10th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Eon. J. Newlands) took the chair at 12 noon, and read prayers.
– Yesterday I asked the Leader of the Senate the following question : -
In the event of the Prime Minister deciding nol. to adopt ray suggestion to increase from eight to twelve the number of delegates that are to comprise the proposed industrial commission to visit the United States of America, will the Government take into consideration the advisability of allowing the Trades and Labour Councils in Australia to select their four delegates from the eighteen that have been nominated by the six States 1
Is he yet in a position to state whether my wishes can be met?
– The Government has considered this proposal, but, as it pointed out in a letter which was sent to both the employers’ and the employees’ organizations, it desires to have a wellbalanced delegation representative as far as possible of the main groups of industry, and unless there is a co-ordination of nomination by some central authority, that object probably could not, or would not, be attained. For instance, if six, or even four, different authorities made selections, they might, in the case of the employers’ representatives, confine the selection to the iron trade, for example, disregarding the textile industry, the timber industry, or any other industry. Similarly with the trade union delegates, one industry might supply all the representatives. The object which the Government has in view, I repeat, is to obtain a balanced delegation representative as widely as possible of Australian industry.
What are the proportions of Australian and imported timbers, respectively, used in theconstruction of Parliament House, Canberra I
I am now advised by the Federal Capital Commission that it is not possible, without considerable research, to ascertain the exact proportions. The whole of the joinery work - with the exception of some doors to press rooms, and several sashes on the lower floor of the kitchen block - and all the flooring, except for a small quantity of Baltic pine used in the press rooms, have been executed in Australian timbers. Oregon has been used in the floor joists of the main floor, upper floor, and flat room, and in the construction of main trusses over the chambers. The whole of the floor bearers and floor joists of the lower floor are of Australian hardwood.
– In view of the fact that the Government has declared war on certain oil companies, does it intend to act similarly in regard to all trusts and combines throughout Austral in which for a long time past have been, and arc now, exploiting the community in different directions?
– I refer the honorable senator to the policy speech of the Government, which was delivered by Mr. Bruce at Dandenong.
– That is too vague.
Roofing Materialforbuildingsin Civic Centre.
– Is the Minister for
Home and Territories (Senator Glasgow) aware that Senator Elliott some little time ago made on the floor of this chamber the statement that the Federal Capital Commission insisted upon the use of roofing material costing 100 per cent. more than that locally made at Canberra, in connexion with the pro nosed buildings in the civic centre? If so, does he concur in that arrangement? If he does not, will he take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the use of the roofing material which is manufactured at Canberra?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.I communicated with the Chairman of the Commission regarding Senator Elliott’s statement, and have received a reply. I ask leave to make a statement up an the matter.(Leave granted.) This is the reply-
In reply to yourpersonal letter dated the 6th instant regarding Senator Elliott, his business block, and his tiles, it is a fact that the Commission has specified Roman tiles for the two Civic Centre blocks. The reason for this is that the style of architecture is what is commonly known in architectural circles as Florentine, and we should be committing a distinct architectural offence if we specified Marseilles tiles.
The two Civic Centre business blocks are being built in accordance with a set design, a copy of which Mr. McLaren has in his office.
There are many owners involved in the trans action, and the Commission, in order to secure uniformity in treatment, has had tolay down the architectural essentials, which it arrived at after consultation with its Committee of Public Taste.
It is a matter of absolute certainty that had we insisted upon Marseilles tiles for this type of architecture, we should have been the laughing-stock of the architectural “ world “ of Australia. ….
It is … . interesting to find that the first lessee to call for tenders for the two-storey building, in accordance with our architecture and his general structural and internal design, is entering into a contract this week to have buildings put on two 20-f t. blocks at a cost of £1,648 each, including Roman tiles. It is also interesting to note that we are at this moment making inquiries into the question of importing our tiles from Melbourne instead of from, Sydney, until such time as we take up the running ourselves again. The cost of tiles in Sydney is roughly. £10 per 1,000 more than in Melbourne, owing to the operations of the officially non-existent tile ring.I give below figures which show the relative cost of Roman and Marseilles tiles, and the effect which it has on the cost.
There is a difference in the cost of £35 in favour of Marseilles as against Roman tiles.
Evasion by Manipulation of Invoices.
-I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether it is a fact that certain business concerns which are operating in the Commonwealth are escaping the payment of their proper share of income taxation, by placing in invoices a false value respecting goods that are sent to them? If this is. so, cannot a remedy be found by adopting a procedure similar to that which is in use in the Customs Department to prevent that department from being defrauded of duty?
– If the honorable senator will hand me his question in wi iting, I shall have inquiries made, and endeavour to supply him with an answer during the course of the day.
[12.11], - I lay on the table, by command, the report of the royal commission which was appointed to inquire into N Norfolk oik Island affairs, and I move -
That the paper be printed.
Following upon a resolution for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the affairs of Norfolk Island, which was passed by the House of Representatives last year, Mr. Francis Whysall, late Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales, was in January last appointed to be a royal commissioner to inquire into and report upon the system of administration in and in connexion with the Territory of Norfolk Island, and to investigate any complaints by residents of the territory in regard to local conditions, with, a view to the suggestion of such remedial measures as he might consider desirable. The royal commissioner has now completed his investigations, and furnished a report thereon to His Excellency the Governor-General. As this report was adverse to the present Administrator, Colonel E. T. Leane, C.B.E., and recommended that he be recalled without delay, the Administrator was supplied with a copy and invited to offer any observations in reply thereto that he might desire to make. The royal commissioner’s report, and the Administrator’s comments thereon, have been carefully considered by the Government, and it has been decided to terminate Colonel Leane’s appointment upon, the expiry of two months’ leave of absence which has been granted to him as from the 16th August, 1926.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
High Commissioner for Australia in the United Kingdom - Report for the year 1.925.
Norfolk Island - Report of the Royal Commission on Norfolk Island Affairs, together with Appendices.
Superannuation Act - Fourth Report ot the Superannuation Fund Management Board, for year ended 30th June, 1926.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations toy the Arbitrator, &c. No. 20 of 1926- Amalgamated Postal
Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 27 of 1926 - Amalgamated Engineering Union.
British Phosphate Commission - Report and Accounts for year ended 30th June, 1925.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Statement, dated 11th August, 1926, by the Minister for Markets and Migration, regarding the operation of the Act, together with a copy of the First Annual Report of the Dairy Produce Export Control Board.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the amount paid to the Commonwealth Bank Board of Directors by the Commonwealth Bank for the years 1924-5 and 1925-6 y
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
The Commonwealth Bank has supplied the following information :- 1924-5, £3,338; 1925-6, £4,600.
Two Years”- Expenditure
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
What was the total amount expended by the Government in connexion with the trade publicity scheme in Great Britain for the years 1924-5 and 1925-6 v
– The Minister for Markets, and Migration has supplied the following answer : -
The trade publicity scheme commenced in April last, when the first of the new season’s Australian apples arrived in Great Britain. The publicity in respect of dried and canned fruits began in July last, and propaganda on behalf of Australian dairy produce will commence in October next. The actual expenditure cannot yet be stated, but the Commonwealth is subsidizing the trade publicity scheme on a £1 for £1 basis, with a limit to its liability of £50,000.
Salaries of Members of Boards
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What were the total amounts of salaries paid to those officers who are members of the-
Council for Defence, . (c). Military Board,
Munitions Supply Board, for the years 1924-25 and 1925-26.
– The information is not yet available, but I hope to be able to supply it before the conclusion of the present sitting.
Senator H. HAYS (through Senator
Sampson) asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the chairman of the Migration Commission will visit London at an early date?
– In view of the necessity for co-operation between the British and Commonwealth Governments in relation to development and migration, it is considered desirable that Mr. Gepp should accompany the Prime Minister to England, and arrangements are being made accordingly. While Mr. Gepp is in London he will also, at the request of Mr. Julius, undertake certain negotiations with a view to further co-operation being established between the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in London and the newly-created Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Australia.
Debate resumed from the 11th August (vide page 5249), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the paper be printed.
– It appears to me that the Senate has been unfairly treated in this matter. Copies of the agenda paper were submitted to honorable senators only last evening, and we have not had sufficient time to consider the subjects to be dis cussed at the Imperial Conference. It is unreasonable to expect the Senate to discuss, at almost a moment’s notice, the important issues to be dealt with at the conference.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Order of the day called on for the resumption of the debate from the11th August (vide page 5241), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the papers be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.20 to 2.30 . p.m.
. -I regret to inform the Senate that, as the result of inquiries which I have made, there is no prospect of the Appropriation Bill reaching the Senate from another place for some time. Present appearances indicate that it should be possible for it to reach us before 4 o’clock. In the circumstances, I suggest that it would meet the convenience of honorable senators if the sitting were suspended until 4 o’clock.
– In view of the statement of the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce), I suspend the sitting of the Senate until 4 o’clock.
Sitting suspended from 2.31 to4 p.m.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
States Loan Bill.
Shale Oil Bounty Bill.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Bill.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill.
Sitting suspended from4.2 to 8 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives; Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) whether it is his intention to endeavour to dispose of the Appropriation Bill to-night, and also to pass certain other measures which, I understand, are still to come from another place. I think this is about the fifth occasion on which we have assembled to-day in anticipation of the receipt from another place of the Appropriation Bill. I do not think it right that this branch of the legislature should be asked to make such an unseemly rush as is evidently proposed, and be expected to dispose of the bill between now and perhaps 3 o’clock to-morrow morning, without having the opportunity to give it proper consideration. It is unreasonable to ask the Senate to pass the bill to-night. If we made reasonable progress, we could adjourn at about the usual hour, and thus allow honorable senators to reach their homes. It was at first expected that the present sittings would terminate some time to-day, and that members of both Houses would be able to leave for their respective States this afternoon. As that is now impossible, perhaps the right honorable gentleman will display a little reason, and arrange for the Senate to meet at 10 o’clock to-morrow morning. All the business could then be disposed of in time to allow members to catch their trams. Honorable senators on this side of the Chamber will assist the Government to transact all the business that it has to bring before Parliament during the present sittings. With all due respect to honorable members of another place, I think they are prone to forget that there is a Senate. Once they have disposed of certain measures they believe that that is the end, and that we are their slavish followers.
– We have had a fairly full discussion of the budget since the 8th July.
– I do not admit that. There are many details of departmental expenditure to be reviewed, and that opportunity is not afforded until the bill is in committee. Having given the Minister the assurance that no unnecessary delay will be caused by honorable senators on this side of the Chamber, I ask him to consider my suggestion.
Last year Parliament passed a measure providing for the payment of £450,000 for the year ended the 30th June, 1926, on the recommendation of the Western Australian Disabilities Commission; but I understand no provision has been made for a further payment. I ask the Minister whether it is the intention of the Government to make any further provision in that regard. The Minister will remember that when opening the electioneering campaign in Western Australia, last year, he said that the grant would be for the current year, and that the matter would then be referred to a conference of State Treasurers. I do not think the Government has mentioned the convening of such a conference to determine whether the grant shall be continued. I need not stress the point, because the commission, in its report, mentioned the many disabilities which. Western Australia is experiencing. Today I have received the following telegram from the Premier of Western Australia : -
Have wired Senator Pearce as follows : Understand Government not proceeding with States Grants Bill. Does Government intend introduce special bill provide grant ‘ account this State’s disabilities before Parliament adjourns. Strongly urge this course, even if basis last year’s act adopted. Public opinion here very definite. Advise me fully of position.
I should like to know the intentions of the Government in this matter, and whether when Parliament reassembles next year provision will be made for a further grant to Western Australia on the same basis as last year, pending the assembly of the conference which I have mentioned.
.- Following the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) in relation to a financial grant to Western Australia, I point out that there appears on page 378 of the Estimates of receipts and expenditure furnished to us a few days ago, an amount covering a grant to Western Australia, and also on the same page an item relating to- a special payment . of £378,000 to Tasmania. J have hurriedly perused the Estimates of expenditure now before the Senate, but I cannot find any reference to it. I trust the Minister (Senator Pearce) will explain the omission.
– I may point out for the information of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham), and other honorable senators, that in order to give this chamber an equal opportunity with another place to discuss the budget proposals, it has been the practice for many years, to submit a motion - “ That the Estimates and budget-papers be printed,” and honorable senators have been specially invited to discuss the whole of the budget proposals on that motion. It is the invariable practice in this legislature, as in all Parliaments, not to dispose of the Appropriation Bill until the end of the session is approaching. The procedure we have adopted, however, gives this Chamber a full opportunity to discuss the budget proposals,.’ and, on this occasion, that opportunity has been availed of to a greater extent, I believe, than by another place. There has been a full and exhaustive discussion of the budget proposals in the Senate. I am glad there has been, and I trust honorable senators will always avail themselves of the opportunity thus afforded them. “ The main principles of the budget, having been debated, honorable senators now have an opportunity to discuss the departmental Estimates in detail, which cannot be done at any other time. The Leader of the . Opposition knows, as I do, that practically all members resident in distant States have made arrangements to leave Melbourne tomorrow.
– If my suggestion were adopted that would not be prevented.
– Serious inconvenience would result if the business were so long delayed that they would have to cancel their arrangements. That would be of little consequence to members resident in Victoria, but those living in other States would be seriously inconvenienced. In justice to these members the business in this Chamber must be so arranged that honorable senators will have a full opportunity - and after all it is in their interests^ - to discuss the bill in detail. That can only be done by proceeding with the measure to-night. Honorable senators are aware that there are ‘also several other important bills, for which reasonable time for discussion must be provided.
Honorable senators, particularly those from Queensland, who are interested in the payment of a cotton bounty, and other honorable senators who are interested in the bounty on cotton yarn, must be afforded an opportunity to express their views on those proposals. I sympathize with the Leader oi the Opposition, because I do not wish to be here all night. I loathe all-night sittings, and nothing will persuade me’ to take them as a form of recreation. Later we shall be able to see what progress has been made. It may be possible to adjourn at a reasonable hour and meet again tomorrow, but it would not be wise to adopt such a course before the Appropriation Bill had been disposed of. Whilst I should like to meet the wishes of honorable senators, and also meet my own convenience, it would not be safe to delay the discussion of this measure until tomorrow.
Coming now to the question raised by Senator Needham and Senator Payne as to special grants to Western Australia and Tasmania, may I say in reply first of all to Senator Payne that provision will be made for those grants in another bill. As a matter of fact they are contained in a special appropriation bill, which has come before another place and is now on its business-paper. They are not contained in this measure, because they are not appropriated by it. The Government has already announced that it has no desire to proceed with the proposals contained in the States Grants Bill at this stage of the session,, but that will be the first business to be taken when Parliament reassembles early in the coming year. Honorable senators are aware that the general discussion on the budget has not disclosed any opposition to these special grants.
– Will the State Treasurers be safe in budgeting in the expectation of receiving that money 1
– I think that they will. It appears to me that these grants are likely to meet with general acceptance. No inconvenience will be caused to the States. Last year, this Government budgeted for a special appropriation for the State of Western Australia. I think it amounted to £450,000, including approximately £80,000 of the existing grant. That money was made available to Western Australia before the close of the financial year, which ended on the 30th June last. Not only has it not been spent, but the Government of “Western Australia has not yet announced the directions in which it proposes that it shall Be spent.
– But these grants are connected with other financial proposals, are they not?
– That is so.
– Will they be contingent upon the passage of the States Grants Bill ?.
-I am not prepared to say. The Government’s policy has been put forward as a whole. What is to happen if either House of the Parliament carves up that policy is for the Government to decide. As an ex-Premier, Senator J. B. Hayes knows that it is a very serious thing for the financial proposals of a government to be carved up.
– Does the Minister suggest that because Western Australia has not indicated the direction in which the grant shall be allocated, no further consideration will be given to it?
– I have not made the slightest suggestion of that sort. What I say is that when this Parliament reassembles in the early part of next year, and deals with these special grants, there will be ample time for the Treasurers of Western Australia and Tasmania to make their arrangements. In support of that, I mentioned the fact that last year’s special grant to Western Australia had been in the hands of that Government for some months, and had not yet been allocated. The Treasurers of both the States and the Commonwealth frame their financial proposals in the early part of every financial year, but a great deal of the money is not spent until the end of the year. The Parliament is committed to the expenditure in the expectation that the estimated revenue will be received. I do not doubt that the Treasurers of Tasmania and Western Australia have framed their budgets in the expectation that they will receive these amounts. They are justified in doing to. It may be that they will not receive them until after the first half of the financial year has expired, but that is the experience with a great deal of their revenue. Although a Treasurer budgets for a whole year’s receipts from income tax and makes preparations for expenditure on that basis, those moneys are not received until towards the close of the financial year. Tasmania and Western Australia, therefore, will not be in any worse position in regard to these grants than they are in regard to income tax and other revenue. I can merely refer honorable senators to the speech of the Treasurer when he introduced his budget. He then committed the Government to these payments, and made it clear that Parliament would be asked to authorize them. He also stated later on, in announcing that it had been decided to defer consideration of the proposals contained in the States Grants Bill, that they would be proceeded with when Parliament reassembled in the early part of the next calendar year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
:- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
When, in July, I moved that the budgetpapers be printed, I gave the financial statement for the year. There has since been no alteration in the figures relating to revenue and expenditure, and it is not necessary for me to mention them again
Question resolved, in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 postponed.
First schedule agreed to.
Second schedule -
Proposed vote, £68,657.
– Last year I referred to the salaries that are being paid to officers of both branches of the legislature. I then ventured the opinion, as I do now, that those salaries are not commensurate with the work performed. The rapid rate at which the cost of living has advanced, and the slow rate at which the salaries of our officers have been raised, give them a legitimate claim for a revision of their remuneration. Last year Senator Givens, who was then President of the Senate, contended that they were well paid. I do not think that they are. Officers in the higher grades in the Parliament are being given increases, and it is time that men who are on the lower rung of the ladder were considered. I want it to be clearly understood that I am not objecting to the increases that are proposed in regard to the President of the Senate and the Chairman of Committees. I cannot, from memory* say what is the salary of each officer of the Chamber, but I know that it is not commensurate with the increased cost of living. That cannot be denied. I suggest to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives that if Supplementary Estimates are to be introduced, they should give consideration to this matter. My experience in this Parliament extends over a number of years. Not one of the men whose claims I am advocating has approached me in this matter. ‘ Fifteen months ago the then President of the Senate suggested that provision would be made for these men on this year’s Estimates. That has not been done. Now is the time, and this is the place, to raise the question. The increases that these officers have received over a period of years have not been sufficient to enable them to keep pace with the. rise in the cost of living. Last year Senator Givens told me that Parliament could not take on the duties of an arbitration court. I admit that that is correct. But these men have not the opportunity posessed by those outside parliamentary employ to present their case to the Arbitration Court. I understand that they do not even have the opportunity of approaching the Public Service Arbitrator, Mr. Atlee Hunt. Apart from coming under the President and the Speaker, they are in a “ No Man’s Land.” The determination of the President “ and Mr. Speaker is evidently final; from their decision there is no appeal. I do not know that it is necessary to bring these officers under the provisions of the Arbitration (Public Service) Act, or the tribunal over which Mr. Atlee Hunt presides. I suggest that the President and Mr. Speaker confer, and consider whether they can grant an increase to these men. Having regard to the salaries now paid, and their length of service, I think that the President, in his wisdom and goodness of heart, will recognize the justice of their claim.
– It is true, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, that this matter was brought under the notice of a committee of the Senate not long ago, and at that time attention was called by more than one honorable senator to what was considered the inadequate remuneration of the officers of this Chamber. They are very attentive and obliging to honorable senators; they understand their work thoroughly; and they do it to the complete satisfaction of honorable senators and their superior officers. My sympathy always goes out to those on the breadandbutter line, and the officers to whom I refer come within that category. They have not approached me in the matter. I ask honorable senators, who are better placed in life than some of them, how they would like to be put on the bread line. Some of these men are receiving about £250 per annum; and, while £5 a week may seem, on paper, to be a fair wage, one has to remember that its present purchasing power is equal only to ‘ that of £3 a few years ago.
– It may not be enough, but it is a great deal more than many of those engaged in the production of butter receive.
– It is very different from the dividends drawn from the woollen mills which the honorable senator purchased so cheaply; but I am dealing with officers of this Parliament. Out of that £5 a week, rent has to be paid. Many thousands of working men do hot own the houses in which they live. There is a shortage of dwellings, and in some areas it is almost impossible to obtain a good house at a reasonable rental. For an ordinary five-roomed weatherboard cottage, rents of from 30s. to 35s. a week, are demanded. If we subtract 30s. from £5, and allow for train and tram fares, how much is left to provide food and clothing for a wife and family?
– There are also the superannuation payments to be deducted.
– Exactly. The working man is advised to make provision for a rainy day, but he cannot provide for the future from a low wage such as that received by these officers. The matter having been again ventilated, I hope that a substantial increase will be made commensurate with the work performed and the responsibilities which devolve upon these officers. No doubt we all sympathize with them, but it has been well said that sympathy without relief is like mustard without beef. These men ask not only for sympathy, but also for justice.
– I hope that the President will give consideration to the remarks of Senators Needham and Findley, and will take the matter up with Mr. Speaker, to see if anything can be done to improve the salaries of these officers. I propose to refer to another branch of the Parliamentary staff, whose position has not been mentioned, and who, I think, are deserving of every consideration at the hands of members of both Houses of Parliament, because of the. value of the work they do and its onerous nature. I have in mind the Parliamentary reporting staff. I gather from inquiries I have made, and from a comparison of the present Estimates with those of past years, that although substantial increases have been granted to officers in the higher branches of various other departments in order to meet the changing conditions of the times and the growing importance of the work that is being done, no increases have been made for a considerable time in the salaries of the Hansard staff. The amounts set down for them on the Estimates appear, at first sight, to be fairly adequate; but we ought to consider their work from a relative point of view. These men are highly trained, and are the pick of their profession in Australia. The work they do is not always pleasant, and at times, is extremely difficult. The great satisfaction that they give to honorable senators must be gratifving to them, and, often, I am afraid, their reports are highly flattering to us. I rarely have to do anything in the way of correcting the Hansard proofs of my speeches. Indeed, I have been amazed, at times, to discover how good my speeches have been. .
– Then, the honorable senator has every justification for advocating an increase for them.
– So also has the honorable senator.
– That is quite true.
– I am glad that the honorable senator admits it; it would appear that he, at least, will support me in this request. When we consider the increases that have been granted, so far as the higher branches of the Public Service generally are concerned, we realize that it is time that the ‘President and Mr. Speaker gave thought to the granting of increases to the Parliamentary reporting staff.
– I - I notice that in the Estimates relating to the Parliamentary reporting staff there is an item of £4 for child endowment.
– That should not make the Treasurer stand aghast.
– I was amazed at the modesty of the sum.
– I am referring particularly to the salaries of these officers. They have not had an increase for a considerable time. In view of the importance of their work, and the accuracy with which it is being done, I feel that we cannot do too much for this branch of our staff.
– They do such a lot for us.
– Yes. We should give them every consideration when increases in salaries are being made. Since increases have been given elsewhere, why have not the claims of the Hansard staff also been considered? I commend their case to the consideration of the President, because I know that he is anxious at all times to do the right thing. I hope that he will give the matter his earnest attention with a view to having the anomaly rectified.
– I rise to support the remarks of Senator Needham. My experience during the three years that I have been a member of- this Senate is that all the attendants are thoroughly capable. The small pittance paid to them is inadequate for the work they perform. One of them, with 26 years’ service, receives only £5 17s. 6d. a week, out of which he has to pay rent, contribute to the Superannuation Fund, and keep a large family. The weekly salary of £3 10s. which was paid in 1910 was worth more than, the salary of £5 17s. 6d. a week now paid, seeing that the purchasing power of the £1 to-day, as compared with that of 1910, is only 9s. 3d. I hope that the new President, in conjunction with Mr. Speaker, will do something to increase the remuneration paid to these men. - I have no objection to the higher paid officers receiving substantial increases, but I submit that the men on small salaries should not be overlooked. I agree with the remarks .of Senator Duncan as to the excellent service- rendered by the parliamentary reporting ‘ staff. In my opinion, the officers of this Parliament are second to none in the Commonwealth. I trust that the President and Mr. Speaker will give favorable consideration to their claims. .
– It is possible that some members of the staff have .suffered because no increases in salary have been granted this, year, but I point out that the Estimates with which we are now dealing were prepared by my predecessor in office, Senator Givens, in conjunction with Mr. Speaker. Probably Senator Givens felt that, as he was retiring from the office of President, he should not vary, to any great extent, the salaries of officers. Honorable senators will realize that I have occupied the presidential chair for only a short period.
– W? recognize that you, sir, have not yet had an opportunity to deal with this matter.
– Important as is the question of the salaries paid to the members of the staff, I, as the newly elected President of the Senate, have had to devote much of my time to many other matters of great importance in the satisfactory discharge of the business of the Senate. The salaries paid to the staff have, however, not- been overlooked. They have been discussed by Mr; Speaker and myself on many occasions. I have also discussed them with the principal officers of the Senate, and with honorable senators as well as honorable members of the House of Representatives who have made to me representations on behalf of the staff. In a very short time the Parliament will be transferred to Canberra, and every one recognizes that very considerable alterations in the salaries of the staff will then have to be made. That, probably, is one reason why but few increases were granted this year. In some directions, increases, by way of extra allowances, have be<>n made. Senator Needham suggested that the staff should be brought within the jurisdiction of the Public Service Arbitration Court.
– I did not say that. I said that, as the law stood, they could not be brought under it.
– Then I misunderstood . the honorable senator. If, however, the suggestion were made that the officers of Parliament should be placed under the control of the Public Service Board, and the Public Service Arbitration Court, .1 should strenuously oppose it, since I believe that Parliament should control the salaries of all those employed on the parliamentary staff. Some of the lower paid men are . not so well remunerated as I should like them to be; but it is well that honorable senators should know that generally the messengers and other attendants in this building are paid higher salaries than are the messengers in other public departments So anxious have Mr. Speaker and I been to see that they are paid at least as well as men occupying similar positions outside, that we have instituted inquiries, and have ascertained that the messengers here are paid considerably higher salaries than are messengers in some of the departments. For instance, messengers in the Prime Minister’s Department receive £266 per annum; in the Treasury, £270 per annum ; Attorney-General’s Department, £276 per annum; Defence Department, £317 per annum; Trade and Customs Department, £275; and Works and Railways Department, £276 per annum. Parliamentary messengers receive £324, £299, £283, and £253 per annum. The lowest salary, paid to any messenger in this building is £253 per annum. Honorable senators may be interested to know that since 1915-16 the percentage of salary increase has been 26.8, 38.4, 4.1.5, and 50.6 in the case of individual officers. During that period increases as high as 80 per cent, have been granted to some officers.
– They must have been getting very small salaries before those increases were granted.
– In those days the salaries of parliamentary officers were not under my control. When representations are made by honorable senators that the messengers and attendants of the Senate are poorly paid, I feel it my duty to mention these figures to show that my predecessors have not been unmindful of their position. Under the classification of the Public Service Board messengers in the Works and Railways Department receive £252 per annum, with annual increments of £8 until £284 is reached. I shall not mention individual officers by name, as I do not like making public the salaries paid to them.
– I think that it is only right that the public should know the small amounts members of the staff receive.
– I disagree with the honorable senator. This year two officers have received increments of £24. In order to bring their salaries up to the maximum, two other officers have each received a £9 increment. A complaint has been made by the engineer that his salary is .not sufficient. It is difficult to find an exactly parallel case, because the many duties which the two engineers in this building are called upon to perform do not fall to the lot of engineers in other departments. They have to attend to the lifts, bells, lighting, and the heating and ventilating systems, and must be capable and qualified men. We are fortunate in having such men. In the chief engineer’s branch of the Works and Railways Department civil engineers are paid £430 per annum, mechanical engineers £418, and electrical engineers £424 per annum. The engineer in this building receives £410 per annum. It, therefore, cannot be said that the staff of Parliament is underpaid when their salaries are compared with those of men performing similar work outside. Mr.Speaker and I, however, are still giving this matter consideration. I can assure the committee that I am anxious to- do everything in reason to place the staffs of the House on a proper footing. Before long an entirely new classification of the salaries of all the officers of Parliament will have to be made in connexion with the transfer to Canberra. I ask honorable senators to accept my assurance that I am anxious that all employed in this building shall receive good salaries, and that whatever I can reasonably do to make them more satisfied - and I do not know that they are dissatisfied - -will be willingly done. I have at all times found the members of the parliamentary staff to be attentive, careful, and reliable officers. I shall look into the matter, and- 1 have no doubt that when the Estimates for next year are under review substantial increases will be provided. I include, of course, members of the Hansard staff in my general commendation of the officers connected with the Senate. ‘ Those gentlemen do excellent work’. Up to the present, I have not considered their claims for increases in salary. For the last two months I have been more concerned with the position of the lower-paid officials ; but I can assure honorable senators that members of the Hansard staff will receive the same consideration as other officers of the Parliament.
Senator- Barnes.- Why not a word of praise for the cook ?
– I do not think that I shall be giving away a secret when I say that the chef is down on the Estimates for an increase of £9. He is one of the men who’ has reached the maximum of his class. But that is not the end, as far as the chef is concerned. Like the rest of the officials connected with thisParliament, he is an excellent officer, and will be considered.
– What about . tha typists ?
– The typists, I am informed, are paid at least the scheduled rate for similar work outside. .
– I knew that once the matter was brought under the notice of Mr. President, he would be very sympathetic. But I do not think he has gone far enough. This committee should not be a mutual admiration society. We should not be content to only admire the splendid work done by members of the Hansard staff and other officers of the Parliament. Commendation for services rendered will not help to keep the kettle boiling. Mr. President has just bold us that the messengers of the Senate are better paid than -are messengers of some other departments of the Public Service over which he has no control. If those outside this building are not paid more than our messengers are, then God help them ! Mr. President has stated that during the last ten years the salaries of certain officers have been increased from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent.
I remind him that during that time the cost of living has increased by 11)0 percent., so it cannot be said’ that their position has improved. Mr. President has told us, also, that as we shall be removing to Canberra next year, the salaries of officers will be revised in order tocompensate them for certain disadvantages which they will suffer by reason of the transfer. I am reminded of the adage - “Live horse and you will get grass.” Whilst supporting Mr. President in his desire to assist our officers, I am disposed to take certain action to see whether or not the Government, through the Treasurer, will make it possible for Mr. President and Mr. Speaker to provide these increases in salaries to our officers. I therefore move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the proposed vote by £1. “ Senator Duncan. - Why not accept the assurance of Mr. President, arid leave the matter to him ? The honorable senator said he would do that. Senator NEEDHAM.- I do not wish Senator Duncan to put into my mouth words that I did not say. What I said was that I knew Mr. President would be sympathetic. I realize that he is, but sympathy alone will not dc very much. I want to make it possible for Mr. President and Mr. Speaker to provide increases for those officers who deserve increases before Parliament is transferred to Canberra. Unless action is taken now it will be at least fourteen months before the promised re-organization scheme can be completed, and I submit that it is the duty of the committee now to instruct the presiding officer to give this matter earlier consideration. It is possible that Mr. President misunderstood my references to the officers of this House in relation to the industrial court, presided over by Mr. Atlee Hunt. What I did say was that under present conditions they have no appeal to any industrial court in Australia, not even to the court over which Mr. Atlee Hunt presides under the provisions of the Public Service Arbitration Act. I also stated that I did not wish this Parliament to become an industrial or arbitration court. No blame attaches to Mr. President for the present condition of affairs, but I think that the committee should support him in his desire to assist the employees of Parliament in the direction indicated.
– I was very pleased at the nature of the remarks made by Mr. President. I knew that he would be sympathetic towards the underpaid workers connected with this Parliament. When he was in the ranks of the workers, he was always in tho forefront of any industrial movement for the improvement of his own and his fellow workers’ conditions. I noticed that the four male office cleaners, including the service for Hansard department, receives a salary each of only £238 a year, so the minimum is not. as stated by Mr. President, £253, but £238 a year. Their pay is not in keeping with the dignity of this Parliament. These men have wives and families. I am sure no honorable senator would like to be obliged to support a wife and family on a wage of £238 a year.
– What about the child endowment ? Does it apply to those male office cleaners ?
– Suppose it does? If they have families of six or seven children it would not be very much assistance to them.
– It might mean another £50 a year.
– Well, £50 a year will not help very much in the bringing up of a large family. We should be prepared to pay a fair wage to all employees of the National Parliament. The minimum should be at least £300 a year. The wages paid by this Parliament, to some of its employees, at all events, compare unfavorably with wages paid by State Parliaments. The Commonwealth Parliament should set an example to other parliaments. There is no occasion to be parsimonious. Last year we had a surplus of £2,750,000. Why cannot some portion of it be devoted to an increase in the wages of our employees ? It would be impossible to find a better staff connected with any parliament in Australia than we have. Some of our employees are absolutely geniuses in their work. The attendants at the door, for example, have other duties than that of merely opening the door for honorable senators, or showing visitors into the galleries. They are experts in other matters. If an honorable senator is absent for any length of time, and desires to know what has transpired in his absence, the attendants are in a position to inform him. Or if they wish to be supplied with some informa- tion or certain papers, the attendant supplies them with the least possible delay. . I regret to know that some of the men who have been serving members in this Parliament for over twenty years, are receiving only £320 a year, with the prospect’ of rising to £350 a year, if they remain here until they are about 70 years of age. That is not a very attractive outlook for men of their calibre. They have no union to look after their interests, so they have to dependupon their higher officers. I assume that whilst they are not satisfied they feel that, having spent so many years here, it is hardly worth while now to seek new avenues of employment. No man can keep a wife and family under Australian conditions on a salary of£235 a year. Some of our lower paid employees have to pay 30s. a week for house rent, so there is very little left after they make the usual provision for the ordinary household expenses. They are always expected to be well dressed, and, when required, to be able to remain on duty during protracted sittings. A couple of years ago, they were on duty on one occasion for 37 hours continuously, and the following day had to face another period of duty extending over 31 hours. These unfortunate men, who do their work well, cannot obtain a little rest during a long sitting, as honorable senators can, and it is a standing disgrace to the national Parliament of Australia that they should be expected to work for £235 a year. Instead of wasting £100,000 in meeting the cost of the referendum to be taken this month, the Government should increase the salaries of the lowerpaid parliamentary officers, who render such good service. I feel sure that, in some cases, their wages are so low that they are unable to provide fires in their homes in the winter. It is a disgrace to the Parliament, and I hope that Mr. President and Mr. Speaker will see that, in future, every man working in this building does not receive less than £300 a year.
. -I do not wish to enter into a controversy with honorable senators opposite, but I cannot allow the remarks of Senator McHugh to pass without comment, as they would create the impression that certain officers employed in this building are working extraordinarily long hours for very low wages. I remind honor able senators that there are no Senate officials receiving, as mentioned by Senator McHugh, only £235 a year. Those receiving that salary do not work, as he suggests, for 30 or 40 hours at a time in attending to the requirements of honorable senators, but are employed as cleaners, and work comparatively short hours. I do not say for a moment that they are receiving too much, but I do not wish the position to be misrepresented. The parliamentary Estimates are prepared by Mr. Speaker and myself, and it is most unusual for them to be challenged. That being so, the request submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) would, if carried, have very little effect upon the Government.
Question - That the request (Senator Needham’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes (Prime Minister’s Department), £212,961: (Department of the Treasury), £542,178; (AttorneyGeneral’s Department), £130,265; agreed to.
Department of Home and Territories.
Proposed vote, £290,000.
.- I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the proposed vote by £1.
I am led to take this step because it is quite apparent from what has occurred in this Chamber within the last few days that the Minister for nome and Territories (Senator Glasgow) has lost his grip of the department, and that it is getting beyond his control. A few clays ago I asked the Minister certain questions in relation to the disposal of business sites at Canberra, and received the following reply -
The Commission proposes to submit additional business sites for sale at an early date. It is considered that .the sale of isolated business sites would be inadvisable from an architectural point of view.
Immediately after that answer had been given, a paragraph appeared in the Argus on the following day - 9th August - containing a point blank contradiction of the information supplied by the commission through the Minister. On page 19 of the Argus of the- 9th August, the following appears: -
No Further Business Sites This Year
Canberra, Sunday. - Regarding the statement in the Senate by the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator .Sir William Glasgow) that he intended to submit additional businesssite leases for sale at an early date, it is stated by the Lands Department of the Federal Capital Commission that no sale will be held for about six months, and that no further business sites will be sold this year. Building has yet to be begun on the 46 business sites at the civic centre, and materials are on 28 blocks ready for a beginning, while preparations on other sites are proceeding. Some purchasers of leases at the first sale in December, 1924, and in May, 1925, are reported to have resold at a profit, while many other leaseholders are retaining their leases to carry out their original intentions of building and settling in Canberra. They have refused tempting premiums offered by people who cams in too late. In connexion with a statement that leaseholders were demanding premiums now, it may be recalled that at the first sale, in 1924, many leases were, not sold, but, in every instance, the Commission has since disposed of these at higher prices than the upset value on the day of sale.
The excuse for declining to offer further business sites was that there was no demand for them. It would appear that when the Minister supplies certain information the commission tells him point blank that he is a liar.
– But it is a good distance away. A day or two ago, I submitted some preliminary estimates from the reputable firm of architects which was successful in the competition for the design of public servants’ cottages at
Canberra. It was, nevertheless, suggested that my statements were wild and reckless, and, in refutation of them, it was said that tenders had been received for the erection of business premises in the civic centre, one to cost £2,161, and two adjoining shops £3,297, or about £1,650 each. I have had considerable experience in connexion with building costs in this city, and can say that it would be impossible to erect in Melbourne on a 20-ft. frontage, two-story shops at the price mentioned. I immediately made further inquiry from the same firm of architects, which is the only firm actively engaged in supervising building construction at Canberra. It transpires that those figures are absolutely false. The tenders were for the erection of buildings, the bricks being provided by the owner. That is a horse of quite another colour.
– Apparently the Minister was deliberately misled.
– The architect’s estimate is that, in respect to the first building; an additional £120 will have to be paid for the bricks delivered on the ground, and in respect to1 the second there will be an addition of £300. Further, these tenders are for only the bare walls. In order that the Minister may be quite sure that I am not making wild and reckless statements, I shall give him the names. The first was to be erected for Woodyers and Calthorpe, auctioneers, and the second for the architects themselves and a Major Prisk, they having entered into a joint contract so as to cheapen the cost. I immediately asked the architects to explain the discrepancy between their estimate to me and that which they had obtained for their own offices. They said, “ The conditions under which leases are granted are exceedingly vague. It would be quite open to the commission to demand that the whole depth of the block should be covered with buildings. Most of the building leases in Melbourne contemplate a building on the full depth of the ground. We submitted an estimate based on the maximum demand that the commission could make, but in our own case it was ‘ a try-on ‘ to see whether we could build on the smallest possible space.” They therefore prepared a plan, showing what is called a Florentine facade -with Roman tiles on the front, the building going back to a depth of 30 feet only. Where they are going to put the stairs leading to the second floor, 1 do not know. Possibly they were not shown on the plan which was submitted. I cannot say whether the criticism in this House and elsewhere brought the position forcibly home to the commission; but I suggest that it had some effect in that direction, and -made it realize the utter impossibility of expecting people to erect buildings over the whole depth. It is manifestly unfair for the commissioners to suppress material facts of that kind in their communications to the Minister, and’ I make an emphatic protest against it. Apparently the position now is that, so long as you have a magnificent facade, you can put anything you like behind it. Senator Duncan aptly describes it when he says that if that system is to be adopted, the civic centre of the capital will present the appearance of a man wearing a bell-topper and having the seat out of his trousers. The mention of Marseilles tiles seems to have thrown the Chief Commissioner into a state of profuse perspiration; yet he allowed an enterprising builder to get past him. Honorable senators may have heard of villas that are Queen Anne in front and Mary Ann behind. These buildings will apparently surpass those in violent contrasts as between front and rear views. I appeal to the Minister to obtain a grip of his department as he did of his troops on the field of battle, and, as a member of the Cabinet, to live up to the reputation that he made as a soldier over there. This is not a mere slip on the part of the Chairman of the Commission; it has become a habit with him. Recently the Public Works Committee investigated the construction of Canberra cottages. lt has presented a report, on page 7 of which appears the following statement: -
The chairman, Federal Capital Commission, in giving evidence, stated that the cost of buildings at Canberra offered to public servants -was not unduly high. He intimated that, in an endeavour to obtain information as to the relative building costs in Melbourne as compared with Canberra, tenders were called in Melbourne for type 0 of the Canberra houses, which the commission is having erected for £1,300. It was stated that the lowest tender received in Melbourne for that house, upon exactly the same specifications and plans, was £1,525 10s.
Honorable senators were more or less astounded by that announcement. The committee made further investigations, with the following result: -
Investigations made by the committee, however, showed that tenders were not publicly invited, but that four contractors, who had the plans for one night only, were asked to give a price for a single house of that type, having first been informed that no business would result. Under these circumstances, the committee considers that the prices given cannot in any way be taken as a fair test, in view of Mr. Butters’ subsequent statement that building material at Canberra costs approximately 20 per cent, more than in Melbourne, and building-trades labour costs approximately 12 per cent. more.
I have an extract from the evidence, which throws further light on the matter. In his examination-in-chief, Mr. Butters paid -
The tenderers were not to be told why the tenders were being called, but they were to be paid a fee to cover their expenses. The tenderers quite expected that business would result. That was the only genuine test which . we could think of.
But Mr. Parkes, of Oakley and Parkes, who submitted the plan and specifications, * had a different story to tell. He said, “ I told them that the job would not be going on.” It seems to me that the commission and its officers have failed to profit by the advice which Lord Melbourne gave to his Cabinet many years ago - “ Gentlemen, if wo have to lie, let us all lie the same way.”
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator has exhausted his time.’
– - It is a pity that the exhaustion of his time prevented Senator Elliott from completing the very serious case which he was making out against the Federal Capital Commission. If his charges are true - and it would appear that they are, because he has apparently substantiated e.very one - the position is indeed a serious one. When this matter was debated some little time ago I attacked the honorable senator because of certain statements that he made regarding Canberra. In view of the further facts that he has placed before us, I tender him an apology. I now believe that he is right in what he has said. In justice to himself, to his department, and to, this Parliament, the Minister must thoroughly investigate the matters that Senator Elliott has brought to his notice. If the honorable senator is correct, the officers of the commission at Canberra either deliberately misled the Minister and the Government or did not know how stupid were- the replies which they sent to questions that were asked in this Chamber. Somebody is to blame, and that blame will have to be sheeted home. Members of Parliament must not be misled by the replies that are given to serious questions which are asked for the purpose of obtaining information for the benefit of the public. I shall await, with interest, the further remarks that .’Senator Elliott has to make upon this matter.
,– I am prepared to lay before the Minister contracts which prove that heavy premiums have been demanded and paid for leases at Canberra. I do not object to the demanding of a premium by those who first obtained the leases, but I am entirely opposed to that being done at, so to speak, the point of the pistol, when “ one has either to accede to the demand or wait probably six months before an opportunity is afforded to secure a lease. Lands are lying idle which, on the commission’s own showing, could be returning revenue. The commission has laid itself open to the implication that it is profiting by this practice. For the sake of its own reputation it ought to see that that state of affairs is altered at the earliest possible moment. The Minister (Senator Pearce), in a previous debate, said that isolated buildings could not be allowed to spring up. But there is no need for that. In the same area as the land offered at the last sale, there are vacant blocks lying idle, and they cannot be bought at any price. They are not for sale. The area is not large, and a few of those allotments could be offered in order to test the market. It has been said that the land is sold in competition. At the first sale it was offered at about £4,000 per acre, and nobody had a chance to obtain it at a cheaper rate than the upset price. At both sales very few blocks were sold at above the upset prices, although I admit that, in rare instances, at the second sale, at any rate, those prices were exceeded to an extraordinary degree. It has been contended that, if unlimited sales were permitted, the whole area would soon be taken up by speculators, but that is unlikely; the building conditions would soon compel them to part with their leases at a fair price. Mr. Butters stated in his evidence before the committee -
For the residence in which I am living, which must have cost an awful lot of money, I am paying £200 a year. I understand it cost between £7,000 and £8,000.
The ratio between the rental and capital value of the cottages in which the unfortunate public servants will have to reside at Canberra is different from that. I understand that the electric meters have been removed from Mr. Butters’ house, so that he gets his .light free.
I shall now deal with a matter that I consider much more serious. I propose to refer to a subject that I mentioned more or less incidentally last night, but which was given considerable publicity in the press to-day. I draw the attention of honorable senators to the conclusions of the royal commission on the affairs of Norfolk Island. I previously stated that the commission had been appointed under conditions that appeared to me to render its proceedings absolutely illegal. The Royal Commissions Act 1902-12 does not apply beyond the borders of Australia, and therefore it cannot extend to Norfolk Island. I have not personally looked into the legal aspect of this matter, but I am prepared to accept the opinion of the acting-secretary of the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, Mr. G. S. Knowles, who sent the following letter to the secretary to the Home and Territories Department: -
I am in receipt, of your memorandum of the 7th April, 1926, requesting advice as to the right of the Administrator of Norfolk Island to cross-examine witnesses giving evidence before the Royal Commission on Norfolk Island affairs.
The Administrator has not the right of cross-examining witnesses appearing before the Royal Commission. The commission may conduct its inquiry in whatever way it thinks fit, and the Administrator can only put questions to witnesses if the Commission requests or permits him to do so.
As the Royal Commissions Act 1902-12 does” not apply to Norfolk Island, witnesses cannot be compelled to attend, be sworn, or give evidence, and the penal sections of the Art cannot be enforced in the Territory.
Consequently anybody who chose could decline to give evidence or could attend before the commission and perjure himself, knowing that no penalty could be inflicted upon him. The charges made against the administrator were extraordinary in character, and he was not permitted to call witnesses to refute those charges, or cross-examine the witnesses called on behalf of his opponents. The whole inquiry was conducted in such an irregular way that a gentleman from Tasmania, a justice of the peace, who observed what was going on, summed up the whole proceedings in these words -
This is the most remarkable royal commission I have ever heard of. There never has been one like it; there never will be another. It is not a royal commission. It is a school for scandal.
Thatwas the opinion of a gentleman who has had experience in courts and in the methods of conducting judicial business. I do not know why the gentleman who made the inquiry was selected for the purpose. He has had no legal training, and he had never previously acted in a judicial capacity. Prior to being retired from the Public Service he was an officer in the Postal Department. Why the Government choose him as a royal commissioner passes my comprehension. He was obliged to give a measure of praise to the Administrator, and, in the course of his conclusions, he said -
To the record of the present Administrator has been placed his excellent work in the rehabilitation of public buildings; his efforts directed to reafforestation, improved methods of agriculture, and the establishment of favorable markets for island products; his commendable zeal in matters relating to improvement of stock; and his practical encouragement in the ship-building and commercial enterprises recently undertaken by the islanders.
It was impossible for theRoyal Commissioner to escape those facts. Curiously enough, one of the charges brought against the Administrator, and seriously pressed, was that he prohibited wandering bulls. Everybody knows that if “scrub.” bulls roam from place to place, it is impossible to improve the breed of cattle. That charge was actually brought against the Administrator as an offence.
– By whom?
– By a man who seems to have been the head and front of the complaints. I refer to Mr. C. C. R.
Nobbs, the leading local storekeeper. Practically the whole island draws its supplies from him. Owing to instructions issued to Colonel Leane to put down the liquor traffic on the island, this man was one of the first that came under his notice. I am informed that the regular practice there was to visit this storekeeper’s place of business and demand a bottle of “ vinegar,” tendering the sum of 12s. 6d. A bottle, carefully wrapped up, was then handed to the customer, who found the contents perfectly satisfactory when he reached his home. Naturally a lucrative trade developed. This was upset by the action ofColonel Leane, much to the disgust of Mr. Nobbs, who promptly made strong representations to an honorable member in the other branch of the legislature, who was instrumental in having the royal commission appointed. Although the local progress association informed the Royal Commissioner that they were perfectly satisfied with the Administrator’s work, and approved of it, the Commissioner, under the heading of “ bulls,” reported as follows -
Another matter brought up was “ The refusal of the Administrator to permit the depasturing of a limited number of bulls on the island.”
Mr. C. C.R. Nobbs, representing the public meeting, stressed the necessity for the continuance of a permission which had always been granted until the present Administrator assumed control, when, “ without being acquainted with the conditions and circumstances of the place, adopteda rigid and unsympathetic attitude in regard to this matter.” Mr. Nobbs further said : - ….. Under the peculiar circumstances of the place, the practice of depasturing a limited number of bulls has been found absolutely necessary, and it is generally considered that this refusal acts as a hardship on the residents, as without this method the increase of stock, supply of milk, cream, and butter has diminished noticeably, and if continued will have a deplorable effect on the supply of meat and dairy products.
He then went on to refer to a petition signed by 33 residents, which was presented to’ the Administrator, without avail.
In all, ten witnesses were examined, and the majority favored the depasturage of a limited number of bulls on the public reserves. Two - Councillor Dobertson and Police Officer Wickstead - expressed the opposite view, and the latter said : - … . . As a stock-owner I am against the practice of bulls being permitted to run at large, and would prefer not to breed from any of the bulls I have seen on the island excepting from the last Government bull, whose progeny promised very well indeed…..
That bull, by the way, was brought to the island by Colonel Leane. The Commission, in this case, found in favour of Colonel Leane; but I cite it to indicate the nature of the charges urged against Colonel Leane and supported by a section of the community.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I am surprised to hear the comments made by Senator. Elliott. I have no doubt he has good grounds for his statement regarding the inquiry held by the Royal Commissioner. I can understand the difficulty that the Government experiences in administering such outlying portions of the Commonwealth as Norfolk Island, and I also appreciate the difficulties lhat face an administrator when brought into conflict with the -residents in making attempts to improve local conditions. I understand that . evidence could have been tendered at the inquiry by a reliable person, the vicar of the island, who has been a resident of Norfolk Island for many years, but that the commissioner, although requested to call him as a witness, did not do so. Honorable senators generally will admit that members of the clergy can be relied upon to state the facts as they know them. The ‘ vicar ought to have been eminently qualified to give evidence, for or against, any officer charged with maladministration. I have not visited Norfolk Island, but I have been interested in its production. Those who know the island’s wonderful fertility must have been appalled at its small production for many years. For the year ended 30th June, 1924, the exports from the island were valued at £3,100; in the following year they were valued at £3,900 ; last year they represented £6,156. It is estimated that the exports from the island this year will .be worth approximately £10,000. Those figures indicate that the Administrator made seme effort to increase the trade of the island, and to instil into the minds of the inhabitants the value of greater industry. As in a place like Norfolk Island there is a tendency for the people to stagnate, it is possible that the attempts of the Administrator to increase the production of the island caused some resentment. In this connexion I speak with some experience, because I have paid two visits to the Mandated Territories. In Norfolk Island there are no full-blooded natives, tha majority of the people being half-castes, but they have not lost the indolent habits of the Pacific island natives. We do not desire to- make slaves of them, but it is to their own physical, moral and commercial advantage that they should do their best towards the development ot their country. I do not say that an injustice has been done to the Administrator, but from a. brief reading of the report it would appear that that is the case. If so, the sooner it is righted the better. I hold no brief for the Administrator, and I entertain no antipathy towards the royal commissioner. My only concern is that justice shall be done. I trust that a further inquiry will be made and that, should any wrong have been done to any person, it will be righted without delay
*- I appeal to the Minister to disregard entirely the report of the royal commissioner, and to appoint a gentleman of standing, like Sir Arthur Robinson, who recently inquired into affairs at Nauru, and is accustomed to . weigh evidence and to form judgments, to make a proper investigation into the administration of Norfolk Island. There is ample evidence that the Administrator did all in his power to increase the production of the island. I understand that, for the first time in its history, a substantial shipment of bananas was shipped from Norfolk Island to New South Wales during his term as Administrator. That shipment was due entirely to the energy and enthusiasm of the Administrator, who introduced plants from other .places and was responsible for the planting of a large area with bananas.
– How long was he there t
– About two years. I have already read to the Senate such of the commissioner’s conclusions as are favorable to Colonel Leane. Let us now consider the conclusions against him. In doing so, we should have regard .to the manner in which the evidence was obtained. The commissioner in his report states -
Tt is, however, most unfortunate that the temperament of the present Administrator is not in harmony with the social and general atmosphere of this isolated community. The evidence reveals that his tendency throughout has been to usurp the powers vested in him for the protection of the .people, and disregard the need of encouraging sympathetic understanding and co-operation.
I cannot understand that. If powers were invested in the Administrator by law, how could he usurp them ? They were his by right. The commissioner’s statement is a contradiction of terms, showing that he does not even understand the English language, in its ordinary acceptance, let alone possess any legal or other qualifications for a royal commissioner. Moreover, the very success of Colonel Leane shows that the conclusion that he did not encourage a sympathetic understanding and co-operation is absolutely wrong. Unless he was able to work sympathetically with the people, and get their assistance, he could not have accomplished the work which, admittedly, he did accomplish during his term of office. Later in the report, we find - .
Although in the earlier period of his regime he recognized the delicate position in which an Administrator is placed in hearing the differences of the islanders before they are seated in evidence before him by litigants, it is manifest that in the exercise of his judicial functions his conduct was distinctly combatant and quite inconsistent with the principles of justice. Apart from the strictly judicial duties of his office, it is regrettable that he acted upon uncorroborated statements derogatory to the inhabitants, statements which simple inquiry would have made clear to him were without bases in fact.
Colonel Leane was not responsible for that state of affairs. As Administrator he was also Crown Prosecutor, as well as Chief Justice on the island - a most extraordinary and unprecedented state of affairs, contrary to all ideas of British justice, from Magna Charta downwards. One complaint concerned an act of petty larceny. A basket was taken from some place in the vicinity of the Administrator’s house. The Administrator directed the constable to take proceedings against the person on whom suspicion rested. Later, the Administrator had to hear the evidence and pronounce judgment, although in his investigation as Crown Prosecutor it is possible that he formed biased opinions, and believed the suspect to be guilty. He was thus, in . effect, in the position of being a judge in his own cause, which is contrary to one of the most important provisions of Magna Charta.
The Administrator protested against being placed in that position, and eventually a justice of the peace was ap pointed. In the meantime he was told by the Crown Law officers to carry on. Yet the commissioner condemned him for doing so. When the justice of the peace was appointed, a Gilbertian situation was created. In the letter informing the Administrator of the appointment of the justice of the peace, he was told that so long as the Administrator remained on the Island, the justice of the peace was forbidden to adjudicate in the court. It is difficult to understand why the justice of the peace was appointed. Again the commissioner stated -
Although officers possessing the qualifications and other requirements specified by the Administrator were appointed as vacancies occurred, the sworn statements indicate that his actions disturbed, if not destroyed, that esprit de corps so essential to the satisfactory administration of this remote Territory of the Commonwealth.
On arrival at Norfolk Island the Administrator came into conflict with persons who were breaking the ordinance prohibiting the sale of liquor to any person except in accordance with a doctor’s certificate. The Administrator found that his chief executive officer had disregarded that ordinance, and that he not only consumed inordinate quantities of liquor himself, so that his office was really a bar, and he himself often under the influence of liquor, but also that in three months he issued permits for the release of no less than 1,500 bottles of whisky without any medical certificate. And this in addition to what the people were able to acquire under the guise of “ vinegar.” Surely this thing is becoming a farce. Either the ordinance making the island nominally a prohibition area should be repealed or the officers who flout it in that manner should be brought to book. Colonel Leane, reading the ordinance strictly, brought the conduct of this officer under the notice of the Minister and recommended his dismissal. The department did not concur, and it was only after the most insistent representation that Colonel Leaue succeeded in getting his wishes in that respect carried out. Immediately the royal commissioner was appointed to investigate the affairs on the island, this superseded officer made a complaint , that he had been unjustly treated. His case is dealt with by the commissioner on page 50, the commissioner stating -
Mr. Ernest Stephenson, ex Registrar of Courts at Norfolk Island, complained that his dismissal from the service of the Administration, following suspension on the 31st July, 1925, for alleged improper conduct was unjust, and submitted that if evidence of improper conduct did exist, it was not sufficiently serious in its character to warrant such drastic action as dismissal. Mr. Stephenson presented his case to the Commission, while the Administrator submitted evidence in support’ of his recommendation to his Minister that Mr. Stephenson’s services be dispensed with.
Complainant was appointed to the associated offices of Registrar of Courts and Collector of Customs in January, 1913, and served under the direction of three Administrators. Early in 1925, Mr. N. H. Birdsey, ex-Private Secretary to the Administrator, interviewed the right honorable the Minister for Home and Territories, in Melbourne, and produced to him certain letters he received from Mr. Harry Clapp, of Norfolk Island, in which allegations of neglect of duty and the use of intoxicating liquors to excess were made against complainant.
I understand that took place during Colonel Leane’s temporary absence in the Northern Territory, so it cannot be said that he was actuated by any improper motives -
At the same interview Mr. Birdsey himself charged Mr. Stephenson with discourtesy to the public, neglect of duty, and violation- of the liquor laws of the island. Mr. Birdsey also alleged that Mr. Stephenson had - “ most wrongfully advised the Administrator.” Under instructions from the right honorable the Minister for Home and Territories, the Administrator obtained from Mr. Harry Clapp a statutory declaration which, having reference to the extracts from the letters written to Mr. Birdsey, in part reads - . . The statements of misconduct against certain Government officials of Norfolk Island mentioned in the above referred to letters were, in many instances, witnessed by me are correct; in others the statements are what I was informed and at the time of writing them conscientiously believed to be true.
The charges made against him were supplied to Mr. Stephenson in writing. He denied that he had on any occasion taken liquor to excess, or that its use at any time had interfered with the efficient discharge of his public duties. He admitted indiscretion in the use of liquor, and coupled this admission with his promise to - “ observe a strict watch “ over himself in future.
If that is not a plea of guilty, with an ad miscricordium appeal, I do not know what is -
He denied the truth of the other charges made against him. In his official report of the 8th July, 1925, covering statements ob tained in writing, the Administrator pointed out that such statements were ex parte, and there had been no opportunity for rebuttal or cross-examination. The Administrator recommended Mr. Stephenson’s dismissal, and on the 9th October, 1925, this recommendation was given effect to.
Following Mr. Stephenson’s complaint to this Commission, 31 witnesses were examined, and the history of the case as disclosed in the departmental papers was reviewed. Your Commissioner finds that Mr. Stephenson, upon various dates during the months of February and March, 1925, did partake of liquor during official hours, but not to excess. Your Commissioner further finds that, on the 18th February, 1925, at an auction sale conducted in the Court House yard, Mr. Stephenson was under the influence of intoxicating liquor. The other charges are not supported by evidence, and appear to have been the outcome of petty vindictiveness. Two Administrators, Mr. Murphy and Lieut.-General Parnell, as well as a number of residents, testified to Mr.Stephenson’s good character, his ability as an officer, and his marked courtesy to the public.
The Administrator takes strong exception to the following, appearing in small print : - . . Mr. Stephenson has paid severely for his conduct, very severely indeed, and I say far beyond the merits of the case now disclosed.
Colonel Leane says that the above extract has been divorced from the context and is misleading. The report goes on -
Your Commissioner concurs, and considers that in- view of Mr. Stephenson’s long and faithful service and the fact that the misconduct disclosed does not reflect discreditably upon Mr. Stephenson’s honesty, the punishment inflicted far exceeds that called for by the gravity of the offence.
The result of the Commissioner’s report is that a notorious drunkard and waster is restored to his position, and Colonel Leane dismissed.
– I wish to finsh reading the suggestions made by the commissioner. The report states -
It is suggested that Mr. Stephenson be reinstated to the position of Registrar of Courts and Associated Offices, and that he paid salary as from the 1st April, 1926, the date upon which the hearing of his complaint was concluded. It is considered that deprivation of position and salary between the date of removal from office and the date herein stated constitutes punishment sufficiently adequate to meet the requirements of the case.
I make no comment except to say that, apparently, the evidence showed that Mr. Stephenson had broken the law. Since he was found in an intoxicated condition at a public sale held in the court-house yard, it seems to me that the Administrator had mo option but toreport the incident to the Minister. I do not wish to labour this question. Senator Elliott has, I think, made out a very good case. In my opinion, the subject should be further investigated.
– I do not intend to delay the committee very much longer. The person who had been instrumental in having the commissioner appointed succeeded in convincing the Minister that that course was acceptable to the people on the island. Under date the 2nd August, I have particulars of the result of an election for six members of the Executive Council.It shows that the person who was chiefly instrumental in the appointment of the royal commissioner was defeated, being returned at the bottom of the poll. The vote was -
The above six were declared elected. The defeated candidates were -
– And yet Mr. Nobbs is supposed to represent the community ?
– Yes. If I am instructed aright, some curious incidents took place in connexion with the visit of the royal commissioner. Apparently it was known who was to receive the appointment. Possibly, the announcement was made through the press. At all events, this person made it his business to journey to Sydney and return to the island in the company of the Commissioner who, I am informed, partook of his hospitality both on the journey and on the island. Surely the Commissioner should have realized the unwisdom of his action. He was impressed with the fact that the Administrator erred in mixing with litigants but, as we know, the Administrator was unable to help himself. The Commissioner was under no such necessity. Like the judges of our courts, he should have kept himself strictly apart. and should not have mixed with the people. Yet I am advised, that he attended race meetings and all sorts of jollifications, and mixed freely with thepeople whose complaints he was supposed to be investigating. I think I have said enough to convince the committee that an injustice has been done. I hope the Minister will not force us to a vote. If, however, the Minister shuts his eyes to what has happened, I shall be obliged to persist in the course I have mapped out. This department seems to have outrun itself, and the Minister has not yet been able to bring it to heel. Unless the Minister can give me an assurance that he will see justice done I shall have to ask the committee to register a vote on the item.
I again wish to direct attentionto the manner in which the Crown Law officer of Rabaul is being treated. For four years he has been refused his annual increment, though no charge of inefficiency has been made against him. Shortly after his first appointment, 25 charges were laid against him and he triumphantly refuted all except one of rudeness to the Administrator. In the other case with which I have’ been dealing, a grave charge of drunkenness on thepart of an officer was condoned, and the officer restored to his positin ; yet, one of the highest officers in the Territory is being arbitrarily denied what he is entitled to by law.
– If he is entitled to his increments by law how can they be withheld from him?
– If the Administrator certifies that he is carrying out his duties satisfactorily, the increments are paid. In this case, the Administrator makes no charge of inefficiency, but consistently withholds his endorsement. Surely this kind of thing will not be allowed to continue indefinitely. If the officer is inefficient a definite charge should be made. I appeal to the Minister to reconsider the matter and to insist upon a further investigation.
[10.31] . - In regard to the case of Colonel Leane, which has been brought forward by Senator Elliott, I would inform the Senate that the Norfolk Island Commission was appointed on the motion of an honorable member of another place. The commissioner visited the island, took evidence and furnished a report. When that report was presented to the Government, Colonel Leane was about to leave Norfolk Island for Melbourne. On his arrival here a copy of the report was handed to him, and he was asked to make his comments upon it. The Cabinet then considered the report, together with Colonel Leane’s comments upon it, and came to the decision announced. According to a paragraph in the press to-day Colonel Leane has publicly stated that he informed the Minister that he intended to vindicate himself in the courts, and in these circumstances I do not intend to discuss the merits or demerits of the case at this juncture. It is true that Colonel Leane has informed me of his intention to institute court proceedings, and therefore the matter is morally sub judice.
– The Minister has quite made up his mind to terminate Colonel Leane’s services?
– The matter was submitted to Cabinet, and Cabinet so decided.
The honorable senator also referred to an officer at Rabaul who has not received the increments to which he considers he is entitled. I remind the honorable senator that all such increments have to be recommended by a superior officer who has a knowledge of the official’s capabilities. If annual increments which are to be paid on the recommendation of the Administrator are not received we can only assume that the officer is not entitled to them. It is impossible, of course, for the Minister controlling the department to have a full knowledge of the work performed by every official in the Northern Territory, Papua, New Guinea, Canberra, and Norfolk Island.
– Has this officer the right to’ appeal?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.If he performs his work satisfactorily he will doubtless receive an increase on the recommendation of the Administrator.
– He cannot appeal to the Public Service Board?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.No.
– Is the Minister prepared to give this officer the right to appeal to that board?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW He is not under the Public Service Board.
– Therefore the Administrator is the sole judge?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Yes.
Senator Elliott also dealt with the subject of building leases in the civic centre at Canberra. I was absent in Sydney when the answer supplied by the commission to his question was given. I do not know ‘ that the answer given in the Senate to the honorable senator’s question conflicts with a statement said to have been made by an officer of the Lands Department. The questions submitted by Senator Elliott were forwarded to the Federal Capital Commission, which stated that no additional blocks would be made available, because sufficient bricks could not be obtained to allow buildings to he erected on these sites.
– That was not stated in the answer as supplied in this Chamber.
– The full and somewhat lengthy reply received from the commission was furnished in a condensed form in answer to the honorable senator’s question. Two months hence the second kiln at the brickworks will be in operation, when further supplies of bricks will be available. Further sites will then be allotted.
– Has the Minister any comment to make on the answers submitted to the questions I asked to-day?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.I wrote a personal letter to the chairman of the commission in regard to the honorable senator’s statement as to the use of Roman tiles on buildings in the civic centre, and received the reply which I gave in the Senate to-day. The chairman informs me that tenders were called for the erection of two buildings on blocks with a 20-ft. frontage, for which the price was £1,648 each. Senator Elliott now says that that price does not include the bricks. That fact is not mentioned in the chairman’s letter. I cannot say if the commission was aware of that fact, but I am sure that Senator Elliott will agree with me that the chairman would not intentionally mislead me. No doubt, in reply to inquiries, he was informed that these tenders had been received ; but the fact that the bricks were to be supplied by the persons inviting the tenders may not have been mentioned to him. I think it is generally admitted that the commission is doing good work. I visited Canberrarecently and was surprised to see the progress mads since it has been in control. We should not forget the great difficulty and high pressure under which the commission is working in order to provide the necessary accommodation by the time Parliament assembles at Canberra next year.
– Does the Minister approve of Roman tiles being brought from Melbourne when satisfactory tiles are being manufactured on the spot?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The honorable senator will admit that the roofing must be in harmony with the style of architecture decided upon. The extra cost involved by the use of Roman tiles in this instance is only £35 on each building. Senator Elliott also said that certain persons who had purchased leases at Canberra two years ago were now demanding a premium on the prices at which they purchased. Can any one find fault with that?
– No one would object to that if further building blocks were made available by the commission. The present system enables speculators to ask for a premium.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Building blocks are available for those who desire them ; but if too many were made available prices would decrease.
– That is not the concern of the department.
– As the Government has spent very large sums in improving the Capital it is entitledto some return in the form of increased land values.
Senior Elliott. -The land cost the Government £4 an acre. Is not a return of £4.000 an acre sufficient?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The Government is certainly entitled to some return on its heavy expenditure. . I think the honorable senatorsaid that the unimproved value of the land was £4 an acre, but he surely does not expect city land to be sold at the price paid for it as a sheep walk.
– When the upset of £4,000 is secured the commission should be ready to sell any quantity.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Yes. but if too much land was made available the price would decrease. Further blocks will be made available when the demand arises.
– How is the demand ascertained ?
– . By inquiries as to the number of blocks wanted. The commission has no desire to unduly inflate prices, because it is anxious to encourage building. If prices increase the commission will obtain the advantage when the land is re-appraised. At the moment I cannot say how the commission arrives at the upset prices. The chairman of the commission is ably assisted by his fellow members, Sir John Harrison who has had extensive experience in the building trade, and Mr. Gorman, a capable land valuer. Sir John Harrison gives a good deal of his time to the work of the commission, and is rendering excellent service.
– Will the Minister obtain a definite statement from the commission as to the style of buildings they require to be erected in the civic centre ?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The honorable senator has been objecting because, he says, a particular style of architecture is insisted upon. Now he asks that a definite type be fixed.
– I objected only to thefacade.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.A few days ago the honorable senator said that only buildings of a certain type could be erected.
– I objected to the facade.
– Yesterday the honorable senator objected to the type of building which the commission requires to be erected, and to-day he is asking for a definite statement from the commission as to the style of building it requires.
– That is a misrepresentation of. the facts, and the Minister knows it.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The honorable senator will pardon me, but I do not. He is very well aware that a definite style of building was provided for before he made any complaint in this Chamber.
– A definite style of building only as to the facade. I actually produced a photograph of the facade.
– Surely the honorable senator realizes that the facade shows the design of the building !
– The Minister has exhausted his time.
Senator H. HAYS (Tasmania) 1 10.48]. - It is regrettable to find complaints being made of the way in which operations have been carried out at Canberra since they have been under the control of the Federal Capital Commission. I have no intention of discussing the merits of the case which has been submitted by Senator Elliott. He has taken a keen interest in the matter for the last two or three weeks, and it has been the subject of considerable debate in this Chamber.
– Is he not personally interested?
– I do not say what has prompted the honorable senator to move in this direction. He certainly has made some very serious charges against the procedure which has been adopted by the commission in regard to buildings in the Federal Capital City. Those charges are either true or untrue, and unless steps are taken immediately to investigate them, something in the nature of a scandal may develop. The Minister should assure honorable senators that at the earliest possible moment he will have a full investigation made and publish the result.
– I shall be delighted to do that.
– These charges can have only one effect.
– Every statement that is made in this Chamber is submitted to the commission.
- Senator Elliott produced documentary evidence showing that the commission had invited in Melbourne tenders for houses of a type similar to what are being constructed in Canberra, in order that it might make a comparison of costs. At the same time, it intimated to the prospective tenderers that there was no likelihood of the houses being built. Information that is obtained in that way is totally misleading. All I ask is that the Minister will- give an assurance that the right thing will be done, so that the good name of Canberra will be preserved.
– I gladly give that- assurance.
.- For the sake of those who will be compelled to live in Canberra, I hope that it will be possible for the commission to adopt the practice which is followed in private business in regard to building leases - that is, to prescribe the style of building and give an estimate of the cost, beyond which a person will not be required to go. I have been driven to the action that I have taken in this Chamber’ by the fact that the commission has treated, in an entirely flippant manner, the inquiries that I have made.
– It has not treated the matter flippantly.
– It said, “We have formed no estimate and we know nothing about it,” whilst it had in its possession information that it did not disclose to us. If the commission will prescribe the style of building that will satisfy its requirements, it will be of great assistance to those whom I represent in this matter. “Unless the people who build on these leases can ‘satisfy a court of law that they have complied with the conditions, their leases may be forfeited. It has been almost impossible to pin the commission down to any definite statement as to what it expects. Business men do not want to engage in lawsuits; they desire to have something definite so that they will know to what extent they are committing themselves. The architects to whom I have referred did not attempt to disguise the fact that they took a risk. They possessed inner knowledge that I, as an outsider, could not possibly acquire, and on that they submitted a plan providing for what they thought was the minimum of the commission’s requirements. If that can be regarded as a precedent, my clients can proceed along those lines. ‘ They can submit a similar plan, and say to the commission, “ You passed it in one case, therefore you must do so in ours.” I do not see how the commission can refuse. Prior to to-day we were not in that position. I am sorry that heat has been engendered in this debate, but I say emphatically that I have throughout complained of the paucity of information that has been supplied to us. I regret that the Cabinet has definitely made up its mind to adopt a certain course in regard to Colonel Leane. He was a distinguished colleague of the Minister overseas. Now, without having had an adequate chance to defend himself, he is discharged. I understand that when he came to Melbourne on leave he was not told that he would not be permitted to return to Norfolk Island. He is in the unfortunate position that his household property is on the island at the mercy of anybody who cares to interfere with it, and he cannot collect it except at his own expense.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Home and Territories) [10.55]. - Colonel Leane’s household property is locked up in a couple of rooms, and I have sent a wire instructing that it be carefully looked after. I have also issued instructions that it is to be packed and sent to afirm of furniture removers in Melbourne.
– Does the Minister accept the responsibility for its removal ?
– Of course I do. I shall not enter into the merits of Colonel Leane’s case. I am sorry if the honorable senator considers that my remarks were accompanied by any heat. I shall call for a full report on the matters that he has raised, and when I receive it I shall discuss it with him.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes (Department of Defence), £3,800,000; (special defence provision to cover Developmental Programme), £1,000,000; (Department of Trade and Customs), £909,229; (Department of Works and Railways), £330,574; (Department of Health), £200.000; (Department of Markets and Migration) £110,277; (Miscellaneous Services), £464,904; (Refunds of Revenue), £800,000; (Advance to the Treasurer), £1,500,000; (War services payable out of Revenue), £1,119,006; (Business Undertakings), £10,281,848; (Territories of the Commonwealth), £247,652; and (Payments to or for States), £85,477, agreed to.
Second schedule agreed to.
Postponed clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– Are there many more bills coining through to-night? If we agree to this motion, do the Government intend to continue the sitting past midnight? Since we have disposed of the Appropriation Bill, we might reasonably adjourn at this stage, and return at 10 o’clock to-morrow morning to dispose of the remaining business.
– I am afraid that it would be unwise to leave the remaining business to be done to-morrow morning. The Cotton Bounty Bill alone might take up the whole of to-morrow morning. The other branch of the legislature will meet at 2.30 p.m., and it is necessary for us to deal with these bills before that hour to enable us to exchange messages to-morrow with another place.
– We saved you five or six hours to-night by passing the Appropriation Bill quickly.
– I admit that; but I am afraid that we should be unable to dispose of all the bills to-morrow morning. If we are to conclude the business of the session to-morrow, it seems to me that we shall have to deal immediately with the bills now coming forward.
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.
This measure amends section 50 of the War Service Homes Act 1918-25, which reads -
The Commissioner may, with the consent of the Governor-General, arrange with the Government of a State, or any State Savings Bank, or any other prescribed institution, to provide homes- for, and make advances to, eligible persons upon the same terms and conditions as are provided by this act.
Agreements have been made with the Governments of Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania for the erection of War Service Homes, and a similar arrangement has been made with the State Savings Bank pf Victoria. The bill proposes that section 50 of the principal act shall be amended by leaving out the words “ the same terms and conditions as are provided by this act,” and inserting in their stead the words - “ such terms and conditions as arc agreed upon, not being terms and conditions which, are, in the opinion of the Governor-General, less favorable .to eligible persons than those provided by this act.”
– Greater elasticity is desired.
– Yes. The occupants of the homes will not be placed in any worse position than formerly. They may be in a better position, if the bill is passed, than if the provisions of the original measure were rigidly adhered to. .
-.- The bill has been in the hands of honorable senators for only a moment or two, and we have had no opportunity to compare it with the principal act. To rush bills through in this manner is farcical. A few months hence we may find that we have passed faulty legislation. Will the Minister state whether this measure will make the conditions under which the homes are held more favorable to the occupants than hefore ?
– They cannot be less favorable, and the way will be open for them to be made more favorable.
– It seems to me that in the past the men have been harassed by the administration. Cases have come under my notice in which they have been charged more than the contract prices for their houses. No department has required watching more than has the. War Service Homes Department. There has been no greater scandal in Australia than in connexion with that department. No sooner had the first legislation been enacted, and Colonel Walker appointed commissioner, than trouble began. I hope that this bill will ease the condi tions of the men who went overseas on behalf of the Empire, and on their return endeavoured to obtain homes through the department. Even to-day the War Service Homes Department is not working as it should. The Minister should inform the Senate of the cause of the recent friction between that department and the State Savings Bank of Victoria, and whether the trouble has yet been settled. It has been said that an officer of the War Service Homes Department was responsible, but we do not know whether that is correct. . I understand that in Western Australia the Workers’ Home Board, acting for the Commonwealth Government, builds war service homes, and that there has been no friction. Before we pass the second reading of this bill, we should know whether it will make conditions easier for these returned men.
– I can only say that the friction between the two departments was of a departmental nature, and that the interests of returned soldiers were in no way prejudiced thereby. It has been’ considered advisable to enter into a new agreement with the State Savings Bank of Victoria, but the negotiations have been somewhat hampered by the lack of elasticity in the existing provisions. This bill has been introduced chiefly to facilitate those negotiations. It is true that there has been no friction between the Western Australian department which ‘ is building homes for soldiers and’ the War Service Homes Department. That is the position generally of the State institutions which have built homes for soldiers on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Arrangements with savings banks and financial institutions).
.- The Minister has not given the information I sought regarding the dispute between the War Service Homes Department and the State Savings Bank of Victoria. I know that it was a departmental dispute. Why does the Minister not take the Senate into his confidence ?
– Would anything be gained if he did rake up an old dispute?
– I think that some good would result. Surely Parliament, which is responsible for passing the legislation and voting the money, should know the cause of the disagreement. I do not want any particular officer to be mentioned by name, but suspicions would be allayed more quickly if the Minister would give us some explanation of the dispute.
.- Whatever differences there were arose under the agreement between the War Service Homes Commissioner and the State Savings Bank Commissioners of Victoria. Those differences have now been composed; but, in order that they shall not recur or other disputes arise, it is proposed to enter into a new agreement. I am not sufficiently au fait with all the details of those differences to feel justified in attempting to convey them to the Senate. To do so would require a care-fully-prepared statement. I repeat that the returned soldiers have in no way suffered in consequence of the disagreement. Homes for them are still being built expeditiously and satisfactorily by the State Savings Bank, which will continue to act on behalf of the Commonwealth Government in this matter, although under a new agreement. To facilitate the arrangements in connexion with the agreement, it is proposed to make minor amendments, and for that reason this bill has been introduced.
– I realize that I am appealing in vain to the Minister. I am glad to know that the returned soldiers will not be penalized more than they have been in the past,- but I think that the Minister should tell the committee the reason for the friction between the two bodies. I realize that I cannot compel him to do so, but his refusal strengthens my belief that the fault lay with the War Service Homes Department. I will not say definitely that it did, because I have no evidence to that effect; but my mind, and the minds of other people, would be relieved if the Minister would make a full explanation of the facts, and tell us where the blame lay. Unless he does so, innocent officers may be held responsible for the trouble. The Minister admits that there has been a disagreement, and has stated that that is the reason for the introduction of this legislation. Is he protecting some one in the War Service Homes Department, or in the State Savings Bank?
– Certainly not; no one requires protection.
– Then why is not the Minister prepared to make a statement ?
– Because I do not think an impromptu statement would meet the case.
– He has an officer of the department to advise him, so he should be able to furnish the committee with all the facts.
– If I did that the honorable senator would immediately say that i was making an ex parte statement. 1 Senator NEEDHAM.- The Minister is not entitled to impute motives to me. If I had said that, I should have been called to order by you, Mr. Chairman, but I notice that you did not .call the Minister to order. This measure is the outcome of a dispute between the State Bank authorities in Victoria and the War Service Homes Department, and we are entitled to a full statement from the Minister.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Message received from House of Representatives.
– (by leave.) - I move -
That the Senate concurs in the resolution transmitted by message No. 61 of the House of Representatives - “That, in pursuance of section 2U of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924-26,’ the Federal Capital Commission be authorized to borrow the sum of ‘£2,650,000 for the purpose of the exercise of its powers under that act.”
This is a rather new procedure. Under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924, the commission was. given power to borrow moneys, in pursuance of resolutions passed by both Houses of Parliament, to such amount, in such manner, and on such terms as the Treasurer approved. Pending the borrowing of such moneys, however, the Treasurer was authorized to advance to the commission, out of any moneys in the Commonwealth public account, such amounts as he might think fit. No resolution has yet been passed by both Houses of Parliament authorizing the commission to borrow, but up to the 30th June, 1926, a sum of £1,970,000 was advanced to the commission by the Treasurer out of the Commonwealth public account, and further advances have been made since that date. The rates of interest charged to the commission on these moneys have been the nominal rates at which the Commonwealth from time to time itself raised moneys on the market. A sum of £2,000,000 was included in the recent Commonwealth Loan Act for 1926-27, for the Federal Capital Commission. This money, when raised, will be applied towards liquidation of the advances which have been made to the commission by the Treasurer. The expenditure, which it is proposed to cover by the resolution now submitted to the Senate, includes a sum of £2,000,000 to meet the ordinary operations of the commission during this financial year. It is also proposed to provide for a sum of £300.000 to be obtained by loan from the Commonwealth Bank for the purpose of building residences in the Territory. A further amount of £350,000 is included so as to enable the commission to obtain temporary accommodation from the Commonwealth Bank if loan moneys are not, for the time being, available, and if the Treasurer should find it inconvenient to provide the amount required by temporary advances.
– I have no objection to the resolution. I realize that its purpose is to give effect to the determination of Parliament to entrust the development of the Federal Capital Territory to the commission, the appointment of which I strenuously opposed. I should like to know, whether, in future, the commission will pay a little more attention to statutes that have been passed by this Parliament. Recently the commission acted in contravention of the Public “Works
Committee Act, by entering into contracts for the erection of 3.00 cottages. I understand that prior to the contracts being entered into the Public Works Committee, through its secretary or chairman, informed the chairman of the Federal Capital Commission that the course proposed was in contravention of the Public Works Committee Act. If that was done why did the’ Federal Capital Commission proceed with the work? The Crown Law authorities have since advised that the commission was acting unconstitutionally. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us an assurance that in future the Federal Capital Commission will not be allowed to arrogate to itself powers which properly belong to Parliament, but that it will confine itself strictly within the powers given to it bv Parliament.
– I have no knowledge of the statement made by the honorable senator. This, is the first time I have heard that the Federal Capital Commission was warned by the chairman of the Public Works Committee, that the calling of contracts for the erection of the cottages mentioned was in contravention of the Public Works Committee Act. On the other hand a statement was made that Mr. Daley, the secretary to the commission, saw Mr. Gregory, who was then chairman of .the Public Works Committee, and asked him whether he thought that the works referred to came within the purview of the Public Works Committee, and that Mr. Gregory informed him that he did not think they did. I understand that a similar statement was made to Mr. Daley by the secretary to the Public Works Committee.
– I think if the Minister will make further inquiries, he will find that what I have said is correct.
– At all events that has not been brought under my notice. Much later, when the new committee was appointed, and when Mr. Mackay became its chairman, he wrote to the department of Home and Territories, stating that in the opinion of the committee the action of the Federal Capital Commission in calling for the tenders was an infraction of the Public Works Committee Act. That was the first official communication that I received on the subject. It reached me some time after an announcement had been made in the press that the contracts had been let. Upon receipt of that letter I issued instructions that it should be sent on to the Crown Solicitor for opinion. I am told that Mr. Daley did see Mr. Gregory the previous chairman of the Public Works Committee, and also the secretary, and was advised that the contracts did not come within the purview of the committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended and bill (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia-
Vice-President of the Executive Council) [11.45]. - I move-
That the bill be now read a second time. This is a small measure which accomplishes what is, I think, an act of justice. As the Maternity Allowance Act stands at present Asiatic women cannot receive maternity allowances. British nationality, whether inherent as natural born, or acquired by naturalization, or by marriage to a British subject, does not overcome this disqualification. As a result of this provision it has hitherto been necessary to reject claims for maternity allowances by Asiatic mothers, even though they may have been born in Australia, or may have been resident in the Commonwealth for many years. Syrian mothers, for instance, although naturalized British subjects, have not been eligible for maternity allowances; because they are of Asiatic descent. As against this, women who have emigrated from European countries to Australia have been eligible to receive maternity allowances even though they may not have been British subjects, and may have been resident in Australia for only a few weeks. The present bill proposes to remove the disqualification imposed on Asiatic mothers by virtue of their descent, and, in lieu thereof, to insert a new provision that maternity allowances shall not be paid to aliens. The result of this will be that Asiatic mothers, including Syrians, who are British subjects will become eligible to receive maternity allowances provided, of course, that they comply with the ordinary requirements of the act. On the other hand, women of European descent who become resident in Australia, but who do not possess or acquire British nationality will be debarred. The cost involved will be small. During the last year, an amount of £680,855 was paid in maternity allowances. There are 1,400,000 women in Australia of child-bearing age, namely, between the ages of fifteen and 45 years. The number of maternity allowances granted in 1925-26, which may be taken as an average year, was 136,171. Statistics show that more than 99 per cent, of mothers claim maternity allowances. The proportion of claims paid to women of child-bearing age is, therefore, approximately one in ten. Information received from the Commonwealth Statistician shows that there are approximately 2,000 Asiatic women of child-bearing age in the Commonwealth. Applying the same proportion as above, the number of maternity allowance claims which would be received from Asiatic mothers wouldbe 200 per annum. The additional expenditure involved would on these lines be £1,000 per annum. Of the 2.000 Asiatic women of child-bearing age in Australia. 35 per cent., that is 700, are Syrian. The admission of Asiatics into Australia is prohibited by law. While permits to Asiatic travellers, students, &c. to enter Australia for a short period are issued, they cannot acquire domicile here. , The wives of Asiatic travellers, for instance, are allowed to remain in Australia for a specified period, but they cannot become domiciled in the Commonwealth, and as they are not naturalized are not eligible for the allowance. There are a certain number of Syrians of a superior class in Australia, who, if they comply with the terms of this measure, may draw the maternity allowance. The bill removes an injustice, and I trust that the Senate will agree to it.
– That was discussed when the principal measure was under consideration. There are so many native women living in a semi-civilized state, however, that it is felt that if the allowance were paid they would be imposed upon.
.- This bill resembles the amending measures passed in connexion with our electoral and invalid and oldage pensions law. I understand that the number of women who will benefit under the new proposal will not be great.
– Two hundred per annum, at the most.
– Last year Parliament agreed to enfranchise these people, and thereby give them the full rights of citizenship. As the bill does not in any way contravene our White Australia policy, and can be regarded as a humane proposal, I shall not oppose it.
– I have no objection to the bill. I have a warm spot in my heart for the Australian aborigines, and, in visiting mission stations, have found that aboriginal mothers love their children just as much as do white mothers. Although the principal act precludes certain very intelligent individuals from participating in the maternity allowance, I think that every mother in the Commonwealth, irrespective of colour, is entitled to receive it. I will not admit that the Australian aborigines lack intelligence, as I have seen the excellent work which some of the men on the mission stations have performed. Some of the native women are also intelligent, and marry according to their rites, as do members of the civilized community. I trust the Minister will give my suggestion further consideration, and see that the native mothers of Australia who bear children are placed on the same level as naturalized Asiatic mothers.
Question resolved in’ the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and. passed through its remaining stages without amendment .
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill merely imposes the rates of income tax for the financial year 1926-27. The rates are identical with those fixed in the measure for the last financial year. There has been no alteration whatever.
– This Government, which has been preaching the gospel of reduced taxation, now proposes to renew the rates in force last year. It returned from the electors with a flourish of trumpets, and said that taxation would be considerably reduced.
Friday, 13 August 1926
– If honorable senators opposite will turn up the policy speeches of Mr. Bruce and Dr. Earle Page, they will find that this “ bunch of carrots” was dangled before the electors, who were foolish enough to believe the promises that were made, and return the present Government to power. Had these promises of reduced taxation not. been made, Senator Pearce would now be either on this side of the Chamber or outside of Parliament altogether. Yet, he coolly and calmly tells us that the. Government proposes to continue the existing rates of taxation ! From one end of the continent to the other, every speaker who supported the composite Government promised the people of Australia reduced taxation.
– No; they said that taxation had been reduced.
– Senator Thompson is quite correct; he has verified my statement. They not only said that taxation would be reduced but they went further, and said that it would be placed on a still lower level. Senator Guthrie, who is a loyal supporter of the Government, led the people of Victoria to believe that if he were elected the load of taxation would be lifted from their shoulders.
– I never mentioned taxation. .
– Senator Pearce has made a public admission that the Government of which he is a member secured a new lease of power under false pretences. The following figures show the taxati per head of population: -
During the first year of office of the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) the taxation per head was reduced by 2d., but 7n the next year it was increased by 3s. Thus the people of Australia were misled. Senator Pearce, Senator Guthrie, and other honorable senators who supported the Ministry in the 1925 election campaign, said to the electors, “Return us to power and we will lift from your shoulders the burden of taxation.” . Now, ten months later, Senator Pearce publicly admits that the Government gained power by a confidence trick. The Government should have introduced a measure to make the burden of taxation a little lighter, but as this bill does not propose to increase it I shall not oppose the second reading.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without request.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill .(on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaVicePresident of the Executive Council) [12.12 a.m.l. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object f this measure is to increase the salaries of the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner of Taxation to £2,000 and £1,500 respectively. Their salaries’ were £1,250 and £800 respectively, but, some time ago, it was recognized that they were inadequate, and, annually, a special allowance has been voted on the Estimates, amounting to £250 in the one case, and £300 in the other. Honorable senators will remember that the Auditor-General occupied a like position. The Government thought it was undesirable that an allowance should be voted annually for officers occupying such important positions, and the salaries and allowances were consolidated. When the present salaries were fixed the Land Tax Commissioner was responsible only for the collection of land tax. Now he is responsible also for the collection of income tax. The salaries proposed are not by any means excessive. On the contrary, . they are comparatively modest. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
– I have frequently said in this Chamber that every man should be paid a good salary. I do not say now that the salaries which it is proposed to pay to the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner of Taxation are too high; but when, for the second time- at least t1 is session, I notice that higher paid officials are receiving . increases whilst no attention is being given to lower paid employees of the Commonwealth, I am inclined to call a halt. In the discussion on the Appropriation Bill, attention was drawn to the fact that certain officers on the bread line were in receipt of p very low wage; but we are now asked to vote increases of £750 a year to the Taxation Commissioner, making his salary £2,000, and of £700 a year to the deputy commissioner, bringing his salary up to £1,500. Instead of- increasing the salaries of the highly-paid officers, we should begin by improving the position of the men on the bottom rung of the ladder. Had there been evidence of practical sympathy on the part of honorable senators opposite with the lowerpaid officers, I should support this bill more cheerfully than I do when I find men on the bread line passed over contemptuously.
.- The bill should not be allowed to pass without an explanation from the Minister as to why it has been introduced at the present juncture. I understand that under the financial proposals of the’ Government, it is contemplated that the Federal authorities will retire from the field of land and entertainments taxation, and from the imposition of estate duties, at the end of the present financial year, and also that they will recede gradually from the field of income taxation. In view of these facts it is difficult to understand why it is now proposed to increase the salary of the commissioner from £1,250 to £2,000. I do not say that he would be overremunerated, but, if these officers have later to be compensated, the passage of the Bill will involve a much larger expenditure than would be incurred if we provided an annual grant. This seems to me to be a most inopportune time to increase the salaries of these officers in the manner proposed. By means of an annual grant their emoluments could be increased sufficiently to remunerate them for the duties they have to discharge.
.- The Minister (Senator Pearce) advanced no reasons why the salaries of these officers should be raised. The commissioner is to receive an increase of £750 per annum.
– But he is now getting £250 of that as an allowance.
– The actual increase in salary will be £750 - from £1,250 to £2,000. The deputy commissioner will receive an increase of £700, making his salary £1,500. If they are required to perform additional duties they are entitled to adequate remuneration.
– Perhaps they should be paid by results.
– What about Sir Sidney Kidman?
– Kidman, Jowett, and a few other millionaires seem to have a grip on the Government. They tell Ministers what they must do.
– Did not the High Court tell them both what they had to do ?
– Would I be out of order, Mr. President, in referring to Kidman and Jowett?
– The honorable senator is out of order in carrying on a conversation with an honorable senator sitting alongside him.
– Senator Poll is trying to crack the whip . on me. He has no right to do so. Ministers should advance good reason for raising the salary of the commissioner by £750 a year.
– The bill before us proves conclusively that this is a rich man’s government. It is prepared to grant large increases of salary to those who move in the same social circle with members of the Ministry, and are already in receipt of good salaries, but to give to the lower-paid officials an increase of £5 or £10 per annum it regards as an act of grace. This bill proposes to grant to two men already receiving large salaries increases of £750 per annum and £700 per annum respectively. The Government professes to believe that every individual in the community is entitled to just treatment. If men are to be paid by results, then I say that there are men in this building - cleaners, receiving £238 per annum, and attendants whose salary is £253 per annum - who should receive substantial increases. The Government’s proposal to vacate certain fields of taxation should reduce the work of these taxation commissioners, yet it is intended to increase their salaries. That seems anomalous, especially when the salaries of the lower-paid officials of Parliament, whose duties will increase considerably when the Seat of Government is transferred to Canberra, remain stationary. It is not sufficient to say that these anomalies will be rectified when we get to Canberra. These men do essential work> and their services are appreciated by every honorable senator. They should be paid more now.
– The honorable senator is not in order in discussing on this motion the salaries paid to the employees in this building. He may refer to them incidentally, hut the question of their salaries does not arise in connexion with this bill.
– The people of Australia are entitled to know the reason for the proposed increases of salary to these commissioners. I admit that the fact that they are already receiving high salaries does not necessarily mean that they are overpaid. Parliament is always willing to grant increases of salaries to men entitled to them, so long as sufficient reasons for so doing are advanced by the Government. The salaries paid to public servants are not high: Many men holding responsible positions in the service of the Government are inadequately remunerated. That many of them are ex- perts is not generally recognized. If, for instance, the experts in the Parliamentary Library were displaced by other men, we should soon be brought to a realization of the fact that the men who had been displaced were, indeed, experts. Even a second-rate lawyer or a third-rate doctor receive* an income of £1,500 or £2,000 a year, while experts in our government departments, who are working in the interests of the country, are thought to be well paid if they receive £500 or £600 per annum. The Government should give closer attention to the, salaries paid to its public servants, and not leave this matter entirely to others. A body of men appointed to deal with Public Service salaries cannot be acquainted with the work performed by those whose services they assess. They may, for instance, go into the Titles Office to value the work of the officers there, yet they probably would not be able to prepare the simplest transfer document, and would scarcely know what a mortgage deed was.
– I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the bill.
– Like the men to whom I have referred, the taxation commissioners are, no doubt, experts also, but why are their salaries to be increased? Is it because their work in the future will be less?
– -Does the honorable senator think that the salaries of senators should be increased ?
– I should say that, if a taxation commissioner is worth a salary of £2,000 per annum, a member of the Parliament which imposes the taxes should not be paid less. I should like the Minister to say why the men employed in this building-
– For the third time I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the bill I shall not warn him again. If he transgresses further I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I hope that the Minister will advance some substantial reasons for the proposed increases. Officers drawing a salary of £1,250 a year are not on the bread line by any means.
– Having regard to the way in which salaries generally are soaring, and the responsibilities resting upon the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner of Taxation, I do not think the amounts provided are out of the way. But there are . two features of the proposal that I do not favour. One is that it is retro1spective. It proposes to pay the increases as from the 1st July, 1925. The Minister may be able to advance very good reasons for this course, but up to the present he has not given them. It may be that the Government gave a promise to the officers concerned. I hope that is the explanation, otherwise I shall not be in agreement with the proposal. My second point of disagreement is that a bill of this nature might very well have been brought down months ago, instead of at the eleventh hour. Then there is the issue raised by Senator McLachlan, that if the Commonwealth Government vacates the field of direct taxation in a few years’ time the work of the Taxation Department may slacken off, and these salary increases will involve the question of increased compensation. I do not however, regard that as very important, because, as I said before, judging by the responsible nature of the duties required of the officers concerned, I do not think they are being overpaid.
– In reply to Senator Thompson’s objection as to the measure being retrospective, I should like to say that I made a note of that feature of the bill, and intended to explain it when moving the second reading, but unfortunately I overlooked it. The circumstances are these: The Government came to the conclusion, in the last financial year, that the increased salaries should be paid, and instructions were actually given to prepare the bill. It was one .of those measures which we had on the stocks when suddenly it was decided to appeal to the people, and, with a number of others, it was held over. Of course, the officers concerned knew that the Government had approved of the increases, and this measure is made retrospective to honour the promise given to them during the last financial year. As to the late arrival of the bill in the Senate, I agree with the criticism offered. I have had long experience as a member of the Government, and I admit that it is strange that- heads of departments, for some mysterious reason, instead of having their measures ready for introduction earlier in the session, leave them until almost the last moment. As a member of the Government I must plead guilty. I have to confess that I know of no reason why this bill was not presented earlier. With regard to the point raised by Senator McLachlan, that the work of the department is likely to slacken off, I can only say that although the Government may. vacate certain fields of taxation, we shall be collecting this year about £6,500,000 in income taxation, as well as land tax and other taxes.
– How long will the Commonwealth be collecting land taxation?
– For the present financial year, at all events. We shall still be collecting 60 per cent, of the income tax, and, judging by the present financial outlook, we shall be doing that for someyears to come.
– How long will it take to collect the arrears of land taxation?
– Judging by experience, I should say it will take a very loner time. The obligation of the Government with regard to arrears of taxation will, of course, continue. Cases of hardship have to be investigated, and time given to taxpayers, if necessary, to meet their obligations. As honorable senators are aware, a man may have a good income in respect of the year for which he is assessed, and in the following year, owing to business losses may have no income.
– Does the Minister include Sir Sidney Kidman and Mr. Jowett amongst the persons who are suffering hardships?
– Those cases have already been sufficiently argued. I do not propose again to state the Government’s case. It was put before the people last year and the electors, by returning the Government to power with an increased majority, clearly indicated that they approved of our action. In reply to the point raised by Senator McLachlan, I should like to emphasize that the collection of £6,500,000 in income taxation under what is admittedly an involved system, calls for unusual qualities, and the Government considers that the salaries asked for are not unreasonably high.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
– I move -
That the word “July” be left out, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof “ September.” .
If this amendment is agreed to I shall then move to strike out the word ‘ five “ with a view to inserting in its stead the word “six.” The effect would be to make the bill operative from the 1st September, 1926, instead of, as proposed, from the 1st July, 1925. A few days ago Senator Barnes directed the attention of the Senate to the treatment meted out to an applicant for an old-age pension - a lady who, because she had made a mistake in her first application as regards her age, was deprived of pension payments to the amount of £22. Her request for retrospective payment was ignored. In the circumstances I fail to see why increased salaries to be paid to the Taxation Commissioner and the Assistant Commissioner should be made retrospective to the 1st July last year.
– The trouble is that a promise was made by the Government.
– The committee is not responsible for promises made by the Ministry.
– But the Government must keep faith - it must honor its promises.
– I understood Senator Thompson to complain a moment or two ago about the retrospective nature of this bill.
– But I have heard the Minister’s explanation, and am satisfied.
– If it is argued that the committee must honour the promises of the Government, then all I can say is that we shall be setting up a very dangerous precedent. The Government was so anxious to defeat the Labour party last year that it plunged this country into a general election, and, apparently, overlooked its promises.
– Would not the Government be guilty of an act of injustice if a promise given were not honoured ?
– I can best answer Senator McLachlan’s question in the approved Scottish way by asking another - Is it not a piece of arrogance on the part of any Government to give a pledge to public servants, and, fifteen months afterwards, present a measure to this committee and expect us to endorse it ? If the proposed increases are paid to the officers concerned from the 1st of next month, instead of from the 1st July, 1925, they will be handsomely dealt with. In addition to the case mentioned the other day by Senator Barnes, I could quote innumerable instances of Australian soldiers who went through the hell of France and Gallipoli, and who experienced the utmost difficulty in securing war pensions. In no case were the pensions made retrospective. Many applicants had to battle, not for a month or two, but in some cases for over a year, before they were granted a miserable pension.
– All war gratuities were made retrospective.
– But the war gratuity, after all, was only a dole. It was not a fitting reward for men who risked their lives for this country.
– The Australian soldiers received more consideration than those of other countries.
– The honorable senator knows that many men who rendered splendid service to their country are not receiving just treatment from the War Pensions Department.
– There are quite a number.
– Yes ; and when Senator Sampson and other honorable senators have made representations to the department on behalf of returned soldiers they have found it impossible, in most cases, to obtain for them some of the benefits to which they are entitled. Honorable senators can, without reflecting in any way upon the two officers concerned, support the amendment.
Question - That the word proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Need- ham’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 1.37 a.m. Friday.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 August 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260812_senate_10_114/>.