Chamber. It was created to conserve the interests of the States, and to review the legislation passed by another place. From those high ideals it has departed. With the passing of time, the Senate has become a mere gramophone, repeating the policy of the Government and the decisions of another place to an extent that is to be deplored. I should like the Senate to assert its authority and to regain its vanished prestige. It should adopt an independent attitude, instead of bowing down abjectly before the party Joss, and sacrificing all those great principles of independent judgment which the framers of the Constitution expected of it.
– Is there anything extraordinary in honorable senators who were elected on the same platform as the Ministry supporting the Government’s proposals? By so doing they are only , carrying out their election pledges.
– When I was before the electors, I told them that I would use my independent judgment in relation to the legislation that came before the Senate. I say, deliberately, that if the Senate continues along the lines that it has followed during recent years, there will soon be an outcry for its abolition - an outcry in which I shall join.
– Did not the honorable senator sign the Labour party platform?
– Yes; and I have kept it.
– The honorable senator did not keep it.
– I am an advocate of the principle of elective ministries, which has worked well in Switzerland for 75 years, and which is embodied in the Constitution of the. Irish Free State, the latest Constitution in the British Empire. A principle which has worked so well in Switzerland for so many years and which, so far, has been successful in the Irish Free State, is worthy of a trial in Australia. We shall never derive the fullest benefit from representative government while the interests of the country are made subservient to the interests of party.
– Is it not rather, early to say that the ‘principle of elective governments has been successful in the Irish Free State?
– I said that it had been successful so far.
– Are not the Ministers there all of the same party ?
– They were selected by a vote of the House. The Irish Constitution provides that Ministers shall be responsible only to Parliament. They are selected by Parliament.
– Does not the political party having a majority elect the Ministry ?
– Not under the system of proportional representation which obtains in the Irish Free State. Under that system a Ministry would comprise representatives of every section in the House according to its numerical strength.
– Does the honorable senator think that that system would work well?
– It has worked well wherever it has been tried.
– Imagine Senator Needham and Senator Pearce in the one government !
– We are sent here to. do the best we can for Australia, not to advance mere sectional interests. That question, however, is rather too complicated for me to deal with it on this motion.
I wish to make a few remarks regarding the proposed alteration in the financial relationship of the Commonwealth and States. I followed closely and with interest the remarks which were made the other day by Senator Barwell. I did not read the debate which took place on the Surplus Revenue Act of 1910, but I have gone pretty carefully through those of the convention of 1898. The most serious problem which confronted the members of the convention was the financial relationship of the States and the Commonwealth. ‘ That occupied a good deal of the time of both the convention and the different sub-committees which were appointed, and finally, as Senator Barwell informed the Senate, a compromise was effected which formed the basis of federation. That compromise, which subsequently resulted in the payment of a capitation grant of 25s. per head, embodied the intentions of tie framers of the Constitution, and is the true basis of the Federal union. Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland would not have federated had they not been absolutely assured of some fixed and secure payments towards their revenues.
– Would they not have done so if they could have foreseen the outbreak of the great war?
– The war did not affect the principle very materially. The obligations and responsibilities of the States, as well as of the Commonwealth, were increased by the war.
– In what way? The States had nothing whatever to do with the carrying on of the war.
– They had to undertake the settlement of soldiers upon the land. Tasmania alone has incurred a liability of nearly £2,000,000 in that direction.
– Did .not the Commonwealth Government advance them the money necessary for that purpose? And a nice hash they made of the matter !
– Admitting that the Commonwealth Government provided the money, the States have to find the interest on it.
– The States squandered the money.
– They did not.’ The Commonwealth Government “ put it over “ the States when it induced them to accept the responsibility of soldier settlement.
– The responsibility of the States would have been much heavier if they had had to shoulder war debts and pensions.
– That is not my argument. I say that the obligations of the States, as well as of the Commonwealth, were considerably increased. My main concern is the way in which the proposed alteration in the financial relationship of the two authorities is likely to affect the States. The Commonwealth Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has said that, under this scheme, each State will be £50,000 a year better off than under the per capita grant. I understand that it is not the intention of the Government to submit, to Parliament this session a measure embodying the proposals, but lhat it is withholding it for twelve months to ascertain the actual amount of revenue that can be collected during the ensuing year, so that the States will know exactly what revenue they can derive. That will not be a fair test. No State government will be able to collect by means of the land tax, the probate duties, and 40 per cent, of the income tax, the amount that the Commonwealth is able to collect under existing conditions. A taxpayer who has assets in Tasmania, Queensland, and other States can be compelled to furnish to the Commonwealth a true return of his income in all States, but no State has either the machinery or the authority to pursue him beyond its own borders.
– The Commonwealth Government has undertaken to do that for them.
– It cannot do it.
– It. can. We are still receiving those returns.-
– Then the evil of duplication will be continued.
– It can be done with the machinery of the States, as it is being done to-day in Western Australia.
– I still contend that the States will not be able to raise from that source the revenues that the Commonwealth is raising. The Commonwealth Government can tax interest on its loans, but that will not be within the province of the States.
– They do not impose such taxation now, so they will not lose anything in that direction.. A deduction has been made in the figures on that account.
– I have not been able to find where any allowance has been made for it. Although the Commonwealth Treasurer has said that it does not represent a very big sum, it will mean some loss to the States. There is a further weakness in these proposals. The Commonwealth Government is able to impose a land tax. The Governments of the States will experience difficulty in inducing their Legislative Councils to assent to a measure providing for the taxation of land; and, even if such a measure were passed, the rate would not be as high as that which is charged by the Commonwealth.
– It is a purely class tax, and should not be imposed.
– Apart from that aspect of the matter, I contend that the State ‘ Governments will not be able to raise the amount estimated by the Commonwealth Treasurer. It is self-evident that they will be severe losers by the proposed alteration, and I am, therefore, opposed to it. But I am not opposed to some modification of the financial relationship of the Commonwealth and the States. A better scheme can be evolved, and provision for it is actually made in the Commonwealth Constitution. Section 105 of the Constitution provides that the Commonwealth may take over any portion of the State debts, although formally it was able to take over only the State debts which existed at the time of federation. When a referendum was taken in 1909, on a fixed payment of 25s. per head to the States, and on the question of the State debts, a fixed payment to ‘ the States was defeated by a small number, but the proposal in regard to State debts was endorsed by the Commonwealth electors. The words in section 105 of the Constitution, which provided that the Commonwealth could take over the State debts “ as existing at the time of federation,” were then excised, leaving it open to the Commonwealth to take over any portion of the debts of the various States. When the Commonwealth’s financial arrangements with the States are altered, the Government should take over a proportion of the State debts. This is not only a constitutional provision, but it was endorsed by a vote of the people. Such a scheme is sound in principle as the Commonwealth, with the assistance of the Loan Council, would then have some control over the future borrowings of the States. The continual run on the pawn’ shop is one of the greatest evils with which we are faced to-day. I may be told that the Loan Council does not function effectively, because New South Wales has refused to be represented upon it, but the present Government of New South Wales will not always be in office, and when a wiser and more reasonable Government comes into power, it will appoint a representative to the Loan Council. We shall then be able to reach the ideal of the founders of federation, and effectively control future State borrowings.
Is is certainly worth waiting a few years, if there is a possibility of making a better arrangement than the one proposed. For the reasons I have given, and owing to the fact that the State Governments will not be able to raise the same amount of revenue as the Commonwealth does from various sources of taxation, I hope the Government will abandon its proposed financial arrangements. If the States cannot secure sufficient revenue under the proposed system to balance their budgets, and there is a loss on the aggregation of incomes or on land taxation, the result will be that those who have all their assets in one State will have to carry an unnecessarily heavy burden. The primary producers in particular will be more heavily penalized than under existing conditions, and I warn the members and supporters of the Country party of the inevitable consequences. I am surprised that the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), who has ruined the Country party, and who is now threatening to bring about the downfall of the Government, should pursue such a foolish policy.
It was my intention to refer at some length to the Navigation Act, but, apart from a few observations which I shall make at this juncture, I shall reserve further comment until the Appropriation Evil is before the Senate. An alarming statement was made in the press a few days ago, to the effect that our mercantile marine is decreasing to such an extent that our coastal passenger tonnage has been reduced by 80,000 to 100,000 tons during the last year or. so. The Navigation Act was passed to encourage the mercantile marine, but the effect of its operations has been to penalize almost every section of the community. The act should be amended in the direction of easing the coastal provisions so that our interstate and intra-state trade will be profitably carried on, and the produce of primary industries enabled to reach the market as rapidly and as cheaply as possible.
We have to ask ourselves the serious question of whether Australia is really prosperous, and if the Federal Govern ment is not departing from the real functions of federation. It was never intended that the Commonwealth Government should embark upon a roads policy, or undertake a housing scheme. These are works which the States can effectively perform.
– Does the honorable senator not realize the necessity for good national roads?’
– Yes ; but their construction is a function of the States. If the Federal Government would get out of the way the States would do all that is required, of them. Tasmania, for instance, has spent £4,000,000 of borrowed money on main roads, which is more than has been spent by all the other States combined.
– And it has then allowed the roads to go to pieces.
– The proposal of the Government is to provide money, not for maintaining roads, but for constructing them.
– And reconditioning.
– Only for re-conditioning roads on which Commonwealth money has been expended.
– Yes. Tasmania has spent its money,, and if this proposal is adopted thousands of pounds will be wasted on roads which are not essential to the development of the States. This is, however, a matter upon which I shall have more to say when the Federal Aid Roads Bill is before the Senate.
In conclusion, I desire, to say that I hope the day is not far distant when the Senate will assert itself by adopting an independent attitude, and refuse to consider parties before the welfare of the country. The Senate has not power to make and unmake Governments, and it should not have power without responsibility. We have not power in this Chamber to defeat the Government.
– We have.
– The only power we have is to force a double dissolution, and that would only be on a particularly important issue. If the issue is of sufficient consequence the Senate should be prepared to face it.
– The honorable senator said that we had no power.
– We have not the power to make or unmake Governments; we can only force a double dissolution. Perhaps the possibility of a double dissolution has prevented the honorable senator from voting as lie would sometimes like to do. Is it the fear of a double dissolution that makes the honorable senator ‘an abject follower of the Government ?
– No; I think they are a good lot.
– If we do not think this measure a good one we should throw it out. The honorable senator has voted blindly on many questions. Although my voice is like that of one crying in the wilderness, I hope the day will come when the Senate and the executive will be free to use their individual judgment, irrespective of party considerations. That is my objective, although, as I have said, I do not suppose I shall be a member of this Chamber long enough to see it achieved.
.- I listened with a great deal of interest to Senator Ogden who, in the first place, commended the Government for the excellent programme it had brought forward, and for the magnificent work it has accomplished, but concluded with some destructive criticism concerning the Government and those supporting it. He favours the principle of elective ministries, but under such a system the majority would rule, and, therefore, it would not make any material difference.
I, too, wish to commend the Government for the useful legislation which it has introduced, and for the excellent work performed during the present session in the interests of the people. I believe that the policy endorsed by the electors is steadily being given effect to. In my opinion the Treasurer is an ornament to the Government:
– An ornament; no doubt.
– Yes, he has brought his ability to bear on most of the legislation introduced into this Parliament, and the Commonwealth is to be congratulated upon having such a statesman in its Cabinet.
– Is the honorable senator a member of the Country party?
– And Dr. Earle Page is the leader of that party.
– The honorable senator is not a member of any party, but I remind him that there is room in the Country party for brainy men such as he is.
– I am here to look after the interests of the country before those of any party.
– It is the object of the Country Party to look after the country, and particularly the primary producers, who are the backbone, muscle and sinew of the country.
– Dr. Page has violated every plank of the Country party’s platform.
– Does the honorable senator believe in a high tariff ?
– Dr. Earle Page voted for high duties.
– I did not, and I am responsible only for my own sins. Dr. Earle Page is answerable for his own actions. However, I rose chiefly to direct attention to certain subjects in which I am interested.
At a recent conference of Health authorities, the statement was made that during the last seventeen years no fewer than 70,000 people had died in Australia from cancer. That is a most alarming statement. This subject should receive immediate attention at the hands of the Commonwealth Parliament. Here is an opportunity for research work. Coupled with cancer, is that other dread disease, tuberculosis. The statistics show that during the last seven years between 25,000 and 26,000 persons have died in Australia from that disease, which is well designated the White Plague. Some spasmodic attempts have been made to check it, but, unfortunately, lack of funds has prevented anything from being done on an extensive scale. Any proposal for the treatment of tuberculosis should include adequate provision for dependants of sufferers. Clinical observation, hospital treatment, and sanitoria are essential features in any scheme to deal with it. Unfortunately, tuberculosis is very prevalent in mining .centres where men are obliged to work under more or less unhealthy conditions. In Bendigo we have established an X-ray laboratory, a sanatorium and hospital- accommodation, but, as I have stated, the stumbling block is the n necessary financial provision for the maintenance of dependants. I trust that the Government will give this subject careful consideration, and devise some scheme to forward the movement.
Yesterday I was privileged to attend a lecture delivered by Colonel Pottinger, who recently completed a tour of 20,000 miles through India, and I wa3 impressed by statements which he made as to the possibility of opening un the Indian market for our surplus primary products. Colonel Pottinger stated that at present the market is being supplied by the United States of America. Since India is much nearer to Australia than to America, we should be able to secure a good footing there.. During the war the native population acquired a taste for European food products, particularly flour and fruit. We should take advantage of our proximity to that market and seek to develop our . trade in that country. Standardization of all labels is important, because the natives buy mostly on the label. Colonel Pottinger stated that on one occasion when he wished to give a present to one of his Indian servants, he gave him a choice of three knives. One pocket knife was a combination affair, with which we are familiar, but to his: surprise the native chose a smaller knife. He gave as his . reason that it was a Rodgers cast steel knife. That brand, I understand, is well known to the natives, “who believe it to be the best article of its kind produced.
Recently, Australian apples have been a glut on the English market. The landed cost, exclusive of orchard charges, is about 8s. 7d. a case from Tasmania, and 8s. 4d. from the mainland, and yet they -were sold at from 5s. to 9s. a case. ‘If, owing to our distance, -or to the fact that our season clashes with the season in countries that are nearer to Great Britain, we are unable to dispose of any of our surplus primary products at a profit on the London market, we should consider the possibility of developing trade with India.
On several occasions I have directed attention to the policy of the Pensions Department in withholding a certain pro portion of pension payments in cases where pensioners are inmates of public institutions. The practice. is to pay 10s. 6d. to the institution, and 4s. to the pensioner and to retain the balance. In the budget statement, the liability on .account of invalid and old-age pensions is stated at £1 a week, and the excuse is made that where pensioners are inmates of a public institution, it is necessary to retain some portion of the amount to cover administrative expenses. It should be less costly to pay a number of pensioners by one cheque than to distribute the amount of pension money -to a large number of individuals. I have been supplied with the following particulars of Victorian institutions which provide homes for invalid and old-age pensioners: -
The revenue was -
As a general rule, the old people only become inmates of such institutions when they are unable to look after themselves. Consequently, their maintenance is more costly than otherwise it would be. The daily average of old-age pension inmates in the several ‘benevolent homes for the year ending the 30th June, 1925, was as follows : -
I hope that the Minister will reconsider his decision in connexion with payments on behalf of inmates of public institutions, and pay the full amount.
Not long ago we passed a measure authorizing the payment of £25,000 for assistance to mining, but as £10,000 of that amount will be paid in respect of operations in the Northern Territory, only £15,000 will be available for the development of mining throughput the Commonwealth. The whole of it could, with advantage, be spent on one mine. The Government would be well advised to provide a much larger vote, if it wishes the industry to be revived.
Recently, also, we passed a measure for the payment of 4d. a gallon on the production of power alcohol from cassava. I opposed that proposal on the ground that it was not comprehensive enough. If bounty is to be paid on the production of power alcohol, it should not be restricted to one source of production, but should be paid irrespective of the substance from which it is produced. It could be manufactured from the huge heaps of sawdust that lie at the timber mills in the forests, and also from the refuse of the canefields and the wine presses. If its production from all sources were- encouraged, Australia would be in a fairly independent position in the event of the stocks of petrol from over-‘ seas being withheld. I commend the Government for the work it has done during the session, and I am confident that the electors will be satisfied that it has made every effort to comply with the mandate given by them.
Debate (on motion by Senator Elliott) adjourned.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
– I move-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
Honorable senators are aware that the Government desires to close the session this week. If the motion is carried, the debate will not be curtailed, but we shall be able to proceed with the consideration of the measure forthwith.
– Do I understand that the Government desires not only that the second reading shall be moved to-day, but also that the second-reading discussion shall take place? Does the Leader of the Government wish the bill to be passed through all its stages before any other business is considered ?
– That depends on whether we receive another bill from the other branch of the legislature; but if it is desired that .the formal stages should be postponed until to-morrow, I have no objection to the adoption of that course.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill <(on motion by Senator Crawford) read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Provision is made in the measure for a comprehensive scheme of roadconstruction throughout Australia from funds to be made available by the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States, on the basis of £1 being paid by the Commonwealth for every 15s. contributed by the States. The agreement, which is embodied in the bill, was arrived at by negotiation between the Commonwealth and State Governments, in conference and by correspondence, and the proposal of the Commonwealth Government to make available, under the conditions set out in the agreement, £20,000,000 for allocation to the States on the basis of three-fifths population and two-fifths area, was fully discussed. While the Government realizes that road -construction generally comes within the jurisdiction of the State Governments, it recognizes, also, that, in view of the rapid development of motor transport, the provision of suitable roads has now become a problem of national importance, and of too great magnitude for the various State Governments to handle without the aid of the national Government. The following statement sets out the amounts allocated on the £1 for £1 basis to each of the States, in pursuance of the main road grants from 1923 to 1926, the commitments entered into, and the actual expenditure up to the end of the last financial year: -
It will be noted that the total actual expenditure amounts to £1,316,580. This sum includes only that expenditure which ‘ has been finally examined and passed by the Auditor-General. A considerable sum has been expended, the audit of which has not yet been completed. In addition to the sums allotted from the grants amounting to £1,500,000, the Government, during last year, made a further grant of £250,000 to the States, free of any contribution by the States, for expenditure on the reconditioning of existing roads. The allocation of the whole of this additional money has been approved, which indicates that the States have taken full advantage of the grants and that the expenditure is proceeding at a satisfactory rate.’ Considerable benefit has accrued to Australia as a result of the assistance rendered to the States under the Main Roads Development Acts. The expenditure of these moneys, together with the corresponding State contributions, has resulted in the following works being eompleted : -
Those works could not otherwise have been completed for years to come. The bulk of the expenditure has been incurred on entirely new roads, requiring in many cases complete surveys, and relocation of proposed roads, in localities varying from wet, hilly, heavily-timbered country to dry, sandy, and open plains. The Commonwealth and State authorities have co-operated in every possible way, with a view to securing the best results from the moneys made available. As to the proposal to make available to the States the sum of £20,000,000 for expenditure on roads over a period of ten years, as set out’ in the bill and the agreement attached thereto, the intentions of the Government in this connexion were referred to in the policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister in October, 1925. I need not enlarge. on the necessity for good roads, nor refer to the handicaps which are being . experienced in this connexion in every part of the Commonwealth. In the United States of America, the’ central government has fully realized the necessity for encouraging the expansion of the road system throughout the union. It endorses the view that the progress of a nation depends largely on the reduction of its transport costs and the facilities provided for the economical and expeditious marketing of its products. Up to the end of June, 1925, the total length of Federal-aid roads completed in the United States of America, since the Federal Aid Road Act came into operation in 1916, was 46,485 miles. The mileage of the roads under construction and nearing completion was over 12,000. The appropriation of Feder.al funds for this purpose amounted to some £100,000,000. It is proposed, under the Federal-aid highways system of the United States of America to construct some 200,000 miles of highways, the Federal Government’s contribution towards the cost of which will be on the basis of £1 for every £1 of State expenditure. Mr. T. H. MacDonald, chief of the United States Bureau of Public Roads, describes highway transport as the “ new great force in our national life.” At the International Road Congress, held at Seville in 1923, Mr. H. E. Riggs stated that ‘ ‘ the problem in transportation in the United Spates of America was the most vital thing in the nation to-day.” If this is true with regard to America, which is within a week’s journey of the European markets, how much greater must be its application to Australia with its great distances from the sea-board, practically devoid of natural waterways, and five weeks’ sail from the world’s greatest markets? While the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States cannot hope at the present time to undertake a scheme approaching the magnitude of that adopted in the United States of America, it is claimed that the proposals now submitted will provide a system of Federal aid roads which will be of inestimable value to the Commonwealth generally. The proposals were fully discussed at a conference of Ministers representing the Commonwealth, and the six States which sat in Melbourne in February last, the agreement embodied in the bill being the outcome of those discussions. The scheme proposed will, in effect, be the first instalment, and will form the basis of a national roads system. When completed, it will be capable of extension in such a manner that the whole of our future roads construction .will dovetail into the works now proposed. The scheme is an amplification of that which has been in existence for the last three years. It will be found that the general plan will include most of .those sections of roads which have already been completed, and will, to that extent, shorten the length of many roads which will be included in the general scheme to be undertaken under these proposals. No scheme of this magnitude has ever been undertaken, or even contemplated in Australia previously. It involves an expenditure of £35,000,000 over a period of ten years. The agreement was arrived at after very lengthy conferences and consultations with representatives of the States. It is -wrong to suggest that only country districts will benefit from the construction of good roads under the agreement. Roads in country districts that are good enough to carry motor traffic are largely used by motorists from the cities.. The cities, also, will benefit in the highest degree, because good roads mean cheaper transport, and cheaper transport means cheaper food and raw materials for the residents of the cities. Cities and city motorists will thus derive direct benefit from the construction of good roads in the country districts. Further, it is only just that the cities should contribute through the tariff to the welfare of sparsely settled areas, seeing that the cities obtain so much benefit from the tariff in the shape of thriving industries and increased population. The road policy is a national one, providing that the more highly developed and wealthy parts of the country should contribute something to the welfare of the less developed districts. It is impracticable and absurd to expect that, in a country like Australia, each area or each section of the community shall look after only its own needs. Clause 1 of the agreement reads -
This agreement shall have no force or effect, and shall not :be binding on either party unless and until it is approved, adapted, authorized, or ratified -by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and of the State.
– How many States have ratified it?
– So far, there has been no parliamentary ratification.
– How many State Governments have ratified it?
– Three. The State Governments will submit the agreement to their respective Parliaments. Five of the States became parties to the agreement. Sub-clause 1 of clause 2 of the agreement provides -
The Commonwealth will, subject to and for the purposes of this agreement, provide the sum of (a) during the period of ten years, commencing on. the Ist-day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-six; 5106 Federal Aid[ SENATE.] Roads Bill.
The amounts proposed to be paid by the Commonwealth under this sub-clause are as follow: -
– Is that money available now, or is it proposed to tax the people to obtain it?
-It will be made available from year to year, as provided in this bill.
Sub-clause 2 of clause 2 of the agreement, provides -
The said sum of (a)’ will be paid by the Commonwealth into a trust account established for the purpose under section 62a of the Audit Act 1901-1924 of the Commonwealth, by payments into such account of the sum of (b) in each year during the said period of ten years.
It will be seen that the payments into the trust account each year will be, in respect of each of the States, one-tenth of the sum to be provided by the Commonwealth under sub-clause 1 of clause 2. Sub-clause 1 of clause 3 of the agreement provides that -
Subject to clause 7 of this agreement, the State will provide an additional sum of (c) for the purposes of this agreement. Sub-clause 3 of clause 3 provides -
Of the amount to be provided by the State under this clause the sum of (d) shall be provided from revenue. The balance of the amount to be provided by the State may, at the option of the State, be provided out of current roads expenditure or from revenue or loan moneys.
Of the total amount which the Commonwealth is providing for this purpose, annually, it is intended that £500,000 shall be paid from present revenue, and £1,500,000 shall be raised from new sources of revenue. Of the amounts which they will spend the States will also be expected to raise a certain proportion each year. To show how the scheme will work, I give, as an example, what would happen in the case of Victoria. The amount which the Commonwealth Government will pay to Victoria, for the construction of new roads, will be £90,000 per annum out of present revenue. From new sources of revenue, £270,000 per annum will be paid for the construction of new roadsor the reconstruction of old roads. The State Government will be expected to find, from revenue, £33,750, and from revenue, loan, or present roads expenditure, another £33,750, making a total of £67,500 for expenditure on new construction. Victoria will be expected to provide, from revenue, loan, or existing roads expenditure, an additional £202,500, for expenditure on construction or reconstruction, making a total of £270.000 per annum, against the Commonwealth’s contribution of £360,000 per annum.
Clause 4 of the agreement provides - If any instalment provided by the State as aforesaid is, or includes, loan moneys of the State, the State shall, at the time when the instalment is provided, so inform the Commonwealth, and specify the amount of loan moneys in the instalment.
The purpose of this provision is that a proper check may be kept on loan moneys, on which the Commonwealth has agreed to pay 3 per cent. out of moneys payable to the States towards a sinking fund for the first ten years.
Clause 4 further provides -
Clause 5 reads -
For the purposes of this agreement the following classes of roads shallbe deemed to be Federal Aid roads:
Clause 6 provides -
It may be laid down as a principle that not less than one-fourth of the total amount provided is to be expended on new roads. But the Minister for the time being is given discretionary power to say just how much of the balance of 75 per cent, shall be spent on either the construction or reconstruction of main roads in any State. If we take Tasmania, for example, it will be found that there is no great necessity for new roads there.
– How much of the £1,000,000 to be granted to Tasmania will be spent on construction, and how much on reconstruction and reconditioning?
– One-fourth must be spent on new construction. By arrangement with the Federal Minister, the balance of 75 per cent, may be spent on reconditioning existing roads.
– Then, the Commonwealth is to dictate the roads policy of the State Governments?
– It is a matter not of dictation, but of arrangement. It is very necessary that many of the lengths of really good roads that were laid down in the State some years ago should be re-conditioned; and the State is, by itself, unable to recondition them. The. Minister for the time being would, in all probability, permit Tasmania to spend up to 75 per cent, of the amount provided on the reconditioning of existing roads. But of the total amount provided, there must not be less than 25 per cent, spent on the construction of new roads. So far, there has been no interference with the States. The whole of the proposals for the construction of new roads with the assistance of money provided . by the Commonwealth have originated with the States. We stipulate in regard to roads, the grade, the width of the road, and the depth of metal. In the first place, a scheme for five years will be drawn up by the States themselves. Each State will submit its own proposal to the Road Board.
– What, another board?
– This board will cost the country nothing. When the five-years scheme is finally approved, each State will signify which part of the scheme it desires shall first be undertaken. Clause 6, sub-clause 3, of the agreement reads -
The Minister shall have the power to decide from time to time how the .balance of the moneys paid to the State under this agreement and the balance of the moneys to be provided by the State under this agreement shall be expended, but so that such moneys shall be expended solely in the construction of Federal aid roads and/or the reconstruction of Federal aid roads.
In some of the States, long lengths of existing roads need re-conditioning, and in other States a greater proportion of new construction is required. Clause 7, sub-clause 1, reads -
Where a road being constructed or being reconstructed under this agreement passes through a town whose population (according to the latest statistics available at the time the work is ‘being done) does not exceed Five thousand (5,000) persons such road may be constructed through! the town or reconstructed (as the case may be) as if the town did not exist: Provided that the width of any road constructed or reconstructed through a town pursuant to this clause snail not except with the approval in writing of the Minister exceed 20 feet.
It is not intended to allocate any sums for expenditure within the boundaries of towns with a population exceeding 5,000; and expenditure will be incurred in towns with a population under 5,000 only in eases where the road being constructed or reconstructed passes through such towns. In some small country municipalities it would be impossible, to raise sufficient revenue to reconstruct and maintaining lengths of road entirely for the use of traffic originating outside the municipal boundaries. Clause 7, sub-clause 2, reads -
If any portion of the cost of constructing or reconstructing ‘a road pursuant to this agreement is contributed by the municipal or other local governing authority of a town referred to in the last preceding sub-clause, the amount to be provided by the State under clause 3 of this agreement shall be reduced by the amount so contributed: Provided, however, that the State shall not require any such municipal or other local governing authority to contribute more than one-half of the amount to be provided by the State as its proportion of the cost of constructing or reconstructing such road.
– It is a direct invitation to the States to bring pressure to bear on the municipalities to increase their rates.
– That power is limited. The municipalities are not bound to do it. Assuming that a mile of new road was required to be constructed within a town at a cost of £3,500, the Commonwealth’s contribution towards that amount, would be £2,000, and the State’s contribution £1,500. The State would be able to recoup itself from the municipality to the extent of 50 per cent, of the £1,500. The Government does not intend that the States shall make a levy on the municipalities for roads outside the boundaries of towns. One can readily visualize long stretches of road which pass through poor country, where the municipalities, if they were called upon to contribute £500 or £750 a mile for 15 or 20 miles of road, would not be able to take advantage of the offer of Commonwealth money. In that case, there would be a break in the continuity of the road, and the object of the scheme would be frustrated. Clause 8, sub-clause 1, reads -
The State shall to the satisfaction of the Minister make proper provision for the adequate and continuous maintenance in good repair and condition of all roads constructed or reconstructed in pursuance of this agreement. Such maintenance shall be taken in hand immediately following upon the completion of the construction or reconstruction of any road or portion thereof and shall be met from moneys provided by the State.
The Government considers that it would be folly to incur a large expenditure on a national roads system without providing for adequate maintenance. Clause 8, subclause 2, reads - _ If any such road is not adequately and continuously maintained in good repair and condition to the satisfaction of the Minister the State shall not (if the Minister so directs) be entitled to payment of any further moneys out of the said Trust Account until the road has been put in good repair and condition to the satisfaction of the Minister and until proper provision to the satisfaction of the Minister has been made by the State for the road being adequately and continuously maintained in good repair and condition.
That sub-clause is self-explanatory. Clause 9, sub-clause 1, reads -
Prior to the submission by the State of any proposals for expenditure of any moneys provided by the Commonwealth and the State in pursuance of this agreement the State shall submit to the Minister for his approval full particulars of the roads proposed to be constructed or reconstructed during the period of five years commencing on the first day of July One thousand nine hundred and twentysix and prior to the expiration of the said period of .five years the State shall submit to the Minister for his approval full particulars of the roads proposed to be constructed or reconstructed during the period of five years commencing on the expiration of the first mentioned period of five years.
The works will be carried out on a comprehensive plan. Each State will put forward a scheme covering a five year period.
It is not proposed to expend these amounts on small and scattered sections of road. A definite objective will be aimed at, and every endeavour will be made to complete the scheme adopted during the . five-year period, after which a further programme will be decided upon. The municipalities that desire these roads to pass through their territories will apply to the roads boards in their respective States, and the roads boards will report to the State Ministers. Sub-clause 2 of the same clause reads -
All proposals in connexion with works to be carried out in any financial year in pursuance of this agreement shall be submitted by the State to the Minister for his approval, and the State shall not commence any proposed work without first obtaining the approval in writing of the Minister.
First, the five-year scheme will be approved. Then proposals for the first year will be presented to the Commonwealth Minister, and each year afterwards further proposals will be submitted. All proposals will require to have the approval of the Commonwealth Minister. Sub-clause 3 reads -
When submitting any such proposals the State shall specify by what method it is proposed the work shall be executed.
Sub-clause 4 reads -
The method of execution shall be by contract except that where the Minister for the State considers that tenders received for the execution of the work are unsatisfactory, or that execution by day labour would be more economical and/or expeditious, and so informs the Minister, the Minister may, if he is satisfied that action has been taken by the State to ensure that the work will be carried out according to approved methods of construction, in which modern plant is utilized to the fullest extent, approve of the execution Of the work in whole or in part by day labour.
Sub-clause 5 states that, in the event of any moneys provided not being used in any one year, they shall not lapse. Clause 10, sub-clause 1, provides that all necessary surveys and supervision shall bc undertaken by the State; and sub-clause 2 reads -
An amount equal to 2 per centum of the cost of the work carried out will be paid to the State out of the said trust account towards the cost of the survey and supervision of that work, and of the preparation of plans and other preliminaries in connexion with that work.
Under the old arrangement, the States were liable for the cost of surveys, supervision, and general administration. In
Western Australia, the cost on some of. the outback roads was very bigh, amounting in some localities to as much as 8 per cent. After discussing the matter at great length, it was decided that the Commonwealth should provide an amount equal to 2 per cent. Clause 11, subclause 1, reads -
The final portion of the Commonwealth’s proportion of the cost of carrying out any work under this agreement will be paid to the State after the work has been completed to the satisfaction of the Minister.
Sub-clause 2 provides -
The Minister may satisfy himself by such means as he thinks fit as to whether any work has been carried out in accordance with this agreement.
Clause 12 provides -
The Commonwealth will establish a board to be known as the Federal Aid Roads Board consisting of the Minister and a Minister representing each of the different States to which any money is made available in pursuance of the hereinbefore recited proposal of the Commonwealth. ‘J he said board shall meet in the month of April in each year, and at such other times as the Minister considers necessary for the purpose of discussing any matters in connexion with the carrying out of the works.
It is not intended to create a paid board. The ministerial board referred to will have the advice and assistance of the officers of .the Commonwealth and State departments, and should not involve additional expense to either the States or the Commonwealth.
– Will the Minister explain the manner in which this money is to be raised 1
– That will be dealt with under a separate bill, which, as honorable senators are aware, has been introduced in another place.
– The two matters are closely related.
– They are very closely related. Although both bills are not at present before the Senate, I presume that the discussion on this will embrace also the other proposal. It would be very difficult to entirely separate the two.
– We cannot discuss this measure before we know what are the proposals for raising the money.
– It may be as well if I make the definite statement that there is before another place a bill providing for the imposition of a duty of 2d. a gallon on petrol.
– Will the whole of the revenue be derived from that duty on petrol )
– A sum of £500,000 per annum will be provided from general revenue, as has been the case during the last three years.
– Has the proposal to impose a duty on motor chassis and tires been dropped ?
– I am not in a position to answer that question definitely at the moment. I trust that honorable senators will give the bill their earnest consideration, and that it will be passed without ‘undue delay.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to the speech that has been made by the Minister.
– It cannot be called a speech; the Minister merely read a statement.
- Senator Duncan did not exercise his powers of observation, or he would have realized that the Minister made a very effective speech. ‘ At the outset of my remarks, I admit the necessity for having good main roads. Although our opinions regarding the means that should be adopted for defraying the expenditure may be divided, I think I can say without fear of contradiction by any of my honorable friends opposite, that we are all agreed as to the necessity for having good main roads. The development and prosperity of the Commonwealth depend, to a large extent, upon that provision being made. I shall’, therefore, support the second reading of this measure. It must not, however, be concluded that I speak for my party.. I have simply stated my own opinion. Doubtless other honorable senators who sit on this side hold different opinions, and will give expression to their views. There are one or two matters to which it might be as well if I called attention. The scheme embodies too many provisos, and there does not appear to be anything definite about it.
– That is characteristic of everything that the Government undertakes.
– With my colleague, I admit that this Government has been proceeding in a somewhat indefinite way, and hedging its proposals to such an extent that we scarcely know where we are; but I must be candid and say that, with such a huge area to develop, we must give our attention to the construction of good main roads. I realize that this measure will be of assistance to the State of Western Australia, which contains a vast territory that successive governments have had extreme difficulty in developing.
– That is the true federal spirit.
– I accept the rebuke of my colleague. I may have “ slipped “ as a Federalist, in the same way that my colleague, as a Himalayan protectionist, “ slipped “ on corsets when we were discussing the tariff recently. There are at least three phases of the question of main roads to which one may refer without having levelled against him the accusation of being a States-righter ; they are defence, transport, and the opening up of the country. It is well known that one of the planks in the platform of the Labour party is the provision of good main roads and railways for purposes of defence. I abhor the mention of war, but dealing with the proposal from a defence viewpoint, the rapid transport of. troops in the event of an invasion must be considered. Australia is essentially a primary producing country. Fully 95 per cent of our produce consists of primary products, and as our primary producers have to rely upon rapid and cheap transport to enable them to profitably market their commodities, good roads are essential. There are still large tracts of uncultivated land that could be opened up if good roads were constructed, and as development follows the building pf railways’, increased settlement should follow the construction of good roads. I do not know if it is still proposed that townships with a population of over 5.000 should be excluded from the benefits provided under the bill. Clause 7 of the agreement reads: -
Where a road being constructed or reconstructed under this agreement passes through a town whose population (according to the latest statistics available at the time the work is being done) does not exceed 5,000 persons, such road may be constructed through the town, or reconstructed (as the case may be) as if the town did not exist. Provided that the width of any road constructed or reconstructed, or recommended through a town pursuant to this clause shall not, except with approval in writing of the Minister, exceed 20 feet.
In the first place a road of 20 feet in width is too narrow.
– It might be ample for the traffic.
– It might and it might not be. Main roads pass through many townships with a population of more than 5,000 persons.
– Also in provincial centres.
– Yes. At the moment, I am thinking more particularly of the road from Perth to. Fremantle through Claremont which is an important municipality in Western Australia. There is also Subiaco, and as these and other municipalities have to defray the cost of maintaining the main roads passing through them, some relief should be afforded. If the Government persists with its proposal to continue collecting an additional 2d. a gallon on petrol, fully 70 per cent, of the money will be provided by the users of roads in the metropolitan area. During the election campaign last year, the Prime Minister said that the Government would make available to the States £20,000,000 over a period of ten years, for the construction of roads, but it was understood that the money would be obtained from ordinary Customs revenue, which in 1925 was buoyant. It was thought that the cost of a main roads scheme would be paid .out of revenue without a special impost such a i is now being collected. The public works departments of the States should also be entrusted with the control of the construction of main roads without the intervention of the Commonwealth Minister for Works and Railways, as hitherto when the - Commonwealth Government undertook the construction of any Commonwealth work within a State, the Public Works Department of the State became the supervisor for the Commonwealth. Invariably, the advice of the State authorities is adopted by the Commonwealth. In this instance, however, the whole work is held ur> until the Commonwealth Minister for Works and Railways approves.
– Up to the present there has been no difficulty in that respect.
– About eighteen months ago a deputation which waited upon the present Vice-President of the
Executive Council (Senator Pearce), made representations concerning the difficulties experienced in Western Australia. Possibly the position has eased somewhat since then, but I can see the likelihood of trouble arising in connexion with the administration of the act. There is a possibility of work being held up pending the approval of the Commonwealth Minister for Works. I hope that will not- be so. We trust the State public works department in other matters, so we should trust them in this.
– The bill provides for an agreement based upon a live years’ programme.
– Exactly, and naturally the State engineers will advise their respective governments in the preparation of that programme. My purpose is to avoid any unnecessary delay that might be occasioned through waiting for the approval of the Commonwealth Public Works Department. I know that the officers of that department are highly efficient, but I am afraid that administrative delays might be responsible for holding up works in the reaped ive States.
– That has not been the experience in the past.
– Unfortunately , it was in connexion with the first Commonwealth grant- for the main roads.
– There has been no delay in connexion with the later grants.
– I hope there will be no delay in future. But I am afraid that under this measure the State Governments may be prevented from spending money on roads which, in their opinion, are most urgently needed. As I said at the outset, I speak for myself only. Other honorable senators on this side will, no doubt, express their own views on this important subject.
– This is a case of a leader who does not lead.
– I am afraid that Senator Duncan, not having learned to obey, will never learn to lead. I leave the matter there. I support the second reading. When the bill is in committee I sholl have something further to say with regard to these proposals.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL (South
Australia) [5.23]. - I listened carefully to the speech of the honorable the Minister (Senator Crawford) when introducing the bill, and also to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) in support of it. I do not intend to traverse the whole of the ground covered by those honorable senators, because their -speeches dealt largely with the desirability of good roads in Australia. Every one will agree that the provision of good roads is of the utmost importance. But that is not by any means the whole question which we have to consider.- When I was speaking on the budget a few days ago I intimated that I would oppose the Government’s roads proposals. My first reason for objecting to the bill’ is that, in my opinion as. a lawyer, the proposals are unconstitutional. That is a matter about which I have no doubt whatever. I may add that my opinion is- endorsed by that of every other lawyer who has publicly expressed his views upon this subject, including even the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), as I shall show.
– Are not good roads essential for defence?
– Yes, but these proposals are not introduced as part of a defence scheme. We are not asked to pass a measure for the construction of roads for strategic purposes. I have just said that my opinion as to the unconstitutionality of the proposals is shared by other legal gentlemen. The Victorian Crown Law authorities are with me. The Victorian State Government, not relying entirely upon the opinion of its legal advisers, also sought the opinion of two outside counsel.
– But the conclusions of one of those gentlemen were expressed very cautiously.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Not at all. His opinion as to the unconstitutionality of the measure was most emphatic.
– Is it not likely that a government would seek the advice of legal gentlemen whose opinions would be acceptable to it? Could not a Government pick its men, knowing what their opinion would be?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Does the honorable senator suggest that members of the legal profession would lend themselves to that sort of thing ? If he does, then I. as a member of that profession, resent the imputation very much indeed.
– We all know that no two legal gentlemen can agree on certain matters.
– That cannot be said of these proposals. Every member of the. legal profession who has been asked for an opinion on the agreement attached to this bill, has stated publicly that it is unconstitutional.
– The Crown Law authorities in South Australia take this view. The Government of that State also referred the agreement to Mr. F.V. Smith, K.C.. who, in the course of a lengthy statement, expressed the same opinion.
– When Mr. Smith proceeds to speak about the advisability of the proposals, I regard his opinion as that of a politician rather than of a lawyer.
– Has the Government no legal advisers?
– Yes ;. the Attorney-General is the Government’s legal adviser, and I propose to tell the Senate what Mr. Latham said in 1925, when the Main Roads Development Bill was under discussion. He stated in unequivocal language that that measure was unconstitutional. He takes a. different view of this bill, although, as a matter of fact, it is similar to the measure dealt with last year. This bill, he says, is all right, because it provides for financial assistance to the States. But can any distinction be drawn between the bill of last year and the measure now before the Senate ?
– The AttorneyGeneral has said that his objections to the previous measure have been overcome in this bill.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Yes, and he gives as his reason the fact that this is a measure to grant financial assistance to the States. Let us see what the Attorney-General said about the -Main Roads Development Bill in 1925 -
I venture to assert, although I know that it will be unpopular to do so, that in passing legislation of this description we are not acting constitutionally. This Parliament has no power to legislate for main roads. It has power, of course, to grant financial assistance to States- which need it.
He dealt with that point later. Let me now refer to the matter mentioned by Senator Elliott. The Attorney-General went on to say -
This is not a bill dealing with roads for defence purposes, and no one pretends that it is. It is possible to say that all useful developmental work in Australia improves the capacity of a country to defend itself; but are we, as a Commonwealth Parliament, to spend our revenues for the achievement of any desirable object that may improve the resources of a country from the point of view of defence?
This, T remind honorable senators, is Mr. Latham’s view -
This bill does not pretend to provide for anything of that character, as. honorable members know very well. It cannot be said that the States require financial assistance from the Commonwealth.
There is the other point -
We should be in an entirely different position if the Government had brought down a measure to provide for the construction of main roads between the capital cities of Australia based upon strategic considerations that have the backing of its technical defence advisers.
Apart altogether from defence, I contend that this bill is not a measure to grant financial assistance to the States under the provisions of section 96 of the Constitution.
– But, under the Constitution, the Government has power to build strategic roads.
– Undoubtedly, the Commonwealth Government has full power with regard to defence. If it wished, it could have brought in this bill as a measure to provide for the construction of certain roads for strategic purposes. If the proposals were based upon those considerations, to use the words of the Attorney-General, they would be within the power of the Constitution.
– We have that constitutional power, and it would not be questioned by the High Court.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.The High Court would have to determine whether the roads to be constructed under this measure were designed for strategic purposes.
– The High Court itself would not judge whether they were for strategic purposes, and would not attempt to do so.
– But does not the Attorney-General himself answer the question. Let me again quote his own words -
We should be in an entirely different position if the Government had brought down a measure to provide for the construction of main roads between the capital cities of Australia based upon strategic considerations that have the backing of its technical defence advisers.
– I do not see how the High Court could enter into that phase of the subject.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.It would be a question of fact. The Government does not suggest that this bill is in any way a defence measure, or that the proposals are based upon considerations of defence.
– Because the facts speak for themselves. Good roads means facilities for defence.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.If the honorable senator cares to argue the subject along those lines then he might, with equal justice, say that because a migration policy will increase our population it also may be regarded as a defence measure.
– That would be too remote.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Nevertheless, the honorable senator may argue that an increased population, and an increase in the production of wealth, will give greater security from a defence point of view. One cannot defend the bill on the plea that the roads are required for defence purposes, or that the States are in need of financial assistance. Section 96 of the Constitution contemplates the granting of financial assistance only to States that need it and make application for it.
– .The Constitution does not say that.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.No, but it presupposes it.
– It gives this Parliament power to grant financial assistance to the States.
– I shall reduce that argument to an absurdity. If it were sound, the Commonwealth could enter any State sphere. It could, for instance, with regard to education, say to the States, “ You require monetary help ; we are going to give it to you and dictate the terms under which that assistance is to be given and the policy to be adopted. It is absurd to argue in that way. To put my arguments consecutively, I contend that section 96 presupposes two things - that there is a State in. need of financial assistance, and that it applies to the Commonwealth Government for it. Then the Commonwealth is to inquire into the merits of the case, and grant such assistance as it thinks necessary, and upon such terms as it thinks fit. Every honorable senator must admit that the sphere of the States is being invaded by the Commonwealth Parliament. I do not see how it can be argued otherwise. It cannot be maintained that the Commonwealth has a right to interfere with the States in the matter of road construction, or maintenance. Under the Constitution this Parliament has strictly limited powers which are enumerated and particularized in the Constitution itself. Whatever powers are not expressly conferred by it are withheld, and those powers are exercisable by the States. The power with regard to roads is not conferred upon the Commonwealth by the Constitution; consequently, it is a power withheld and a power exercisable by the States.
– What does “ transport “ mean ?
– If the honorable senator imagines that the Commonwealth has power over all transport, he is quite wrong.
– I mean interstate transport.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Interstate and oversea trade and commerce come within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, and transport may fall under that heading; but this Parliament has no power over the domestic trade and commerce of the States.
– Does the honorable senator go so far as to say that the Commonwealth cannot make a road?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.I do not suggest that. It can make roads in its own territories, and roads that are essential for defence purposes. Does the honorable senator contend that it can make roads anywhere, and under any circumstances ?
– I am surprised at the honorable senator. I do not think that the Ministry will argue that the Commonwealth has a general power to construct and maintain roads.
– The Government does not propose to exercise a general power.
– No, but I am replying to an honorable senator who suggested that it did. The Attorney-General further stated in September last -
This money is being spent upon a basis involving a consideration of both area and population. The result is that the States, which have already developed their territory from their own funds, are now being called upon to assist in the development of States which are larger, and whose development commenced later. It may be that this is a proper thing; that the main roads should be a charge upon the whole of the people of Australia, instead of on the people of the several States; but in that case this matter should be considered by the whole of the people of Australia. If they want this Parliament to deal with our main roads, let them say so.
The inference was that the Constitution would have to be altered if this Parlia- ment was to adopt a policy of main road construction.
– Does the honorable senator consider that the previous Federal road grants were unconstitutional ?
– Yes; the Attorney-General admitted it.
– The constitutionality has never been challenged by the States.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Of course not; the States have had the money and have spent it.
– Is it their real objection that the grants are unconstitutional?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Yes, undoubtedly.
– Then why have they not previously said so?
– South Australia replied that’ it did not want the money, and it went even so far as to suggest that it would contest the matter at law. One of the States has withdrawn its signature to the agreement, and three of the States are standing out of it.
– But the States’ representatives approved of the agreement.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Yes, before they knew how the money was to be raised; but when they realized the nature of the proposals, they withdrew their consent.
– Last year we passed a bill for the extension of a railway from Kyogle to South Brisbane. Was that unconstitutional ?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.That is an entirely different matter. The Constitution contains a specific provision enabling such a work as that to be done. The Attorney-General also said -
If we were to reduce Commonwealth taxation, and to confine ourselves to our proper functions, the States would find it easier to . raise the money required for their roads. The making of roads is a State function. The Commonwealth is collecting too much money from the people, and is expending upon a State basis money which has been collected upon a Federal basis, and that without the matter having first been submitted to the judgment of the people.
In other words, he said that the Commonwealth had no right under the Constitution to do it.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the AttorneyGeneral has changed his opinion?
-‘ No. He is the Attorney-General in the Ministry that is taking this action; he practically has the Commonwealth Government for a client. It is a case of special pleading. How does he try to distinguish the present proposal from that of 1925 ? All he says is that the present measure grants financial assistance to the States, and under section 96 of the Constitution it is possible to do that. In 1925, however, he dealt with that very point, and said that there was no escape from the fact that since the States were not in need the matter was not covered by that section of the Constitution.
– If it were a case of special pleading, surely he could not have found a better reason than the need of the roads for defence purposes? If he contended that the roads to be built under this proposal were required for strategic purposes, he could not be contradicted.
– But that argument has not been advanced. If it were desired to justify the proposal on strategic grounds, it would be necessary to show that the ae- fence advisers of the Government regarded the roads as necessary for defence purposes.
– Surely main arterial roads would be of strategic advantage’!
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.The Attorney General dealt with that aspect of the matter. He said that it might be that the main roads should be a charge upon the whole of the people of Australia; but if so there should be an alteration of the Constitution.
– He did not deal with the defence aspect in that part of his speech.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.He was dealing with the defence aspect all through it.
– Does the honorable senator say that good roads would not be of great advantage so far as defence is concerned ?_
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.They would be; but just as an increased population or the greater development of the resources of Australia would be. But does it therefore follow that the Commonwealth has full power to develop those resources and full power over migration ?
– It might, with equal justification, be said that the cotton bounty is a defence measure, because cotton is used in the manufacture of explosives.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Exactly. If the Federal Government had a right to say to the States, “ You have not asked for assistance, but we believe that you need it. We are going to make you a grant, but only on terms laid down by us,” think what the position would be. A. similar attitude could be adopted regarding education and railways, which everybody admits are matters under the control of the States. I am referring, of course, to purely State railways. The Commonwealth could say to the States, “ You ought to .have extra money for your railways. We shall make that money available, and we shall raise it by taxation, and advance it to you on a certain basis ; but we shall dictate the policy.” In this way the Commonwealth could lay down the policy of the States regarding any matter it chose. Surely this is reductio ad absurdum!
– The honorable senator supported the proposed waste of millions on the construction of a useless railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Was not that a Federal matter? It is futile for honorable senators to argue that the Commonwealth can force money upon the States, and dictate the conditions under which it shall be spent. I appeal to honorable senators, particularly those on this side of the chamber, to study the constitutional aspect of this question. Where, in the Constitution, is there power to do that which is proposed?
– We do not pretend to be judges of the constitutionality of the Government’s proposals. We only know that they are good.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Honorable senators should satisfy themselves that the action contemplated by the Government is constitutional. No legal opinion in opposition to those to the effect that it is unconstitutional has been submitted to us. All the legal opinions which have been quoted have been to the effect that the proposals are unconstitu-.tional.
– Can the constitutionality of the Government’s proposals be determined by any authority other than the High Court?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.We cannot take to the High Court for determination every question that is raised in Parliament. Life is much too short for that.
– Must we not rely on the opinion of the Crown Law officers?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.No opinion from them has been quoted. No less an authority than the AttorneyGeneral himself said that a bill which was on all-fours with this was unconstitutional. I defy any lawyer to distinguish between that bill and the one now before us. The opinion of the AttorneyGeneral and of the Crown Law officers of Victoria and South Australia, as well as of eminent outside counsel employed . by both Governments is that the action proposed to be taken is unconstitutional. I repeat that, before voting on this measure, every honorable senator should satisfy himself as to its constitutionality. It would appear that some honorable senators, whose States want the 5116 Federal Aid [SENATE.] Roads Bill. money, and have signed the agreement, are afraid to face the question, fearing that if they do so, they must come to the conclusion arrived at by the AttorneyGeneral last year in relation to a similar measure. Are honorable senators mere puppets, prepared to do the bidding of the Government as the strings are pulled? Senator Ogden this afternoon was reproved by the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) for having suggested that Government supporters were willing to accept blindly the Government’s proposals. The Minister asked why it should be considered wrong for honorable senators who were elected as supporters of the Government to vote for its proposals.
– Senator Ogden, who criticized other honorable senators for following the Government, was glad enough to enter Parliament on a party ticket.
– I do not propose to discuss” that aspect of the question, but I do appeal to honorable senators to prove themselves worthy of the position which they occupy. The Senate is not merely a house of second thought; it was established primarily to preserve the rights of the States. No duty is more pressing on honorable senators than that of satisfying themselves regarding the constitutionality of the Government’s proposals, particularly when they threaten the sovereign rights of the States. That is the position which now confronts us. The sovereign rights of the States are being threatened by the unconstitutional proposals of the Government. Honorable senators should vote according to their convictions ; and if they do so in relation to this measure, they must decide that it is unconstitutional.
– By voting according to their convictions, honorable senators would not necessarily support the views expressed by the honorable senator.
– Quite so. I ask only that they vote according to their convictions. Senator Foll will admit that honorable senators do not always do so.
– In that respect the honorable senator can only speak for himself.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Honorable senators will not deny that frequently they vote on party lines. If there is one House in the Parliaments of Australia where there should be independent thought, it is the Senate.
– Has not the honorable senator himself voted on party lines?
– Not always. I exercise independence of thought. Did not the AttorneyGeneral say tht it would be unpopular to oppose this legislation for the reason that the States were prepared to take the money? Whether my attitude is unpopular or not, I shall continue to say that this legislation is unconstitutional, because I believe that to be the case. I am satisfied on that point, and I ask other honorable senators to satisfy themselves regarding it. But even if this legislation were constitutional, I should still oppose it, because it is unwarranted and unnecessary. Let us examine the bill. The preamble reads -
Whereas it is expedient to provide for financial assistance to the several States for the purpose of the construction and reconstruction of roads.
While the preamble is different, the effective provisions of the bill are similar to that of the bill introduced last year, which the AttorneyGeneral said was unconstitutional. An attempt is being made to bring this legislation within the scope of section 96 of the Constitution. But the mere wording of the preamble to a bill does not bring it within the Constitution. For this legislation to be constitutional, the States must be in need, and must apply to the Commonwealth for assistance.
– Tasmania is in need of assistance.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.It is clear from the agreement that not only is the Commonwealth proposing to enter the State sphere of constructing and maintaining roads, but also that it intends to exercise supreme control in that sphere. Everything that is done must be done to the satisfaction of the Federal Minister. Let us see what the agreement provides. Sub-clause 3 of clause 6 of the agreement reads -
The Minister shall have the power to decide from time to time how the balance of the moneys paid to the State under this agreement and the balance of the moneys to be provided by the State under this agreement shall be expended but so that such moneys shall be expended solely in the construction of Federal aid roads and /or the reconstruction of Federal aid roads.
Clause 8, sub-clause 1, sets out -
The State shall, to the satisfaction of the Minister, make proper provision for the adequate and continuous maintenance in good repair and condition of all roads constructed or reconstructed in pursuance of this agreement. Such maintenance shall be taken in hand immediately following upon the completion of the construction or reconstruction of any road or portion thereof and shall be met from moneys provided by the State. -The position is the same in clause 9 -
Prior to the submission by the State of any proposals for expenditure of any moneys provided by the Commonwealth and the State in pursuance of this agreement the State shall submit to the Minister for his approval full particulars of the roads proposed te be constructed or reconstructed during the period of five years commencing on the first day of July One thousand nine hundred and twenty-six and prior to the expiration of the said period of five years the State shall submit to the Minister for his approval full particulars of the roads proposed to be constructed or reconstructed during the period of five years commencing on the expiration of the first mentioned period of five years.
All proposals in connexion with works to be carried out in any financial year in pursuance of this agreement shall be submitted by the State to the Minister for his approval and the State shall not commence any proposed work without first obtaining the approval in writing of the Minister.
Again, clause 13 provides -
As the Governor-General in Council means the Commonwealth Government, honorable senators will see that the Commonwealth Government intends to dominate the whole position, although the Commonwealth Attorney-General said that these matters were within the sphere of the States.
– Could the Imperial Government enter into a similar agreement with the States?
– The Imperial Government could lend money to the States, hut it could not interfere with the control by the States over the expenditure. The Imperial Government could not dictate the policy of the States.
– Could the Imperial Government not impose conditions?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Not as a right. A State Government could enter into an agreement with the Imperial Government to borrow money; it might even submit to conditions and terms; but that would be entirely different from the position here. In this case the Commonwealth Government is forcing the hands of the States. Although the .Commonwealth Government might be willing to make money available to the States for road construction and maintenance, it should not attempt to lay down the terms under which that money shall be spent. It should not attempt to dictate the policy of the States; yet that is what is intended in this legislation.
– If the Imperial Government could make a contract with the States, surely the Commonwealth Government should be able to do the same.
– The Commonwealth Government is forcing this scheme upon the States.
– The Commonwealth Government is raising the money by a tax on the whole of the people of Australia for application to matters that come within the sphere of the States.
– The State Governments need not accept the money.
– The position of the State which does not accept the money will be similar to that occupied by South Australia when the Commonwealth Government made advances for wire netting. South Australia already had its own legislation dealing with grants for wire netting, and refused to come under the Commonwealth scheme ; nevertheless, that State had to contribute towards the cost of providing wire netting to land-holders in the other States.
– All the shire councils of New South Wales are clamouring for this legislation.
– Are they judges of its constitutionality?
– Some of us do not agree that it is unconstitutional.
– The making of roads in the several States is largely in the hands of the municipal and shire councils.
– That is the position in some States.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.If is the position in South Australia, New South Wales, and Queensland, and, I believe, in Victoria also. . I cannot understand any State placing itself in the humiliating position which the acceptance of this agreement would involve. Although South Australia is now controlled by a Labour Government, I congratulate that State upon the stand it has taken in this matter. The Government of South Australia, in view of the opinion of its Crown law officers, as well as of independent eminent counsel, that this legislation is unconstitutional, has rejected the Government’s proposals. It is not a question of the States wanting the money, but rather the intrusion by the Commonwealth into the sphere of the States. The States might be in dire need of the money ; but some of them are not prepared to accept it from the Commonwealth if to do so means that they are condoning an unconstitutional action by which the Commonwealth will dictate their policy.
– South Australia has accepted previous Commonwealth grants.
– I am acquainted with the position that existed when former grants were offered, because I was in office at the time. We protested strongly. In effect, we said, “Mind your own business; we do not want your money.”
– But you took it.
– South Australia has gone even to the length of threatening legal proceedings against the Commonwealth in. this matter. Whilst I am extremely sorry to see the Commonwealth and any of the States at loggerheads, if legal proceedings result in this case the Commonwealth will have only itself to blame.
Let me refer again to a matter upon which I touched when I was discussing the motion for the printing of the Estimates and budget-papers for 1926-27 ; that is, the inconsistency of the Commonwealth Government. When it advanced its proposals for the re-adjust ment of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States it said, “We ask you to accept these proposals, because they are based upon the sound principle that each Government should be responsible for the raising of the money that it spends, and the .States should be made as independent as possible of the Commonwealth.” Yet it now insists upon raising money for the States to spend. Is that in accordance with the sound principle which it. then laid down for its own guidance and the guidance of Parliament? Consider its second proposition - that the States should be made as independent as possible of the Commonwealth. This scheme proposes to make the States dependent upon the Commonwealth for’ portion of their roads requirements. Instead of doing that, the Government ought to retire from the field of direct taxation and to that extent allow the States to raise additional revenues with which they could supplement their present road proposals.
– The Commonwealth merely proposes to give to the States an additional amount for expenditure on roads.
– That is not necessarily so. The States will probably reduce the amount that they would otherwise spend by a sum equal to that which they receive from the Commonwealth. The taxing power of the States must be reduced in proportion to the additional taxation that is imposed by the ‘ Commonwealth, because the revenue is taken from the same taxpayers.
– Was the honorable senator in power in South Australia when a previous grant was provided for?
– Yes; I protested strongly against it.
– And then took it.
– I do not remember whether any grant was made whilst I was in power, but I know that we entered a strong protest against the proposal. What is the position today? The Commonwealth means to force the State to accept this grant, or to contribute to the grants that are made to other States without receiving any advantage in return. It is an iniquitous position in which to place the States.
– Did the State which the honorable senator represents adopt the same attitude, in regard to the River Murray Waters Agreement?
– That is a different matter ; it comes within the Federal power.
– The States that are not interested in the work have to contribute towards its cost.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.That is a matter which, under the Constitution, can be dealt with by the Commonwealth. I point out that these proposals are a direct violation of what the Commonwealth Government said were sound principles, to be observed in the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. Road construction and maintenance are essentially local and provincial matters. Even the States themselves adopt the policy of decentralization and leave these matters largely in the control of district councils. What is the best policy to pursue? The States know far better than the Commonwealth what their requirements are in regard to road construction and maintenance, what money is necessary to meet those requirements, and how it can best be raised and expended. The money for this grant will have to be raised by the imposition of special taxation, provision for which is made in a separate bill. I, therefore, confine myself to the argument that the bill is unconstitutional; and that, even if it is not unconstitutional, interference by the Commonwealth in this sphere of the States is unnecessary; because the matter can be handled far better by the Governments of the States and their local governing bodies. Again, if the Commonwealth insists on advancing to the States, money to bc spent upon that which, according to the .terms of the Constitution, is entirely within the jurisdiction of the States, it should not laydown conditions governing the expenditure of that money. I understand that the States are to be practically forced to accept this grant. The amount is to be allocated among the various States on a population and area - basis. Any State which refuses to accept it is to be treated like a spoilt child who refuses food; the amount allotted to it is to be held in the trust fund until the sulks pass.
– Eventually, every. State will accept the grant.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.The opportunities of the States to impose taxation will be restricted bv the action of the Commonwealth in raising this additional sum from new taxation. Those States that now refuse to accept the grant will be told, “If you do n t care to take it now we shall hold it until you think better of your decision.”
– A carrot will very often tempt a donkey.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.I regret that some honorable senators are inclined to treat this matter lightly. It is of the utmost importance, because in it is involved the constitutionality or otherwise of the action of the Commonwealth. The present Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) said last year, as a private member, that the action which the Government then took along similar lines was unconstitutional. That opinion is supported by leading counsel throughout Australia. I again appeal to honorable senators to endeavour to arrive at a proper decision upon the question whether the action of the Government is constitutional. But, apart altogether fr.m that aspect, they should resist any encroachment by the Commonwealth upon the rights rf the States, and any usurpation of powers which, under the Constitution, are conferred upon the States; and they should frustrate the determined effort which is being made to bring to the feet of the Commonwealth the States and their people.
– Does the honorable senator say that the action of the Government is a breach of the Constitution, or an evasion of it?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.The bill constitutes a breach of the Constitution. Whether it was a breach or an evasion, the action of the Government would be unconstitutional. Little did I think when I entered this Senate only a few months ago, that I should have to appeal to honorable senators in the way that I am now doing, to resist what I believe to be a violation of the Constitution, an invasion of the rights of the States, and a usurpation of their powers by a Nationalist Government.
Above all, I believe in a strict adherence to both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution. I should take that stand’ even if I did not agree with the provisions of the Constitution, although in such a case I should certainly endeavour to have an alteration made. In this matter there has not been an adherence to the provisions of the Constitution. I, therefore, intend to vote against the measure.
.- I listened with very great interest to the speech delivered by Senator Barwell. He has given serious consideration to this bill, but particularly to one aspect of it which apparently some honorable senators are disposed to treat with levity. I refer to the constitutional position. The honorable senator ranks high in the legal profession, and in a measure he has staked his professional reputation on the opinion that what this bill proposes to do will be found to be unconstitutional. He has backed that up with the opinion of other legal authorities. Some honorable senators have said that the representatives of the States have in a measure expressed their approbation of the main provisions of the bill, and that some of the States are without hesitancy prepared to accept anything in the way of financial assistance that the Commonwealth Government is disposed to offer them. Why is that so? It is because they need the money? When the representatives of some of the States accepted the offer which was made by the Commonwealth Government they believed that no responsibility or liability would be incurred by them.
– In what way ?
– They were under the impression that the assistance would be given without any qualification, and that no inroad would be made on their methods of imposing taxation. Press reports now indicate that whilst the Government is prepared to assist them in the making and maintenance of roads it also intends to make inroads on the field of State taxation.
– Not where that taxation is constitutionally levied.
– I do not intend to argue the constitutional question involved. I speak merely as a layman. Some honorable senators have said that whether the bill is constitutional or unconstitutional they intend to support it. Why were these offers made by the Commonwealth to the States? Because at that time this Government was embarrassed with riches. If it had more money than it expected to receive, why did it not proceed with development works in its own territory. I give place to no man in my sincere desire to advance the interests of Australia as a whole. I have intense affection for this, the land of my birth, and, if there is one part of Australia about which I am seriously concerned, it is the Northern Territory, which is under the control of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is able to advance money to the States for developmental purposes, but little or no money is available for constructing roads in the Territory under its control. To encourage land settlement a Development and Migration Commission has been appointed, and the Government expects us. to believe that these modern wizards will, with a magic wand, develop Australia as no other four persons possibly could. If we are to accept the utterances of the Minister who introduced the bill under which the commission has been appointed, they will also make Australia safe from a defence view-point. The North Australia Commission has not yet been appointed.
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the bill.
– I intend to do so. This bill relates to roads. Is not the construction of roads in the Northern Territory a necessary work? Should not the money which the Government apparently has to offer to the States for road construction and developmental purposes be spent in the Northern Territory? The Government has disposed of some of its surplus moneys by assisting the States in purchasing wire netting. It is now offering to aid the States in road construction. I agree with Senator Barwell that if the Commonwealth Government can constitutionally assist them in roadmaking, there is nothing to prevent it rendering financial assistance in the matter of educational facilities. The schools in Victoria, for instance, are overcrowded, and that is true, also, I daresay of other States.
If the Government can constitutionally assist the State Governments in this direction, it can aid them in that and many others. This Government has set out on the road to unification, and if its political life is sufficiently long, it will, undoubtedly, reach its objective.
– Is not unification one of the objectives of the Labour party ?
– Yes, but the members of the Labour party tell the people clearly where they stand, whereas this Government speaks only of cooperation and co-ordination of effort with the States. What coordination is there between the Commonwealth Government and the States in connexion with this proposition? In the first place, a majority of the States favoured the scheme until a certain proposition ‘ was put forward. I know the difficulties which beset the people, particularly that section which is settled in the more remote parts of the Commonwealth. If it be true that the Government proposes to help the States financially in the construction of roads by imposing a special tax for the purpose, I shall not support it. To specially tax the users of roads is an antediluvian proposal; in this instance, however, it is not intended to tax all the users of roads. If the’ statement published in the newspapers is true, that an additional tax is to be permanently imposed for this purpose, we are going back to the days of the toll-gates.
– Every motor vehicle owner has at present to payspecial taxes in certain States.
– Those taxes are not imposed by the Commonwealth.
– But the principle is the same.
– I am not discussing the actions of other authorities. If a tax is being imposed for this specific purpose, and if, as anticipated, a measure embodying such a proposal comes before the Senate, I shall oppose it.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– The continuous repetition of any statement by a large number of people, and, perhaps, more especially by members of Parliament, not infrequently comes to be regarded as an established truth. In the debate on this bill we have been told over and over again that good roads are highly desirable, the suggestion, of course, being that a considerable number of people hold the opposite opinion. I have never heard any one condemn good roads. On the contrary, every one is in favour of good roads. This, however, does not necessarily mean that they approve of any scheme that may be submitted to ensure the construction and maintenance of roads. Mostpeople are in favour of a good system of universal education, but there is a wide difference of opinion as to the details of the curriculum. So it is with regard to many other subjects. Fortunately, honorable senators have not been asked to express an opinion as to the best methods of road-making. The Ministry is asking the Senate to agree to vote a large sum of money annually as a subsidy to the States to enable them to launch out on a comprehensive roadmaking policy. This function, I submit, was never contemplated by the framers of the Constitution. It was never anticipated that the revenues of the Commonwealth would be expended in the making of roads. I can quite understand the need for expending Commonwealth money on roads purely for defence purposes, but the granting of a Commonwealth subsidy to the States for the making of roads that should be constructed by the States ought not to be countenanced. The bill is so drafted that no State can very well afford to stand out, because the money will be raised from the people of all the States, and handed over to the latter to be used in the manner indicated. For this reason I believe that ultimately all the States will be obliged to accept the agreement. One would think that the Commonwealth was making a present to the States of the money which it is proposed annually to vote in continuance of this policy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The amount to be provided will be raised by taxation. It would be better if the Commonwealth Government attended to its own business, and “allowed this work of road-making to be carried out by the States. There are many directions in which the Commonwealth could more advantageously expend the money proposed to be raised under this scheme than by handing it back to the States for road construction. It would be better still if, instead of raising more money by taxation, the Commonwealth reduced taxation by the amount proposed to be expended on these proposals. The Government has no moral right to collect more money than it requires. From time immemorial roadmaking has been regarded as tb.p function solely of local-governing bodies. District roads boards, with power of taxation, have been appointed to carry out the construction of lengthy highways throughout the States, and if further funds have been required the resources of the State have been drawn upon. This bill is a continuation of a policy launched by the Commonwealth Government some time ago to infere with work which .properly should be carried out by the States. Since the advent of the motor, roads are now used by people who formerly hardly ever saw them, and, of course, better roads are desirable. But the main question is: Who should pay for them? The bill is discreetly silent upon that point. I should be out of order if I attempted to discuss the means by which the Government proposes to raise the revenue to meet this expenditure, but I should like to point out that one of the immediate results of the making of good roads will be an increase in the value of all lands adjoining or in the vicinity of those roads.
– Will not that be a very desirable result?
– Who gets the benefit from good roads?
– The community.
– It is absurd to say that the community reaps the benefit from . the construction of good roads. Senator Pearce, who owns a large area of land with a big frontage to Port Phillip. Bay, would find the value of his property increased by £5 to £10 a foot if the Government decided to make the road from Melbourne to Sorrento as good as the St. Kilda road is.
– The honorable senator does not suggest that the Government will do that?
– It would not be a bad idea, because, with the rapid increase in the population of Melbourne, especially in the direction of Sorrento, it will be necessary before long x> im prove the road along the foreshore, and I think I have shown that at least one land-owner would reap a very substantial benefit if that were done. Consequently, instead of the Commonwealth revenue being drawn upon to meet expenditure on these proposed new works, men like Senator Pearce and others who own land that might be benefited by good roads, should be called upon to make substantial contributions. But the bill does not propose to do that. It contains no provision to raise money in that way.
– That being so, the honorable gentleman will not be in order in pursuing that line of argument.
– I agree with you, Mr. President, and I am glad that I was allowed to say as much as I have. I may have an opportunity later this evening, or perhaps early to-morrow morning, to discuss that matter when another bill is before this Chamber. In the meantime, I content myself with stating that the Government proposes to levy heavy taxation upon certain people for the purpose of collecting a large sum of money, which it intends to hand over to the States. Although it might be heresy on my part, and not in accordance with my official view, it is my personal view that the proper authority to expend money is the authority that raises it. I object to the States receiving road grants from the Commonwealth, since taxation for that purpose should be levied by the States themselves. I differ from Senator Barwell as to the constitutionality of the proposal. It seems to me that the Commonwealth is entitled, if it so desires, to hand surplus revenue back to the States for road construction or any other purpose, because the actual work is to be done by the States. If, however, the Commonwealth has more revenue than it knows what to do with, i*s proper course is to reduce taxation. The bill should be opposed at every stage, and,, if possible, defeated.
– It is regrettable that so much controversy’ has arisen over the Government’s attempt to attain an object that seems to be favoured bv all honorable senators. The subject of the constitutionality of the proposal has not been considered in a manner calculated to promote the best interests of the object we all appear to have at heart. The present bill diners considerably from past practice so far as the relations between the Commonwealth and the States regarding road construction are concerned. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) has been charged with having denounced, as unconstitutional, a- similar proposal in 1925, and with now claiming that the present bill is constitutional. I propose to show that this measure, in certain respects, differs tremendously from the previous bill. The Attorney-General, speaking on this matter in the other branch of the legislature, said-
– The honorable senator will not be in order in quoting from a debate of the current session.
– Under this bill the Commonwealth is, in no sense, obtruding itself into the matter of road construction, but merely proposes to advance certain money to the States for the purpose of road construction, and to control that expenditure in a certain way. The bill of 1925, however, contained no reference to co-operation with the States, and. in that respect, the present measure distinctly differs from it. The 1925 bill consisted of roads legislation h” the Commonwealth Parliament, but this is a bill for the purpose of appropriating moneys to be handed over to the States on certain conditions which are laid down in the agreement contained in the schedule to the bill. It needs no stretch of imagination to reconcile the position under this measure with the constitutional powers of £he Commonwealth, and to show that the power sought to be exercised is constitutional. Apart altogether from the provisions of section 96 of the Constitution, there is a considerable . body of public opinion in this country that holds that the original proposals of the Commonwealth were constitutional on the broad ground that the Government was only appropriating moneys to be spent in a specific way. I know of nothing in the Constitution that prevents the Commonwealth from appropriating moneys for the purpose of building roads. We have been told that the States, not the Commonwealth, are responsible for road construction, but I point out that, in the United States of America, Federal grants for that purpose have been made for a considerable time. It is competent, I maintain, on broad grounds, for this Parliament to appropriate money for this and other purposes. Undoubtedly, this Bill is constitutional, because of the provisions of section 96.
– Do the Federal authorities in the United States of America make the roads?
– I understand not. The work is done on lines similar to those laid down in the bill under consideration. Section 96 provides: -
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the- Commonwealth, and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.
An eminent constitutional authority - Quick and Garran - dealing with that section, points out that the language employed is of the widest character. It states : -
Even without the express mention of terms and conditions, the Parliament, as the party in whose discretion it is to either grant or refuse assistance, would have been able to make its own terms. But though apparently superfluous, the words are not really so. They help to place beyond doubt the intention of the section, and make it clear that the discretion of the Parliament is absolute, and that no duty is imposed upon it of giving assistance without demur and without enquiry, whenever assistance may be asked. The section is not intended to diminish the responsibility of State Treasurers, or to introduce a regular system of grants in aid. Its object is to strengthen the financial position of the Commonwealth in view of possible contingencies, by affording an escape from any excessive rigidity of the financial clauses. It is for use as a safety-valve, not as an open vent; and it does not contemplate financial difficulties, any more than a safety-valve contemplates explosions.
It has been contended this evening that before section 96 can operate there must be some approach on the part of the States. With that statement I venture to disagree entirely. It is for the Commonwealth to say whether it thinks that States require assistance, for what purpose, and in what quarter. In the present case the Commonwealth Government has said to the States: “ We think you require assistance in the development of your roads.” What section of the community does not agree with that view of the Government? There is an express provision in the Constitution, it is true, in relation to railways, but not in regard to roads, and that fact may be used as an argument against me. But throughout the Constitution we find that this assistance is always to be given with the consent of the States. Paragraph xxxiv of section 51, refers to “Railway construction and extension in any State with the consent of that State.” It is clear that under an agreement such as that contained in the schedule to the bill, it would be possible, with the consent of a State, for the Commonwealth to agree to construct a railway in that State, and I believe that at the present moment the construction of a railway is about to proceed in my own State under that very power. How does that power differ from that now to be exercised under this bill in regard to roads? Everybody agrees that they are absolutely necessary. This Government says to the States :. “ We think that your roads, which are a national necessity, are insufficient, and we shall endeavour to help you.” This power does not necessarily connote that the States must come cap in hand asking for financial assistance from the Commonwealth. It indicates to me that the Federal Government may say to the States : “ We think that you require a scheme of national development in reference to your roads.” So far from the States being forced into acceptance of the agreement, they are at liberty to refuse to accept it. I cannot conceive why the State of New South Wales has refused to enter into the proposed agreement, and has fought it all along. It i3 not for us to discuss when or how the money will be obtained, but I venture to say that we should not have heard a word as to the constitutionality of the measure if the proposal was that the money should be granted out of surplus revenue, or a windfall that the Government had received. When on the hustings I stated that I was wholeheartedly in favour of this proposal, which I regarded as a bold one. I knew then that it would involve extra taxation on the people of Australia. I do not think that the statement that the States are being forced into accepting this agreement can be justified; any State that so desires may stand out. There may be in connexion with these proposals certain inequalities, and even injustices; but I know of nothing which will do more to develop the country than will a proper system of road-construction and maintenance. The Commonwealth is setting its hand to a national scheme of development, the work being entrusted to the States, subject to some control by the Commonwealth Minister. That control the Commonwealth should retain. The money should not be handed over unreservedly to the States. An agreement has been entered into between the Commonwealth and certain States under which the Commonwealth advances certain moneys to the States. The power to do so is conferred upon the Commonwealth by section 96 of the Constitution, which also empowers the Commonwealth to lay down conditions governing the advance of money. Up to that point no constitutional objection can be raised to this legislation. The only possible objection on constitutional grounds to this legislation is that the final control rests with the Federal Minister for Works and Railways, who has the right to say whether a scheme submitted by a State shall be proceeded with. Subject only to that qualification, the .Commonwealth is competent to make advances to the States. It is possible that, when the AttorneyGeneral in 1925 expressed the opinion to which reference has been made to-night, he took too narrow a view of the powers of the Commonwealth in relation to the appropriation of moneys. This bill is a bill to appropriate money for a certain purpose. The Attorney-General has been assailed this evening for having changed his views; but the circumstances in connexion with this bill are different from those existing in 1925, when he expressed the views referred to. The preamble to the bill reads -
Whereas it is expedient to provide for financial assistance to the several States for the purpose of the construction and reconstruction of roads :
Be it therefore enacted by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, the Senate, and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, for the purpose of appropriating the grant originated in the House of Representatives, as follows -
This, therefore, is an appropriation bill. The agreement begins -
Whereas the Commonwealth proposes to make available to the different States for the purpose of the construction and reconstruction of certain roads to be designated “ Federal Aid Roads “ the total sum of Two million pounds (£2,000,000) in each year ‘for a period of ten years
And whereas the Commonwealth proposes to distribute the said sum of £2,000,000 between the different States on the basis of three-fifths population and two-fifths area
This bill is couched in language similar to that contained in section 96 of the Constitution. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) claimed that the proposals submitted in 1925 were unconstitutional; but, because in these proposals the Commonwealth Government is exercising a specific power granted under the Constitution itself, he claims that this legislation is constitutional.
– In section 96 there is a limit of ten years from the establishment of the Constitution .
– But it is also provided, “ and thereafter until the Commonwealth otherwise provides.” As we have not yet “ otherwise provided,” there is no true invasion of the domain of the States. When Senator Barwell was speaking, Senator Lynch interjected to inquire whether it would be competent for the Imperial Government to advance money to the States. Can any one deny that it would be competent for the Imperial Government to enter into an agreement with the States to advance money to them ?
– The position is not the same. The money would be raised under different conditions.
– The question of the manner in which the money is raised has nothing to do with the bill before us. The Imperial Parliament would introduce a bill in the same way that this bill has been introduced, and it would appropriate moneys in the same way. In the past, the powers conferred by section 96 of the Constitution have been exercised in various ways. Specific grants have been made to various States. Although not specifically classified in that way, the power exercised by the Commonwealth in relation to the Murray waters agreement must depend upon the exercise of the power in section 96 of the Constitution.
– Does the honorable senator say that the opinions given by eminent King’s Counsel, the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), and Mr. F. V. Smith, are wrong?
– Whatever their opinions, I submit that this Senate is not the tribunal to test the constitu tionality of the legislation enacted by this Parliament. The proposals embodied in this measure were part of the Government’s programme submitted to the electors. Honorable senators who supported the Government’s- policy must have recognized that it would involve taxation of some kind. They might have expected a wheel tax; but whatever form the taxation took, we all clearly understood that the Government intended to introduce legislation of this nature. Honorable senators will admit that the Commonwealth has power to make advances to the States, and to lay down certain conditions concerning them. I repeat that the only possible objection to this legislation on constitutional grounds is that the final control rests with the Commonwealth Minister. But for this Parliament to relinquish that control would be to regard its duty lightly, in view of the fact that £20,000,000 is involved. Were the control which will be exercised by the Minister for Works and Railways abandoned, no possible exception could be taken to this measure on’ the ground of its unconstitutionality.
– That is not the point at all
– That is the only intrusion by the Commonwealth into the sphere of the States.
– It is a question of whether these proposals come within the scope of section 96 of the Constitution.
– If they do come within the scope of section 96 of the Constitution, the honorable senator will admit that the Commonwealth is competent to lay down the condition that the Commonwealth Minister shall’ have the final say in the matter.
– Certainly, if the proposals come within the scope of that section.
– I have already expressed my view regarding the ambit of section 96 and the view held concerning it by the framers of the Constitution. I fail to see that the Commonwealth is intruding into the sphere of the States. Hitherto .we have regarded the making of roads, as we have the making of railways, as the function of the States. But the Constitution confers on the Commonwealth the power to construct railways with the consent of the States. 5126 Federal Aid [SENATE.] Roads Bill.
Similarly, under section 96 of the Constitution the Commonwealth has power to advance moneys to the States for any purpose, and on any conditions. This bill proposes that money shall be advanced to the States, and that the Commonwealth shall exercise a measure of control. That does not contravene section 96 of the Constitution. The limited powers vested in the Commonwealth have been referred to. It is true that the Constitution limits the powers of the Commonwealth in many ways; but it does not do so in respect of financial matters. It was intended that the Constitution should authorize the Commonwealth to have certain works carried out by the States, not that they must necessarily be undertaken by the Commonwealth. It has been said that in this legislation an attempt is being made to dictate the policy of the various States. That may be so; but surely the States are prepared to assist the Commonwealth in carrying out a national undertaking, such as the construction of roads through-‘ out the Commonwealth undoubtedly is.
– The States are being forced to accept the Government’s proposal.
– What is now proposed has been done for the last three years.
– Under protest.
– I have heard no protest. Five of the six States originally consented to this arrangement. I admit that South Australia did so grudgingly, but that was because that State had already taken some steps to provide itself with modern road-making equipment.
– Which the Commonwealth wants to destroy.
– No. If the honorable senator will study the agreement, he will see that the existing machinery will not be interfered with so long as the methods adopted are satisfactory. While in New South Wales last week, I took the opportunity to examine some roads which are being constructed near Sydney under what is regarded as a modern system of road construction. I was far from satisfied, because I found that some roads which have been constructed only a short time were showing unmistakable signs of wear. This is not a dictation to the States; and even if it were there would be warrant for it.
We are embarking upon big migration and developmental schemes, and we have a policy of high protection which can be carried through effectively only with increased population and greater production in our primary industries. Therefore, the Government is justified in saying to the States, “ It is time you got on with this business.” That is the only form of dictation which is being attempted.
– The South Australian Government has been, as the honorable senator says, “ getting on with the business.”
– But only in a very modest way. There are portions of South Australia in which the conditions, according to the settlers who are handicapped by them, are not at all satisfactory. This scheme will lighten the burden that is upon the shoulders of those men. There may not be very much ground for complaint regarding the roads in the vicinity of Adelaide, but immediately outside its precincts they are in a very bad condition, and in some parts of the State they are almost impassable. The need that has been made evident for so long warrants the Government in saying to the States, “ For too long you have been inactive; let us have a broad national scheme which will be worked more economically and advance the interests of not only the States, but also the nation as a whole.”
– Then alter the Commonwealth Constitution.
– If I agreed with the contention that the action of the Government was unconstitutional I should vote against the measure. Only one tribunal can decide whether the policy which has been followed during the last three years, and that which we now propose to continue, is constitutional or unconstitutional. It has the function of interpreting the Constitution. During the last three years the Government has acted in the belief that it is doing right, and, constitutionally, it has strengthened its position under this agreement.
– The previous proposal was agreed to against the advice of the present AttorneyGeneral.
– I differed from that honorable gentleman at the time. He now claims to have cured, by means of this bill, the defect that he claimed was in that measure.
– Does the honorable senator differentiate between this agreement and those which have been formerly entered into 1
– Earlier in my speech I did so. I do not regard this as a breach of the Constitution. At first blush it might look like a contravention of the spirit of the Constitution, on the ground that these domestic matters ought to be left to the States to settle; but, when all is said and done, is not the construction of national, developmental roads a matter in which the Commonwealth is competent to assist the States ? Section 96 of the Constitution gives it the power to do so. No objection would have been taken during the last three years if control had been vested in a board constituted of representatives of the States and the Commonwealth, or even one which was independent- of either of those parties. I cannot see any vice in the proposal. It falls within the terms of section 96 of the Constitution ; and, in the light of the new spirit in which the Constitution has been interpreted, I venture the opinion that if it comes to trial it will be proved to be constitutional. The States would be well advised to accept the arrangement, in not only their own interests, but also those of Australia as a whole, and our national development.
.- I intend to support the bill. This proposal was given the greatest prominence in the policy speech which the Prime Minister delivered at Dandenong on the eve of the election campaign, and I referred to it at every meeting which I addressed. So far as I was able to gather, it met with the utmost favour. No criticism was offered at that time by any of the newspapers in this State, which are now offering such strong opposition to it. I cannot conceive how it is possible for any honorable senator who sits on this side of the chamber to oppose the measure. Such opposition should have been manifested when the programme of the Government was announced.
– In South Australia the opposition has been continuous.
– I am not aware whether any opposition was offered by Senator Barwell. He would not have had a very favorable reception in the outback parts of South Australia if he op posed a scheme for improving the conditions of the settlers.
– All sections of the press and the community in South Australia are standing behind the State Government in its opposition to the proposal.
– That opposition has developed very rapidly and mysteriously. It is directed, not so much to this bill, as to the petrol tax which is to be imposed to raise the money necessary to. provide funds for road construction.
– The proposal was opposed in South Australia before there was any talk of a petrol tax.-
– A section of the press argues that honorable senators will forfeit all claim to respect if they do not uphold what is alleged to be the attitude of the States towards this measure. “Where must we seek to ascertain that attitude? Must we accept the dictation of the Governments for the time being?
– Unfortunately, we must accept their decision, because only they have the power to enter into the agreement.
– We are at liberty to inform ourselves of the state of public opinion, without any reference, to those who temporarily occupy a seat in the State Parliaments. In supporting this measure, I am not adopting an attitude that is antagonistic to the interests of the State that I represent. Senator Barwell dealt at length with the constitutional aspect of the matter. While not claiming to be an authority on the interpretation of the Constitution, -I consider that a great deal can be said on the other side. There can be no question, for example, that the provision of good roads has been always the first subject to which the military nations of the world have directed their attention. The Roman Empire - the greatest military nation the world has ever known - constructed a wonderful network of roads, which have lasted up to the present day. Napoleon was responsible for that excellent system- of national roads which we admired in France. In war-time, the transport of men, guns, and ammunition is not possible unless good roads are provided. The Constitution gives to the Commonwealth Government the power to legislate in matters of defence, and it is not difficult to bring roads within the scope of that power. There is a whole chain of decisions of the High Court of Australia which support that theory.
– Adopting that argument, full power over all railways would be given to the Commonwealth.
– The High Court has plainly stated the limitations on that power, and they are very few indeed. I have no doubt that it would embrace the use of railways, quite apart from any special provision in’ the Constitution in that direction. Mr. Justice Barton, in the judgment which he delivered in the case of Pankhurst v. Kiernan, said -
If a measure were capable of contributing to the common defence, it was for the court to affirm that capability, and to go no further.
That is to say, if this matter ever came before that court, the only point which it would have to determine would be whether a road was capable of being used in connexion with defence. Having decided that in the affirmative, its duty would be not to inquire any further. That is made still clearer by the judgment of Chief Justice Griffith, who suggested that the test to be applied in all cases was - “Can the measure in question conduce to the efficiency of the forces of the Empire, or is the connexion of cause and effect between the measure and the desired efficiency so remote that the one cannot reasonably be regarded as affecting the other?
That case ‘ related to price fixing. The court held most decidedly that even price fixing was not so remote from the question of defence as to prevent its being considered part of it.
– Does the honorable senator contend that the Commonwealth Parliament can fix prices ?
– It can if it so chooses. The court has made it plain that if any matter can, in the remotest degree, be considered as affecting or likely to affect the efficiency of defence measures, the Commonwealth has power to legislate in regard to it. Roads clearly are connected with defence. Therefore, it would be no business of the court to inquire whether this or that road was strategically or tactically necessary for defence.
– Any road would be conducive to military efficiency.
– Yes. Mr. Justice Isaacs, in the case of Pankhurst v. Kiernan, refers to such a position, and, in quoting a decision of the Privy Council, said -
Those who are responsible for the national security must be the sole judges of what national security requires.
The following is very important, and has a bearing on the view expressed by Senator Barwell : -
It would be obviously undesirable that such matters should be made the subject in any court of law or otherwise discussed in public.
– Prom what is the honorable senator quoting?
– From a judgment of the Privy Council which was cited with strong approval by Mr. Justice Isaacs, in the case of Pankhurst v. Kiernan.
– That means, in effect, that the Commonwealth could construct almost any roads in the Commonwealth.
– Yes ; and’ the High Court would not inquire into technicalities, because the work would be incidental to the defence of the country.
– Would that apply to all roads ?
– Yes ; and the court, realizing its limitations, would not make it a matter of evidence whether the roads were strategical or tactical. The defeat of the Germans at the Battle of the Marne was largely due to the use by General Joffre of large fleets of motor buses, which he took off the streets of Paris, filled with troops, and manoeuvred in such a way as to deliver an unexpected attack on the German lines. In time we may have whole fleets of tanks or armoured cars for defence purposes, and the provision of good roads will, therefore, become increasingly necessary in order to ensure the adequate defence of the Commonwealth. There can be no doubt that the High Court would admit that good roads are essential for the defence of the Commonwealth.
– Good roads would be more important than railways.
– Yes ; but not so much strategically as tactically, when in close touch with the enemy. The court, in interpreting such a statute as this,
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 August 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260810_senate_10_114/>.