10th Parliament · 1st Session
The Deputy-President (Senator Plain) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator THOMPSON brought up the report of the Joint Committee on Commonwealth Electoral Law and Procedure, together with minutes of proceedings and minutes of evidence.
Ordered to be printed.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the amount of per capita payments made to each State for each of the last ten years?
– The payments under the Surplus Revenue Act 1910 to each State for each of the last ten years were as follows: -
Use of Imported Timbers
asked the Min ister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1.Yes.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Attitudeof New South Wales - Allocation of Commonwealth Grant
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The Minister for Works and Railways has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions:-
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
How many - (a) returned soldiers; (b) mothers; (c) widows, are in receipt of the maximum amount of £4 per week in respect of total incapacity as set out in Schedule No. 2 to the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-1018.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Bankruptcy Act 1924.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Judiciary Act 1903-1926.
The following papers were presented: -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determi nation by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 36 of 1926 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.
Imperial Conference, 1926: Summary of Proceedings.
International Labour Organization of the League of Nations - Eight and Ninth Sessions, held at Geneva, 26th May to 24th June,1926 Report of the Australian Government Delegate.
Report of the Australian Employers’ Delegate.
Report of the Australian Workers’ Delegate.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land required at Port Adelaide, South Australia - for Postal purposes.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance No.3 of 1927 - Gaming.
Surplus Revenue Act -Per capita payments to each State for each of the tenyears from 1916-17 to 1925-26 inclusive.
– I lay on the table the summary of proceedings of the Imperial Conference, 1926, and move -
That the paper be printed.
I do this in order to give honorable senators an opportunity - perhaps not now, but at a later date - to discuss the proceedings of the Imperial Conference and the conclusions arrived at at that gathering. I think that it will be gene rally admitted that the Conference of 1926 was notable alike for the shortness of its duration and the importance of its achievements. It began on the 19th October, and finished its deliberations on the 23rd November. During that period there were sixteen plenary meetings, and 148 meetings of committees and sub-committees. Honorable senators who note those figures will agree that a conference of such a character is not in the nature of a picnic. It was announced to this Chamber prior to the departure of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) that the main items on the agenda were -
Broadly speaking, those three questions cover the subjects that were dealt with at the conference. Those honorable senators who remember the Prime Minister’s speech before he left Australia will recollect that he took a very sanguine view at that time as to the possibility of a solution of the complex problems that were vexing the different parts of the Empire. The story of the conference has proved that his optimism was justified. General Hertzog, the Prime Minister of South Africa, in his opening speech, set the stage for the most important phase of the conference. He said quite candidly that South Africa did not feel that she possessed implicit faith in her full and free nationhood on a basis of equality, but would possess it the moment her independent national status had become internationally recognized. Realizing that unity was essential to the existence and progress of the Empire, and that disunity, no matter how solid or flimsy the causes, was dangerous, the Conference referred the question of inter-Imperial relations to a committee composed of the Prime Ministers. This was probably one of the most important committees ever set up in the history of the Empire. The result of its deliberations was expressed in a declaration, from which I shall quote the most important sentence -
They - Great Britain and the Dominions - are autonomous communities within the British Empire equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs,though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of nations.
I think it is accepted to-day that that declaration has fully satisfied the responsible Governments and Parliaments of every part of the Empire, and to have accomplished that is a very great deal. We in Australia recognize that the declaration contains nothing new; we have already achieved full equality of status. The events of the war have long since created the Empire-wide conviction that there should be the fullest inter-Imperial consultation on foreign affairs, and complete autonomy on the vital matters of peace and war. But that declaration has removed all suspicion and mistrust, and enabled the Empire, as a community of free and independent nationalities, to continue to work out its destiny in absolute harmony. If it had achieved nothing more than that - clearing the air when the atmosphere was charged with dangerous, if unfounded, elements of mistrust - the conference of 1926 would be monumental. The other conclusions reached, which tended in a subsidiary way to emphasize the declaration, had relation to: -
In regard to foreign affairs, the discussions - I was going to say “ revealed “ but perhaps a more suitable word to employ would be “ affirmed “ - that the Empire’s foreign policy was based absolutely on a desire for peace. The other subjects dealt with, and mentioned in the report, are as follow: -
Special position of India in regard to inter-Imperial relations.
Compulsory arbitration in international disputes.
The colonies, protectorates, and mandated territories.
Questions connected with the work of the permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations.
The condominium in the New Hebrides.
British policy in the Antarctic.
This side of the discussions at the conference shows how fully we in Australia are entering upon those responsibilities which have come to us as a result of nationhood, and that we must be prepared in respect of all these matters to play our part. With regard to defence, Australia’s position is most satisfactory, contributing, as she does, more towards this object than all the other dominions. Those who demand equality of status in the Empire must be prepared to shoulder their share of the defence burden. There is no danger of our motives being misunderstood. With a great country to develop, and with a system of government based on adult franchise exercised by a people who love peace and are not bent on conquest, I think we can fairly claim that Australia is above suspicion. We want peace, but whilst the world remains as it is we cannot ignore the ordinary precautions of adequate defence. The subject of rapid communication, which was dealt with by the Conference, is perhaps more important to Australia than to any other part of the Empire, because of its effect on development, population and defence.
The economic problems of the Empire also are of the first importance to us. It is obvious that the outstanding need of the Empire is an organized system of inter-Imperial trade. America owes its ascendancy, in part, to its vast home market. The Empire has a home market which it has not yet developed or exploited. There are many means by which inter-empire trade may be stimulated. It may be stimulated by the application of scientific research to industry, by industrial standardization, by marketing on a co-operative basis, and by investigation into the resources and requirementsof the Empire. All these subjects were examined closely by delegates attending the Conference, and the conclusions of the various committees are to be found in the report which I am laying upon the table of the Senate. Arising out of the visit , of the Prime Minister to Great Britain, and apart from the deliberations of the Conference, there were some important results to Australia. As the outcome of public addresses delivered by the Prime Minister, and representations made by him in Great Britain, the British Government is sending to Australia a delegation to inquire into our methods of development and to ascertain in what way existing trade arrangements in Australia can be co-ordinated and harmonized with those of the Mother Country. Representatives of the motor and chemical industries are also being sent to this country to inquire into our needs. Other matters dealt with by the Conference were forestry, the exhibition of Empire films, maritime conventions, Imperial Shipping Committee, Imperial Economic Committee, oil pollution of navigable waters, and statistical and taxation questions. To sum up, it may be said that the Conference epitomized and clarified the relations between different parts of the Empire; removed irritating misconceptions j made progress towards a proper economic development ; created a better understanding of our obligations of nationhood, and paved the way for the solution of the problem of Empire defence. It can, I think, truthfully be said - and claimed with pride because of the part that Australia played in the Conference - that from its deliberations, the Empire emerges stronger than ever before. The task, however, does not end there. It is for us in Australia to recognize what our obligations are and to do our utmost to carry them into practical effect. We have sounded the note of closer co-operation. It is not merely for the Government, but for our producers, our manufacturers, and our citizens generally, to join in a task which means so much to us all. If we do that, nothing can check the progress of Australia and the advancement of the Empire.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grant) adjourned.
– I move -
That Ordinance (No. 1) of 1927 to amend the Provisional Government Ordinance 1911-1926 of the Territory for the Seat of Government be disallowed.
Perhaps the most interesting and accurate publication produced in the Commonwealth is the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. The information contained in it is frequently of a very important character. In its issue of the 27th January, there appears a notification that will have the most far-reaching consequences. It sets out a proposal to amend a very important ordinance in connexion with the Territory for the Seat of Government by adding the following to the Ordinance of 1911-1926- 5. (a) The trial of any civil action, cause suit, or other proceeding in any district court of the” State of New South Wales, while exercising jurisdiction in the Territory, shall be by a judge of that court without a jury.
This amendment of the Ordinance, if allowed to pass unchallenged by the Senate or another place, will become the law at Canberra. Fortunately, it will not apply to localities outside the Federal Territory. I take the strongest exception to this projected action by the Federal Capital Commission, backed up, I suppose, by the Commonwealth Government. It is proposed to contravene and set aside what may be termed the very foundation of British liberty. Many people are inclined sometimes to sneer at British liberty; hut any one who has taken the trouble to read British history -will realize the strenuous fight that was put up by the people from time to time to secure the liberties which they have enjoyed for so many years. We now find that a commission, appointed by a parliament, which consists of members elected on an adult suffrage, proposes to remove from a very large, intelligent, and continually increasing section of the people one of the most cherished liberties of the British people. I do not know why there should be thisinvidious distinction between residents of the Federal Capital Territory and those in other parts of the Commonwealth. Probably it was thought that no one would notice the intimation in the Government Gazette, or that the tabling of the proposed amendment of the ordinance would be allowed to pass unchallenged. I am glad, however, to have an opportunity to oppose the proposed amendment of the existing ordinance. I desire to briefly refer to the trouble taken by British people in the past to insure that trial by jury should be the law of the land, and, in doing so, to quote from a book entitled Magna Carta: a Commentary on the Great Charter of King John, by William Sharp McKechnie. Probably the most important part of this valuable work is that which deals with chapter 39 of Magna
Charta. The writer could scarcely trust himself to correctly express it in the English language, and very wisely, I think, decided to place it before us in Latin, in order to give its exact meaning -
Nullus liber homo capiatur, vel imprisonetur, aut disseisiatur, a ut utlagetur, aut exuletur, aut aliquo modo destruatur, nee super eum ibimus, nee super eum mittemus, nisi per legale judicium parium suorum vel per legem terre.
I am sure most honorable senators will understand the purport of what I have quoted, but as possibly some may have forgotten their Latin, I shall give the translation which appears in the book, and which reads -
No free man shall be arrested, or detained in prison, or deprived of his freehold, or outlawed or banished, or in any way molested, and we will not set forth against him, nor send against him, unless by the lawful judgement of his peers and by the law of the land.
In the opinion of the writer, that is a fair interpretation of the Latin quotation I have just given. Amongst other writers who have dealt with Magna Charta, is Mr. Boyd C. Barrington, who, on page 220 of his very interesting book places the following interpretation upon the quotation : -
No free man’s body shall be taken, nor imprisoned, nor disseised, nor outlawed, nor banished, nor inany ways be damaged, nor shall the King send him to prison by force, excepting by the judgement of his peers and by the law of the land.
In those “ good old days “ it was a common practice for the King and others in authority to order the execution of a prisoner and then to try him.
SenatorFoll. - They were the bad old days.
– I should say they were, but I believe there are some who would like such conditionsrestored. This proposed action on the part of the Federal Capital Commission, which, I presume, will be supported by the Government, is to deprive residents of the Federal Capital Territory of the right of trial by jury. It. is apparently a preliminary to other retrogressive steps to be taken and to the adoption of practices which were common in the days of King John. Those who were entrusted with the framing of the Constitution were not silent upon this point. Section 80 of the Constitution reads -
The trial on indictment of any offence against any law of the Commonwealth shall be by jury, and every such trial shall be held in the State where the offence was committed, and if the offence was not committed within any State, the trial shall be held at suchplace or places as the Parliament prescribes.
It was undoubtedly the intention of the framers of that section of the Constitution that trial by jury should be recognized as the law of the land, and should be embedded in the Constitution for all time-
– This ordinance does not violate that section.
– It does.
– In what way?
– By the abolition of trial by jury.
– Only in civil cases heard in the District Court.
– Persons can be indicted in civil cases.
– The proposal to have a law operating in the Federal Capital Territory which is not in force in any of the States, does not seem to me to be at all necessary. “What has induced the commission to bring forward a proposal of this character ? An overwhelming number of the residents of Canberra are what may be termed members of the industrial army, who have been drawn from all parts of the Commonwealth, and who are accustomed to trial by jury. They have also been entitled to a vote, but on. their transfer to Canberra that privilege will be denied tothem.
– In criminal cases the right to trial by jury will not be dispensed with.
– This further indignity is to be thrust upon residents of the Federal Capital Territory, presumably because, for the most part, they are industrialists. I can conceive of no other reason for the proposal ; none has been advanced by either the Government or the Federal Capital Commission. I realize that accused persons resident in the mandated territory of New Guinea are not entitled to be tried before a jury, but in the near future that state of affairs will be remedied. Like them, persons living in the Federal Capital Territory have no voice in the government of the district in which they live. If honorable senators imagine that the future residents of Canberra will be satisfied to remain in that state they are greatly mistaken. Eventually some form of local government must be ceded to the residents of that territory. In the course of a few years the population of Canberra will have reached considerable dimensions, and I cannot imagine that the residents of the city will meekly submit to a state of affairs which gives them no voice in the control of local affairs. They will naturally regard any attempt to deprive them of the right to trial by jury as an intrusion upon their liberties. Why should the men and women who reside at Canberra be treated differently from persons resident in other portions of the Commonwealth?
– One would think, from the honorable senator’s remarks,- that it was proposed to abolish juries in criminal cases.
– No. I thought that I had made it clear that I recognized that the proposed amendment of the ordinance affected civil cases only. The abolition of juries in criminal cases in the Federal Capital Territory has not yet been proposed. This Senate should jealously guard against any attempt to mete out invidious treatment to residents in the Federal Capital Territory. This step may be regarded as a small one, but it is nevertheless a step in the wrong direction. At this early stage in the development of Canberra I trust that the Senate will indicate clearly to both the Government and the Federal Capital Commission that it entirely disagrees with the proposed action.
[3.46]. - Honorable senators need have no alarm at the position created by the ordinance. Those who profess to see in it an insidious attack upon the rights of citizens, and the beginning of a reactionary policy, cannot have given very close consideration to the subject. For a proper understanding of the matter, it is necessary to bear in mind that there is, as yet, no separate judiciary machinery established in the Federal Capital Territory, and that, for the time being, certain laws of the State of New South Wales continue to apply to tho Territory and to bc administered by the authorities of that State as if the Territory were still a part of New South Wales. When the Territory was taken over by the Commonwealth in 1911 it was obviously more convenient to continue the operation of the existing State laws, as far as practicable, than to set out a self-contained code of legislation for the Territory. That was provided for. in the Seat of Government Administration Act of 1910, which also provided that, with respect to any such law, the GovernorGeneral might, by ordinance, declare that it should, while the ordinance remained in force, but subject to the provisions of the ordinance, have effect in the Territory, and continue to be administered by the authorities of the State as if the Territory continued to form part of the State. The Provisional Government Ordinance 1911 was made under the authority of that act, and provided, inter alia, that any law of the State, not being a law imposing duties on the estates of deceased persons, should continue to be administered in the way provided in the act. The ordinance to which Senator Grant now takes exception is an amendment of the Provisional Government Ordinance. Prior to the making of this amending ordinance, the existing State law applicable to the Territory permitted either party in a civil action in the District Court to apply for the case to be heard before a jury; but the machinery available did not permit of the empanelling of a jury other than one composed of persons resident in the State, but not resident in the Territory. The interpretation of the New South Wales law by the Commonwealth legal authorities in this respect was that all persons resident in the jurors’ district fixed by the New South Wales Jury Act 1901, which immediately before the date of the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth included the Territory or any portion of the Territory, were qualified and liable to serve as jurors in civil cases. The Jury Act of 1901 was, however, repealed by the Jury Act 1912, section 8 of which altered the method of determining jury districts. It was thought that any jury summoned would be summoned from a district different from that provided by the 1901 Act. Consequently, it would appear that a jury so summoned would not be summoned in accordance with the law in the Territory, and would not be competent to try cases in the Territory. One of the principal reasons for the amending ordinance was the obvious objection to civil cases relating to matters arising within the Territory being tried before juries composed of persons not resident in the Territory. The population of the Territory will for some years consist largely of public servants and other persons having an interest in work connected with the activities of the Government. Commonwealth public servants are exempt from serving on juries; and in the event of the necessary machinery being set up, and of litigants freely exercising the right to apply for juries, it would not be wise to have juries composed of persons who, though not technically public servants, were employed by the Commonwealth. The rest of the community would be limited in numbers, and considerable inconvenience would be experienced by members of the commercial community who might be frequently called upon for duty. The amendment which has been made is simply a practical, common-sense way of dealing with the temporary difficulty that has arisen. The ordinance relates only to civil actions, and then only to such civil actions as are heard in a District Court. When, in the near future, a separate judiciary for the Territory has been established, the whole position will be reviewed. In the meantime, I ask honorable senators to reject the motion for the disallowance of the ordinance.
– There does not appear, from the reply given by the Minister (Senator Glasgow), to be very much in the point raised by our learned brother - how learned I did not realize until I heard those Latin phrases come so trippingly, from his tongue. And more especially was I impressed when he gave a translation which, with all modesty, he attributed to the -writer of the book from which he quoted. Apart from this ordinance, but still having some bearing on the issue, there is a matter upon which I may have been misinformed, although I do not think so, which is worthy of the attention of one of the legal members of the Government. I understand that the legislation of New South Wales in some respects was applied to the Federal Territory by the Seat of Government Administration Act, and if my information ja correct, while the existing State law up to 1910 was and still is applicable to the Territory, all amendments, which have since ‘ been made to that law, are not so applicable. If that be the case it may give rise to a very anomalous position. Even the honorable senator who has moved this disallowance motion must see now-
– That it is a mare’s nest.
– It is obviously of the most equine description; but he may turn his attention to the point which I have just raised. It must be fairly obvious to him that no dastardly attempt is being made to destroy that bulwark of the British subject, trial by jury, about which a very great deal is said and written that is not quite compatible with the results we see, and continue to see, in everincreasing quantities, even in criminal cases in these later days. But leaving out of review altogether the virtues or demerits of trial by jury, it must be clear to the honorable senator that this is not an attempt to infringe any one’s liberty in that respect.
– Of course, it is.
– I should not expect the honorable senator to say anything else.
– The honorable senator clearly thought that it referred to criminal matters; otherwise he would not have spoken of the liberty of the subject.
– I am certain that the honorable senator rushed into this matter altogether forgetting the existence of that little word “ civil “ in the ordinance which he wishes to disallow.
– I certainly did not. I looked at it most carefully.
– I am bound to accept the honorable senator’s assurance, and all I can say is that his explanation surprises me. However, if what I have said in regard to the application of the laws of the State of New South Wales until 1910, and the non-application of any subsequent amendment of those laws be correct-
– It is correct.
– Then it is a position which may give rise to a great deal of trouble. I do not intend to support the motion.
– I wish to say one or two words in reply.
– Before the honorable senator proceeds I should like to ask him if it is not a fact that the Labour party in New South Wales objects to juries even in criminal cases.
– I do not think so.
– Is it not a fact that a man named Grant was sent to prison on the verdict of a jury in that State, and that the Labour party objected, whereupon a judge, who was brought from Tasmania, let him off?
– After reviewing the evidence the judge from Tasmania declared that Mr. Grant had not committed the offence complained of, and recommended his discharge.
– What is the good of having a jury in those circumstances?
– Tha effort made by the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Glasgow) to controvert the arguments I advanced against the proposal to abolish juries in the Federal Territory can carry very little weight. The real objection he put forward was that there are too many workmen in the Territory. He spoke of civil servants; but he knows very well that the great bulk of the residents in the Territory, those who are now living in tents, but who no doubt will, to a large extent, make permanent homes at Canberra, are essentially workers.
– The honorable senator must be aware that those men cannot be summoned to serve on juries in civil cases.
– The Minister is, apparently, afraid to trust those men to sit on a jury. It may or may not be a good idea to exclude members of the Civil Service from attendance on juries; but so far no attempt has been made by any Government to exclude the ordinary working man from the right to sit on a jury. I do not know how many workers there are in the Territory at the present time, but I should say that, approximately, there are at least 4,000 employed at Canberra, and in all probability that number will be continuously increasing.
– The majority of them live in Queanbeyan, and not in the Territory.
– A large number of them live in the Territory in the best accommodation they can secure.
– Most of them live in Queanbeyan, and do not even “ work “ in the Territory.
– As time goes on more and more of these people - notwithstanding all the hindrances placed in their way, and they are many - will make their permanent homes at Canberra. The Minister indicates that at some indefinite date the present proposal may come up for review. But what causes have arisen for the change? What is the reason for it? The Minister has given us no reason whatsoever. The real outstanding objection to a continuance of the system of the past is the fact that the bulk of the people at Canberra belong to the working class, an4 the Minister is afraid to trust them with a right which the workers possess in all the States.
– The Minister pointed out the practical difficulty that exists.
– It is not a practical difficulty. The men are there, but they have been refused permission to sit on juries.
– Those people could not be summoned to sit on juries.
– Does the Minister contend that men who are employed by the Federal Capital Commission cannot be summoned to sit on juries?
– They cannot be summoned because they are not residents of New South Wales.
– With all due respect to the Minister, I claim that the men employed by the Commission can be summoned to sit on juries.
– They are not residents of New South Wales.
– No, but they are residents of the Territory. In any case, according to Senator Kingsmill, a very large number of those who are working in the Territory reside in New South Wales.
– Those who reside in the Territory are not residents of New South Wales.
– According to Senator Kingsmill, one of the enthusiastic supporters of the Government, and Senator Reid, a very large number of those who are working in the Territory reside in New SouthWales, and, therefore, could be summoned. But, apparently, it does not matter whether people are resident in Queanbeyan or elsewhere, it is a fatal bar to their serving on juries if they belong to the working class. Apparently the Government is not prepared to trust these people. They may be good enough to build Canberra, they may do all the manual work there, but when it is a matter of sitting on a jury to consider a charge against their fellow men, they are not good enough.
– That is due to New SouthWales legislation, and it is not our fault.
– The Minister’s statement does not hold water, and I trust that the Senate will agree to the motion to disallow the ordinance.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
The Deputy President reported the receipt of a letter from Senator McLachlan tendering his resignation as a member of the Joint House Committee.
Debate resumed from 2nd March (vide page 19) on motion by Senator Grant -
That, in the opinion of the Senate, a Royal Commission, with power to send for persons andpapers and to move from place to place, should be appointed to inquire into and report upon the moving-picture industry in Australia.
– I listened with interest to yesterday’s debate on this motion, and it strengthened my conviction that action should be taken to improve the quality of the moving pictures shown in Australia. In dealing with tariff matters, the Parliament imposes extra duties where it considers they are necessary, irrespective of the wishes of the general community, and, similarly, we should take action to improve the tone of picture shows, whether the public asks for it or not. Our aim should be to see that the pictures are morally clean, since it is our duty to study the moral interests of the people. The film censorship has proved to be absolutely necessary, but it may not be sufficient to cope with the situation. My attitude towards the appointment of the proposed commission is that it is better to be sure than sorry. If there is any chance of making the picture shows more moral and more educational than they now are, we should not hesitate to appoint a commission or select committee to assist to that end. The carrying of the motion would result in additional information being placed in the hands of honorable senators, and even if the commission did no great good it certainly could not do any harm. The people should be encouraged to patronize pictures of Australian or British origin instead of spending millions of moneyin witnessing films produced in the United States of America. I do not agree with those who contend that it is impossible to obtain a sufficient number of suitable pictures produced within the Empire. I always endeavour to place Australia first, and I say with confidence that Australia is capable of producing films of the highest quality. The industry in America is a money-making affair from beginning toend. High salaries are offered to the leading artists of the world to assist in the production of films, and there is no reason why similar action should not be taken in Australia or in Great Britain. I do not agree that if the people are not provided with the films they desire they will stay away from the picture shows. If only films produced in Australia were offered, the people would soon patronize them. Even if they did. not, they would probably pay more attention to their homes, which, in my opinion, would not be a bad thing. It is easy to see that the public is beginning to go picture-mad. I seldom patronize these shows, but my mind takes me back to an. incident some time ago, when an effort was being made to arrange a certain meeting. One of the men present said that he could not attend on a particular evening, because it was his picture night. I began to wonder what great picture could be so important as to keep him away from the meeting. As I stood outside the hall where the show was to take place, I gleaned from a notice-board something of the nature of the film. I remarked to my friend afterwards, “ That was a splendid picture you saw, but it is a pity you did not come to the meeting instead of wasting your time there. It certainly was a glorious picture. The cowboys shot each other down. They put the girl in a canoe, and shoved her into the flowing stream. She passed over the rapids, and if she came out alive and got ashore she was to be allowed to go free, because the evil spirits had left her.” My friend remarked in astonishment, “ You must have been there yourself “ ; but I was not. That is the sort of stuff that is being served up to the people of Australia. My children visit these shows almost every Saturday afternoon, and return with wonderful accounts of the films they have seen. While some of the pictures are quite good, a considerable number could not be recommended. I agree with Senator Foll, who stated yesterday that the motion should go somewhat further than it does, and be made to apply to the theatrical stage as well as to the picture shows. I remember the play “ White Cargo,” and I would not care to take a lady friend of mine to see it; some of the language employed in that play was not fit for anybody to hear. There should be no difficulty in selecting plays that do not contain such vile language as is used in that particular production. Australians are entitled to pictures that are clean morally and in every other respect, and not tainted by the American filth that picture-producers are endeavouring to foist upon the people of this country. If the inquiries of the proposed commission resulted in the establishment of the industry in Australia, increased circula tion of Australian money in the country and increased employment would be brought about.
– I move -
That all words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : -
a joint committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the moving-picture industry in Australia:
three senators bo appointed to serveon such committee ;
the committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records, to move from place to place, and sit during any adjournment of the Parliament;
a message be sent to the House of Representatives requesting its concurrence, and asking that four members of the House of Representatives be appointed to serve upon the said committee.
The Government is of the opinion that the case can better be met by the appointment of a select committee of both Houses than by the appointment of a royal commission. A select committee will have practically all the powers of a royal commission, and will have authority to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament.
– I rose to congratulate the Government on its readiness, as expressed yesterday, to appoint a royal commission to investigate the picture-film industry in Australia, which, in my opinion, requires to be probed to its very foundations. But the Minister has now submitted an amendment providing for the appointment of a select committee from the two Houses, instead of a royal commission as proposed by Senator Grant. I am not able to say whether a joint committee will be as effective as a royal commission in obtaining evidence on oath regarding the industry in all its branches. If, however, the Minister can assure me that a select committee will have as much power as a royal commission, I shall be pleased to support the amendment.
– A select committee will have practically the same powers as a royal commission.
– Will it be able to take evidence on oath?
– I hope that a strong committee will be appointed to make the inquiry indicated, because I take the view that, as the industry is conducted at present, it is an absolute menace to the Empire. I am aware that some people will suggest that I am exaggerating the danger, but after a careful study of the industry in all its aspects I honestly believe that both as regards the prestige and trade of the Empire, as well as the moral well-being of its peoples, the film industry as conducted abroad is a menace. The Minister having assured me that a joint committee will have full poweer to take evidence on oath, I intend to support the amendment, and I congratulate the Ministry upon its action.
– If there is any credit in the proposal at all give it to Senator Grant.
– I do not care to whom the credit is given. I understand that some people hold that those who think with me on this subject are making too much of the danger. If they study the position, and familiarize themselves with the character of some of the pictures that are being sent to Australia and the other dominions, but which are rejected by the censors even with their present limited powers, they, too, will realize the seriousness of the position from an Empire point of view as well as from its moral aspect. Having to a large extent led the attack upon the American combines, I naturally expected that abuse and ridicule would be levelled at me in some sections of the press - not the leading newspapers, I am glad to say - which seem to be working in the interests of these powerful American organizations. In view of the many unfair and unscrupulous statements made about me in some newspapers in Australia, America, and elsewhere, I should like to say that, believing that I could do more to help to clean up the picture industry if I were not financially interested in it, I have studiously refrained from becoming in any way connected with it. I have not, nor do I intend to have, a farthing in vested in it, either directly or indirectly. For the information of some honorable senators who apparently do not agree with me on this subject, I should like to read one of the ‘ resolutions carried by the
Economic Sub-Commitee of the Imperial Conference in England recently -
Recognizing that it is most important that a larger increasing proportion of nlms exhibited throughout the Empire should be of Empire production, the Conference commends the matter for the consideration of the Empire Governments, with a view to early and effective action to deal with the serious situation now existing.
The report went on to emphasize that the proportion of British films shown throughout the British Empire was only 5 per cent, in Great Britain, 8 per cent, in Australia, 10 per cent, in New Zealand, and 1.3 per cent, in Canada; the balance of the films shown being of foreign and chiefly American manufacture. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), in his speech yesterday, inferred that in my criticism of American films 1 was especially attacking American people. I have no desire to do that. I am in no way anti-American, but it is just as well for us to know the class of films which the American producers are turning out. Naturally, they “ boost “ their own country, and they do it very effectively. For this they are to be commended. They are alive to the fact that trade follows the film, and, consequently, they largely advertise their resources by means of moving pictures. They do not lose sight of the fact that throughout the world 100,000,000 people attend picture theatres every day. Even in this sparselypopulated country there were 100,000,000 attendances at picture theatres last year. It is estimated that 20 per cent, of the white population of the British Empire last year attended picture theatres. Moving pictures provide the most popular form of entertainment to-day. Ve do not blame the American people for knowing that, nor do we blame them for having perfected their organization for the production and distribution of their films. I object to American films only when they flagrantly’ distort historical facts, or when, as so often happens, they are of an antiBritish character. I regret that Senator Pearce yesterday suggested that, in my criticism of the film industry, T was making a bitter attack upon American films in general. I did nothing of the kind. I recognize that American producers are very clever, and I admit that with their powerful organizations they produce many of the best pictures obtainable at the present time. But whilst they produce many good pictures, they also film a great deal of rubbish. On this subject the Economic Sub-Committee of the Imperial Conference urged -
That the Governments of the various parts of the Empire should encourage the production of films within the Empire by (1) effective Customs duty on foreign films; (2) ample preference or free entry for films produced within the Empire; (3) legislation to prevent “blind” or “block” booking; (4) the imposition of requirements as to renting or exhibition of a minimum quota of British films.
Recently the Victorian Government passed legislation making it compulsory for 2,000 feet of British Empire films to be included in every picture programme. As the average length of a film is about 14,000 feet, the proportion of British films demanded is not very great, but the action taken by the Victorian Government is a step in the right direction, particularly since it provides, further, that 1,000 feet of the British Empire films shall be made in Australia. One newspaper, which is entitled Anyones or No-ones, in its attack on this measure, describes as hysterical the applause of the Victorian Government - the principal supporter of which is Senator Guthrie, who is grinding an axe as big as himself in his advocacy of Empire films.
That statement is untrue. I have no axe to grind. My only purpose is to try to do some good for the British Empire, and for this great country in which we live, by advocating the production of films within the Empire that will deal with some of its great traditions, as well as depict its scenic grandeur. No part of the world is better suited to the production of films than Australia. The race from which we have sprung has the most glorious traditions in all fields and activities throughout history, and my one desire is to do something to promote its welfare. I realize the very small part which I, as an individual, can play in this great movement, and how comparatively little any one man can do ; but I am glad to see that there is a worldwide desire for the production of cleaner and better films. This newspaper, Any- mi.es or Noones, says -
Senator Guthrie, who keeps his film activities extremely quiet on this side, has evidently been burning the midnight oil with the formation of the Empire Film Distributing Agency ‘particulars of which have reached us via the British trade press) which is crowing over the Victorian legislation, providing that all exhibitors show a minimum of 2,000 feet of British Empire film in every programme.
Fortunately most of the newspapers of Australia are behind the movement to endeavour to cleanse the film industry as well as to encourage its development throughout the Empire. There is an interesting cartoon in the Bulletin of the 24th February, showing how some persons change their opinions. It is of Sir Victor Wilson, who, when a member of the Senate in 1922, said that picture shows had, in many instances, become the curse of a country. The comment of the Bulletin is, “ but as president of the motion picture distributors in 1926 he asserted that the vogue of the movies ‘ had been accompanied by a very considerable reduction in crime in New South Wales.” It seems to be a popular form of employment for many expoliticians to join up with these huge combines, which are out to prevent the expansion of the industry throughout the Empire, including Australia. The Bulletin goes on to show that the “movies,” as Americans call them, have had a very damaging effect upon the moral well-being of the people, particularly the children. If we were to consult tha records of the Police Department, we should be informed that the number of juvenile crimes in the community had increased enormously owing to the bad effect of pictures, which so often depict a criminal as being more or less of a hero. The Bulletin continues -
In point of fact, the New South Wales crime statistics showed a persistent increase between. 1920 and 1925, particularly in respect of juvenile crime. The Police Department now reports that there were further heavy increases last year.
That, of course, entirely disproves Sir Victor Wilson’s assertion that the picture shows have not been harmful to the child mind. I applaud the many newspapers from which I could quote for the splendid stand they have taken in support of the production of films within the Empire, which could be shown for the benefit of our own people even if they could not be exhibited in other countries. I could quote the Bulletin, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age, the Sun Pictorial, and other newspapers which have dealt very effectively with this question, and have shown the damage which is being done to the moral well-being of our people bv the class of pictures that has been admitted into Australia. Of the American films imported last year, 50 per cent, had to be cut by the censor, who is doing splendid work with the limited power he enjoys, and who says that many imported films, although not actually obscene, are not in the interests of the moral well-being of the people. He further states that the average American film is misleading from an educational and trade point of view. The general opinion of the Australian press and the people of the Commonwealth, is that the Commonwealth censor’s powers should be extended, and I am hoping that the evidence that will be tendered to the proposed committee will convince honorable senators that it is necessary to give the censor even greater powers, not with the intention of being hostile to any nation, but to prevent the introduction of obscene films which can have only a demoralizing effect on the minds of the young people. A great many films are disgustingly suggestive, and tend to deal at unnecessary length with sex questions. Those of us who have seen the filthy films which the Commonwealth Censor has rejected - some of which, he says in his report, were so flagrantly filthy that instead of returning them to the country of origin, he burned them - realize the necessity for a very strict censorship and an inquiry into the operations of the industry. We not only wish to cleanse the industry, but to encourage the production and exhibition of British pictures. Apparently, some of the showmen here are so dominated by the American combines, and so much under the control of an American producing combine, that one big firm has booked up a three-years’ supply of films from one producing house in the United States of America, and. it is doubtful if those who have made such arrangements will be permitted to exhibit British pictures. Some very remarkable and beautiful pictures have been produced within the British Empire, but it is most unlikely that many, if any, of them will be made available to Australian picture theatre patrons by certain more or less tied houses. We have never seen in Australia the beautiful British picture entitled “Mons,” or “The Zeebrugge Raid,” which depicts one of the most wonderful exploits in British history. There are also other pictures entitled “Ypres,” “ Armentieres,” as well as that illustrating the Prince of Wales’s world tour, which we have not seen.
SenatorFoll. - I think “ Mons “ is now being shown here.
– I believe so, but only after much difficulty. It is always difficult to arrange for British pictures to be shown in any important picture theatre. When that wonderful film entitled “ Romantic India “ was brought to Australia it could be shown only in those theatres which were not within the recognized circuits. The picture based on Dicken’s beautiful story, “ A Tale of Two Cities,” a marvellous production, with Sir Martin Harvey as the principal actor, was also shown only in outside theatres. It seems almost impossible to arrange for British pictures to be shown in many of the leading Australian picture theatres, but I am hoping that we are gradually creating such an atmosphere that people will insist upon the big combines, which have some of the exhibitors under their thumb, including in their programme a fair proportion of British productions. According to a press report, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Pearce) said it was the desire of the Government to assist as far as possible in the development of film production within the Empire. He went on to say -
It wouldbe noted that the number of rejected films had increased, whilst the number passed after eliminations had decreased. That result followed on the censorship’s policy to reject outright films which were radically bad.
Despite the censorship, he said, there had been no general improvement. Senator Pearce is also reported as having said that I had directed attention to the propaganda aspect of the film industry. I have not taken any objection to the clever use of the films for trade propaganda purposes by the Americans, but I do object to many of the films produced in America which depicts Britons as cowards, fools, and renegades, and British officers running from the enemy. There is also a production showing a Royal roue falling off his horse; and another in which the impression is conveyed that America won the war in 2 hours and 10 minutes. That picture is entitled “ The Big Parade.” I previously took exception to it, after witnessing a private screening, and I understand it is now to be shown after a certain amount of censoring. At the very commencement there is an insult to every ex-soldier of the British Empire who left home to fight for his country. It commences by suggesting that the war started in 1917-“ 1917 ! All was Peace and Quietness ! And then War Came ! “ - although at that time the British casualities numbered 3,000,000.
– There was peace and quietness in the United States of America at that time.
– Yes ; but the picture does not suggest that. It depicts cow-boys joining up, but it does not show them being transported to Francein British ships, convoyed by vessels of the British fleet. Neither does it mention that the American army was supplied with British equipment, and even with aeroplane engines manufactured in British factories. I do not intend to criticize the efforts of the Americans in the war, although they were verylate in comingin; but with a population of 115,000,000, they lost only some 36,000, whilst Australia, with a population, at that time, of little more than 5,000,000, lost 60,000 men. As “ The Big Parade “ shows only one flag, and suggests thatonly one nation was opposing the German forces, picture-show patrons, particularly children, would think that the great war was fought and won by the Americans.’ This is the sort of thing that I strongly object to. Pictures showing the glorious traditions of our race are black-balled by the American combines.
– A very beautiful British picture, entitled “ The Happy Ending,” has recently been shown here, and the honorable senator should give them credit for that.
– I do, butI am directing attention to the fact that we should create a desire for the production arid exhibition of good British pictures.
-i do not agree with the honorable senator’s comments concerning “ The Big Parade.”
-From a photographic view-point it is a wonderful production, but apart from that very little can be said in its favour. Hundreds of British pictures, perfect in technique and excellently photographed, cannot get a footing in this country. If a committee is appointed it will, I think, bring out some startling facts. It will show that the industry here, as well as in other parts of the Empire, is to a large extent in the hands of a huge, wealthy, and well-organized American combine. I do not object to their boosting their own country, but I strongly protest against historical facts being distorted, and Britishers being ridiculed or depicted as fools, cowards, and degenerates. By means of the cinema we should present to our children at their most impressionable age the glorious deeds and traditions of the Empire to which we and they are fortunate to belong. In the interests of the British Empire, the future of the industry and the moral well being of our people, I support the proposal for the appointment of a sub-committee to investigate the film industry.
– I am pleased that honorable senators have approached this subject in a non-partisan spirit; it has lifted the discussion out of the rut. Whether a royal commission or a joint committee is appointed is a matter of little concern. I should have preferred the appointment of a royal commission ; but, as the committee will have power to send for persons and papers, and to move from place to place, it should be able to place before Parliament much valuable information which is not now available to it. I am informed on good authority that both in Melbourne and Sydney, and generally throughout the Commonwealth, the releasing of picture films is in the hands of a few persons, and that there are indications that before long it will be in the hands of one or two combinations. Unfortunately, those concerned appear studiously to have refrained from giving to Australian and British pictures that treatment to which they are entitled. The committee will, no doubt, investigate that aspect of the question with a view to facilitating the release of pictures produced in the British Empire. In support of American films it has been argued that the climate of California is eminently suited for the production of pictures; but I understand that, to a great extent, even the pictures made there are produced under artificial light. It is, therefore, not so much a question of climate as of obtaining the necessary talent and financial backing.
– In any case, the climate of Australia is, from the picturemaking point of view, equal to that of California.
– Hitherto financial support to the film industry in the Commonwealth has not been forthcoming to any great extent, and even where £5,000 or more has been expended in Australia in the production of a picture, the films have been so ineffectually released that, in some instances, the promoters have received not more than £150. In that way a desirable Australian industry is being injured. As a result of its investigations the committee should be able to put before Parliament facts which will enable tlie film industry in Australia to be placed on a satisfactory footing. The example of Germany in this respect might well be followed. In that country picture showmen are required to exhibit a certain percentage of pictures of German manufacture.
– Fifty per cent, of the pictures screened must have been made in Germany.
– Doubtless the committee will consider that aspect of the question, and possibly it will recommend the adoption of a. system similar to that in force in Germany. The block-booking system also merits careful investigation. If picture showmen are required to book their requirements twelve months ahead, it will be seen that, even should they screen Australianmade pictures, they will have to pay for all those which they have contracted to accept from the picture combinations. Every day the film industry is attaining greater importance. Since I moved my motion in August last, the industry has developed considerably, until to-day the capital invested in Australian picture theatres is approximately £25,000,000. Moreover, the number of persons who attend those theatres is increasing each week. I appreciate the decision of the Government to agree to the appointment of a select committee from both Houses to investigate the film industry. I trust that the Senate will agree to the amendment proposed by the Minister, so that, before long, the committee will have presented to Parliament a report which will result in the film industry in Australia being established on a satisfactory footing.
Amendment agreed to.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 March 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1927/19270303_senate_10_115/>.