10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for Defence endeavour to obtain an interim report from the royal commission on the moving picture industry before it leaves for Hollywood ?
– So far as I know there is no indication of the commission visiting Hollywood.
– I direct the attention, of the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Glasgow) to the fact that Australia is in danger of losing two valuable meat contracts in addition to the Mediterranean contract. Tenders close on 8th November for 8,000 tons of beef for home military supplies and other tenders close on 29th December for 1,500,000 12-oz. tins of corned beef. The contract at present is held by the United States. I respectfully suggest-
– In asking a question the honorable senator is only entitled to seek information and not to make statements or suggestions.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The matter referred to by the honorable senator is at present receiving the attention of the Minister for Markets and Migration (Mr. Paterson), and only yesterday he had a conference with several persons interested in the meat industry.
Formul Motion fob Adjournment.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - I have received a communication from Senator Findley intimating that he intends to move the adjournment of the Senate to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz. : - “ The decision of the Federal Capital Commission to allow a private company to control the transport services of the Federal Territory.”
– [11.4] - I move
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till 11 a.ni. on Saturday the 15th Ofctober.
Four honorable senators having risen in their places in support of the motion,
– When a Supply Bill was before the Senate a few days ago, I directed attention to the inadequate bus service in the Federal Capital Territory. I emphasized the fact that during certain periods of the day the buses are so overcrowded that there is danger to the lives and limbs of persons using them. I also stated that I had heard that negotiations were in progress to hand over this essential service to private enterprise. I expressed the view then, and I emphasize it to-day, that if there was to be such a change it would not be made without a vigorous protest from me and from every member of the party to which I belong. In order to elicit additional information on this important subject, I submitted further questions to the lYcting Leader of the Government in this chamber (‘Senator Glasgow), who represents tha Minister for Home and . Territories. My questions were clear and definite, and the answers I received from the Minister confirm the opinion that I and others had expressed in regard to the present administration. The occupants of the Treasury bench are reactionaries, and their nominees, the members of the commission, are men of similar tendencies judging by the policy they have adopted in connexion with the transport services of the Territory. We were hopeful that this new capital would be a model city. In plan, design, and regard for up-to-date systems we expected it to be an example to every other city in the world. In the Seat of Government Act we specifically provided that the land should belong to the people. In so doing we recognized the right of the community, which alone creates values in respect of land, to benefit by the enhanced land values which follow increased population and the expenditure of public moneys. We also provided that the lighting, power, water, sewerage, and other services here, which I need not enumerate, and which in some parts of the world are privately or semi-privately owned and controlled, should be conducted in the interests of the community. Privatelyowned transport services have signally failed. Many years ago a company was formed in Melbourne to establish a cable tramway system, but from the time the first service was established not a single new route was added to the system. That was largely due to the fact that it was a private undertaking, and was mainly concerned in making profits for its shareholders. The result was that in many parts of the metropolitan area little or no progress was made. After a time the service came under the control of the community. I think I can say without any vain boasting that by the time the Melbourne electric tramway system is completed we shall have. one of the most up-to-date services in Australia, and probably one of the best in the world.
– The electric railway system is excellent, but I think the tramway system is one of the worst.
– I am speaking of the Melbourne electric tramway system, which is controlled by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board, on which the municipalities have representation. -The extension of that system has resulted in marked progress being made in all the Melbourne suburbs. The service can be said to be municipally controlled; but although the councillors representing the municipalities are not all Labour men, so far as I am aware they do not favour the private OAvnership of tramway services.
– Does the honorable senator consider the Melbourne tramway system to be a satisfactory one?
– It is more satisfactory than the cable system.
– I direct the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that he has moved the adjournment of the Senate to dicuss the bus service in the Federal Capital Territory, and is, therefore, not in order in dealing at length with the Melbourne tramway system.
– I point out, sir, with due deference to your high position, and to your ruling, that we are dealing with essential sen-ices. I intend to make comparisons between community-owned and privately conducted trams and buses.
– -The honorable senator will be in order in making a passing reference to the tramway systems of other cities, but he must not discuss them in detail.
– In the metropolitan area of Melbourne there are communityowned bus services - services run by the municipalities and also the Railways Commissioners. In 1924 privatelycontrolled bus services were in operation in Melbourne. The Trak Motor Bus Company was formed with a capital of £20,000, and competed with the trams and electric railway services. The anti-Labour Government, which was in office at that time, passed an act making further provisions in respect to motor omnibus services. Section 3 of that act gave the Governor-in-Council power to prescribe regulations prohibiting the use of certain routes by privately-owned buses, which were entering into competition with the municipally-owned trams and the Stateowned railways, and omnibuses. The regulations made under that act drove the privately-owned buses off the roads, and the company that owned them was forced to dispose of them at a loss to other companies in Sydney. If they had not been serious competitors of the State-owned means of transport the act would not have been passed; but because they were, an anti-Labour government considered it essential to take steps to protect the people’s property. Those buses cut the roads to pieces. We shall have a similar experience in the Federal Capital Territory. At the present time there is little if any competition by private buses with transport services that are municipally-owned and controlled. There has been an omnibus service in the Federal Capital Territory for some considerable time; but when the commission was given the opportunity to prove its capacity and demonstrate to the people the manifold advantages of community-owned transport services, it showed in effect that the job was too big for it.
– It showed that the job was not one which properly belonged to it.
– The tenor of the reply given to a question which I asked yesterday, was that the cost of establishing an up-to-date omnibus service in the Federal Capital Territory would be enormous. Millions of pounds are being spent by the commission in the Territory. Would the purchase of twelve buses at a cost of from £15,000 to £20,000 be beyond its financial resources, or those of the Government? It is argued that it is not the policy of either the commission or the Government to establish a community-owned service. In every other part of Australia such an essential service is controlled by the community. We have been informed that tenders were invited for the establishment of this service. In what newspapers did the advertisements appear, and how frequently were they published? Did they specify the conditions under which the service should be carried on? It is significant that only one tender was received. Did the advertisement state that the successful tenderer would be subsidized by the Government to the extent of 4d. a mile for the first year, 3d. a mile for the second, 2d. a mile for the third, and Id. a mile for the fourth? I am fairly certain that no mention was made of that fact. If I am wrong, it is remarkable that only one tender was received. I am emphatically opposed to the private ownership of this essential service; but if we are to have it so, all those who are engaged in this line of business must be given an equal opportunity to tender. It is probable that the advertisement was so worded that those who are conversant with the conditions in the Federal Capital Territory considered that it would not be a payable proposition. We know that children are now taken to school free of charge, if their homes are not convenient of access to an educational institution. We are all in agreement with that principle, because education is of major importance to every community. In all of the States the education authorities place conveniences in the way of the rising generation so that they may not suffer hardship. Canberra is a city of long distances and at times the weather conditions are very trying. The rainfall at certain periods of the year is greater than it is in many other portions of. Australia. Therefore it is essential for children to be given every facility to enable them to attend school. Is there in this new arrangement any provision under which the existing practice will be continued; or are the parents to be called upon to defray the cost of sending their children to school? The people of this city have not the conveniences that are enjoyed by those who reside in other capital cities; they are dependent wholly and solely on the bus service. Honorable senators opposite are fully aware of the policy of the Labour pa»ty with respect to essential services. Thousands of those men and women who belong to organizations that support the Government agree with us that public utilities and essential services should be owned and controlled by the people. I want the Minister (Senator Glasgow) to furnish the Senate, and through it the people of Australia, with the fullest particulars of this contract. The Commission anticipates that the private company which is to undertake the service will run twelve buses. We have been given to understand that every bus will run two shifts, each of eight hours, daily. I believe that the return trip from Eastlake to North Ainslie represents a distance of eight and a half miles. If each bus does only that eight and a half miles in an hour it will cover a’ distance of 136 miles every day. The Government subsidy, at the rate of fourpence a mile, would then be £2 5s. 4d. a day for each bus. Twelve buses would therefore earn a subsidy of £27 4s. a day and £9,92S in the first year. Despite the ultra-conservatism of the present administration, and the objection of the Federal Capital Commission to undertake a service of this kind, I had hoped that they would stay their hands until Parliament had an opportunity to discuss the matter. At the present time the population of Canberra is approximately 7,500 persons, and according to a published statement it will be 8,000 at the end of the year. Many persons are sufficiently optimistic to believe that at the expiration of ten years it will have been doubled.
If it is doubled within the period of the contract, the buses will run a greater mileage in order to handle the traffic, and this will mean an increased subsidy for the company. Of course we shall be told that the citizens will be protected by a stipulation in the contract that certain fares shall be charged, and that only a certain percentage of profit will be allowed. That is all very well. We know, from experience, how stocks of commercial concerns are watered, and how reserves are hidden from public gaze, so that no act of Parliament can absolutely protect the people against exploitation. I hope that my remarks have not fallen on deaf ears. Certain honorable senators opposite at one time belonged to the party with which I have the honour to be associated. They have expressed their views strongly in favour of communityowned services. No one can deny that a community-owned bus service in the Federal Capital city could, if properly managed, be made signally successful, because it would be open to criticism at all times by Parliament. When public attention is riveted upon such activities in that way it is not long before wrongs are righted. In the best interests of the Territory and of the people who live in Canberra - the majority of them come from cities where the transport services are owned by either the municipalities or the State - the Government should hesitate, even now, before completing the contract. I believe that, if members of this chamber and of another place freed themselves from party prejudices and bias in regard to collectively-owned enterprises, they would support the motion which I have submitted.
[11.34]. - One realizes after listening to Senator Findley, that he still holds fast to principles which he has advocated for a number of years, and that even now he would like to see a socialistic state. The honorable senator has simulated a fine fury this morning because the Federal Capital Commission in its wisdom, has deemed it necessary to enter into a contract with a private company for the maintenance of a bus service within the city area. His comparison between conditions in Can berra, with its limited population, and conditions in the larger cities such as Melbourne, where such services are controlled by the municipal authorities, is wide of the mark. The honorable senator knows very well that no community in the Commonwealth, with the same population as Canberra, has municipal transport services. He knows also that even in a city like Melbourne the authorities controlling the community-owned transport services cannot compete with the privately-owned buses; it has been found necessary in many instances to prohibit private companies from running any services at all. Municipal or state-owned services cannot live in competition with private enterprise, because they cannot be managed economically. The provision of a transport service within the Federal Capital Territory has been engaging the attention of the commission for some considerable time. The bus service has been conducted by the commission for some years now, and it has shown a loss of over 6^d. per mile.
– There was little or no population in Canberra for a considerable portion of that time.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Senator Findley has suggested that there is something improper in the action of the commission. I remind him that it is a body of efficient and honorable gentlemen. It would have been just as well if, before making his unpleasant suggestion, the honorable senator had made definite inquiries.
– Let me see a copy of the advertisement calling for the tenders.
– I have it here. It is as follows -
Federal Capital Commission
Applications - Returnable to “ The Secretary, “ Federal Capital Commission, Canberra - are invited until noon on MONDAY, the 15th AUGUST, 1927, from persons or companies desirous of undertaking the following: - («.) Motor omnibus services in Canberra and the Federal Capital Territory; (b) Hire car service for the conveyance of passengers to and from the Canberra Railway Station and between various parts of Canberra and the Federal Capital Territory;
In regard to -
In regard to (o) inspection may be made at the Federal Capital Commission Garage, Eastlake, Canberra, by arrangement. Otferp should be enclosed in envelopes endorsed “ Offer for Motor Omnibuses, “ or as the case may be.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.In addition tei advertising, a representative of the commission interviewed about fourteen firms in Sydney with the object of inducing them to submit tenders.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The advertisement calling for tenders appeared in the newspapers on 23rd July, 27th July, 30th July, and 13th August, and tenders were returnable on 22nd August; the time being extended for a week. Let me set. out the history of this side of the commission’s activities. In August, 1927, the commission invited applications from persons or companies desirous of conducting motor omnibus and hire car services in Canberra and the Territory. Besides the conditions laid down in section 30 of the Motor Traffic Ordinance as to routes, charges, types of vehicles and speeds of motor omnibuses, evidence as to financial capacity and the capital it was proposed to invest in the service was required. It was laid down that applicants should be prepared to take over the transport of children proceeding to schools in Canberra and quote special mileage rates for their conveyance. Special weekly and monthly rates for’pnblic servants and others were also to be quoted. The successful tenderer was also notified that it would be necessary to insure for an amount to be approved by the commission, in respect of each omnibus, against claims through death, injury, fire and accident and against third party risk, and’ that such insurance should be effected with an insurance company approved by the commission, the policies to be lodged with the commission. The commission advertised, in calling for the tenders, that the successful applicant would be given the right to run an omnibus service over certain specified routes and for a specified period. Only one tender was received. As a result of negotiations with this tenderer, the offer was brought down to a reasonable figure, vb:., to cover routes between North Ainslie, Blandfordia and Eastlake with two sections at 3d. each and a through fare of 6d., with provision for weekly tickets at a concession rate. Fares for any extension of existing rates were to be approved by the commission. The weekly tickets to be available to Parliamentary staff, commission employees, public servants and workmen were to be at 4s. 6d., for 22 single trips, irrespective of distance. The experience of the commission during the period in which it had been running a service was that it had been operated at a loss of 6.57d. .per omnibus mile. It was estimated, however, that in view of the increasing population, this loss would be reduced slightly now and in the future. The commission, therefore, proposed to pay a subsidy monthly, based on the actual running of the omnibuses in the service of the successful tenderer to an approved’ time-table within the Canberra city area. For the first year the subsidy would be at the rate of 4d. per mile, for the second year 3d., for the third year 2d., and for the fourth year Id. per mile. The successful tenderer agrees to provide an omnibus service to be operated and maintained in a manner satisfactory to the commission, and to provide a service sufficient to cope adequately with the traffic at peak periods, and during the slack periods to run approximately at half-hour intervals. The commission has agreed to grant to the successful tenderer a licence to conduct a motor omnibus service under the conditions described in tbe Motor Traffic Ordinance 1926-27, and the right to conduct a motor omnibus service for a period up to ten years. Under the agreement to be made with the tenderer, it will be laid down tirnt there must be a reduction of fares to a figure which will limit the cumulative dividend of the proposed company to 10 per cent, per annum during the sixth to the tenth year, if, during the period, after meeting all operating and overhead costs, including reasonable provision for depreciation and renewal at a rate to be agreed upon, a profit is made which will permit payment of a cumulative dividend exceeding 10 per cent, per annum. Arrangements have also been made by which the contractor will put into service an approved number of taxicabs and hire cars for general use at approved rates. Senator Findley suggested that there was something improper about the way in which tenders were called, and desired to know what action the commission had taken to protect the people from the successful company in connexion with the watering of its capital and the disposal of its reserve funds. The commission has provided that the accounts shall be kept in a manner of which it approves. It also reserves the right to examine the books of the company at any time. Honorable senators will, therefore, see that everything possible has been done to protect the public funds. The new arrangement will provide the people of Canberra with an efficient transport service at a cost to the commission less than would be the case if the commission itself undertook the work. The taxpayer is protected.
– The commission did not allow sufficient time for the receipt of tenders. In a big country like Australia a period of three weeks was not sufficient to enable many persons who might have tendered to do so. Moreover, in inviting tenders no reference was made to a subsidy.
– A satisfactory tender might have been received in response to the advertisement. Why should a subsidy have been offered unnecessarily?
– The commission must have known that a subsidy would be required; and for that reason the information contained in the second document read by the Minister should have been included in the advertisement. The Minister says that honorable members on this side of the chamber desire that socialistic enterprises shall be established in the Territory. I remind him that the day has long passed when community services were advocated only by the Labour party. In every city of Australia - even in States in which anti-Labour governments are in office - community transport services exist. It has been contended that the commission has too much work on hand to enable it to provide an omnibus service in the Federal Capital. To provide such a service forms an important part of the commission’s duty, particularly now that the capital is beginning to develop. The other excuse given by the Minister for the action taken was that the taxpayers would be penalised if the commission continued to provide transport services -at a loss. But he admitted that the new system would still represent a loss to the taxpayers, who would have to pay the subsidy. It is true that, for a period, transport services in the Federal Capital will continue to be provided at a loss; but the time is not far distant when that State of affairs will be altered. By that time, however, private enterprise will have been well established and a monopoly created. It is not improbable that within the next two decades the taxpayers will be called upon to buy out that monopoly so that transport services on a community basis may be established. Australia contains a number of -examples of that nature. In Perth private enterprise at one time had a monopoly of the trams. To buy out that monopoly cost the State many thousands of pounds.
– How much would the State hare lost in the early years of the service when it was in the hands of private enterprise?
– The money paid to buy out the monopoly exceeded the losses incurred in the early years. It is regrettable that this retrograde step has been taken by the commission so soon after the occupation by Parliament of this building. No honorable senator opposite would dare to advocate publicly that our State-owned railways and tramways, to say nothing of our postal, telegraphic, and telephonic services, should be handed over to private enterprise. Yet they are socialistic enterprises. I hope that, even now, the Government will insist upon the commission itself providing these services.
– I congratulate the Government on the step it has taken. Amid the flood of talk about extravagance and waste in connexion with public funds in the Federal Capital, it is refreshing to hear of a step in the right direction being taken by the commission. About three years ago a returned soldier residing in Launceston, Tasmania, a city with a population of about 24,000 persons, after a careful reconnaisance of the position, inaugurated a motor omnibus service on a route which was not then served by trams or other means of transport. The service was so successful that before long he obtained another omnibus and extended the service. It was then that the members of the city council, believing that he was doing well, decided to establish a municipal motor omnibus service. Having prescribed the routes, the council endeavoured to drive the returned soldier from that on which he was operating. When the public objected to that course, omnibuses belonging to the council commenced to run on that route in opposition to the returned soldier. But the public continued to support the “ digger,” notwithstanding that they were the owners of the municipal service. The council extended its services in other directions, with the result that, after eighteen months, its losses amounted to about £12,000. The council would then have been glad to give its omnibuses away. To-day, the motor omnibus services of Launceston are in the hands of private enterprise. I do not know whether the private companies are making profits, but they provide the people of the city with an efficient service. I agree with the commission that transport services in the Federal Capital should be in the hands of private enterprise, rather than that the long-suffering public should be compelled to shoulder further heavy losses in connexion with services conducted by the commission.
– There is always, on the part of conservative politicians in Australia, a deep-seated desire to allow private enterprise to conduct what are known as communal or community services. We have had many illustrations of this. On many occasions their efforts have met with success ; on other occasions, fortunately, they have failed. At one time the railway system of New South Wales was in the hands of private enterprise, but fortunately those who were in control of it made a failure of the business, and the State had to step in and assume control. The State has conducted its service so efficiently that no other State in the Commonwealth has been able to show as fine results. Those who talk of the substantial deficits that appear in the balancesheets of State railways conveniently overlook the added value that .’has been given to land by the railways, but has not been credited to the railways. The latter, deprived of what should be a substantial source of revenue, cannot do otherwise than show deficits. At every point where a communal service is controlled by the Government, nothing is left undone by some people to make it a financial failure. To a small extent private enterprise is still supplying electricity in Australia, but fortunately the greatest supply of electric current is in the hands of municipal and semi-public bodies. For instance, the supply for the City of Sydney is in the hands of the capable and compe^tent Sydney Municipal Council. There again, however, some time ago a conservative council increased the charge for electric current so as to make a profit, and thereby avoid the necessity for taxing the land-owners of Sydney. All kinds of tricks are resorted to by some people in order to make a communal service a failure, or bring some advantage to themselves. An essential service like the London Water Supply is, I understand, largely in the hands of private .companies, but fortunately in Australia water supply is almost solely in the hands of municipalities or semi-public bodies. I regard the Federal Capital Commission as probably the most conservative and reactionary body that could have been appointed. They stand well in comparison with any three conservative honorable senators opposite. It is a wonder to me that they do not sell the brickworks. I should not be at all surprised to be told by the Government that these ‘ works are a failure, with a view to a proposal later on to sell them. The little railway line running from Queanbeyan to Canberra is probably the only Commonwealth railway that pays expenses. I suppose that it is, to a certain extent, under the control of the commission, and if that is so, no doubt by and by it will be disposed of to a private company. It is a wonder to me also that the commissioners do not entrust education to private individuals, and hand over everything they possibly can to private enterprise, while they simply draw their salaries and do nothing. It is beyond dispute that the community will need to pay a substantial subsidy every year to the motor car company which has secured the tender for local transport. The commissioners are now prepared to hand over £9,636 within the next twelve months. That would be a dead loss to the community. No doubt there would have been a loss if the commissioners had undertaken to provide the service, and it might have been more than £9,636, but at the end of the first twelve months of’ the bus contract, we shall hear the usual wail from the other side of the Chamber, not about the incompetency of the commission, but about what Senator Glasgow calls the failure of our socialistic enterprises. I should not be surprised to learn at the end of twelve months that the contract has been loosely worded, and that in the succeeding years a similar subsidy to that now to be paid is due to the private company. The time is opportifne to enter an emphatic protest against the step taken by the commissioners. They tell us that they can control an expenditure of over £2,000,000, but in the same breath they admit that they are incapable of controlling a motor bus service. Senator Sampson has given us a horrible illustration from Launceston. One is hard up when one has to go to Launceston for an illustration. If a person from the mainland visits Tasmania and lands at Launceston he has to pay a “ polltax “ of 2s., and if he returns to the mainland via Launceston he must again part with 2s. Launceston can serve only as an illustration of the taxation imposed on the people of the mainland when they visit Tasmania. When a tram service is laid down the roadway has to be prepared at heavy cost, the sleepers and rails have to be maintained in perfect order, and expensive and extensive power-houses have to be provided to supply the necessary current. . It is, therefore, not surprising that a loss is incurred in the running of a train service. On the other hand, those who are in control of a bus service do not provide a roadway, nor do they bear any share of the cost of maintaining roads except, perhaps, a small contribution in the shape of registration and licence fees. A motor bus service is quite a modern development. It is more flexible, and in many ways more suitable than a tram service. It is not at all surprising that in a place like Launceston, and in other places, a bus service can compete successfully with an existing tram service. I am informed, however, that in various parts of the Commonwealth during the last few years many bus companies have, gone into liquidation. These concerns do very well when the buses are new, and when the tyres are in good order, but it is quite a different matter when the buses have to be repaired and tyres have to be renewed. Senator Findley has made out a very good case. It is quite evident that the notice given in the advertisement was- too short, and the honorable senator was on good ground when he pointed out that it failed to indicate that the commissioners proposed to give the successful tenderer more than £9,000 in the first year. That point cannot be too strongly emphasized. The commissionei’s are crucifying Canberra, in every way» I have not the slightest faith in them. I believe that they are subject to pressure by the Government iu regard to their land policy.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - The honorable senator is not in order in dealing with that matter.
– In my opinion all public utilities in the nature of a monopoly should be controlled by the State or by a municipality, or, iri this case, where we have no municipality, by commissioners. The granting of a franchise for the provision of a motor-bus service is an indication that the Federal Capital commissioners are either incompetent or too lazy to conduct an essential service of this kind. I hope, therefore, that the motion will be carried as an instruction to the Government that the contract entered into by the commissioners should be set aside, and that nothing more of the kind must be attempted.
– The criticism indulged in by Senator Findley, and those who have followed him on the other side of the chamber, would suggest that some one has been surreptitiously permitted to tap a little gold mine. I, however, can assure honorable senators that the jieople who have contracted to provide a motor bus service in Canberra would welcome subscriptions to their capital from members of the Labour party, and would even pay them the ordinary commission on whatever sums they could induce their friends to invest in the company. That is a very good offer. Honorable senators could sell their shares at a good profit if this undertaking proved to be the gold mine that they would have people believe it is. As a matter of fact, a motor bus service is one of the riskiest and most speculative businesses in which One could invest. That fact more than accounts for the lack of tenders received by the commission. I think that the commissioners are to be congratulated on shying off a proposal to run their own buses. It is obvious that none of them can claim to be experts in transport matters. If the commission were to continue the service it would probably have to obtain a highly competent transport officer at a high salary.
– Who is managing the system at present?
– b do not know the name of the person directly in control; but obviously the service has not been a success. It it had been a paying proposition it would have been reasonable for the commission to appoint a competent transport officer to see if its operations could be extended and costs reduced. At present it is showing a very serious loss which will have to be borne by the taxpayers. Senator Abbott, who is a director of a. motor transport service, informed me that the control of such businesses is most difficult, and that it requires the greatest care and supervision to make them a success. It would be absurd to censure the commission for the action it’ 13 taking. I think it should” be congratulated upon having the courage to deal with the problem in the manner proposed
– It would be interesting to know if the company which proposes to conduct the service in the future was aware of the fact that a subsidy would be paid to enable a satisfactory service to be provided. If it was, other tenderers should also have been informed. If the subsidy is equivalent to the loss incurred by the commission in conducting the service, I should like to know whether the privately-owned concern will be expected to carry on its work at a profit, or at any rate without loss. I do not think the company would have undertaken the work unless there was a reasonable prospect of a profit on its operations. The Minister should have given the Senate the conditions under which the tenders were invited.
– I have supplied the Senate with all this information.
– Why is the commission anxious to hand over the service to the control of private enterprise?
– In order to reduce the loss.
– If the commission had credited the service with an assessment equivalent to the subsidy which it is now proposed to pay, the business could have been placed on a similar basis to that now proposed. One would think from the statements made by some honorable senators .that the bus service was the only activity of the commission on which a profit, was not being made. As approximately £8,000,000 has already been sjDent in the Federal Capital Territory, it is surprising to find that the Government, which is spending money so freely, in many directions, is in favour of an essential service being handed over to (>rivate enterprise merely to avoid a small oss on one branch of the commission’s activities. If it is considered essentia) that the commission should provide light, power, water supply and other services, it should also control transportwithin the Territory. Senator Sampson referred to the bus system in Launceston, but I cannot see the value of a comparison between the service in that city and one in the Federal Capital Territory, where there is no likelihood of competition. The Conservative Government in South Australia is at present framing regulations to prevent privately-owned buses from competing against similar services under municipal control and also the stateowned railways. State-controlled transport services are in operation in other capital cities; but in the capital city of the Commonwealth such services are to be handed over to private enterprise. Labour administrations always favour the public ownership of such utilities, and when the present Government is removed from the Treasury bench the personnel of the commission will be carefully considered.
– We were always told that Canberra would be a model city, and that its services would be modern and under the control of the people.
– Regardless of expense, I suppose?
– No. As . the majority of the residents of Canberra are public servants who are compelled to reside at long distances from their employment, it is the ‘duty of the commission to provide adequate and cheap transport services. , The payment of a subsidy of £9,600 for the first year will not be of much assistance, as further contributions will have to be made from time to time. We have, moreover, not been assured that such a payment will result in a reduction of fares. As losses are being incurred in other directions the Government should instruct the commission to conduct an adequate bus service in the interests of the people. It has been said that it will be necessary for the company to obtain the assistance of an experienced manager; I maintain that the Government could also secure the services of a highly qualified man for the purpose. If private enterprise can do so why cannot the commission? One honorable senator stated that the desire of the Opposition was to socialize the Territory. Socialization does not enter into the question. Every public utility should be owned and controlled, by the Government. Another honorable senator said “Why :iot hand over to private enterprise the control of our water supply, tramways, railways, telegraph and telephone communication?” Where those services are now being carried on by the State it would not consent to relinquish control. Senator Sampson referred to the case of a returned soldier who ran an omnibus service in a certain part of Tasmania, and said that when the municipality found that he was making money on it they entered into competition with him. They acted quite rightly. Many years ago the railways and telegraphic and telephonic services in New Zealand were owned and controlled by private enterprise and were an absolute failure. The Liberal Government which was then in power found it necessary to take charge of those utilities. It had to pay large sums to the company which owned the railway to re-purchase the land on each side of the line. A government, whether it be Liberal or Labour, should control for the benefit of the people every public utility. I support the motion and hope the Senate will agree to it.
Senator MCLACHLAN (South Australia - Honorary Minister [12.33]. - It is rather unfortunate that the debate on what might have been discussed as an abstract principle - if principle it contains - should have been marred by the veiled and utterly unjustifiable suggestion that the commission has acted in a somewhat sinister manner. The attitude of the commission, and the position which has been taken up by the
Government, have been fully and fairly explained by my leader ‘ (Senator Glasgow). It has been suggested that sta improvident arrangement has been entered into. On the basis of 120,000 miles being travelled per annum the subsidy to be paid would be as follows : - 1st year . . . . £2,000 2nd year ‘ .. . . £1,500 3rd year .. .. £1,000 4th year . . . . £500
Total .. ‘ .. £5,000
During that period the loss, if the ser- a-ice were provided by the commission, would be £12,000. I grant that the traffic during certain periods may be increased considerably.- Even if allowance is made for this, there is still a big margin. If 200,000 miles were travelled per annum the subsidy in the four years would amount to £S,333, and the loss, if run by the commission, £20,000. Who, therefore, is conserving the interests of the taxpayer, the commission or my friends opposite who desire to interfere with the control of affairs in the Federal Capital? The moving of this motion furnishes the best argument that could be adduced against control of this service by the commission. Senator Findley argued that when control was exercised by Parliament public attention could be drawn to any dereliction . of duty. . The sole issue in this case is, are we to have political or business control? Let u3 consider the question of transport in Australia to-day and think of the position in which we are landing the taxpayers, who will have to foot the bill if our railways and other means of transport should become unprofitable. The tide of scientific progress cannot be stemmed. The internal combustion engine will render a tremendous disservice to the publicly-owned railways of this country. Do my friends opposite suggest that we should place a fence round Stateowned monopolies which we have created, and endeavour to stem the tide of progress by declining to allow the internal combustion engine to come in 3 No industry or transport sys tem is sufficiently stable to withstand the competition of the latest discoveries in the realms of science. .
– At- the present moment I care not whether they will be run at a loss or a profit. Our friends opposite charge us with looking backward instead of forward. They fail to recognize what is happening daily in connexion with the transport systems ito the capital cities. The Tramways Board in Melbourne is engaged in a tremendous struggle to make ends meet. The question that will have to be solved is, how long can municipal or government concerns stand up against public requirements? This state of affairs exists, not only in Australia; but all over the world. England has an advantage over Australia in that its railways are owned by private companies, and the taxpayer is not called upon to make up any deficiency in revenue and bear the burden of depreciation.
– The private companies in England protect themselves by charging heavy freights. ,
– Economically worked, as they are, it is practically impossible to make ends meet. The service given by the nationally-owned railways in France cannot compare with that provided in Great Britain. The competition which takes place between the different companies in Great Britain ensures a good and cheap service. Huge motor lorries of the latest design and the best quality compete with the railways for not only passenger, but also goods traffic, between the provincial towns, and the effect is being very keenly felt by the railway companies. Where two lines that are owned by different companies are laid parallel to each other, it has been found essential to suspend the service on one and to’ run the other jointly, so as to effect economy. For a municipality to engage in this class of transport, in the light of our experience of the last ten years, is little short of insanity.
– Are we to understand that Sir John Butters is not capable of running a bus service?
– If Sir John Butters and the officers associated with him were left alone they could probably do many things. If a bus service were inaugurated under the control of the commission there would be interference from some parliamentary or political source. Let us give private enterprise a chance to show what it can do. We shall then be acting in the best interests of the community.
– Who proposes to interfere with the commission?
– Senator Findley has stated that if private enterprise is given the control of this service Parliament will not have a say. Is tha: the proper way in which to run a transport service? Has not the policy been a contributing factor in bringing the railway systems to their present condition? The duty of the commission is to conserve the interests of the taxpayers. This is a delightful city. If you stay at one of the hotels you are given your account in an envelope, the outside of which is embossed with the words, “On His Majesty’3 Service.” It has a water supply and a sewerage system also controlled by the commission. For Heaven’s sake let us keep out of intricate business concerns, such as transport ! Senator Thomas is a shrewd business man. He would not invest his money in a concern that might be subject to political interference. The best course is to allow the service to function as proposed by the commission. There was nothing sinister or improper about the way in which tenders were called or in the conditions of tendering. Senator Hoare suggested that tenderers should have known that a- subsidy would be paid in certain circumstances. That would have been extremely unwise because tenderers would have included the amount of the subsidy in their offers. Apparently no enthusiasm was displayed by private firms to operate a bus service in Canberra.
– There was very little ‘chance for them to consider the proposition as tenders were returnable in about a fortnight.
– No fewer than fourteen different companies were interviewed by a. representative of the Federal Capital Commission in Sydney, and of that number only one made any response. As a result of the subsequent negotiations arrangements were made to pay a subsidy. It would have been an act of folly to advertise that in certain circumstances the commission would be prepared to pay a subsidy. In view of the expected development within the city area during the next few years, it was not unreasonable to hope that motor transport companies would be prepared to submit tenders without a subsidy. Having regard to the fact that the service conducted by the commission showed a loss of over 6d. per omnibus mile, the commission acted wisely and, I think, in the best interests of the taxpayers of Australia in arranging to pay a subsidy to ensure a satisfactory transport service within the city area.
– Nothing that the Minister has said in reply to my criticism of the Federal Capital Commission in respect of the bus service has altered the position. Although I asked to be furnished with information concerning the newspapers in which appeared the advertisements calling for tenders, I had no doubt that such advertisements were published ; but I had doubt as to whether the conditions of tendering indicated in any way that the commission, with the approval of the Government, was prepared to grant a subsidy. It is clear that when tenders were invited, there was no such intention, and my point is that when the conditions were altered in such a vital way, fresh tenders should have been invited. Had that been done, I am certain that there would have been many offers from individuals or companies for the right to conduct a motor bus service in Canberra. We have heard a great deal of criticism of the desire of honorable senators on this side of the chamber to further iht, cause of collectivism as against private enterprise. On this point I remind the Senate that, in reply to a question which I submitted yesterday, Senator Glasgow said it was felt that, as private enterprise had not taken a very active part in the development of Canberra, the necessity to conduct a more extensive omnibus service afforded a fitting opportunity for its co-operation. All the developmental work at Canberra up to date has been carried out by the Federal Capital Commission, and that body should continue to be responsible for the motor bus service within the Territory. Honorable senators opposite appear to make a fetish of private enterprise. ‘ They declare that they are anti-socialistic in their outlook. Actually they are socialists to the backbone. Members of the Ministry enjoy the use of socialistic motor cars - cars owned by ihe Commonwealth - up to date in every particular, and driven by chauffeurs whose wages also are paid by the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. It is said that they have travelled more extensively than Cabinet ministers ever travelled before and that, as a result, the travelling expenses of ministers have increased by 300 per cent, in recent years. Even members of the Federal Capital Commission are socialists when it suits them. They also enjoy the use of publicly owned motor cars. Is it suggested that all these vehicles should be dispensed with, and that in the interests of efficiency and economy, tenders should be invited for the conveyance of ministers and members of the commission about their respective duties ? Certain sections of the community, opposed to the party to which I belong, have, on many occasions, appealed to the Government to get them out of their difficulties. The Acting Leader of the Senate (Senator Glasgow) himself is associated with an industry that appealed to the Government some time ago for a bounty to tide it over a period of difficulty. Actually there would have been no real progress in Australia, but for socialistic enterprise in one form or another. Governments have been obliged to construct railways which do not pay directly, though indirectly they benefit the man on the land and, through him, the community’ generally. When Senator McLachlan was criticizing our railway services a little ‘while ago I could not help thinking that he belonged to the “ stinking-fish brigade.” World tourists who have travelled over our railway systems have declared them to be the most up-to-date and best equipped in the world. I invite the Minister to read Lord Durham’s eulogy of the trans- Australian railway, or the opinions expressed by the Empire Parliamentary Delegation concerning the management and running of the railway systems in Australia.
Sen a tor McLachlan. - Financially, they do not make a good showing. Not one of them can produce a satisfactory balance-sheet.
– If the Minister’s interjection means anything, it is an admission that he is associated with a Government that is opposed to socialistic enterprises. His remarks are a reflection on the capacity of his Government, as well as the Federal Capital Commission and the community generally. Does he suggest that the commission cannot conduct a bus service for Canberra as efficiently as a private company? I need only refer to one or two socialistic enterprises to support my argument in their defence. The Commonwealth Bank, before the present Government emasculated that institution-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not refer to the Commonwealth Bank.
– Other honorable members were allowed to wander practically all over the earth in their endeavour to attack socialistic enterprises, but you, sir, will not allow me to mention even one by way of reply.
– What is to become of the buses owned by the commission to-day if a private company takes over the service? Has any arrangement been made to dispose of those vehicles?
– Yes; the new company will take them over. .
– At what price? The existing service, as we know, is not up-to-date. It certainly is not a credit to the commission. We have a growing city of which we are very, proud, but the bus service is not a credit to it. I doubt if the commission has ever seriously attempted to operate an up-to-date transport service within the city area. Reference has been made to the losses incurred in the running of the buses. I remind honorable senators that, in the development of a new city, losses must necessarily be faced in,providing certain public services so essential for the people’s comfort. I feel keenly on this matter; I regret very much that steps have been taken by the commission to hand over the transport service to a private company. It is not in the interests of economy, and will not make for progress. I am certain also that if the proposal were submitted to a referendum of the people in Canberra, it would not meet with their approval. Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.S0 p.m.
– I desire to reply to the statement of the Minister that the new arrangement is in the interests of economy and will prevent further losses. It is true that the omnibus service has been conducted at a loss; but it must be remembered that when it was inaugurated the population of the Territory was less than it is now, and much less than it will be in years to come. The losses, whiich I understand amount to about £400 a month, cover the whole period during which the service has been in operation. That is about one half the amount wliich I mentioned this morning as likely to be paid each year by way of subsidy. It will, therefore, be seen that the new arrangement is not in the interests ‘of economy. “With the increased population of the Territory, and the consequent increase of traffic, the revenue of the new company will increase and losses will give way to dividends. For that reason it is difficult to understand why the new system has been instituted. Surely the Federal Capital Commission, composed of highly capable men, should be able to conduct an omnibus service! It has in hand bigger undertakings than the conduct of a transport service, important though that may be. For instance, the supply of water and lighting to the Territory is entrusted to the commission.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
The following papers were presented:Defence -
Report, by Lieutenant-General Sir H G. Chauvel, G.C.M.G., K.C.B., (foi
Inspector-General), on the Australian Military Forces (Part I., 31st May,/ 1927).
Munitions Supply Board - Annual Report for the period 1st July, 1925, to 30th June, 1926, together with Annual Report of the Commonwealth Government Clothing Factory.” Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds
Act - Seventh Annual Report, dated 12th
Lay-out or City : Faulty Construction.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The honorable senator’s questions have been brought under the notice of the Minister for Home and Territories, and replies thereto will be made available as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
In view of the fact that, the Broome Road Board and other public bodies are in possession of a copy of the report of Dr. Cooke’s inspection of natives in the north and north-west, will the Minister lay such report on the table of the Senate and have it printed?
– A partial report only has yet been made available. The full report is now being printed, and copies will be made available to members.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The following return has been supplied -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is any arrangement being made to provide adequate means of communication with’ the Tasmaii Island . lighthouse in Tasmania?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Inquiry will be made.
In committee. - Consideration resumed from 13th October (vide page 487).
Clause 23 -
After section one hundred and fifty of the principal act the following section is inserted: - “150a. - (1.) No member of the Parliament shall offer, promise or give directly or indirectly any gift, donation or prize to or for any club or other association or institution:
Provided that it shall not be a contravention of this section for a -member of Parliament to contribute, or to offer or promise to con- / tribute, to the funds of a hospital, a charitable “body, an educational’ institution, a pastoral, agricultural or horticultural society, a memorial, or a church of which he is’ a member, or to contribute1 to church collections.
Penalty: Ten pounds.
Nd proceedings shall be taken for a contravention of this section except within three months after the act complained of.”.
Upon which Senator Elliott had moved, by way of amendment -
That after the word “collections,” line 1-5, the following proviso be inserted: -
Provided further that it shall not be a contravention of this section for a member of
Parliament, being an officer or member of the military forces of the Commonwealth, to contribute, or to offer or promise to contribute, to any gift, donation, or prize for any competition held, by or in connexion with any unit of those forces with which he is for the time being actively associated.
– Since I moved my amendment I have given the matter further consideration, and I now realize that other honorable senators who are interested in, say, rifle clubs, would be justified in moving amendments to provide that gifts or donation’s to such clubs should be allowed, and so on, until there was nothing left of the original proposal. I therefore ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I hope that the clause will be negatived. It provides that, although a member of Parliament may not make gifts to clubs, associations, or institutions, he may contribute to the funds of a church of which he is a member. I should like to know whether the clause would permit him to contribute to the funds of a church of which he was not a member. What harm would be done if a member of Parliament, who was also a member of a chess club, offered to present a prize to that club? Again, a member of Parliament may contribute to the funds of a church;, but would he be justified in assisting the funds of a cricket or tennis club associated with that church? The existing law, which provides that for three months before an election no member of Parliament, or candidate for election to Parliament, may make, or offer to make, gifts to various institutions, including churches, is sufficient. No man who attends church regularly wishes to break the law. I should like to know whether under the present law a candidate would be allowed to put a- cheque in the collection plate at church, or whether his contribution would have to be limited to a threepenny piece. I shall vote against the clause because I consider that the act goes far enough already.
[2.46]. - The clause proposes an extension of the existing provision of the act in regard to candidates for Parliament.
It was recommended by the select committee, and is purely a matter for honorable senators to decide for themselves. If it is their desire that the amendment should not be made, I am prepared to agree to the deletion of the clause.
– Surely members of Parliament ought to have . backbone enough to withstand that sort of thing.
– It was pointed out that some of them had not sufficient backbone to do so, or at any rate that at tiine3 they could not refuse these requests. The select committee thought that it should afford members of both Houses an opportunity to say whether or not they were, agreeable to their recommendation.
Clause’ 24 agreed to.
Clause 25 (Articles to be signed).
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Aves … … 20
Noes … … 3
Andrew, D. Barwell, Sir Henry Carroll, W. Chapman, J. B. Duncan, W. L. Elliott, H. E. Foll. H. S. Glasgow. Sir William Greene. W. M. Hays, Herbert Hoare. A. A.
Kingsmill, W. McLachlan. A. J. Millen, J. D. Plain, W. Keid, M. Sampson, B. Thomas, J. Thompson, W. G.
Graham, C. M.
Teller: Grant, J.
Findley, E. Needham, E.
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Clause agreed to.
. –I move-
That the following new clause.be inserted: - “25a. Section one hundred and sixty-five of the principal act is amended by omitting sub-section (1.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-section: -
A person shall not -
print, publish or distribute any card or paper having thereon any direction or instruction as to how an elector should vote unless there is. printed on the card or paper, in bold type, an intimation that the card or paper must not be left in the polling booth nor placed in theballotbox, or
exhibit or leave in any polling booth any card or paper having thereon, any direction or instruction as to how the elector should vote or a.to the method of voting.
Penalty: Twenty pounds.’”
Section proposed to be amended - 105. (1) A person shall not eathibit or leu-ae in any polling booth amy card orpaper hailing thereon any direcli-on orinstruction as to how an elector should’ vote or as to the method of voting. Penally. Twenty pounds.
The select committee’s reasons- for recommending this amendment are put so succinctly that I cannot do better than, read them -
Many witnesses expressed opinions regarding the practice of issuing “ how to vote “* cards. The majority seeni to think thesecards assist the electors and prevent informa.Ii voting. Others favour the abolition of “ how to vote “ cards on polling days, in fact of all canvassing ancf attempts to influence electors on polling days. If this latter proposal wereadopted, it wouTd be necessary for organizations and canvassers to do all their distribution of literature before polling day. The committee believes that the practice of canvassing on polling day should not be interfered: with, except to prevent its being carried out too close to the booths. The committee also thinks that the issue of “how to vote” cardsis a help and not a hindrance to electors. It is recommended that all “how to vote” cardsshould be printed in card form. This would! distinguish the card clearly from the ballotpaper, and there would .be practically no danger of any elector putting the card instead of the ballot-paper . into the ballot-box. A further safeguard would be to requireorganizations issuing the cards to print upon, them in bold lettering an intimation that thiscard must not be left in the polling booth nor placed in the ballot-box. It is also recommended that the act should be amended te provide that canvassing or other acts referred^ to in section 171 shall be prohibited withim 50 feet of a polling booth.
[2.55].- The proposed new sub-section (b) is already in the act. But the clause goes further and in proposed new subsection (a) stipulates that “ how to vote “ cards must bear an intimation that they must not be left in the polling booth nor placed in the ballot-box. That is an additional precaution suggested by the select committee to which I. have no objection.
– At the present time a person may take “ how to vote “ cards into a polling booth without committing an offence, but if the proposed new clause is agreed to, a penalty of ?20 will be imposed on any voter who takes them into a polling booth to guide him in recording a vote.
– There is no penalty imposed, so long as the card is not exhibited or left in the polling booth. In any case the proposed new sub-section (b) is merely repeating what is now the law.
– In that case I have no objection to the proposed new clause.
– I understand that the proposed new sub-section b is in the principal act. The committee therefore might favourably consider paragraph (a) of Senator Thompson’s ‘amendment, because a person might unconsciously, or in a moment of excitement, leave one of the “ how-to-vote “ cards in a polling place. If Senator Thompson’s amendment were adopted, it is probable that electors, having been warned, would not fall into the error, and therefore would not be in danger of incurring the fine.
.- It appears to me that the amendment submitted by Senator Thompson is more or less superfluous. All that it means is that any card or paper giving instructions to electors as to how they should vote must have printed on it in bold type a warning that it must not be left in a polling booth. Thousands of .people experienced in regard to the method of voting, discharge their electoral obligations without any assistance; but there are thousands more who, either through ignorance or from nervousness, find these cards of great assistance, and occasionally they leave them in a polling booth.
– - How can anyone find out definitely who leaves the cards there?
– That is the difficulty. We should need an army of officials to watch all the -booths. The provision is unnecessary, and for that reason I cannot support it.
– The provision in the existing act has relation to cards’ that may be distributed in polling booths on the day of election, and I have no doubt that when he framed his amendment Senator Thompson had in mind those cards or papers that are issued on election day from the various tables to be found grouped around all polling places. But I venture to say that the amendment goes much further than perhaps Senator Thompson intended. It applies to the whole of the election literature that may be issued during a campaign, because in nearly every case there is printed on such literature instructions to electors as to how they should vote. In recent years it has bee’u the practice to attach such instructions to practically all election pamphlets. I do not think it was Senator Thompson’s intention to include ‘ that literature in his amendment. His object would be better achieved if, on election day, the electoral officials exhibited a notice in a prominent place in every polling place stating that “how-to-vote” cards must not be left in the polling booths. It is purely a matter for administration.
– That, among other things, is recommended by the committee.
– And that is being done to-day.
– I think that the gravamen of the objection on the part of honorable senators is to be found in the use of the words “must not be left in the polling booth, nor placed in the ballot-box.” I admit that all election literature will have to be in eluded, and I submit that such literature should not be left in a polling booth.
What harm is there in requiring a warning notice to he printed on “howtovote” cards? Certainly I cannot read into the amendment the interpretation which Senator Greene has placed on it.
Senator FOIL (Queensland [3.11]. - I intended to raise the point mentioned by Senator Greene. If paragraph a of Senator Thompson’s amendment is accepted, it will be necessary to print in bold type a warning on the whole of the election literature published during a campaign, because in nearly every case instructions are given to electors as to how they should vote. Senator Thompson appears to think that the whole of the objection is in regard to the last two lines of paragraph a. I agree with Senator Greene that the objection is in regard to the first two lines. If the amendment is carried, all election literature will have to bear in bold type the warning “ This must not be left in the polling booth nor placed in the ballot-box.” The restriction is unnecessary.
– What is the objection?
– I do not believe in placing on the statute-book a provision that is likely to cause irritation or which is unwarranted, even to satisfy the whim of the committee that inquired into the working of the electoral law
.- It appears to me that the provision in the act amply meets the situation. It reads -
A person shall not exhibit or leave in any polling booth any card or paper having thereon any direction or instruction as to how an elector should vote or as to the method of voting.
The only difference between that provision and Senator Thompson’s amendment is that the honorable senator wishes to have printed on such card or paper a notice that it must not be left in the polling booth or placed in the ballot-box.
– I can see the difficulty that has been mentioned by Senator Greene and Senator Foll; but the committee should consider seriously the proposal put forward by Senator Thompson, because of his wide experience as a member of the committee that inquired into the working of the electoral law. I understand that that body travelled from one end of Australia to the other, and obtained a great deal of evidence from electoral officials and others. We all know that it is the practice of certain persons to enter a polling booth under the pretence of voting and to distribute “ how-to-vote “ cards for the information of electors who may follow them. That is a common practice of my friends in the Labour party.
– That statement is absolutely incorrect.
– I have often seen it done. On many occasions I have gone into a polling booth to clear out a lot of election literature left there by my friends the enemy to suit their own purpose. Most electors know before they enter a booth how they intend to vote. The people who leave “ how to vote “ cards in polling booths do so with the object of trapping unwary electors, or those who are not sure what is expected of them. Such people are inclined to regard the card as an official instruction, and may be influenced by it into casting their votes as shown on the card.
.- The proposed new clause is unnecessary. If agreed to, it would victimize innocent electors. The greatest offenders in the matter of leaving instruction cards in polling booths are women. For an inadvertence this clause would make them liable to a penalty.
– What about the person who leaves instruction cards in the polling booths with the deliberate object of influencing voters ?
– I do not think that such eards have any influence on electors. With very few exceptions electors know how they intend to vote before they enter a booth. I have seen some polling booths practically littered with instruction cards. In such cases, who should be prosecuted? If the proposed new clause would assist in the better conduct of elections I should vote for it; but I shall not vote for a clause which would render an innocent elector liable to punishment. I shall, therefore, vote against the proposed new clause.
Senator GRANT (New South Wales) been made it would appear tbat the proposed new clause is either necessary or mischievous. I do not think that the statement of Senator Duncan, that he has seen numbers df instruction cards prominently exhibited in polling booths, can be substantiated. I have had a long experience both inside and outside polling booths in New South “Wales, but I have never seen one card instructing electors how to vote displayed prominently in a polling booth.
– I have seen thousands of them.
– I question the accuracy of the honorable senator’s statement. I have seen numbers of such cards on the floors of polling booths, and I have known of enthusiastic electors putting them in the ballot-box and taking away the ballot-papers; but I have not seen them prominently displayed in the booths. In my opinion, an instruction card left iu a polling booth has little or no influence on electors.
– To agree to the proposed new clause would be to make this committee appear ridiculous. Paragraph 1 (b) is practically the same as section 165, subsection 1, of the present act, which reads -
A porson shall not exhibit or leave in any polling booth any card or paper having thereon any direction or instruction as to how an elector should vote or as to the method of voting.
During every election campaign a good deal of literature is distributed, all of which contains instructions to electors as to the way in which they should cast their votes? It would be ridiculous to require that all such literature should have marked ‘on it an instruction that it must not be left in the polling booth. The committee would be unwise to agree to the proposed new clause.
– The select committee was strongly of the opinion that instruction cards should not be left in polling booths. It did not intend that literature issued prior to polling day should have printed on it, in bold type, an intimation that it must not be left in the polling booth. The committee’s desire was to safeguard the position on polling day. I realize that the wording of paragraph (a) of the proposed new clause could, with advantage, be improved, but there is no time for this committee to make the alteration to-day. If the Minister will give me his assurance that effect will be given to the committee’s wishes by bringing the matter forward in another place, I shall be satisfied.
– I am prepared to consider the matter, but 1 cannot give the honorable senator the assurance that he desires. All that I can do is to promise that the matter will be looked into.
– I ask leave to withdraw the proposed new clause.
Proposed new clause*, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move - That the following new clause be inserted: - 25a. Section one hundred and seventy-one of the Principal Act is amended -
Section proposed to be amended -
The following acts are, on polling day, and on all days to which the polling is adjourned, prohibited at the entrance of or within a polling booth, or in any public or private place within twenty feet of the entrance of a polling booth…..
The proposed new clause, if agreed to, would ensure that the committee rooms of organizers and canvassers would be at least 50 feet from the polling booth. The select committee took a lot of evidence on this question. The majority of the witnesses agreecf” that the distance should be greater than 20 feet; one witness suggested that 100 yards should be the minimum distance. The general opinion of witnesses, with which the committee agreed, was that 50 feet was a reasonable distance. The committee also found that in many instances motor cars containing electors were driven practically into the polling booths, causing inconvenience to the people there. Por that reason it has recommended that motor cars should not be permitted to approach within 50 feet of a polling booth, unless conveying incapacitated electors to the booth. I confidently ask the committee to agree to the amendment.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [3:26].- - If the proposed new clause is agreed to, difficulties will arise.
– In Western Australia legislation providing for 50 feet is working well.
– It is sometimes difficult to say where a polling booth commences. Some people say that it begins at the gate through which electors must pass to enter the polling booth itself. In the case of a polling booth situated in a narrow street the proposed new clause might prevent a building on the opposite side of the street from being used as a committee room. Except in a, few isolated cases, the electoral officers have not experienced any great difficulty with the existing legislation which provides for a minimum distance of 20 feet between committee rooms and a polling booth. Legislation providing that motor cars shall not approach within 50 feet of polling booths would bc difficult to administer. It would be necessary to have one stopping place for cars conveying incapacitated voters and another at which vehicles containing other voters should stop.
– If a vehicle containing an incapacitated voter had other voters in it, the latter would have to get out 50 feet from the polling booth.
– That is so. It would not be possible to administer the new clause. I ask the committee not to accept the amendment.
Proposed new clause negatived. Clause 26 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clauses 27 and 28 agreed to. Senator THOMAS (New South Wales) [3.32]. - I move-
That the following new clause be added to the bill :- “ 29. Section two hundred and eighteen of the Principal Act is amended by adding at ‘ the end thereof the following sub-section: - (2.) After an election can no longer be questioned the officer having the cus tody of any sealed parcels containing baliot-papers which have been rejected as informal may, if <=o directed by the Chief Electoral Officer, open the sealed parcel and examine the ballot-papers for the purpose of ascertaining the causes of informality.’ “
I explained the purpose of this amendment when I was speaking on the second reading. After an election is over and everything is settled, I think a returning officer should be permitted to examine ballot-papers rejected as informal in order to ascertain the causes which rendered them informal. Candidates at the following elections would then be in a position to point out to the electors how to avoid casting informal votes. The number of informal votes at Common- wealth elections is serious. It is true that the number i? decreasing, and I hope it will continue to decrease, but an explanation of the reasons for the rejection of informal votes would be a great guide to the electors.
– It is a serious matter to break the seals of ballot-papers. The select committee was able to glean from returning officers a very good idea of the principal cause of informalities, and that information is already available. While the scrutiny is in progress and before the ballot-papers are sealed, the returning officers can easily ascertain the different causes of informalities.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW . (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [3.35], - In consequence of a request made by Senator Thomas in 1921 the informal votes cast at a by-election in West Sydney were observed by the officers who conducted the scrutiny, and the reasons for the rejection of ballotpapers were noted. At that election the total number of ballot-papers issued was 14,316, of which 606 or 4.23 per cent, were informal. Four candidates Vere seeking election. The full number of preferences was not indicated on 190 ballot-papers. The same preference was repeated on 70 ballot-papers. There was a break in consecutive numbering on 75 papers. The number of persons who voted by means of a cross was 200, while 30 voters marked their ballotpapers partly by a cross and partly by numerals. Ten. voters struck out the names of candidates, and twenty ballot-papers showed no voting mark. In eleven cases the figures wore not recognizable or the voter could be identified by means of initials placed on the ballot-paper.
– That is exactly the class of information I want.
– This information was gleaned during (.lie scrutiny. It would be a dangerous practice to permit the seals of ballotpapers to be broken all over the Commonwealth. In any case all returning officers are in the position to indicate the most common causes of informality. The main reasons are. those given in the return relating to the informal votes at the West Sydney election.
– What harm was done by getting that information?
– STo harm at all. But, there is no need lo provide in the act that returning officers may break the seals of ballotpapers in order to ascertain the cause of informalities when that information can easily be obtained during a scrutiny.
Proposed new clause negatived. Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Glasgow), agreed to -
That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended aB would prevent the Mil being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
Bill (on motion of Senator Sir William Glasgow) read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Glasgow) proposed -
That the Senate at ita rising adjourn till Wednesday, 2nd November, 1927, at 3 p.m.
– I understand that the Minister (Senator Glasgow) has submitted the motion so that honorable senators will not be called upon to return within the next week or two only to find no work available for them. The noticepaper for the Seuate shows that this chamber has disposed of the business so far submitted to it by the Government.
This is not a satisfactory state of affairs. I could understand an intimation of this nature being made at the end of a long and arduous session., but not within a week or two of the resumption of business after a long recess. The Ministry at the last election boasted that it had a comprehensive policy embracing a number of important legislative measures. Twenty-one months have elapsed since then, and we are still without any concrete evidence of that policy. The Government should have taken steps tn keen this chamber fully occupied during the next fortnight in the consideration of some portion of its programme. The other day it was suggested that the Senate was becoming almost useless as a part of our legislative machine. I contended then, and I repeat nowj that this chamber has powers almost co-equal with those of another place, and that a larger number of bills to give effect to the Government’s policy should be initiated in the Senate. The business-paper in another place contains a number of measures, some of which might very well have been initiated in the Senate to keep this chamber occupied, and thus bring nearer the day” when the Government’s policy would be put into operation. Whilst the Ministry is to be commended for having made this intimation so as to save honorable senators the trouble and inconvenience of travelling from the uttermost ends of Australia to Canberra, when there was no work to do, the present state of affairs is a reflection on the business methods of the Government. I hope it will, at an early date, place before this chamber a substantial portion of its programme for our consideration. The sooner we have it the sooner we shall know bow to handle it.
raise the same objection on previous occasions when the Senate has been asked to adjourn for a week or two until business comes up to it from another place. I can assure him that when he returns after this adjournment, he and his colleagues will find ample work to keep them occupied until well on towards Christmas.
– Is that a threat or a promise?
– A promise. We are hoping to receive from another place, at an early date, the Commonwealth Bank (Savings Bank) Bill, the Housing Bill, a measure relating to the financial agreement, and the Red Hill to Port Augusta Railway Bill, as well as a number of smaller measures.
Question renolveJ in the affirmative.
[3.51”].: - In moving - That the Senate do now adjourn,
Yesterday Senator Barwell asked me if I could inform the Senate when the first report of the North Australia Commission would be available, and I stated that I would ascertain, and give him a reply this morning. I presume that the honorable senator’s question relates to the commission’s scheme of development for North Australia. The Northern Australia Act provides that as soon as practicable after its appointment the commission shall prepare and submit to the Minister a scheme for the development of North Australia, that is, that portion of what was previously the Northern Territory north of the 20th parallel, together with information and explanations ra detail in relation thereto. With a view to complying with the provisions of the act, the commission, since its appointment, has been actively engaged in collating the necessary data preliminary to submitting its detailed scheme of development for North Australia. The commission has, since May last, when travelling became practicable after the wet season, traversed a considerable portion of the central and eastern districts of North Australia, and is now engaged in investigating the potentialities of the Victoria River District in the western portion of North Australia. As soon as the commission has completed its investigations, and considered the data collected, it should be in a position to submit a scheme of development for North Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.53 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 October 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1927/19271014_senate_10_116/>.