10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator theHon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1928.
Boards, Commissions, &c. - Statement showing those appointed by the Bruce-Page Government, and annual cost of each.
Federal Capital - Report of the Federal Capital Commission to the Ministerfor Home and Territories for the quarter ended 30th June, 1928.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act- National Memorials Ordinance - Determination by the Federal Capital Commission of the nomenclature of divisions of, and public places in, the Canberra city district, together with plan showing such nomenclature.
Superannuation Act - Sixth Annual Report of the Superannuation Fund Management Board, year ended 30th June, 1928.
I am now in a position to supply him with the following information: - 1. (a) £300 per annum, which includes rental for the house, electricity and services. (b) 10 per cent. of salary; the amount was definitely fixed by the Government and is one of the terms of the Chief Commissioner’s engagement. (c) £2,000. See also answer to (a). (d) From date of occupation to 30th June, 1927 - £200 per annum, thereafter £300 per annum. (e) The residence was erected for the Administrator of the Territory. So far as can be ascertained, it appears that he paid no rental for the house, electricity, and services. He received a special allowance, in addition to his salary as permanent head of the Department of Home Affairs, for acting as administrator. Between the time that the building ceased to be the residence of the administrator and its occupation by the Chief Commissioner it was used temporarily as flats, and, later, as a mess and head-quarters of the Federal Capital Advisory Committee, the members of which paid prescribed daily rates for living accommodation, but no rent was charged to the committee for that portion of the building, used for office purposes. 2. (a) £100 per annum. (b) £547 per annum.
Will the Minister furnish the Senate with a statement showing the different boards, commissions, tribunals, &c., brought into existence by the Bruce-Page Government, together with the annual cost of each board?
I am now in a position to furnish the following particulars: -
Development and Migration Commission. - Exclusive of expenditure on migration activities which has been of a recurring nature since the inception of the joint Commonwealth and State Migration Scheme during the financial year 1920-21, and which expenditure amounted to £66,444 in 1926-27, and £78, 135 in 1927-28, the annual cost of the Development and Migration Commission has been as follows : -1926-27, £26,775; 1927-28, £45,957.
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. - It is pointed out that prior to the establishment of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, very similar functions were carried out by the Institute of Science and Industry, which was in operation before the present Government took office. Expenditure (Institute and Council) - 1925-26. £31,464; 1926-27, £39,658; 1927-28, £81,296 home and Territories Department.
Inquiry into treatment of natives in New Guinea.- 1923-24, £882.
Federal Territory Land Board. - 1925-26, £17 6s. 2d
Northern Territory Primary Producers’ Board. - Expenditure, nil. Replaced by Primary Production Board, Northern Territory.
Board of Inquiry, Aboriginal Compounds. - 1923-24, £18 6s. 7d
Marine Board Inquiry, Rachel Cohen. - 1923- 24, £52 10s. 8d
Australian War Memorial Board of Management. 1925-26, nil; 1926-27, £22 14s.; 1927-28, nil. Created September, 1925.
Northern Territory Land Board. - 1924-25, £2,152 7s. 4d.; 1925-26, £2,458 14s. 5d.; 1926-27, £1,359. Ceased to function.31st January, 1927.
Primary Production Board, Northern Territory. Previously composed of members of Northern Territory Land Board, now administered by North Australia Commission. - Expenditure, nil. Created September, 1924.
*Federal Capital Commission. - 1924-25, £2,729 12s. 7d.; 1925-26, £8,80811s. 7d.; 1926- 27, £7,882 4s. 10d.; 1927-28, £9,112 6s. 8d. Salaries and expenses of Commissioners.
Special Board of Inquiry, Immigration Act. - 1925-26, £6,469; 1926-27, £998
North Australia Commission. - 1926-27, £5,792; 1927- 28, £8,277. Administrative expenses only.
*Owing to the extensive ramifications of the Commission’s activities, it is not possible to determine upon any amount apart from the figures given, as being purely administrative expenditure.
Department of Works and Railways
Federal Aid Roads Board.- 1927-28, £153. Appointed under Federal Aid Roads Act of 1926.
Drafting Investigation Committee. - Appointed 3rd July, 1925. Ceased 1st June, 1926
Department of Markets
Dried Fruits Advances Repayment Board. - 1925-26, £25; 1926-27, £262; 1927-28, £226
Committee controlling Trade Publicity in the United Kingdom. - The coat of the Trade Publicity Scheme is borne by the dairy produce, dried fruits and canned fruits organizations, and the Commonwealth on a pound for pound basis. The Commonwealth’s liability is limited to £100,000. The members of the Publicity Committee receive no remuneration for their services and the secretarial and other administrative work is carried on by the Department of Markets.
Australian Maize Growers’ Council. - Nil
Dairy Produce Control Board, Dried Fruits Control Board, Canned Fruits Control Board. - These boards were brought into existence pursuant to the Dairy Produce Control Act 1924, the Dried Fruits Export Control Act 1924, and the Canned Fruits Export Control Act 1926. The expenditure of the boards is defrayed from levies collected from the producers in whose interest the boards are operating.
Department of Trade and Customs
Commonwealth Lighthouse Tender Board. - Expenditure, nil. The members of this board act in an honorary capacity.
Expenses of Government Representatives on Export Sugar Committee. - 1926-27, £51; 1927-28, £57.
Department of Defence
Defence Standing Committee. - Constituted 1925-26. No expenditure involved, the various members of the board receiving their salaries in other capacities.
Air Accidents Investigation Committee. - 1927-28, £863 14s
Committee to consider the provision, increase, reserve, storage and control of Oil Fuel and Motor Spirit. - Constituted 1926-27. No expenditure involved, the various members of the board receiving their salaries in other capacities.
Department of Health
Federal Health Council. - 1926-27, £211; 1927- 28, £287. Created November, 1926
Advisory Board (H. P. Brown, Esquire) loaned by the British Government at a salary of £1,500 for a period of twelve months. 1922-23, £2,512.
Department of the Treasury.
Civilians’ War Claims Board.- 1925-26, £107;
1926-27, £125; 1927-28, £64.
Loan Council.- 1923-24, £114; 1924-25, £142; 1925-26, £59; 1926-27, £28; 1927-28, £13
Taxation Boards of Review and Referees. - 1923-24, £4,956; 1924-25, £5,183; 1925-28, £4,805; 1926-27, £5,969; 1927-28, £7,167
I have now been furnished with the following answers by the Minister for Home and Territories: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The honorable the Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice-
Whether Parliament will have an opportunity of considering the proposal of the Government to grant a bounty of ls. per ton upon coal exported from New South Wales before it is given effect to?
– The right honorable the Prime Minister has supplied the following answer: -
No indication’ can at present be given as to when it will be possible to give effect to the proposal of the Commonwealth Government, as negotiations in the matter are still proceeding, the action proposed by the Commonwealth being dependent upon a reduction of 4s. per ton in the price of coal for local consumption.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended and bill (on motion by Senator Sir GEORGE Pearce) read a first time.
[3.13]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable senators will recall that prior to the last recess the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) promised that legislation would be introduced this session to provide for the appointment to the Federal Capital Commission of an elected representative of the residents’ of the Federal Capital Territory. This bill is in fulfilment of that promise. It is also desirable to make clear the position of the Federal Capital Commission in respect of the supply of essential services, such as electricity and water, from the Territory, to persons outside the Territory; and the supply of electricity to the Territory from bodies outside the Territory ; as well as to make an adjustment in regard to the liability incurred as between the Federal Capital Commission and the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner in respect of the railway within the Territory. Further it is considered desirable to remove any doubt as to the retention by the Governor-General of the power conferred by the “Seat of Go’vernment Administration Act 1910, to make ordinances relating to the Territory.
– That is the fly in the ointment.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.It is not a large fly after all.
In regard to representation, the bill provides that the commission shall consist of a chief commissioner, a second commissioner and. a third commissioner. The chief and second commissioners are to be appointed by the Government and the third commissioner is to -be an elected representative of the people. The tenure of office of the three commissioners is to he twelve months. The term of office of the present Chief Commissioner will terminate in a year, so that Parliament will have an opportunity, if it so desires, to review the provisions necessary for the future government of the Territory. The third commissioner as the elected representative of the people, will be entitled to attend and vote at meetings of the commission, but will not otherwise take part in the executive or administrative work of that body. The election of the third commissioner is to be conducted by the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth under the general provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act as applied to the election of members of the House of Representatives. Subject to certain exceptions, any person resident in the Territory who is at least 21 years of age and is a natural born or naturalized subject of the King will be eligible for nomination as third commissioner. The exceptions are: - (a) officers or employees of the commission; (b) officers of the Commonwealth Public Service who are employed in that section of the service directly concerned in the administration of the act - under existing conditions this means the officers employed in the secretariat of the Home and Territories Department - and (c) persons pecuniarily interested in any agreement with the commission except as shareholders in a company. The bill provides for meetings of the commission to be held at not less than fortnightly intervals. At present meetings of the commission may be convened as may be considered necessary by the Chief Commissioner, subject to any direction issued by the Minister. The remuneration of the Chief Commissioner and of the second commissioner will be fixed at annual rates not exceeding £3,000 and £2,000 respectively. That of the third commissioner will be by way of fees in accordance with his attendance at meetings of the commission. The fee for each meeting will be £5 5s. while the amount payable in such fees is not to exceed £250 per annum.
Persons entitled to vote at the election for the third commissioner will be “ owners “ and “ occupiers “ as denned in the bill. In effect, the bill confers the right to vote on - (a) all owners of landed property in the Territory, if not let to other persons for occupancy. In such cases the occupiers shall have the right to vote; (b) all lessees of land in the Territory, if the lessees have not sub-let to some other persons for occupancy. In such cases the occupiers shall have the right to vote; (c) all householders in the Territory, if occupying houses under conditions requiring the payment of a rental not less than £15 per annum; (d) all shopkeepers or other persons engaged in any other business, or in any profession, if renting premises, the rental of which is not less than £15 per annum; and (e) trustees, or a body corporate, if an owner or occupier, will have one vote to be exercised by a nominated person. The condition as to rental is proposed after full consideration of the conditions in the Territory, and will meet all cases of householders or tenants of any other kind where the circumstances suggest permanent establishment in the Territory, although in many cases these persons are not in occupancy of property which is at present subject to charges for rates. The provision that as between an owner and an occupier, in respect of any particular property, the occupier shall have the vote is in agreement with a general principle of municipal representation. No person is to have more than one vote. The definition of “ owner “ or “ occupier “ has been framed to meet all reasonable conditions of tenancy. Action has been taken to meet the cases in which a property has been subdivided for business purposes and the building is occupied by several tenants. Where in such cases the tenant claims the vote it is considered reasonable that as a condition of its exercise the rental should not be less than £15 a year. This again is in conformity with a general principle of municipal representation which fixes a minimum annual value as a condition of franchise. In this connexion, regard has been given to the conditions of householders at various settlements known as the Causeway, Lower Acton Cottages, Westridge, and Molonglo, who occupy tenements rented from the commission. These tenements are structures designed to meet special conditions for the housing of workmen, and do not conform to the general standards for building construction in Canberra. The occupants are not charged rates and their tenancy is terminable at a week’s notice. Generally, however, it is accepted that these householders are permanently established in Canberra, and it is considered that their interests in the Territory are sufficiently substantial to entitle them to vote. The rents paid range from 6s. to 18s. per week, and the amount of £15 fixed as a rental eligibility will not prejudice these householders. It is not proposed to regard residences at Russell Hill, or in the camps known as White City, Parkes’ Barracks, Red Hill, Westridge and the Causeway Camp as giving eligibility to vote. At Russell Hill, blocks of land are rented from the commission at a charge of 4s. 6d. a week, for which also a garbage and pan service and a water supply are given, but no electric light. Structures of any kind can be erected on this land.- Generally, they are of a temporary or flimsy character, and might be regarded as huts or shacks. As these blocks become vacant they will not be re-let. It is the commission’s intention ultimately to abolish the settlement, which was established to meet the circumstances of a migrant or nomad class. At the camps, the residents are single men or men living apart from their families. Cubicles are supplied at a rental of from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. a week. The men make their own mess arrangements, but are supplied with firewood and electric light free by the commission. Persons who will be debarred from voting will therefore be persons who are boarding or lodging at the various houses of accommodation and are not occupiers or owners of property in the Territory, as well as men in barracks or camps, and those located at Russell Hill.
Section 14 of the principal act defines the powers of the Federal Capital Commission. Doubt has arisen as to the powers of the commission to supply water and electricity to persons or bodies outside the Territory, and also as to the powers of the commission to enter into agreements with persons or bodies outside the Territory for the supply of requirements to the Territory. The commission at present supplies water and electricity to the town of Queanbeyan, and is considering the advisability of entering into an agreement with the Government of New South Wales for the supply of electricity to the Territory from the Burrinjuck system. The object of the relative clauses of the bill is to remove any doubt as to the powers of the commission in respect of the foregoing matters. Section 21 of the principal act provides that the commission shall be liable for the amount expended by the Commonwealth in connexion with the establishment and administration of the Territory prior to the 1st January, 1925, with the stipulation that such provision shall not apply to the expenditure incurred by the Commonwealth in connexion with the control of Parliament House. It is considered that the commission should be exempted from the liability for the expenditure incurred in connexion with the construction and maintenance of the railway from Queanbeyan to Canberra, and also with the expenditure in connexion with the survey of the proposed railway routes between Canberra and Jervis Bay, and between Canberra and Yass. The responsibility for such expenditure should rest upon the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. Clause 14 of the bill proposes to exempt the commission from the liability for this expenditure. The amount deducted from the commission’s liability . in respect of railway expenditure is £75,360 5s. 10d., of which £74,837 14s. 3d. is in respect of the railway from Queanbeyan to Canberra, and £522 lis. 7d. in respect of the survey of railway routes between Canberra and Jervis Bay and between Canberra and Yass.
The amendment of the principal act embodied in clause 16 is proposed to settle beyond any doubt a question which arose recently in connexion with the question of housing. A housing ordinance was framed to enable the commission to be treated as a prescribed authority under the Commonwealth Housing Scheme. In July 1928, the legal advisers of the Commonwealth Bank called attention to section 12 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910, which prescribes that until the Parliament makes other provision for the government of the Territory, the Governor-General may make ordinances having the force of law in the Territory. The point was raised by them whether by the appointment of the commission under the 1924 act some other provision had not been made by the Parliament for the government of the Territory and that therefore the power of the GovernorGeneral to make ordinances relating to housing had expired. Whilst they recognized that the point was a doubtful one they suggested that the doubt should be removed. The Government is advised that the position is-not as set out by the solicitors and that the powers of the commission in relation to the government of the Territory are subject to ordinances made under the act of 1910, and that the existing ordinances are perfectly valid. In order, however, to place the matter beyond doubt, the proposed amendment is being made.
– Is it a validating amendment ?
– Yes. It is most undesirable that any doubt should exist as to the power to make these ordinances. Not only the ordinance’ referred to, but also every ordinance made since 1910, might be affected. The question was raised by the Commonwealth Bank authorities in respect to the housing ordinance after that body had been asked to become the “ authority “ in the Territory under the Housing Act. As sums of money would be involved it was thought that there should be no doubt whatever as to the competency of the commission to make the ordinance.
– Will this bill make any difference to the ordinance we discussed the other day?
– It will do no more than remove- any doubt which exists in respect of any ordinance. It will validate all the ordinances which have been made. The Attorney-General doubts the necessity for any validation, but seeing that the question has been raised, it has been thought, advisable to remove the possibility of doubt by inserting a validating clause in the bill.
I suggest to honorable senators that this bill merely carries to a further stage the provision already made for the government of this Territory. If anything could lower the dignity of this Parliament it is that municipal matters affecting Canberra should be continually brought forward on the floor of Parliament. The affairs of a city with a population of less than 8,000, while suitable for discussion by a municipal body, are certainly not matters to be brought before the National Parliament.
– Hitherto this Parliament was the only place in which these matters could be raised.
-When this bill becomes law, and the representative of the residents of Canberra takes his place on the commission, the citizens will have an opportunity through him to voice their grievances and to express their views at the meetings of the commission. Their representative will have ° power to call for papers, to inspect books, and to find out what is going on, and he will be able to voice his opinion in the proper way in the meetings of the commission. If this bill does nothing else, I trust that it will remove the discussion of these matters from this Parliament, so that they will be dealt with in the right place.
It must be remembered that the Federal Capital Commission is different from ordinary municipal bodies in that it spends money contributed not only by the residents of the Federal Capital Territory, but. by the ratepayers of the whole of Australia. There are some who think that the expenditure of money in Canberra is a matter affecting only the people who live here, but I point out that the great bulk of the money expended in the Federal Capital Territory is supplied by the people of Australia, the residents of Canberra providing only a small proportion of it. It is therefore only right that the predominating control in the commission should be held by men who represent the taxpayers of Australia as a whole.
Probably during this debate some honorable senators will take the opportunity of criticizing what has been done in Canberra. It is quite easy, when any big constructional work has reached a certain stage of development, for anybody to come along and point out that it could have been better done in some other, way. lt is easy to be wise after the event. But some consideration should be given to the% circumstances in which the
Federal Capital Commission had to construct Canberra. When the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra was first contemplated, it was regarded as a process that would take a considerable number of years to accomplish. However, through the pressure exerted by public opinion, and the desire of the people of New South Wales to have effect given to a definite promise that had been extended to them that the Federal Capital would be established in this Territory, the commission was called upon to make a concentrated effort in order to achieve, in about two years, what normally would be effected in five or six years. The early constructional activities in this Territory took place at a time when Australia had not recovered its industrial equilibrium, when1 it was still suffering from the effects of the war, when it was exceedingly difficult to obtain efficient labour - due to the fact that building activity was great in all the cities of the Commonwealth - and when exceptionally high wages had to be paid to entice craftsmen to leave the more settled centres. In viewing all the circumstances one should be fair enough to admit that while mistakes have undoubtedly been made, and construction costs have been higher than some might regard as reasonable, a wonderful work has been accomplished. While it is the bounden duty of every representative of the people to be critical of public expenditure, and to call attention to faults of administration, in this instance criticism might well be tempered by a generous recognition of the difficulties under which the commission laboured to establish the Federal Capital.
I shall give one illustration, not necessarily to honorable senators, but to those critics outside whom it may reach, in order to bring home to them that things are not as black as they are painted. Most honorable senators who are now in this chamber were members of the Senate when the Federal Parliament was housed in the State Parliament House, Melbourne. They know how inconvenient was that building, how scanty the accommodation, how difficult it was to obtain rooms in which committees could meet, the dearth of accommodation for Ministers, and the many other drawbacks which made the place ill-suited to house this Parliament. Externally it is a magnificent building; internally it leaves much to be desired. It cost the taxpayers of Victoria £750,000, and was built at a time when the best paid tradesmen received not more than 10s. a day, and when labourers’ wages were from 5s. to 6s. a day. Honorable senators have seen what was achieved under most favorable conditions for that cost. -Not one of the critics of the Federal Capital has ever held up the State Parliament House of Victoria as a brilliant and shining example of how things used to be done in the “good old days.” Let me contrast it with this building, which, inclusive of fittings, cost less than £700,000. It was built in a territory situated a considerable distance from our principal centres of population, in what was then the bush, at a time when it was difficult to obtain both labour and material, and when wages were at their peak. Labourers received 25s. a day, and tradesmen as much as £2 a day. Yet, while this building may not be so imposing externally as the building in Melbourne it is infinitely superior to that structure in its internal fittings and accommodation. I ask the critics who complain that money has been wasted in Canberra to contrast the two buildings. Personally, I consider that we have secured a better return for our expenditure of considerably less than £700,000 than was secured by the people of Victoria for their outlay of £750,000.
– I had thought of moving the adjournment of this debate, being under the impression that this was a bill of vast importance which needed a considerable amount of thought. Having examined it, I do not think that it is worth spending very much time on it. For that reason my remarks will be brief. When this Government first introduced the Seat of Government Administration Bill four years ago, that measure met with the’ strenuous opposition of my colleagues and myself. We contended that there was no necessity to appoint a Federal Capital Commission. A considerable amount of work had been done in the Federal Capital by the Home and Territories Department, and many foundations had been satisfactorily laid by the officers of that department, which at that time was responsible for ‘constructional and development works in this Territory. My colleagues and I pointed out that just when favorable progress was being made, and the major portion of the difficult work had been accomplished, the Government conceived the idea of appointing a commission of a very expensive nature to’ do what might be termed the fancy work. The Government took away all responsibility from the department which had acquitted itself so well. Four years have elapsed since the commission was appointed, and I have not changed my opinion. I still believe that it should not have been appointed. Had this Government introduced a bill to annul the Seat of Government Administration Act, I should have supported it cheerfully. I cannot support this measure, as it is neither fish nor flesh, nor good red herring. It is a most spineless thing and is no adequate reply to the requests,.^ the people of this Territory for representation on the commission. It is merely fencing with a somewhat difficult situation in which the Government has found itself. I shall not take up the time of the Senate in debating whether the commission has done good or bad work, and shall make only a passing reference to the apologia of the right honorable the Leader of the Senate on behalf of the commission. I shall content myself with examining one or two features of the measure. First of all it proposes to extend the duration of the appointment of the first and second commissioners by one year, at their present salaries. It also makes provision for the election of a third commissioner, and purports by that means to satisfy ,the request of the people of the Territory for representation.
– Does the honorable senator think it will satisfy them ?
– Not by any . means, and if the Government thinks that it will it is making a colossal mistake. It must be remembered that the citizens of this Territory have at present no voice in the affairs of the nation.
– A disgrace.
– Until quite recently they were fully enfranchised citizens of Australia and it is merely through the exigencies of their method of livelihood that they are compelled, to transfer their residence to this Territory.
– They are foreigners in their own country.
– As Senator Graham suggests, they are foreigners in their own country. They are similarly placed to the Uitlanders of South Africa who precipitated the South African war. They have sought a voice in the affairs of the Territory in two ways. First they sought representation in this Parliament on the same basis as that granted to the citizens of the Northern Territory. Their request was not unreasonable, and no stable argument could be advanced against it. However, such representation was. denied them. Then the citizens of this Territory solicited representation on the commission itself so that they might have a voice in what the Leader of the Government has termed the scheme of municipal government. It is really something more than that, as greater responsibilities and activities are involved in this instance. The Government is prepared to grant such representation by countenancing the election of a third commissioner. But that alleged representative will be elected by only a comparatively few people resident in the Territory, and quite a large number will have no voice at all in his election. Such a form of franchise is ridiculous, and I contend that nothing short of adult franchise will satisfactorily meet the situation.
– Surely the honorable senator agrees that there should be some degree of permanency before citizens are granted the franchise?
– I believe that the citizens of this Territory are endowed with sufficient intelligence to be granted a vote to enable them to elect a representative of , the commission. Prior to their transfer to Canberra they enjoyed the privilege of adult franchise and voted for their representatives in both this and the State House. I shall deal now with the representative himself. He must not be an officer or employee of the commission. But why should an officer or employee of the commission who feels that he is qualified to fill the position of third commissioner be deprived of the right to offer himself for election? No municipal council or roads board in Australia will deny to its employees the right to submit themselves for election as members of the council or board as the case may be.
– Does the honorable senator claim that an employee of a town council could also be a member of the council ?
– I wish the honorable senator would let me proceed. Under the provisions of this bill, the position of third commissioner will not be a permanent one. He will attend a sitting of the commission once a fortnight, and his remuneration is not to exceed £250. He will have the right to vote, but his voice will be that of one crying in the wilderness. He will have two other commissioners against him, and one of those will be armed with a casting vote.
If the people of Canberra are to be represented on the Federal Capital Commission, their representative should bn elected by adult franchise, and the powers of their representative should at least be equal to those of the second commissioner. In other words, the third commissioner should be authorized to be constantly on the work of the commission. All that this bill will allow him to do is to attend a meeting of the commission once a fortnight, and record his protest against anything that may have been done; but he will have no power to remedy it. That kind of representation is a farce, and I venture to suggest that if a plebiscite of the citizens of the Territory were taken, the Government’s proposal would be rejected.
– -What does the honorable senator suggest?
– That the third commissioner should be elected by adult franchise and that he should have a permanent seat on the commission and share in the commission’s work. Members of the Development and Migration Commission have different spheres of work allocated to them, and in the same way a share of the Federal Capital Commission’s work could be entrusted to the third commissioner. In reply to a question of .mine to-day, the right honorable the Leader of the Senate frankly admitted that clause 16 of this bill is ,a validating provision. This clause reads as follows : - (1.) After section twenty-eight of the principal act the following section is inserted : - “ 28a. Section twelve of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910 is amended by omitting the words ‘ Until the Parliament makes other provision for the government of the Territory,’.” (2.) This section shall be deemed to have commenced on the date of the passing of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924.
This provision was inserted in another place on an amendment moved by Sir Neville Howse, who was the Minister in charge of the bill. At the moment, I do not propose to discuss the ethics of including a provision of this character in such a bill as this, but I call attention to the fact that when Sir Neville Howse was asked in another place whether the clause was intended to validate ordinances he replied in the negative, yet to-day, Senator Pearce, in answer to my question, frankly admitted that it was a validating provision. Either Sir Neville Howse was ignorant of the purpose or effect of the amendment he was moving, or I am reluctantly compelled to the conclusion that he wilfully misled honorable members in another place. It is quite evident that this clause has been added to the bill in order to validate the Kerbing Ordinance so recently discussed in the Senate, and other ordinances issued by the Federal Capital Commission. Senator Pearce said that we should not bring forward in the National Parliament matters that could be better handled by the Federal Capital Commission, because they are merely details of municipal administration. I think that he should not have asked the Senate to waste its time on a worthless measure such as that we have now before us. I hope the bill will not be carried.
– The bill will prove to be most unfair to the people of Canberra, who asked the Government for bread and have been given a stone.
– No; they have been given a “ damper “ according to some people.
– It is hard to understand how a Government which believes in adult suffrage for the election of members of this Parliament should seek to deprive the residents of Canberra of the full franchise. If adult franchise is right, as I believe it is, it should be given to the residents of Canberra. If the Government were really anxious to help the people of the Territory it would give them a direct representative in this Parliament, or, failing that, something in the form of a municipal council, so that they could to a great extent govern themselves, subject, of course, to this Parliament. To my mind, the days of the commission have gone by. Indeed, I am of opinion that it was quite unnecessary to appoint a commission in the first place. For some years the development of the Capital was undertaken quite well by the Works and Railways Department, and if the Government cannot see its way to grant the measure of reform of which I have spoken, why cannot it still control the Territory through the Minister for Works and Railways? I am sure that it would have been a better method of administering the affairs of the Federal Capital than is now proposed. I am afraid that the Government’s proposal will not afford any great satisfaction to the residents of Canberra. If I were placed in the. position of these people I should resent what the Government offers. The people of Canberra have been forced to come here by the transfer of the .seat of government from Melbourne, where they lived under excellent conditions, and where they had the privilege of voting for those they thought fit to represent them in Parliament. They are isolated from the big cities and from, the many comforts and. privileges to which they were accustomed. They are suffering many disadvantages, and one of them is the great problem of what to do with their children when ‘ they reach the working age..
– What becomes of the boys and girls in the outback parts of Australia.
– I regard that as a stupid interjection.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
– Order! The honorable senator must withdraw that expression. It is unparliamentary.
– Certainly I withdraw it. The other cities of Australia are industrial centres in which there is ample opportunity for placing boys and girls in employment when they reach the working age.
– But what about the boys and girls in country towns ?
– Canberra is supposed to be the federal city, and not a country town, yet it does not provide an outlet for the children who are growing up. That is one reason why the residents of the Territory should be governed well and democratically, and why they should be given every possible privilege. The only opportunity they will have to get democratic legislation is through a change of government, but, unfortunately, being disfranchised, they are not allowed to vote for any one in this Parliament, and even their franchise for the election of a third commissioner is a restricted one. If the third commissioner were given some power, the position would not be so bad; but, with his limited powers, what value would he be to the citizens? If honorable senators believe in a democratic franchise for the people of Australia, they cannot . refuse to give it to the people of Canberra.
– I should not have spoken on the second reading of this bill if Senator Hoare had not described my interjection as a stupid one.
– Order! The honorable senator has withdrawn his remark.
– I did not quite catch the honorable senator’s withdrawal ; but as his retort to my interjection was made with a laugh I took it in good part, and in the same spirit I reply that the honorable senator’s speech was not silly, but was made from the viewpoint of one who knows nothing of the conditions in the back-blocks of Australia. The honorable senator speaks from the viewpoint of a man who has lived in an industrial community, and will not let his eyes wander afield. I am well aware that the people who were transferred from Melbourne to Canberra had a pretty rough time when they first arrived here, but it is surprising to learn in conversation with public servants and’ their families how they have reconciled . themselves ,-to the conditions of the Austraiian bush. They have discovered that this is after all not such an awful place to live. in.
I rose more particularly to refer to the lack of opportunities for the children in many out-back centres, and to compare their position with those of children and their parents living in Canberra. Senator Hoare surely is aware that in Canberra there are excellent educational facilities, electric light, water supply, and sewerage services, motor buses, perfect roads and footpaths, kerbs and gutterings, tennis courts, and recreation grounds generally. I believe the average public servant in Canberra will say that his conditions are not altogether bad.
– They are better than they were in Melbourne.
– In some respects they are. What opportunities have the children of a bank manager or a bank clerk in some of the remote parts of the Commonwealth? Their conditions are not at all comparable with those of the children in Canberra.
– But the parents of such children have a voice in the government of the country.
– In many of the large municipalities there is a limited franchise, just as is proposed in this case. In the latest amendment of the New South Wales Municipal Act, provision has been made for practically adult suffrage; but it is questionable whether it will be a success. Canberra, however, is in an embryonic stage.
– But Canberra is not a city.
– It possesses all those facilities which are found in the capital cities of the Commonwealth. In suggesting an elective municipal council to control the activities of Canberra, honorable senators opposite should realize that as the money spent in establishing this city has been contributed by the taxpayers throughout the Commonwealth, it is only reasonable that the Government should nominate at least two of the members of the present commission to ensure that the money shall be wisely spent. Do honorable senators opposite suggest that in one sweep the Government should hand over the whole of the civic activities of Canberra to a municipal council?
– The control would be less autocratic than it is to-day.
– If it were under a dictator, or an autocratic form of government, that was threatening the life of the community, the position would be entirely different. But that is not so. I agree with the Minister that there is much to be said in favour of the work done by Sir John Butters and his co-commissioners. I am not unmindful of the fact that at a time when work was progressing in a normal way, the Government received twelve months’ notice of the approaching visit of theirRoyal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York, and the commission had to expedite its work to a remarkable extent in order to make this city attractive, and capable of accommodating those honoured guests. It had also to provide a House of Parliament in which honorable members could transact their duties in comfort, and in a businesslike way. It is safe to assume that if the work were now being commenced many of the mistakes which have been made in the past would beavoided. Personally, I think the proposed franchise is sufficiently liberal, and that those living in shacks and the temporary tenements mentioned by the Minister, for which they are paying less than £15 a year, should not be entitled to vote. Such persons have not a permanent interest in Canberra. I do not think, however, than any resident of Canberra, whether a business man or a public servant, will be able to carry out his ordinary duties and also attend to the requirements of the people for the remuneration provided for the third commissioner. It seems unfair that if the third commissioner appointed is a public servant, and obtains leave from his department to attend meetings of the commission, he shall have to make up the time he has devoted to his commission work. If he is to repay to the Commonwealth the time he has occupied on commission work the remuneration will be of little value to him. If the third commissioner does his job conscientiously in his department, how will he be able to give his time to the work of the commission?
– How does a member of a City Council do that work to-day?
– Some of them are paid, indirectly; at least, I assume so. In most municipalities, apart from the big cities, the work is not as heavy as it is here - it is more routine work. I should like to see more liberal provision made in connexion with the appointment of a third commissioner. I favour a full-time commissioner, who could be temporarily relieved from his permanent duties. If the third commissioner is a business man, the salary should be commensurate with the responsible duties he has to undertake; and from a resident’s view-point, T think the third commissioner should be permitted to devote the whole of his time to the job.
– If he devotes the whole of his time to commission work, would he not have to resign his position in the Public Service?
– He could be seconded. He could be granted leave from his official position for a period of twelve months.
– How would his work be carried on in the meantime?
– No man is indispensable. During the absence overseas of some of the highest officials in the Commonwealth Public Service, their work is carried on by other members of the department. After a term of twelve months had expired, the member, if not re-elected, could return to his position. Generally, I am in favour of the bill, and although it does not go as far as I should like, I intend to support it.
.- I welcome this measure as an attempt, although a feeble one, on the part of the Government to remove some of the disabilities under which the citizens of Canberra are living; but something much more drastic must be attempted at an early date. It appears to me that the first step to be taken is to abolish the Federal Capital Commission. Now that Parliament is functioning in Canberra there seems to be no valid reason why all the constructional work to be undertaken should not be placed under the control of the Department of Works and
Railways. In place of Sir John Butters we need a man of experience in the administration of municipal matters. The Government should obtain the services of a man with an experience similar to that of the Town Clerk of Melbourne or of Sydney, who should have associated with him, in a subordinate capacity, an engineer to advise him on technical matters such as road and footpath construction. The actual work of building construction’ could be carried on departmentally. I have frequently raised my voice in the Senate against the policy which the present commission is pursuing in regard to the construction of the Federal Capital. There is not a single complaint which I have made, or a prophecy upon which I have ventured, which has not been fully confirmed by experience. Quite recently it was discovered that tons of cement which ought to have gone into the foundation of the permanent administrative building had not been so used. I do not know yet what are the facts which led to this particular blunder, but a very little inquiry convinced me that the cause would probably be found in the lack of business acumen displayed by the commission in selecting a supervisor for the work. I am informed that the architect entrusted with that work was an undischarged bankrupt whose previous career would hardly bear inspection. While no one expects that the commission should personally oversee every detail of construction, there can be no question about it being the duty of that body to see that only men of good reputation and character are employed on that class of work. In this matter, at all events, the commission appears to have failed lamentably.
I have repeatedly complained of the extravagant form of construction that was forced upon the tenants of the Civic Centre. On more than one occasion I raised my voice against the folly of tenants there being compelled to buy and bring tiles all the way from Ballarat to roof the buildings when tiles were manufactured in the Territory itself. No sufficient explanation has, to my mind, ever been furnished for this action, except the suggestion that the Chief Commissioner would suffer from a severe headache if he had to contemplate a building with, any other form of tiles.
– I think it is cowardly on the part of the honorable senator to attack a man who cannot defend himself in this chamber.
– I decline to allow Senator Cox to teach me my duty in this matter. I am a member of this Senate, and if I conceive it to be my duty-
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - Order 1 I ask honorable senators not to indulge in personalities, which lead to disorder.
– When I raised this question in the Senate the only explanation offered was that the use of ordinary tiles would be an outrage on the artistic sense of the Chief Commissioner. I say deliberately that this is not a satisfactory explanation. Certainly the action of the commission in compelling some of the tenants to pay an additional £200 merely to gratify the taste of the Chief Commissioner cannot be justified. The conclusion to which I am now strongly inclined is that some form of commission on these contracts found its way into the hands of the architect responsible for the original plans of these buildings.
Again, very recently I had occasion’, in conjunction with Senator Duncan, to protest against the amending Building and Services Ordinance 1924-1925, No. 17. That ordinance was fully debated in the Senate, and I very much regret to say that honorable senators were grievously misled by the Leader of the Senate in regard to it.
– Order! I must ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the bill, and the provisions contained therein.
– With all respect to you, Mr. President, I submit that my remarks are relevant to the bill, the concluding clause of which contains a provision to validate the ordinance to which I refer. On the occasion in question the Leader of the Senate led us to believe that the Attorney-General had been asked to advise upon the situation, and had given his opinion that the ordinance was within the powers of the commission, and was otherwise fully justified. The opinion set out in the note read by the right honorable gentleman appeared to me, however, to be so astonishing that I was led to make further inquiries with the result that later he was forced . to admit that the AttorneyGeneral had not personally seen it. I was then informed that it had been handed to Senator Pearce by an officer of the Attorney-General’s Department. The Minister stated further, that the Attorney-General had not given a written opinion upon the matter under discussion, and it was very evident, from the statement of the Leader of the Senate, that no real consideration had been given to the ordinance. In fact, from a perusal of the substance of the note handed te the Minister, one can only come to the conclusion that they were prepared by an office boy. And yet Senator Pearce had no hesitation in attaching to such legal nonsense all the fame and prestige of the Attorney-General’s great legal reputation, and asserting that the Government would welcome an appeal to the courts tj test the issue. There is no doubt whatever that his attitude then was responsible for many honorable senators taking their stand behind the Government.
I remind honorable senators that the burden is laid upon them individually to scrutinize all such ordinances and disallow them if, in their opinion, they ave not fully justified. I ask them now to consider the position in which they have placed themselves by their action- on that occasion. When confronted with the. prospect of litigation, the Government was compelled to admit that there was at least grave uncertainty as to the legality of such an ordinance, and it threatened that if such proved to be the case, itwould bring in a bill during this Parliament to put the matter, in its opinion, beyond all dispute. Apparently this is now being attempted in the concluding clause of the measure now before the Senate.
– Is there not some doubt about that clause - that it is outside the scope of the bill?
– I think it is. If the Government does pass this clause it will be a gross act of. repudiation and will- afford ground for all of the tenants of the Civic Centre, if. not of the whole city area itself, to throw up their leases and demand full compensation for all the improvements which they have mad>3 since the beginning. I say this with a full sense of my responsibility. The leases represent a bargain between two parties. If these ordinances are legalized there is a possibility that additional responsibilities, will be thrust upon the tenants willy-nilly. We cannot tolerate a bargain , like that. I decline to believe that the High Court will allow it. Only on Tuesday last a case, on somewhat similar lines, arose in the Victorian courts, and is reported in the Melbourne Herald. It is headed -
Giving judgment to-day for Mrs. Ethel
Jean Kerr, of Brisbane, in her action against the Shire of Werribee over a proposal to declare part of her property a public highway, Mr. Justice Wasley said it was difficult to understand how the council could have considered that it was acting honestly towards Mrs. Kerr.
Briefly, the facts of that case were that the land in question was purchased by Mrs. Kerr’s father in 1886, and by a blunder in the Lands Office, no area was reserved in respect of a road through the property which was set out on all the parish plans. Consequently, Mrs. Kerr’s father got a clear title to the land. The Government had apparently forgotten all about it and relying on the parish plan which showed provision for a road, gave permission to an oil company to run a pipe line through the land. When the company started to lay the pipe it was charged with trespass and, when the action came before the High Court, the company failed. The whole of the trouble was, as I have stated, due to a blunder in the Lands Department. Then the Shire of Werribee, being anxious to encourage an industry within its territory, exercised its powers under the Local Government Act, and declared the indicated road to be a highway. When this case came before the court in Melbourne the other day the council failed as I have just stated and was ordered to pay costs. It is just as well to bear in mind that the law courts of this country will not allow any authority to play fast and loose with its written word.
I do not think that any form of legislation which may be employed by the Government in an endeavour to effect its ends in this respect will be given any consideration by the High Court. I believe that after having expended a vast amount of money, and inflicted gross hardships upon the tenants, the commission will, in the end, be in a more serious position than it is at present. Personally, I should really welcome this measure, because I am sick and tired of trying to carry on under the conditions that prevail here. I would gladly hand over the whole of the buildings in which I am interested if I could get my. money back.
– I am a shareholder in a company that has a leasehold here.
The Government has been led into this position by the continual blundering of the Federal Capital Commission. It would appear that the responsible Minister has become a mere rubber stamp in the hands of Sir John Butters. He appears to be ready to accept any proposition put forward by the commission, and ready also to bolster up his case with notes obtained, so far as one can see, from the office boy of the Attorney-General’s Department, for no one with any real legal knowledge, or regard for his reputation, would accept responsibility for the absurd proposition put forward in this chamber by the Leader of the Senate. The Minister on the occasion to which I have already referred took the stand that the tenure in Canberra was equal to freehold, and asked - “ Are we to make the residents of Canberra a privileged class at the expense of the rest of Australia? This ordinance,” he said-I am quoting from the Hansard report - “ does no injustice to the people of Canberra. It merely places them on the same footing as other citizens in other parts of the Commonwealth.”
I invite honorable senators to turn to section 17 of the Rates Ordinances of 1911, the revenues under which are to be applied for the purpose of road making, &c. It is clearly laid down in that section, that the rates derived from the tenants are to be applied for the particular purpose of road-making, street-making, &c. The disallowance of the ordinance would not consequently have the effect of placing the cost of street-making, kerbing, &c., on the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, but individuals would not be singled out to pay the first cost. The burden will still be borne by the ratepayers in general of the Territory. When we were discussing this matter on a former occasion, Senator Robinson interjected that it appeared as if every one wanted something for nothing. It was obvious that he was not familiar with the ordinances in question. The Leader of the Senate relied on the fact that honorable senators could not be expected to examine carefully the volumes of ordinances and regulations which are issued by the cartload by the various departments. Let us examine the Roads and Footpaths Regulations, dated 20th October, 1927. According to the definition clause a “ lessee “ means a lessee under “ a lease for a term not less than ten years at the time when the footpaths and kerbing or guttering is being formed.” This is very carefully worded. If honorable senators will examine the remainder of the regulation, and particularly section 4, they will find that, if a man has had a lease for ten years, then, although he might be in his last year of the lease, and consequently would gain practically no benefit from the construction of the footpath, kerbing, or guttering on the road, he would have to pay the whole of the cost of such work. Should the lease be forfeited the new tenant would .be assessed on the value of the lease as improved. Is that freehold or equal to . freehold ? In the face of that regulation how can the Leader of the Senate reconcile with the facts his statement that the tenure is equal to freehold? The result of the Senate’s disallowance of the ordinance is indeed grave. The tenants will be at the mercy of the commission. If the construction of footpaths is a “ service “ - a most extraordinary use of the term - we may next find the commission charging lessees for the running of the buses, because transport is just as much a service as is the construction of footpaths.
– That would be ridiculous.
– The power to do so is here. I remind, the Senate that the footpaths in Canberra referred to in this ordinance are not what are ordinarily referred to as footpaths. The footpaths constructed under the arcade at Civic Centre have already been paid for as part of the buildings, and the tenants will have to maintain them. That is not done anywhere in Australia under the freehold system. Beyond those footpaths there are some geometrical designs in concrete, known as paths. The tenants under the ordinance have to pay for them as well. I have been unable to discover in legal history anything to compare with this . ordinance. The only thing approaching it of which I know, is told in Kipling’s *Life’s Handicap. In one of the “ Soldiers Three” stories we are told that there was a shortage of a certain class of liquor, and that Private Mulvaney and his companions set out to raise the means to obtain some. To their joy they soon found a railway construction plant. Mulvaney made an investi-gabon. Let me tell in his own words what he found -
Wid that I whit to the shed an’ found twas pay day among the coolies. Their wages was on a table forninst a big fine red buck av a man - sivun fut high, four fut wide, an’ three fut thick, wid a fist on him like a cornsack. He was payin’ the coolies fair an’ easy, but he wud ask each man if he would raine that month, an’ ‘ each man sez “ Yes “ av course. Thin he wud deduct from their wages accord in’. Whin all was paid, he filled an ould cigar-bos full av gun-wads, and scatthered ut among the coolies. They did not take much joy av that performince, an’ small wondher A man close to me picks up a black gun-wad an’ sings out, “ I have ut.” “ Good may ut do you,” sez I. The coolie wint forward to this big, fine, red man, who threw a cloth off av the most sumpshus, jooled, enamelled an’ variously bedivilled sedan-chair I iver saw.” “ ‘Twas a most amazin’ chair - all lined wid pink silk an’ fitted wid red silk curtains. “ Here ut is,” sez the red man. “ Here ut is,” sez the coolie, an’ he grinned weakly-ways. “Is ut any use to you?” sez the red man. “ No,” sez the coolie ; “ I’d like to make a presint av ut to you,” - “ I am graciously pleased to accept that same,” says the red man an’ at that all the coolies cried aloud in fwhat was mint for cheerful notes, an’ wint back to their diggin’….. I wint to a coolie to ask questions. Bhoys, that man’s name is Dearsley, an’ he’s beep rafflin’ that ould sedan-chair monthly this matter of nine months. Ivry coolie on the section takes a ticket - or he gives ‘em the go - -wanst a month on pay day. Ivry coolie that wins ut gives ut back to him, for ‘tis too big to carry away, an’ he’d sack the man that tried to sell ut. _ ,
Think av that - Two thousand coolies defrauded wanst a month! “
That is the only parallel I have been able to find to the conditions existing in Canberra to-day. Unless there is a change in the treatment meted out to leaseholders those who have constructed shops in Canberra will find them as great a burden as that sedan chair was to its temporary owner. But Mulvaney got even with Dearsley. He went back to the camp, and took with him a big Yorkshireman, who fought Dearsley to determine the ownership of the chair. The Yorkshireman won and took possession of the chair. Its former owner could not complain to the police, because that would have rendered him liable to prosecution for having engaged in an illicit trade. Eventually the chair was exchanged for a supply of liquor.
I hope that in this matter the Senate will stand by the tenants. When the amending ordinance was under discussion I attempted to point out that it was most unusual in its terms. Nowhere else is the provision of footpaths, kerbs and gutters regarded as a service. The word “service” is limited to the provision of water, electricity, sewerage, the collection and disposal of garbage, night soil, and the like. In each case there is a definite service rendered to an individual householder, but in the case of the construction of streets, footpaths, kerbs, and gutters whatever is done is rendered to the community at large, although, incidentally, it might be of some advantage to the leaseholders as such. These extraordinary variations from the generally accepted form of legislation on such subjects are disclosed gradually. The first of these ordinances, the Building and Services Ordinance 1924-25, deals with the subject quite normally. I quote section 2, which reads -
The Minister may make provisionfor the supply of water, electricity and other services to residents of this Territory.
It is obvious that that was never intended to relate to footpaths. Footpaths are not supplied; they are constructed. So far this legislation is quite normal. Section 4 of the ordinance goes on to say that the commission may make regulations for, inter alia -
There is no objection to that; nevertheless, it is a dangerous policy to establish that whilst the ordinance itself must be brought before Parliament, so far as the regulations are concerned the commission is free. Relying on this freedom, the commission took the power, by regulations purporting to be made under this ordinance, to impose charges for footpaths. That clearly was not within the ambit of the ordinance.
I refer the Senate also to section 17 of the Rates Ordinance 1911, which provides that the rates are to be expended on the “formation, construction and maintenance of roads, streets, culverts and bridges.” The wording of this ordinance is thus quite different from that dealing with services, properly so-called. This distinction has been followed in every local government act with which I am familiar. “ Services “ are something “ supplied “ to the individual, while “roads, culverts, footpaths,” are referred to as something “ constructed.”
The first departure from this method in Canberra was the regulation which I have already quoted. It was passed on the 20th October, 1927. It endeavored to include the “ construction “ of footpaths in the term “ services,” and was obviously illegal. Since then the Government has made frantic endeavours to overcome the difficulty caused by these regulations.
From this outline of the facts honorable senators will see there is entire justification for my charge that the Government, and in particular the Minister, has throughout, been led by the nose by the commission. In his address in the Senate Senator Pearce said -
Further, an examination of the figures relating to the reserve prices placed upon blocks shows that it is almost incredible from a practical point of view that kerbing and guttering hadbeen taken into account.
Considering that the Government obtained the land at between £4 and £4 10s. per acre and that in the Civic Centre the lowest price it realized was £20 per foot, or between £4,000 or £5,000 an acre, it does not seem in the least incredible that the enormous gross profit so made should have been intended to include the cost of kerbing and guttering, and footpaths, which in Melbourne cost about 30s. a foot. The Government could well afford out of such prices to pay this charge. But it is to be remembered, also, that comparatively few lessees obtained their blocks at the upset price of £20 per foot. Many have paid from £135 to £150per foot or between £20,000 and £30,000 an acre.
Surely there is nothing incredible in the suggestion that something should have been set aside out of that enormous profit for the making of kerbs and guttering, for it is to be remembered that at the Civic Centre all the footpaths, using that word in the usually accepted sense of paths along the edge or front of allotments, have been actually constructed by the lessees at their own expense and that these footpaths must be maintained free of cost to the commission for the term of the leases. In fact, the more one contemplates the position the more iniquitous the position appears.
In the report of the Public Accounts Committee on housing and building costs in the Federal Capital Territory is a table giving particulars of three auction sales at Civic Centre, as follows: -
If we accept £150 a foot as the average price, the land realized £30,000 an acre. I should be glad to buy land at from £4 to £4l0s. an acre and to sell it at £7 a foot, after I had constructed roads, kerbs, gutters and footpaths.
The tenants are by no means anxious to rush into litigation with a government department. Recently I read to the Senate a letter written by lessees to the commission asking whether, if they paid these charges, they could have a written guarantee that no further costs would be inflicted upon them. I also read the reply, which declined to give such a guarantee, but stated that while it was hoped that there would be no further charges on the tenants, the commission could not promise anything in that direction. Where is the thing to end? The Minister suggested that tenants might just as well try to avoid payment of rates as to avoid the payment of kerbing and guttering charges, inasmuch as the leases are equally silent on both points. I consider that as each lessee is paying something like £3 a week for 20 feet of barren land, without a single improvement, he might well conclude that his payment includes rates.
– I do not see why he should conclude anything of the kind.
– I ask the honorable senator to examine the leases, they do not mention such charges.
– Lessees are not entitled to conclude, from that, that they are not liable to pay them.
– Leases should be construed here as they are elsewhere, and the fact that a lease is silent on the point means everywhere else that the landlord pays such charges. The rating ordinance itself is a most objectionable measure, and it is almost certain that many tenants will be driven to test its validity. For example, if, through misfortune, the widow of a public servant who is purchasing a house, is more than 30 days overdue in her payment of rates, the amount due is automatically increased by one-tenth. One must compare like with like. In Victoria, in the centre from which I come, if any one fails to pay his rates, he is charged 6 per cent. per annum on the amount due, but there is a proviso in the act which does not permit a council to impose that penalty unless a person is more than six months overdue in his payments. Obviously that is a fair provision. Here the limit is 30 days, and then the unfortunate individual is saddled with a charge which, looked at purely as a matter of principal and interest, works out at the astonishing rate of 120 per cent. per annum. It would take a widow who was waiting probate, more than 30 days before she could receive money from the estate of her late husband. The whole thing is amazing. The curious part isthat while the commission avails itself of unlimited powers in every other direction, when complaints are made in this matter it simply passes the onus on to Parliament and asks “ What is the use of coming to us when Parliament has passed the act?” Its officers fall on your neck, weeping for sympathy, and that is the last one hears of it. Are these the “equal to freehold” conditions described by the Minister.
– Would the honorable senator have us believe that, in a case such as he has quoted, the commission would push a widow to such extremes ?
– The commission takes the stand that it must observe the very letter of the law.
– Does it not observe the spirit of the law?
-No, it is afraid to depart from the letter of the law, fearing that it will be attacked for leniency.
– Then the commission is just as hard as some lawyers.
– The commission merely replies that the regulation has been approved by Parliament and cannot be altered. Honorable senators who fail to scrutinize these ordinances, should realize the responsibility sought to be thrust upon them by the commission for their neglect. These ordinances are brought forward by the commission, or by the Minister at its instigation, and quietly, almost . surreptitiously, laid on the table of this chamber, and if no one successfully objects to them, they become the law of the land, for which this Parliament is blamed. If one goes on a mission of protest to the commission, its officials weep and wring their hands in apparent helplessness. The situation would be Gilbertian, if it were not tragic. I can only compare it with that described in that famous fable by Mr. Lewis Carroll of the Walrus and the Carpenter. Honorable senators will remember that the walrus and the carpenter persuaded the oysters to go for a walk on the sand, and when they reached a convenient spot for a picnic, proceeded to devour the oysters. I shall quote a couple of the verses, which exactly depict the attitude of the Federal Capital Commission to its tenants - “It seems a shame,” the Walrus said, “To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but “The butter’s spread too thick!! “ “ I weep for you,” the Walrus said : “ I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out,
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes. “ O oysters,” said the Carpenter, “ You’ve had a pleasant run !
Shall we be trotting home again?”
But answer came there none -
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.
The simile is an excellent one. Sir John Butters, I apprehend, is the walrus, and Sir John Harrison the carpenter. The unfortunate tenants are in the position of the oysters. Those who have already surrendered their leasesand forfeited their good money represent the young oysters already devoured, while the others are expecting to meet a similar end, and to be forced out of their holdings. Honorable senators must surely realize that they will be blamed by the public for these blunders. I ask them to remember the War Service Homes scandals, and how badly the Government fared then. The activities of this commission appear in even a worse light. Blunders innumerable have been made in the valuations. I refer the Government to the following extract from the first annual report of the Land Administrative Board of Queensland for the year 1927, which reads -
Mention should also be made of the principle laid down by the legislature many years ago that rent should be fixed according to the amount which experienced persons would be willing to pay for land of a similar quality in the same neighbourhood. This is sound enough in theory, but unless great care is exercised, can become very mischievous in its application. Experienced persons are found to pay fancy prices for land, and thereby establish rental values, which, if applied generally to the industry, might be ruinous in their effect. Even at the present time of stress, grazing properties are changing hands at very substantial figures. The prices paid for the properties are not always influenced by business considerations alone, but by a great variety of reasons and factors varying with the individual. They are, therefore, at times, a very poor guide to correct values.
SenatorReid. - Why does not the honorable senator send a copy of that to the commission ?
– If I were in charge of the department concerned I should have it inscribed in letters of gold, and place it above the door of the offices of the Federal Capital Commission.
Canberra valuations, for some reason, are based on those of Goulburn, which is a gross anomaly. Goulburn is a wellsettled area with excellent and centrally situated railway communication. At the time the Canberra land sales were made, a gross misrepresentation occurred, as the plans represented the main railway station to be at Ainslie. Every one was under the impression that the line would be continued over the Molonglo bridge, and that the principal station would be at Ainslie. Three years have since elapsed, and no move has been taken in that direction. All goods for Ainslie have to be landed at Eastlake and carted 4 miles to the Civic Centre - a very different condition of affairs from that which prevails at Goulburn.
The Leader of the Senate has consistently endeavoured to dragoon honorable senators into following his lead in this business. Blind obedience to orders and perfect discipline are of value on the battlefield; but even there they are somewhat out of date, and have been largely superseded by the discipline of reason. I recently read a book written by a British staff officer on this subject. He cited the case of a battle on the Somme as ah example. An attack had been ordered to be made by a British regular battalion behind a barrage, and, consequently, had to proceed at the extremely slow rate of 30 yards to a minute. The zero hour came, and by some failure of liaison with the artillery the barrage did not materialize. Nevertheless, at zero hour the battalion climbed out of their trenches, formed line, shoulder to shoulder in no man’s land, and advanced, their colonel leading them at a stately slow march. Of course, every single officer and man was shot down long before they reached the enemy. The same staff officer goes on to relate with approval the remark made by an Australian soldier who witnessed the British attack and its result. His comment is illuminating. “Well, Bill,” he said to his mate, “it strikes me these professional soldiers are natural-born b- amateurs.” That officer proceeds to condemn this blind obedience, even on the battlefield, when circumstances have entirely changed. I have no doubt at all that had our distinguished and gallant colleague, Senator Cox, been present on that occasion, he would have been of the same mind as this British colonel, and would have launched his men to the assault in the same gallant but unreasoning manner with the like result.
– I never made a mess of any attack that I undertook. I always carried out the orders that were given to me, and never made a fool of myself.
– Senator Cox’s attitude towards the Government reminds me of a story that I heard during the recent visit of the American Fleet to Sydney. An Australian sailor in the city , rather tired of the “ win-the-war “ claim of the Americans, turned to a messmate, and said, “ I had a fine swim outside the Heads this morning, Bill.” Some one remarked that he was foolish, as the sharks would get him. He replied, “Not at all. I was perfectly all right. I wore a costume with the stars and stripes in front, and on the back the words, ‘I won the war,’ and even the sharks would not swallow that.” I am sure, from my observations in this chamber, that in like circumstances our honorable, distinguished, and gallant colleague would have no difficulty in swallowing any statement provided it was “ O.K’d “ by the Leader of the Senate, but I venture to say that the remainder of us resent the attitude of that honorable gentleman in endeavouring to force down our throats a system of discipline so rigid and unreasoning that it has been largely discarded on the battlefield. On the last occasion when this subject was discussed the whip was cracked over us.
– It was not cracked to-day.
– The right honorable the Leader of the Senate on the 5th instant threw out this challenge: -
The honorable senator, who is a lawyer and also a ratepayer in Canberra, has an opportunity to distinguish himself by taking the case to the High Court on behalf of his fellow ratepayers here.
I accepted that challenge and on the same day I wrote to the commission as follows : -
Federal Capital Commission,
Referring to previous correspondence herein, and as it is evidently quite impossible to arrive at a satisfactory solution, the abovenamed company formally notifies you that it objects to paying the amounts referred to in your letters, on the following grounds: -
As the matter should be finalized as early as possible,I have to request that proceedings should be instituted forthwith against the company, to recover the amounts, and I notify you that the necessary papers may be served upon me personally or at the registered offices of the company at 94 Queen-street, Melbourne, or alternatively, service of the papers will be accepted by the company’s solicitors.
There is no beating about the bush in that letter. The only reply I have received to date is that my communication will receive the consideration of the commission. Since then the Minister has declined to answer questions in reference to the matter on the ground that litigation is threatened. Who has threatened the commission with litigation? So far as I know no one has done so. How then does the Minister justify his attitude in withholding information? His attitude reminds me of an incident which occurred on Gallipoli. Head-quarters staffsent a message to me that they desired the services of a cook’s offsider. I chose a man named Campbell who went on duty with the general staff. Four days afterwards he came back under escort.It appears that he was lefttoo near the quartermaster’s rum and as a result he wanted to kiss General Birdwood. When they refused to allow him to do so he wantedto fight all and sundry, with the result that he came back under escort with an impolite message as to the class of man I had in the 7th batallion. I was naturally annoyed with Campbell and told him that he would have to be courtmartialled. But then a thought struck me. I had just come back from the front line where a very active Turkish sniper was causing a great deal of annoyance. A periscope which I hadput up carefully over the parapet had been smashed by him, and fragments of the glass had pierced my shoulder. I told Campbell that if he would bomb that sniper out I would let him off the court-martial. Being filled with rum at the time, of course, he wanted to go off straight away to do so, but I told him he would have to wait until night. He went away still under escort, but about 2 o’clock in the afternoon he sent word that he wanted to see me. I told the guard to bring him along. He came, saluted and said “ Sir, I should like to look at yon place.” I. said to the guard “ Take him to post 3, and let him have a look at” it.”. He was taken to the post and carefully observed the sniper’sposition for half an hour, and then came back to me, saluted and said “ Sir, I’ll tak’ the coort-martial “. He had thought very hard over the matter and preferred to take the courtmartial rather than face the sniper. The Minister for Home and Territories has evidently been thinking very hard over my communication and the Government’s reply to it is this clause in the bill to validate ordinances. The Government will not face the sniper. The commission has hitherto been a law unto itself.
The roads and footpaths regulations provide that before any work is done under them, notice must be given to the tenant. This is provided for in regulation 6 which says: -
Before the formation of any footpaths, kerbcrossings for vehicles, kerbing or guttering on any road is commenced, the secretary of the commission shall notify in writing each lessee of land adjoining the road of the portion of the cost payable in respect thereof by the lessee and the period within which it is payable.
In no single case that I have been able to trace has that notice been sent, and if we look at the Public Accounts Committee’s report we begin to suspect the reason for it. The report says -
Footpaths. - The cost set down by the commission for footpaths, viz., £25, on which tenants had to pay rental, was regarded as grossly excessive. In some cases rental on paths had been charged to tenants months before the paths had been constructed.
I wondered why the commission was so reluctant to proceed to extremes, and, having some suspicions about it, I looked up the matter, only to find that it is good English common law that, when a statutory duty is cast on a public officer, if he disregards it, he is amenable to the law. I refer honorable senators to Archbold’s Criminal Pleading, 26th edition, page 6, which, under the heading “Disobedience to Rules and Orders made under Statutory Authority,” contains the following : -
Where a statute, the matter of which concerns the public in general, delegates to commissioners the power to make orders under it, disobedience to an order made by them .in pursuance of such power is an indictable misdemeanor at common law.
A case cited is that of Queen v. Walker, reported in The Law Reports, Queen’s Bench Cases, volume X. I venture to say that the Cabinet will find this case much more to the point than the decisions already cited in the Senate by Sir George Pearce. ‘ It reads as follows : -
By the Epping Forest Amendment Act 1872 ( 35 and 30 Vict. c. 05), s. 5, the com- missioners were authorized to make orders prohibiting, until the expiration of the session of Parliament next after their final report, any inclosures of land made before the act of 1871, and for the prevention of any waste, injury, or destruction of vert, herbage; trees, &c, in” or upon any land within the forest subject in their judgment to any forestal or common rights. The commissioners made an order, that until the expiration of the session of’ Parliament next after their final report, “ all persons be and are hereby prohibited from committing any waste, &c, in or upon the waste lands in the forest within the manor of Theydon Bois (including enclosures of waste lands made within twenty years next preceding the said 21st of August, 1871), all which lands are distinguished, on a plan annexed, by the colour green.”
The defendant was the occupier, as tenant, of a piece of land, part of the above waste lands, which was inclosed some time since 1851, and is part of the land coloured green on the plati, and persons claimed right of pasturage over all the waste lands. The order was served upon the defendant, and he afterwards committed waste by digging marl and clay, £&c; upon which an indictment was pre:ferred against him for disobeying the order. A verdict of guilty having been entered: -
Held, that the order was good: and that disobedience to it was a misdemeanor.
I want to know if the Government intends to carry out the law. We have the
Government with a great parade setting about enforcing the Crimes Act against some unfortunate workmen who have been misled, and asking the Senate to assist it in passing further legislation. I am informed that the commission has itself flagrantly defied the law. In the Senate I have asked questions on the subject, but they have been side-stepped. In the report of the Committee on Public Accounts we find that the commissioners themselves have disregarded the terms of their own building ordinance, which provides that no unregistered builder shall be employed on any building in the Territory. The committee has found that the commission has constantly employed such persons. Every move one makes is met with the outcry that the claim is an imposition on the taxpayers. I have shown that that charge is false, in so far as it relates to the tenants, but questions reluctantly answered by the Minister have shown how shamefully the commission has been imposing on the taxpayers. One is in a state of profound apprehension as to what it will do or be found to have done next. The situation recalls irresistably one of Joel Chandeler Harris’ fables: - It was at a coloured dance in South Carolina under a pavilion, when a merry party was surprised by the appearance of a small black and white animal. At its approach, the ladies screamed and jumped upon the seats, and the men ran out leaving the old fiddler alone with the visitor. The animal spoke - “I ain’t done nothin’, what do they run for”? The old fiddler leaned low and spoke. “ T’aint what you’se gone and done, Massa Skunk, cause yo ain’t done nothin’ yet; its what you’se goin’ to do they run fur “. [Extension of time granted.) Are we to wait until we, as a party, have been discredited beyond remedy by the commission ? Or shall we seek cover at once ? The Minister in another place has valiantly defended the commissioners, as he was bound to do. It is in fact a refreshing contrast to the attitude adopted by Labour Ministers in Victoria,, who have had no scruple in attacking their Chief Commissioner of Railways, Mr. Clapp, and their Commissioner of Police, Mr. Blarney. But I am under no obligation to defend the Federal Capital Commission, and I say deliberately that Sir John Butters, when he was giving evidence before the Public Accounts Committee, repeatedly went remarkably close to committing perjury in regard to a lease in which I was interested.
– It is cowardly to attack a’ man who cannot stand up and put the boot into the honorable senator.
– I say it deliberately now as I said it on oath before the Public Accounts Committee.
– The honorable senator can say it if he likes, but I do not think it is honest for him to do so. .
– Apparently the honorable senator would appoint a commission and allow it to do exactly what it pleases without any word of protest. I decline to remain silent. I raised this point before the Public Accounts Committee, and I stated that one df my objections to the’ administration of the Territory was that I was compelled to buy four -blocks of land when I wanted only one, and that the commission had set its face against my selling the three blocks that I did not require.
The chairman of the commission, Sir John Butters, denied on oath that such was the case, and actually produced a letter I had signed undertaking to build on the whole four. He said, in effect, “ This proves him a liar.” I ‘ returned home and from my file of correspondence I took a letter from Woodgers and Calthorpe, the agents for the commission, in which was enclosed the form which I had signed, and which was to the effect that unless I signed the documents binding me to build on the whole four blocks, the transfer to me would not be agreed to. In addition, the circular, issued to all lessees, saying that whilst the first purchaser was allowed to sell, no subsequent purchaser would be permitted to do so, and must bind himself personally to build. Every lessee received such a circular. Four leases were transferred ou my account, and the Chief Commissioner raised the point that the commission would not allow four leases to be re-issued to me and compelled me to consolidate them into one lease. As a result of that action I must hold an area with an 80-ft. frontage in one parcel for 99 years. Instead of looking for a single purchaser at £3,000 I must obtain one who is willing to give £12,000. That is not a fair way of conducting business. That lease was issued, and yet, in face of that, Sir John Butters denied, on oath, that pressure had been placed upon me in any way to prevent me from selling a single block.
As a means of improving the bill, I intend, in committee, to move an amendment which will have the effect of enabling the commission to dispose of the freehold of the land. The amendment is to insert after clause 14 a new clause, 14a, to read -
Section 15 of the principal act is amended by omitting sub-section 4 thereof.
I again refer honorable senators to the report of- the Public Accounts Committee from which, although it has made no definite finding on the subject, it is clear that an overwhelming majority of lessees prefer the freehold system. They practically all agree with the views expressed by Sir Arthur Cocks, when he said -
Fundamentally it seems to me that the idea of a leasehold with periodical appraisement will he the biggest drawback that the city will have to encounter. Leasehold is repugnant to the general ideas of the Australian. Leasehold is repugnant to the man who is prepared to advance on building or land, because * of the unknown operation of that appraisement factor, that gives you possession with a string attached thereto that may make your possession a burden instead of an asset.
– To what extent has the Northern Territory developed since the leasehold system has been dispensed with ? .
– The conditions are not at all comparable, but the Government has not made any move in the direction of reverting to the leasehold system there. I am convinced that we cannot hope for any improvement in the Federal Capital Territory until we dispense with the leasehold system. Sir Arthur Cocks declared that’ it has been proved by bitter experience that a leasehold is only a grant to which a string is attached.
.- I regret that Senator Elliott has thought it necessary to abuse everyone and everything associated with the Federal Capital Territory. The Government has been very fortunate in securing the services of such able and honorable men as those now in control of affairs in
Canberra, who have carried out a stupendous task in a highly satisfactory manner. The Federal Capital Commission has, in accordance with the act under which it was appointed, undertaken its work in a business like way, and has disposed of the leasehold of certain areas of land in the prescribed manner; but Senator Elliott and others who have acquired blocks are now complaining because they have not derived that return which they expected. There are some who will always squeak, and even now when the commission has overcome the initial difficulties, and the activities at Canberra are proceeding smoothly, persist in finding fault in every direction. I understand that the block of which Senator Elliott complains is returning him 7 per cent. in interest.
– That is quite wrong. I should be glad if it were showing a return of 1 per cent.
– When Canberra was first seriously mentioned as a site for the Federal Capital, a good deal of objection was raised down South but the influence of New South Wales was sufficient to overcome all obstacles. The work of establishing a city here was undertaken somewhat hurriedly, and some honorable senators appear to overlook the difficulties with which the commission was confronted in obtaining suitable labour and material at a price to enable big developmental works to be completed at a reasonable figure. This is a beautiful city. It has no slums such as are to be found in other cities.
– How many houses are vacant?
– The commission cannot complete houses to meet the immediate requirements of new residents, and must, consequently, build in anticipation. Vacant houses and shops can be seen in all parts of Melbourne and Sydney.
– The honorable senator does not remain in Canberra longer than he is compelled to.
– The commission places an upset price on the leases, and if some persons pay ten times more than the price fixed, it is not the fault of the commission or the Government. If the leases could be sold at higher prices than those at which they were bought, we would not hear any complaints. If Senator Elliott has sufficient courage to hold on to his leases for a few years, he may find that he can dispose of them at a good profit. Canberra has the support of a majority of the Australian people, and I do not think anything will prevent it from becoming one of the most beautiful cities of the world.
– This is no new Jerusalem.
– The honorable senator has not seen the new Jerusalem in Palestine. I have, and I can assure him that it is about one of the most uninviting places that any man has ever entered. Senator Elliott, in the course of his speech, said that I had disregared orders.
– Well, he said something like that, and went on to suggest that we on this side of the Senate are dumb-driven creatures, doing everything at the behest of the Minister. I have been in association with the Leader of the Senate for about eight years, and I can honestly say that I have never known him to attempt to drive any one. At all events, I should like to see the man who could drive me! Members of this chamber are elected by the people for a term of six years.
– Thank heaven for that!
– I agree with the Minister. It is most pleasing to think that having been elected to this chamber, a member of it, bar accidents, has six solid years ahead of him.
– What does the honorable senator think of the bill?
– I think it is an excellent measure, and I intend to support the Government.
.- I could not help feeling, when Senator Elliott was speaking, that, because of his personal losses and grievances against the Federal Capital Commission, he was altogether too severe in his strictures on that body. It is not fair that any honorable senator should air personal grievances in this chamber, especially in view of the fact that the members of the commission have no opportunity to reply.
As a member of the Public “Works Committee, I have been in touch with the commission for some years, and I am thoroughly conversant with all building operations that have been carried on in the Territory. I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Senate, in his secondreading speech, refer to the good work that has been done by the commission. I endorse what he said. That body has done excellent work despite the blunders that have been made.
– Who was responsible for the blunders?
– The honorable senator has had ample opportunity to put that question to witnesses before the Public Accounts Committee, which has recently concluded an inquiry into the activities of the commission. Therefore, he should be in a position to say who was responsible for the blunders.
– In the main, the commission was responsible.
– Possibly the commission has made some blunders in the course of its work here. Although that body has been severely criticized, the critics forget that it was called upon to do a great deal of work in a limited time. If any one is to blame for wasteful expenditure in Canberra, the representatives of New South Wales in this Parliament must take their share of it, because when Parliament was meeting in Melbourne they brought strong pressure to bear on Ministers to transfer the Seat of Government to Canberra without delay. The initial work in connexion with the erection of Parliament House was carried out by the Works and Railways Department. At that time, owing to the wave of prosperity in all the States, it was almost impossible to get qualified artisans here. There was so much work available in our capital cities that they refused to take jobs offering in Canberra except at specially high rates of pay. While on this subject I should like to say that Colonel Owen, whose name now is never mentioned, deserves much credit for his excellent work in connexion with the layout of Canberra, and the erection of the earlier buildings. In order to induce artisans to accept work here, the Works and Railways Department advertised that workmen would be paid 5s. a day in excess of rates ruling in the capital cities; “but even then it was impossible to get men in sufficient numbers to allow of satisfactory progress being made. Later Colonel Owen advertised that workmen would get wages wet or dry, and finally, as building operations in the capital cities were slowing down, men were induced to come to Canberra because of the improved conditions offering here. This arrangement to pay wages to workmen in all weather was responsible for an additional £80,000 in the expenditure on Parliament House.
– What did this building cost?
– It cost under £700,000.
– And the bricklayers were laying only 300 bricks a day.
– I do not wish to discuss that matter at this stage. I admit that there was a slowing down, and that for some time many men did not do a fair thing by” their employers, the people of Australia. We also have to thank Mr. Murdoch, the Commonwealth Chief Architect, for .his work in connexion with this building. We should not forget that when the commission was appointed it received definite instructions that -all public buildings required for the opening of Parliament should be ready by a certain date, so that the inaugural ceremony could be performed by the Duke of York. The commission completed the work in time; but only as a result of immense expenditure. Any one who has any knowledge of the organization necessary for the development of a city must admit that the members of the commission could not be everywhere. Subordinate officials had to be appointed. Some of these may have neglected their work, and, as a result, the commission has to accept the blame. Much of the trouble was due to the fact that everything had to be ready by a certain date. It is only fair, when bo much blame is being attached to the commission, that the good work which it has done should be noted. Prior to its appointment all building operations in Canberra were carried out by the Works and Railways Department. As the city developed, and as people came here to live, it became necessary to provide for an administrative body, because the Works and Railways Department is not in any way concerned with civic administration.
– Does the honorable senator suggest . that the Works and Railways Department could not administer the affairs of Canberra?
– That department could not be expected to function satisfactorily as an administrative body from a civic point of view. I say, therefore, that the Government acted wisely when it appointed the commission, although I do not agree with much of what the commission has done. I do not agree, for instance, with the commission’s proposal to debit the citizens with the cost of footpaths, guttering, and kerbing. Since the Territory hasto be developed on the leasehold system, tenants should not be required to pay for such works, because in time all leases will revert to the commission, as a trustee for the people of Australia. I have always objected, and will continue to object, to the action of the commission in this matter. The cost of footpaths, kerbing and guttering around the dwellings of the citizens of Canberra is just as much a charge upon the people of Australia as is the cost of such works around Parliament House. The position is the same in connexion with land values. Some persons, keenly desirous of obtaining certain blocks, ran up the price to a figure far beyond the value of the land. I am not greatly concerned about their having to pay high rentals in the circumstances; but the fictitious values thus placed upon the laud were used as a basis for fixing the rentals of the land set apart for the erection of houses for public servants. Moreover, the houses themselves cost far too much. The commission will have to write down their value to a proper economic basis.
The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) said that the amount paid as rates by the residents of Canberra was small in comparison with the sum contributed by the general taxpayers for the development of the Federal Capital Territory. The third commissioner proposed in this bill will not represent the” general community whose money is being spent in Canberra, but mere.’y the public servants who are the paid servants of the people generally. The control- of Canberra should be placed in the hands of two commissioners. Sir John Butters is not a weak man who tries to please everybody, but a man with a mind and a will of his own. Indeed, his will is rather too strong to suit a number of people. I admire a man of strong character, especially when he is occupying a position of responsibility. Had a man of the jellyfish type been Chief Commissioner, the large amount of work already done in Canberra would not have been carried out. Sir John Butters has not yet learned how to handle the public; but time will remedy that defect.
– We do not want an autocracy here.
– It is natural that a man with the temperament possessed by Sir John Butters should sometimes clash with the citizens. I should leave to the Chief Commissioner the general administration of the Territory, and as second commissioner would have a man experienced in architecture and town-planning. In those respects Canberra is lacking. If there is to be a third commissioner, he should be paid more than is proposed in this bill. He will represent about 8,000 residents in Canberra whose grievances he will have to hear and consider.
– The other two commissioners represent over 6,000,000 people. .
– But they have not to deal with their grievances. The general taxpayer is represented in Canberra by the members of this Parliament. For the first year at least the third commissioner should be paid £500 or £600.
– Why should not the residents of the Federal Capital Territory have a representative in this Parliament ?
– There is no need for that; but I consider that for the work which he will be railed upon to perform, the third commissioner should be paid :’n adequate salary. He will have not only to attend the meetings of the commission, but al.°o to inspect the various works being carried out.
– There is a citizens committee to do that.
– The committee can do no more than offer suggestions.’ The man who is to accept the responsibility must see things for himself; he must know what he is doing when he raises his voice at the meetings of the commission.
The Government has acted wisely in restricting the franchise to persons who might be described as permanent residents. Those who pay the money should have a voice in the spending of it. Many of the present residents of the Territory are casuals, who have no real interest in its future. I agree that they should not have a vote for the election of a third commissioner. But I consider that every permanent resident, whether a leaseholder or a person resident in an hotel, should have a vote, because if not a ratepayer directly, he pays rates indirectly.
I am not prepared to support the proposed amendment suggested by Senator Elliott relating to a change from the leasehold to the freehold system of land tenure. While I recognize the disadvantages of the leasehold system, I consider that they are out-weighed by the advantages. Some day Canberra will be one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and if the leasehold system is retained, the accretion in the value of property will be so great that the city will pay for itself. Of course that will take time; but it would be unwise to effect any change of the present tenure. I regard the system in operation here as a wise experiment, and shall vote to retain it. The commission, however, does not understand the leasehold system; it is trying to superimpose upon it conditions which properly relate only to the freehold system. That is the cause of much of the discontent among the residents. I have always maintained, and do still maintain, that the values of land in Canberra have been fixed too high. The residents of Canberra have, for the most part, been compelled to live here, and it is unjust to force them to pay exorbitant charges for their land and houses. Our treatment of them while just, should tend towards generosity.
– They are no worse off than are postmasters or bank managers who are compelled to remove from place to place.
– Even senators are compelled to spend a portion of their time in this city. I do not say that the public servants should be. rewarded for coming here, but they should at least be treated fairly. The conditions under which public servants live in Canberra are different from those which apply to postmasters and bank managers, who are liable to be transferred from place to place. They can acquire a freehold. Already the commission has made a great deal of profit on its leaseholds at the expense of the residents and business people of the Territory. The high prices charged for land and the consequent high rentals are killing business in Canberra.
– There are more shops here than are required.
– The values placed on business sites are far too high.
– The success or otherwise of a business depends largely on its turnover.
– In connexion with the disposal of land in Canberra, I favour a system under which a value is being placed on each block and all applications for it go to a ballot.
– And let the man who is succesful in the ballot dispose of the block at a profit?
– No, I should provide against that by stipulating that only those persons who undertook to build within a specified period should participate in the ballot.
SenatorFoll. - Would that not be a gamble ?
– The system which has been followed hitherto is a gamble, because the competition has forced up prices unduly. A ballot would be the fairest way of disposing of the land. Although I favour control by two commissioners, rather than three, I support the bill which I regard as an experiment along right lines. I repeat that, in my opinion, the Chief Commissioner should confine himself largely to matters of administration, while the second commissioner should be a man with architectural and town planning experience.
– I shall support this bill. For a long time I have thought that the residents of the Federal Capital Territory should have some representation on their local governing body, and I believe that this measure will afford them adequate representation for the time being. Canberra is in but an embryo stage, and later, as it grows, the functions of the representatives of its citizens will probably be increased.
I cordially agree with the speech delivered by the. Leader of the Senate on this bill, and particularly with his appeal to honorable senators to view fairly and generously the operations of the commissioners, bearing in mind the extreme difficulty of the task with which they were faced. Through my association with the Committee of Public Accounts, I have had recent and ample opportunity to hear a great volume of evidence upon building operations and costs in this city, and also the replies of the commission to criticism on the subject. The whole thing boils down to the fact that Canberra was built during a peak industrial period, at a time when labour was extremely expensive and frequently inefficient. “Further, the commission was called upon to perform a job in two years that ordinarily would have occupied five or six years. Consequently, some things were done which would not have been done had those concerned been given more time to perform the task. I inspected Parliament House a few months before the opening ceremony took place, and I was incredulous that the job could possibly be completed in the time expected. Contemporaneously with its erection, a great number of nouses were being constructed, the secretariat was in progress, Government House was being redesigned, and all essential services were being carried out. That the commission was able to complete its task within the scanty period allotted, reflects great credit upon its energy and ability. I have formed the opinion that the commission did its work really well. I have been associated with the Chief Commissioner in another big undertaking, and I know that he is a competent and able administrator, who never spares himself in the conduct of his duty. The job which he has just completed could not have been better done by anybody else, and the Government might easily have appointed some one who would have done it very much worse. The task of constructing Canberra in the time allotted was a stupendous one, and all fair-minded individuals will view with generosity any mistakes that may have been made. It is absurd to claim that anybody could build such a city in the time allowed without making mistakes ; mistakes are inseparable from any big public undertaking. It is the easiest thing in the world to play the game backwards, and for one to inspect a great undertaking when it is completed and point out how errors could have been avoided. Those who criticize the Federal Capital Commission should mentally place themselves in the position of that body two or three years ago. Labour was scarce, dear, and indifferent; it was a task to obtain material, poor communication existed with the large cities, and a tremendous number of different jobs were going on at the same time. I am convinced that if there has been any wastage of public money, the amount involved would have been even greater had the job been in the hands of other people.
I understand that the Senate is to be called upon to decide the issue of leasehold versus freehold. All my life I have been an advocate of the freehold as against the leasehold principle. I like to own my own piece of ground. But we have to recollect that Canberra is a new city, and that a great experiment is in progress. I wish to see leasehold given a chance, and I “do not think that this is an opportune time to effect any change in the system prevailing here. It is claimed that the price of land in Canberra is inflated, but if so that is the fault of purchasers. The leasehold principle is undoubtedly responsible for any inflation, because land will always carry an inflated value if one can obtain the use of it without the cost of acquiring the freehold. I know of two instances in different parts of one State in Australia which bears out the truth of that statement. In one section the land was sold on long terms and very small deposits, while in the other it was sold either for cash or for half cash down. Where it was sold on long terms, conditions similar to the leasehold system which obtains in Canberra, there were inflated values, while in the other section, where cash was paid, there was a solid value throughout. The Public Accounts Committee took that example into consideration, and a great improvement’ could be effected here by adopting the recommendation of that body that land should be valued atthe upset price, the buyers to pay cash for anything in excess of that price. Such a system would prevent the inflation of land values.
– It would be akin to buying the goodwill for cash.
– Yes, after the land had been valued by the commission. Actually, no one can say with certainty whether the price of land in this area really has been inflated. I believe that the building of Canberra should have begun 50 years hence; but now that it has started I wish to see it proceed along sound lines. I believe that local land values will increase as the years pass, much the same as has been the case in the other cities of the Commonwealth.
I hope that the Minister will clear up one specific point when replying. It relates to the last clause of the bill. Some little time ago a certain ordinance was debated in this chamber, and the Minister stated that he had obtained legal advice upon it, and that it was valid. I do not question either the statement of the Minister or the soundness of the advice he has received, but certain people have stated that they intend to go to law over the matter. I hope that this clause will not deprive them of any rights that they possessed before the bill was introduced. I cannot bring myself to believe that it would be right to pass a law that would deprive people of rights which existed prior to that action.
– The honorable -senator suggests that we should encourage people to go to law.
– That is not a fair way of looking at the matter, although if a man likes to spend his money on litigation he may do so. The law courts are there for his convenience. I hope that the clause is not framed for the purpose of preventing access to the court, and I am confident that the Minister will clear the matter up when replying.
– I explained it in my second-reading speech.
– I wish to know whether it is proposed to do something that will prevent anybody from going to court to obtain an interpretation of a situation that existedbefore this measure was introduced. If it is, I shall have to reconsider my opinion, because I cannot bring myself to believe that that would be a right action to take. I hope that the Minister will again deal with the clause in his reply.
– The appearance of this bill really marks the occurrence of a second thought on the part of the Government as to what is the best method to control the affairs of this Capital. A second thought frequently occurs to one in the affairs of every day life, and I see no reason why it should not be justified in this instance. When the Federal Capital Commission was first appointed I objected to it on the ground of expense, but I am now fully convinced that if one. is to have any form of control at all it means the expenditure of a good deal of money.This city is entirely different from those towns which spring into existence spontaneously. It derives its existence from the fact that the nation wished to set down in a specific area certain buildings and instrumentalities of its own. Sydney, Melbourne and other cities attained their present dimensions from very small beginnings, and gathered around them many activities that are a necessary concomitant to such cities and their immediate neighbourhood. In this instance big buildings were erected, and works undertaken, not at the instance of the people living here, but at the instance of the people of the Commonwealth generally. One is struck by the apparent folly of paying so much to maintain a commission to conduct the affairs of a small community such as this. The administrative cost of Sydney and Melbourne, which cities have an annual budget of from £3,000,000 to £4,000,000, represents but 5 per cent. of the total expenditure, whereas in Canberra those costs are very much higher. But the unique position of this city places it in an entirely separate category, and no satisfactory comparison can be made with the other cities of Australia.
A great deal of cricitism has been indulged in about the alleged maladministration of the affairs of this community, and I am afraid that the old saying “ Falsehood flies while truth comes limping after “ has had too much application here. Recently there has been an extensive inquiry into the affairs of the federal Capital by the Public Accounts Committee, upon which is represented every complexion of political opinion in the Commonwealth. That committee has now submitted its report, and so far as I can gather from its findings, there has been nothing seriously amiss in the conduct of the affairs of this Capital by the Federal Capital Commission. Some sinister suggestions have been made about money and material finding wrong destinations, but the Public Accounts Committee must have failed in its duty if such things really happened because it has not given credence to the insinuations. That leads one to the conclusion that those who made the allegations spoke too hurriedly.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– With other honorable senators I disapprove of the method of giving representation to the citizens of Canberra which is outlined in this bill. We are livingin too democratic an age for votes to be based on bricks and mortar. The people who live in the Federal Capital Territory have my deepest sympathy. After listening to the flowery speech delivered by Senator Elliott, I have come to the conclusion that I must, like my colleagues, vote against the bill, and I claim the honorable senator’s vote for adult suffrage in the Federal Capital Territory. There is no doubt that tie public servants who are compelled to reside in the Federal Capital Territory suffer great disadvantages. One honorable senator declares that they ought to be satisfied seeing that they have electric light, a wonderful water supply, and a sewerage system, but they had all these things in Melbourne, and, furthermore, there they had the right to vote for the election of members to represent them in the Federal Parliament. In these circumstances, it behoves the Government to give them not only adult franchise in the election of the gentleman who is to represent them on the Federal Capital Commission, but also a representative in the Federal Parliament.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the make a few observations with regard to the point raised by Senator J. B. Hayes. On the second reading I pointed out that when the Commonwealth Housing Act was passed the Minister for Home and Territories instructed the Federal Capital Commission to get in touch with the directors of the Commonwealth Bank with a view to the commission becoming an authority under the Housing Act. The commission did so, and the Commonwealth Bank referred the matter to their legal advisers. The advice given by the bank’s solicitors is set out in the following letter : -
Wigram House, 10 Castlereagh-street,
Sydney. 10th July, 1928.
Com mon wealth Bank of Australia,
We are in receipt of your letter of the 4th inst., with enclosures, which we have perused.
Ordinance No. 11 of 1928 purports to have been issued under the Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909, and the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910, but we very much doubt whether the Governor-General had power to make such an ordinance in connexion with housing, and for the following reasons: -
The Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909 does not provide for making ordinances. The Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910 provides (see section 12) as follows : - “ Until the Parliament makes other provision for the government of the Territory, the Governor-General may make ordinances having the force of law in the Territory.”
The Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924 provides for the establishment of the Federal Capital Commission, and confers various powers on the commission, including “ such other matters as are specified in any regulation made under the Act,” and also gives the commissioner power to make by-laws approved by the Governor-General for carrying out or giving effect to any power conferred upon the commission.
The Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1926 confers upon the commissioners the following express powers(inter alia) -
The advancing upon such conditions as the commission determines to lessees of land in the Territory of money for the purpose of building or other development work on that land.
You will see from the above that Parliament has by these last-mentioned acts made express provision for lending money to lessees of land in the Territory for the purpose of enabling them to erect houses, and consequently, under section 12 of the act to 1916 already mentioned, the power to make ordinances upon the same subject has come to an end.
It is true that in the acts of 1924 and 1926 the powers given thereunder to the commission are subject to any ordinances made in pursuance of the act of 1910, but when you consider the very plain wording of section 12 of that act, we cannot help feeling that the courts might (if that point was ever raised) very well hold that the words “ subject to any ordinances made in pursuance of the act of 1910 “ referred to ordinances made prior, and not subsequent to the act of 1924, or 1926, as the case might be.
In the absence of any judicial decision on the point, and bearing in mind the frequent occasions upon which the members of the High Court bench take different views upon the points of law submitted to them, we feel that you would be justified in asking the Federal Government to remove all doubt by providing by regulations and by-laws under the act 1924- 26 for the same matters as are covered by the ordinances No. 11 and No. 12 of 1928.
Yours faithfully, (Signed) Allen Allen & Hemsley.
– That is alright but I wanted to know whether the clause in question in this bill would prejudice the right which anyaggrieved citizen would otherwise have to approach the court.
– I shall come to that point. For the moment my purpose is to indicate just why the Government has taken steps to validate any ordinance that may have been made by the Federal Capital Commission. When that letter I have read came under the attention of the Directors of the Commonwealth Bank, they forwarded it to the Commonwealth Treasurer, who passed it on to the Commonwealth Attorney-General (Mr. Latham). The Attorney-General has given an opinion the effect of which is that there is power to make the ordinance; but as a doubt has been expressed, and in order to remove all possibility of doubt, he has recommended the insertion of this new provision in the act. If doubt is raised in regard to one ordinance, it may be raised in regard to every ordinance made by the commission. Undoubtedly the Government was under the belief, and it still believes that there is power to make all these ordinances. But if it were held that the power did not exist, that would mean the upsetting of all the ordinances and would affect all liabilities incurred under them. One does not know where the matter would end. If all the ordinances issued by the GovernorGeneral under the administration of the Federal Capital Commission were to be declared invalid, a state of hopeless confusion would be created. As a doubt has arisen, it is the bounden duty of the Government to ask Parliament to remove it by the validating provision included in this bill.
– What would be the position if law proceedings had been commenced ?
– That would be an entirely different matter, but no case has been commenced against the Government or the Federal Capital Commission. Therefore, no litigant nor any person who has given notice of being a litigant can be prejudiced by the passing of this provision.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Members of commission).
.- I move -
That after Sub-section (5) of proposed new section 6 the following new sub-section be inserted: - (5a.) If at any meeting of the commission any commissioner disagrees with any decision arrived at he may request that a memorandum of the grounds of his objection be recorded in the minutes of proceedings of the commission, and thereupon the Chief Commissioner shall cause a memorandum to be so recorded and a copy of that memorandum to be forwarded to the Minister within seven days after the date on which the meeting was held.
In his second-reading speech the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) took some exception to this clause, and said that from the view-point of the residents of Canberra the work of their representative would be practically valueless. He said that there was no provision in the clause whereby the opinions of the third commissioner, who might take a stand on behalf of the residents against the other two commissioners, would be recorded and considered. The amendment I have moved provides that where any single commissioner disagrees with the decision reached by the other two commissioners the grounds on which a decision has been reached shall be reported to the Minister. The onus of accepting the decision of the majority of the commission will then rest upon the Minister, who will determine whether the decision of the majority of the commission shall stand or whether steps shall be taken to overrule it. I anticipate that this provision if adopted will give more influence, shall I say, to the elected commissioner. It will ensure at any rate that when he finds that he has to take a definite stand on behalf of the residents of Canberra against the two other commissioners the grounds upon which he has reached his decision will be forwarded to the Minister in a memorandum containing the views of the majority and of the minority. Such a memorandum would I am sure receive the fullest consideration from the Minister and the Government. This is really a safeguard, and will provide a check upon the action of a majority of the commission.
– The Minister cannot be expected to act contrary to the decision of the Government’s nominees.
– Any Minister, particularly the honorable gentleman at present administering the act would not hesitate to take a stand against a majority of the commission if he thought it necessary to do so. I trust the amendment will be carried, as I believe it will strengthen the bill and safeguard the residents of Canberra.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of
Government will accept the amendment, which I think will serve a useful purpose. It provides a means of bringing under the notice of the Minister any matters of importance upon which there may be a difference of opinion. It will enable him to study the reasons which have prompted the majority to reach a certain decision. In that way the Minister will be made conversant with all important decisions reached by the commission.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That the clause, as amended, be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 (Election of Third Commissioner)
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Section seven of the principal act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “ (3.) The remuneration of the Third Commissioner shall be by way of fees, not exceeding the sum of Five pounds and five shillings for each day upon which he attends a meeting of the Commission and not exceeding the sum of Two hundred and fifty pounds per annum.”.
– The preceding clause provides that if an officer of the Public Service is elected as the third commissioner he shall be permitted to servewithout loss of salary. If a public servant is elected, he will be entitled to draw his departmental salary, in addition to fees as the third commissioner, amounting to a sum not exceeding £250 a year, so that if he is receiving a salary of £750 a year, his total remuneration will be in the vicinity of £1,000 a year. Being a public servant, he will be entitled to leave to enable him to carry out his duties as the third commissioner; but the head of his department may, at his discretion, “dock” him portion of his Public Service salary or require him to make up the time for which leave is granted to attend to his duties as third commissioner. We may assume that the citizens will make an effort to get the most eligible man for the position. If their choice falls upon a business man, he will be expected to devote a considerable portion of his time to the duties of the commission, for which he will receive a sum not exceeding £5 5s. for each sitting, and not exceeding in the aggregate £250 per annum. It is hardly fair to expect a man with a growing business to sacrifice it for a remuneration not exceeding £250 a year. What inducement is there in the clause as it stands, for a private citizen, not being a public servant, to offer his services? It may be argued that the work appertaining to the office of third commissioner will be similar to that of a member of a municipal council.I do not view it in that light. I consider that if the third commissioner is to discharge the duties of that office effectively, he will have to apply his individuality and intellect to the job. He will have to get a grip of the problems peculiar to Canberra and bend the whole of his energies to the task. I am afraid that, if he is going to be of any use to the community, he will be “ snowed under.” I anticipate that the third commissioner, whether he be a public servant or a private business man, will be inundated with requests from deputations, that he will have countless telephone calls, and otherwise be fully occupied, both in and out of departmental or business hours. If he happens to be a business man, he will have to sacrifice his business or make other arrangements to carryit on. In my opinion he will have to give much more time to his public duties than is required of an alderman in a municipal council. If the reform is worth introducing at all, we should be prepared to pay for it. If we wish to attract to the office a man who is to be of real service to the community, a man who will not be a mere figurehead, we must offer more substantial remuneration than is provided in the bill. I suggest, therefore, that the Minister in charge of the measure should agree to amend proposed new sub-section 3. It reads as follows: -
The remuneration of the third commissioner shall be by way of fees not exceeding the sum of £5s. 5s. for each day upon which he attends a meeting of the commission, and not exceeding the sum of £250 per annum.
If all the words after “ shall be “ are left out, and the words “one thousand pounds” substituted for the words “two hundred and fifty pounds,” thesubsection will then read -
The remuneration of the third commissioner shall be £1,000 per annum.
If the Minister will accept this suggestion, it can be sent to the House of Representatives as a request. I realize, of course, that it will be necessary then to recommit the bill for the further consideration of clause 5, because if the amendment is carried substituting £1,000 per annum in lieu of fees as at present provided for, there will be the anomaly that a public servant is appointed at a salary of £1,000 a year he may, in addition, draw his departmental salary. I take the view that the third commissioner should be required to devote the whole of his time to his duties, and that £1,000 a year is a reasonable remuneration.
– If the office of third commissioner is to be a full-time job, a public servant may not be able to ob- tainleave.
– If a public servant is appointed, he may be seconded from his department for the term of his office.
– Would not a full-time job shut out a business man?
– Not necessarily. A business man, if elected to the position, could make the necessary arrangements for the conduct of his business.
– If it is to be a full-time job, why not make the salary the same as that paid to the second commissioner ?
– I am afraid that the honorable senator is inclined to be over-generous on the eve of an election. I do not wish to say anything about the salary of Sir John Butters. I think he is worth what he is getting. There are very few men who could fill his post. It is a most difficult one. The Chief Commissioner is an “AuntSally “ to be shied at by every one. I do not envy him his position. It is almost as bad as that of a Minister of the Crown. As far as the other commissioner is concerned, I assume that he also is worth his salary. The commissioners have been appointed by the Government, and their appointment has not been terminated, so we may assume that, in the opinion of the Government, they are worth the salaries paid to them. The point I wish to emphasize is that the third commissioner should be required to give the whole of his time to the service of the commission. This should be part of the contract. I do not wish to say anything derogatory of any public servant, but I do not think that any officer in the service could discharge his departmental duties satisfactorily and at the same time prove efficient in the office of third commissioner. It must be a full-time job.
[8.45]. - The point raised by the honorable senator was considered by the Government when the bill was being drafted. I draw the attention of the committee to the fact that the bill contemplates that the first and second Commissioners shall be the administrators of the Federal Capital Territory. In addition to attending the meetings of the commission, they will be called upon to perform executive duties in connexion with the carrying out of the policy decided upon at those meetings. The commission will necessarily do things affecting the life and the property of the residents of the Territory, and for that reason the Prime Minister promised that they would be given representation on the commission. The scheme embodied in this bill will give them a voice in the administration of the Territory, because their representative will be present at the meetings of the commission when decisions are arrived at. The third Commissioner may bring forward matters for discussion at the meetings; he will not be limited to discussions on matters brought forward by the first and second Commissioners. His duties will be similar to those performed by a municipal councillor. Throughout Australia thousands of estimable ladies and gentlemen give their services, in the interests of their fellow citizens in connexion with the control of municipal affairs. The third Commissioner will watch the interests of the ratepayers in this community, and express their views at meetings of the commission. Although he will do no more than is being done by thousands of public-spirited men and women throughout the Commonwealth for no payment whatever, the representative of the citizens of the Federal Capital Territory will not be called upon to work without payment. He will at least receive £5 5s. a fortnight, for the bill provides that the commission shall meet at least once during that period. Probably its meetings will be held more frequently; I think honorable senators will agree that the remuneration proposed in the bill is adequate for the duties to be performed. There is an objection to the proposal that the third Commssioner should be a full time Commissioner at a high salary. For a considerable portion of the time he will have nothing to do. What would a person who resigned from the Public Service to accept the office do with his spare time ?
– He could play golf.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.We are not justified in paying a man £1,000 a year merely to engage in that delightful pastime. Most of us have to pay for a similar privilege. The provision in the bill for apart-time commissioner and the remuneration proposed to be paid to him should commend itself to honorable senators.
.- I am sorry that the Leader of the Senate has not seen fit to accept the suggestion of Senator Abbott. I therefore hope that the honorable senator will move an amendment along the lines he indicated.
– If all the residents of the Territory were as persistent in their complaints as is the honorable senator, the position of third Commissioner would be worth a great deal more than it is proposed to pay him.
– My grievances are small in comparison with those of some of the residents of the Federal Capital Territory. The honorable senator knows of my complaint, because I have been able to make myself heard in this chamber; but there are others in this community who are suffering to a greater degree than I am. Some of them would be glad to avail themselves of an opportunity to make their views known to honorable senators in this chamber. I admit that throughout Australia numbers of persons who have retired from business or are otherwise favorably situated, devote a great deal of their time to municipal matters, and in a purely honorary capacity render good service to their fellow citizens; but just as in a new country there are few who can devote their time to parliamentary’ affairs without payment, so in this new settlement it may be difficult to find men able and willing to devote their whole time to the performance of the duties connected with the office of third Commissioner.
– Already some candidates have been announced, although the bill has not yet been passed.
– They might not be the most desirable candidates.
– One very desirable man with nothing to do has offered himself.
– He may not suit the electors. One of the complaints against the present Commissioners is that they are practically inaccessible to the inhabitants of Canberra unless they are introduced by a member of Parliament.
– What does the honorable senator think the duties of the third Commissioner should be?
- His duties would include visiting works in course of construction in order to keep a check on them. In this way much valuable work could be performed. Both in another place and in this chamber the bill has been subjected to considerable criticism. It would be more satisfactory, both to this Parliament and to the people of Australia, if the Government would accept an amendment along the lines of that suggested by Senator Abbott.
– The duties of the third Commissioner will be entirely different from those performed by municipal councillors throughout Australia. Municipal councillors have the assistance of subcommittees and council officers and staff. Canberra is a city in the making; it is admitted on all sides that the ramifications of the Federal Capital Commission are wide spread. I should think that the first and second Commissioners would welcome the appointment of a full-time third Commissioner, in order to assist them in the administration of the Territory, and in dealing with matters affecting its residents. The duties of the third Commissioner will not end with his attendance at the meetings of the commission. There will be many other matters to occupy his time which do not fall to the lot of an ordinary municipal councillor. The best interests of all concerned would be served by the appointment of a full-time commissioner. I therefore move -
That the words “by way of fees not exceeding the sum of Five pounds and five shillings for each day upon which he attends a meeting of the commission and not exceeding the sum of Two hundred and fifty”, sub-section. (3), be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “one thousand.”
SenatorREID (Queensland) [8.56].- I understood the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to say that the third
Commissioner would attend only those meetings of the commission at which certain subjects were discussed.
– He will attend all the meetings of the commission, but will take no part in the administration of its affairs.
SenatorVerran. - It will be a school of enlightenment.
SenatorREID. - I cannot see what duties the third Commissioner will have to perform other than those relating to the supply of light, water, and sewerage, and matters relating to footpaths, kerbs, gutters, and the removal of garbage. Those duties would not take up a great deal of his time. Probably his chief duty will be listening to, and dealing with, the grievances of the citizens. I do not envy him his job, but I do not regard the office as being worth £1,000 a year. I therefore hope that the Senate will not agree to the amendment. In Brisbane aldermen are paid £400 a year, but the area under their control is the largest of any city in the world. In that council there are committees which look after different sections of administrative work. No doubt this ratepayers’ representative will visit different parts of the district in which improvements are being carried on, and for such additional duties he should receive extra remuneration. But I fail to see any justification for a salary of £1,000 a year if his capacity as a commissioner is to be so restricted.
– Where is the line of demarcation to be drawn?
SenatorREID. - That is the point that I wish to hear elucidated by the Minister. I am very strongly opposed to the taxpayers’ representatives taking any active part in allocating the expenditure of national money.
– He would participate in the preparation of estimates.
SenatorREID. - I do not think so. He would be theremerely to represent the grievances of the ratepayers, and it would be absurd to pay £1,000 a year to a man appointed merely to hear petty grievances. I admit that for the first six months his life would be a burden, as he would be pestered with people who had grievances. I can just visualize him listening to those of Senator Elliott, and the honorable senator says that there are others with even greater grievances than his. I should be glad to know from the Minister precisely where the line of demarcation is to be drawn between the third commissioner’s duty of hearing grievances and taking part in the administration of the commission.
[9.5]. - Section 14 of the principal act sets out the powers of the commission, among which are -
That is controlled by an ordinance, and the commission has merely to administer that ordinance. The ratepayers’ representative would have nothing to do with that section of its administration.
That again is partly dealt with by ordinance, but the commission will decide the amount of the rates. The ratepayers’ representative may voice the view of the ratepayers as to what the amount of rates ought to be, but the administrative work involved in looking after officers collecting those rates will be done by the first and second commissioners -
If the time ever arrives when tramways will be laid down in Canberra their administration will be under the care of the first and second commissioners -
Meetings may be held to draw up programmes for the construction of roads, footpaths, &c., at which the ratepayers’ representative will attend. He will be allowed to put forward the opinions of those whom he represents, but once the programme is provided for, he has no further voice in the matter, and its administration will be carried out by the first and second commissioners -
There will be little need for meetings to discuss these matters, which are all covered by ordinance -
Meetings of the’ three commissioners will be held only to deal with purely municipal matters, and the ratepayers’ representative will be able to set forth what he believes to be the opinions of the ratepayers on such matters.
.- I hold the opinion that the only satisfactory way to give effect to the desires of the taxpayers in this area is to elect a full-time representative. I am aware that an officer of the Public Service elected to such a position might be somewhat invidiously placed if the appointment were only a part time one. However, as the bill is to operate only for twelve months, and the whole thing is rather an experiment, I do not feel justified in supporting the amendment to pay the representative a salary of £1,000. I prefer to wait until the experiment has had a twelve months’ trial. No doubt the business carried on at commission meetings will be similar to that which takes place at council or departmental meetings. The commission will decide upon its requirements and submit its estimates for the consideration of the Minister. The ratepayers’ representative will attend such meetings and assist to determine what those estimates shall be.
– He would have a voice only as to what amount should be collected.
– I disagree with the honorable senator. I consider that he would have a voice in the preparation of the estimates for the year. Proposed new sub-section 5 of section 6, which is dealt with by clause 4, says -
The third commissioner shall he entitled to attend and vote at all meetings of .the commission, but shall not otherwise take part in any of the executive or administrative work of the commission.
Naturally, he would have a voice in the preparation of estimates. That is essential, and I see no harm in it.
– The commission may not receive the amount which it estimates it will require.
– That is so, as estimates arc often cut down by a careful Minister.
– He would have nothing to do with the administration of the commission.
– But he would have a vote as to what should be expended during the year.
– That has nothing to do with him, as the money is found by the people of Australia.
– The commission would prepare its estimates, and each member would have a vote in their preparation. I believe that we shall eventually have to agree to the election of a full-time representative of the residents, but meanwhile I am prepared to vote for the bill as it stands, in order that it may have a twelve months’ trial.
.-It was not my intention to take any further part in this debate except to indicate my opposition to certain clauses by calling for a division; but as the amendment proposed by Senator Abbott may go to a division, I have no wish that my vote upon the matter shall be a silent one. It has been pointed out that the maximum remuneration of the third commissioner can be only £250 per annum, but there is every probability that it will be very much less, because, although clause 6 specifies that meetings shall be held not less than once a fortnight, a proviso is added to the effect that the Minister may, if he thinks fit, direct that meetings need not be held once a fortnight. Of course, that could be construed both ways, as the Minister could order meetings weekly, monthly, or quarterly. The Leader of the Senate has enumerated the duties of the commission as set forth in the original act, and he indicated that the third commissioner will merely be a nominal representative of the taxpayers.
– Hear, hear! That is as it should be.
– I do not interpret the act in that way, because if one reads clause 4 .of the amending bill in conjunction with the principal act he will find that -
The commission shall consist of three members, namely a chief commissioner, a second commissioner, and a third commissioner. while section 14 of the principal act states -
Subject to this act, and to any ordinance made in pursuance of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910, the powers of the commission in relation to the Territory shall include the following ….
Consequently, the third commissioner, according to the wording of the principal act, will have similar powers to those of the first and second commissioner, except, of course, that the Chief Commissioner has reserved to himself the right of a casting vote as well as a deliberative vote. I heartily concur with Senator Abbott in the opinion that the position calls for a full-time occupant, who should attend commission meetings on practically an equal footing with the other commissioners.
– I point out that the powers mentioned by the honorable senator are limited by proposed new subsection 6 of section 6, as set out in clause 4.
– I admit that such a qualification exists ; but it has my opposition. Not only should the salary be higher, but the position should be a full-time and permanent one. I would allocate the duties of the three commissioners as has been done in connexion with the Development and Migration Commission, where the chairman receives a certain salary, the second commissioner a slightly smaller salary, and the third a still smaller salary. If I were in favour of commission control of the Federal Capital Territory, I should advocate the payment of a salary of £1,500 to the third commissioner, but as I am opposed lock, stock and barrel to commission control of the Territory, I cannot support the amendment. I opposed the appointment of the present commission, and have not since changed my mind. I do not think that the commission has justified its existence, and I regard the payment of salaries to members of the commission as throwing good money after bad. I would rather revert to the original method of controlling the Territory by a Commonwealth department. Officers of a Commonwealth department started the capital and did good work. I have no desire to reflect on the ability of the commissioners. I am simply on principle opposed to the control of the Territory by a commission. It is true, as an honorable senator has said, that magnificent work has been done on this building by the officers of the commission, but equally good work could have been done by officers of the Works and
Railways Department. As I am not in favour of commission control of the Territory, I cannot support the amendment.
Question - That clause 7 stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 14 agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted - “ 14a. Section fifteen of the principal act is amended by omitting sub-section (4) thereof.”
Section 10 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1926 reads -
Section 15 of the principal act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead-
This sub-section thus prevents the commission from disposing of the freehold title to any land, and the object of my amendment is to remove that limitation to its powers so that if the Government directs the commission to do so it may dispose of the freehold title to any land.
– We cannot give the commission that power.
– I hope that honorable senators have not made up their minds. The Public Accounts Committee has been taking evidence on this question for some months, and has reported -
According to evidence tendered the principle of leasehold in the Territory was not generally favored, the chief objections to the system being -
Uncertainty due to reappraisement.
Creation of artificial values at auction sales, resulting in high rents, rates and increased cost of commodities.
– What did the committee recommend on that point?
– On that point it is silent. Possibly it felt that the question of leasehold tenure was outside the scope of its inquiry. Nevertheless, it heard a great deal of evidence, and summarizes that evidence in the way I have just read. I have no hesitation in saying that there will be no substantial progress in the Territory until we have the freehold tenure here. The commission is at its wits end to know how to finance its activities. It has approached the banks, but the banks, with the experience of the Civic Centre before them, said, “ No more for us.” It has recently tried to tempt some of the life insurance companies to put money into the Territory. I venture to prophesy that before we are very much older the Government will find itself compelled to bring down an amendment on the lines of that which I am now moving, because the present system will bring about so much difficulty that it will not know where it stands. The amending provision is an attempt to straighten out an internal tangle which has arisen in endeavouring to operate this system.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [9.32]. - I submit that this is not the time to discuss the merits and demerits of the freehold and leaseholdsystems. A previous Parliament passed the law under which a large number of leaseholds have been sold in the Federal Capital Territory. Senator Elliott stated that the Public Accounts Committee took evidence from a large number of leaseholders, all of whom said that they preferred the freehold system. There is nothing very extraordinary about that.
– The evidence was not taken only from those holding leases.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.There is no freehold land in this Territory.
– But evidence was taken in Melbourne, and I understand in other cities on the question of land tenure.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Certain persons having acquired leases now wish to be presented with the freehold.
– They would be willing to pay for it.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.All these gentlemen would hail such a proposal with great enthusiasm. I remember an incident which occurred in South Australia - Senator Thomas will also recall it - when a State Government placed a number of unemployed on leasehold . land in the Adelaide hills. Those lessees were in the first place enthusiastic supporters of the leasehold system- they were supporters of the Labour party, as Senator Verran will remember, and insisted that the land should be leased - but after settling on the blocks they formed themselves into a freeholders’ organization, turned out the sitting member for the district, and returned one who promised to obtain, and eventually did, obtain, the freehold for them. I do not know if they were any better off as a result, but those are the facts. It has always been the experience that a leaseholder eventually wants to obtain the freehold. We have to remember, however, that millions of pounds of the taxpayers’ money have been spent in the Federal Capital Territory, and that expenditure is giving an added value to the land. The time may arrive when it may be thought advisable to convert leaseholds into freeholds. I am not going to be dogmatic, but when the Government is spending such large sums of public money in the Territory, and it is difficult to arrive at the true value of the land, such a change should not be made. The suggestion to present leaseholders with the freehold of their land is one which the Government cannot favorably consider. We could not dispossess these people if we converted their leaseholds into freeholds.
– It could be done for a consideration.
– The Government does not’ favour that course. “We know from experience that its value will be higher than it is to-day, and if any one is to benefit by an appreciation in value due to the expenditure of large sums of public moneys it- should be the people who are providing that money. The attitude of the Government is to adhere to the principle embodied in the principal act, and I ask the committee not to make this revolutionary change at this juncture.
– I intend to support Senator Elliott’s amendment. This is a young, but decadent city. Houses and shops are empty and businesses are going into liquidation.
– So they are in Launceston.
– I am not speaking of Launceston, but of a place conceived in parochialism, and nurtured in selfishness. We should not be here, but for the selfishness of certain persons in New South Wales. I do not believe that this city can be properly developed under the leasehold system.
– I suppose the Federal Capital should be in Tasmania.
– Tasmania is small in area and financially weak; but it is proud and independent, and its people are not parochial. Senator Thomas, who seems to suggest that this is a desirable place in which to live, was even complaining because he could not return to Sydney to-night. The unsatisfactory atmosphere of this place has been created by the leasehold system. It is dead. The investment of private capital is unknown. There is a’ lack of individual enterprise. The love of possession is inherent in the human breast.. That love is apparent in a child in the cradle, and as it grows, the desire develops. If that right is taken away from the people the place in which they live becomes lifeless. There is an absence of progress such as is strikingly apparent in Canberra.
– There is very little freehold property in London.
– I am referring to the conditions in a new city, and not an old one. Canberra is not developing as it should, and its people are pessimistic. We ought to stay our hands and spend as little money as possible; when expenditure is incurred, it should be only upon essential works. Wonderful things have been done in Canberra. I rejoice to realize that the residents have had sufficient sense to decide that it shall be “ wet “, as that will do something, to aid its development. We shall shortly enjoy more of the pleasures of civilization, and I congratulate the men and women of Canberra upon voting as they did. Their action will give the place a little more life and lead to the encouragement of private enterprise. Those of us who are here to-day will not live to see Canberra grow very much larger, but if we wish to assist in its development, we should enable the residents to secure the freehold of the land. They would then feel that they had an interest in the place and quite unconsciously would be assisting its development. If one wishes to purchase a collar stud or a safety pin, a journey of several miles by a coach or bus is necessary. I look upon the sorrowful faces of the women of Canberra, and I pity them in their desolate surroundings. I am sorry to see them shut up in their box-like homes without fences to keep out the bandicoots or the rabbits. I trust honorable senators will seriously consider the beneficial effects which would result from a change from the leasehold to the freehold system, and that they will support the amendment moved by Senator Elliott. The Minister said that if such a change were made, the Government would have to present the leaseholders with their blocks. That is .not so. They would have to pay a consideration.
– They would object to that.
– -No. the Minister gave the whole show away when he said that they want the freehold. They are not satisfied with existing conditions.
– They want to make a profit.
– That could be prevented.
– What difference does it make if a man has a 99 years’ lease 1
– It makes a lot of difference. A man likes to say that the block on which he lives is his own. .
– It is practically impossible to get financial accommodation, on a lease.
– Exactly, and that is what is seriously retarding the development of Canberra.
– It is amusing to hear the remarks of those opposed to the leasehold system, particularly as there are hundreds of acres of land in Sydney, the most prosperous city in the Commonwealth, held under that system. It is a most equitable system to grant a lease of the land for 99 years, and I . trust the Government will adhere to it. As the Minister stated, millions of pounds of the taxpayers’ money have been spent in the Federal Capital, and it is only right that the people should benefit from the added value so given to the land.
– Has the honorable senator a block of land in this city?
– I have not. A cansiderable area at Vaucluse and Bondi, in Sydney, is occupied under the leasehold system, and the land there is worth almost unlimited money.
– Is that land leasehold from the Crown?
– No; it is in the Cooper and Gibbons estates.
– Then it is freehold.
– The honorable senator is talking without his book. The land I speak of $s held under a 99 years lease. ‘ The Crown has the freehold iu Canberra, so land here is in exactly the same category as land held under lease from the Cooper and Gibbons estates. The people who occupy land in those estates have built on it, and are quite satisfied.
– A large area of the City of London has also been built upon under the leasehold system.
– Of course it has. Johannesburg, one of the finest cities in the Southern Hemisphere, has been developed on the same principle. The re-appraisements there are made every twenty years. The leasehold system is also largely in operation in Parramatta, one of the most prosperous cities in Australia. The Church of England authorities there hold about 50 acres, which have developed under leasehold.
– - That also is freehold.
– It is under the leasehold system. Originally it was an unattractive piece of land, but people have taken it on a 99 years lease, and although one-half of the term has expired they can get bigger prices for the balance of the leasehold than they paid for it originally. Any person who says that the 99 years leasehold system is wrong does not know what he is talking about.
– I should not have taken part in this debate except for the extraordinary statements that have been made about the effect of the leasehold system on the development of a country. Those who suggest that it is retarding progress in Canberra are shutting their eyes to. the records of human progress. The adoption of the leasehold system has been a plank in the platform of the Labour party for many years. Wherever it has been adopted there has been considerable development. Many people have risen to prosperity under it, and, such is human nature, some have become conservative. I know from personal experience that but for the subdivision of large estates and the right to occupy that land under the leasehold system many people who have done well as primary producers, would never have had an opportunity to go on the land - and that under Liberal Governments before Labour reached power. The use-value in regard to land is the important consideration. One need not concern oneself about who owns it. I have to confess that I am an owner of a small freehold myself, because I realize that when I am in Rome I must do as Rome does; but I am discontented about it because while having to bear heavy rates I cannot use it. I am a firm believer in )he leasehold system. Actually all that the freehold does is to give the owner of land a little larger share of what is known as its use value. Probably the ownership of a freehold enables a man to dispose of a property more readily; but where land is held under a 99- years lease, as in Canberra, there need be no misgivings as to the sale of the lease. Freehold does not give the owner greater protection from taxation authorities, and in that respect it does not offer any marked advantages over the leasehold system. I was very much interested when 1 came to Canberra to find that a large socialistic experiment is being tried out iu the Federal Capital. Under this system of land tenure the gambling element is to a large extent eliminated, and I feel sure that future generations will appreciate at its worth what has been done for them. The people of Australia generally will applaud the action of the Government in preventing, as far as possible, a gambling orgy in land values in the Federal Capital Territory. This issue in 1907 caused the biggest split that has ever occurred in the Labour party in Queensland. As honorable senators are aware, one of the principles of the Labour party is to prevent any further alienation of Crown lands. I think this is a good thing. The leasehold system has been in operation in the Northern Territory ever since that portion of Australia has been occupied, and I understand that, in a majority of instances, the leases have been for a term of 42 years. In New Zealand the term of a lease from the Crown is limited to 66 years. In Canberra it is 99 years, so there is a very considerable margin above the term in other countries. Even Senator Ogden will admit that it should serve his time.
– I” think it will.
– I am glad to have that admission from the honorable senator. I was surprised to hear him speak so gloomily about the environment of this beautiful city. I have been over most of the States of Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria, and I can say that the site selected for the Capital City of the Commonwealth is as fine as any to be found in any of the three States mentioned. It is the purest drivel to talk about people in Canberra being disappointed with their surroundings. If those who complain had had the bad luck to spend a little of their time in some of the .back-block towns of Queensland and New South Wales they would welcome the idea of returning to the charming surroundings of the National Capital. I well remember the condition of many back-block villages in New South
Wales nearly 40 years ago. There was then no talk about socialistic experiments and the leasehold system was practically unknown. AH these towns were being developed under freehold, and so gloomy and deserted were they that it was almost impossible sometimes to find even a stray animal, let alone a human being, from one end of a main street to the other. This is not an uncommon experience in many of our smaller towns where private enterprise has full sway. If Senator Ogden had to spend a few hours in some of those towns he would become so discontented that we might even see him back on these Labour benches, and again a firm believer in the leasehold system. I intend to support the Leader of the Senate and Senator Cox, though I marvel to find myself in their company. I applaud the present Government for its attitude to the leasehold system as applied to Canberra, and I hope that there will never be a change to the principle of freehold in the Territory.
– I have always been an advocate of the leasehold system, and shall not now depart from the principle. It is a sound system of land tenure. Australia to-day is suffering from inflated land values; for many years the land jobbers have been reaping a harvest. No wheat-growing land is worth £23 an acre, yet as much as that has been paid for it. If land in Canberra were obtainable on a freehold tenure we should see men flocking here from all parts of the Commonwealth to obtain it, for “ Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” It was a wise act on the part of those who laid the foundations of this Capital “City to provide for leasehold tenure. I should, not like to see freehold property in this city. We shall soon have public houses in Canberra, so probably the next cry we shall hear will be - “ Freehold for the pubs.” The” police will have enough to do in looking after the- “pubs” without having to keep an eye open for land “sharks” as well. In South Australia the activities of some land agents were such that it was found necessary to introduce legislation to deal with them.
– Why was that?
– They had disregarded God’s law, “ Thou shalt not steal.” I am sorry for any man who has made losses on land transactions in Canberra, but he took the risk, and should abide by the consequences. Parliament is indeed a poor place in which to complain of having made a had bargain. Some people decry Canberra, but I marvel at what has been accomplished in so. short a time. Men of brains must have been active here. I do not know Sir John Butters, but judging by what I see in this city he must be a capable man. His offence is that being a man of powerful personality he has upset the preconceived ideas of many people. When I find a nian discussed to the extent that Sir John Butters is discussed I feel that he must be of value to the community. Senator Elliott has his troubles, and I am sorry for him; but surely he should be satisfied with a 99 years lease. Freehold land in Adelaide has brought as much as £1,000 a foot, and in Sydney even more than that. I hope that legislation will never be introduced to provide for freehold tenure in Canberra. At one time the late Honorable Thomas Price, when Premier of South Australia, was approached by a number of persons who held some leasehold pro,perty not far from Adelaide with a request that they be given freehold tenure. He granted their request; but before he died they returned and asked that it should revert to leasehold. I shall vote for the bill as it stands.
– While a general discussion on the relative merits of freehold and leasehold tenure would no doubt be of great interest, my reading of the amendment moved by Senator Elliott is that its effect would be to leave a discretionary power in the hands of the commissioners to grant freehold tenure if they thought it advisable.
– Once we start doing that, where are we to draw the line?
– If the Federal Capital Commissioners have the confidence of the people of Australia, as has been suggested, we shall not be taking a very great risk if we grant them a discretionary power in the matter of land tenure.
– Sir John Butters might die to-morrow, and the second commissioner the following day.
– There should be no discretionary power.
– I can understand the Leader of the Labour party in this chamber advocating leasehold in preference to freehold, and that Senators Verran, Thomas and Reid, who have graduated from the ranks of the Labour party should also advocate leasehold. Those honorable senators are still Labour men at heart. I was nurtured in Liberalism.
– Leasehold tenure has been a plank of the Liberal party’s platform for many years.
– Men who advocate leasehold have never had to develop a leasehold property and make it productive. When a man holding land seeks financial assistance the first question he is asked is, “What is your tenure “ 1 If he replies that it is leasehold, he experiences difficulty in obtaining financial assistance. The Leader of the Senate, who so ably represents the Government in this chamber,, is continually referring to the huge expenditure in connexion with’ the development of the Federal Capital Territory. The trouble is that financial institutions will not make advances on leasehold property. As one who has experienced the difficulty of developing and financing leasehold proper* ties. I say unhesitatingly that the progress of this Territory would be greater if the commissioners were given a discretionary power to grant freehold tenure in certain cases. I am a great admirer of the Federal Capital City. Members of this Parliament are prone to talk disparagingly of what has been done here, but when one bears in mind the conditions under which results have been achieved, one cannot but be proud of them. I believe, with Senator Elliott, that ho great harm would be done if the commission were granted a discretionary power to allot freehold or leasehold tenure in certain circumstances, and I shall be pleased if Senator Elliott calls for a division on the matter. That would enable us to get down to first principles, and it would allow those who may in the future be curious on the subject to see that there were at least two or three in this chamber who appreciated the nature of the obstacle that was retarding the progress of Canberra, and endeavoured to remove it. I am confident that freehold tenure will eventually obtain in this area.
– I must confess that I am somewhat of an agnostic so far as systems of land tenure is concerned I do not pin my opinions to one side or the other. In each case the special conditions governing the situation need consideration. Canberra has to face its own peculiar problems; they are different from those which obtain elsewhere in Australia. I ask honorable senators to view the matter from the point of view of the residents themselves. I appreciate to the full the argument of Senator Elliott as to the extreme difficulty of enticing money lenders to advance money against land which is held under a system of leasehold tenure.But one must consider the other side of the case. The persons referred to by Senator Elliott arc small land-holders of comparatively limited means, and even if they were able to secure freehold tenure for their blocks, they would be unable to raise sufficient money to continue with any very considerable building programme. They would be faced with the immediate necessity of finding a fairly considerable sum of money to pay for the freehold. Of course, their difficulty would be less if they were able to obtain extended terms, but then the position would not be far different from what it is at present.
– They would be quite unable to obtain the necessary finance.
– That is very likely, as they would need a great deal of money. Under the present system there will be an ever-increasing revenue flowing into the coffers of the commission in the shape of rents, on which revenue the commission must to a great extent depend. If freehold tenure were substituted for leasehold, that income would be immediately cut off, and it would be necessary to obtain revenue by some other means.
– At present the. commission borrows money at or 6 per cent., and lets it out to leaseholders at 5 per cent. That is remarkable finance.
– I believe that the commission would have to impose an unimproved land value tax on the inhabitants of the Territory in order to recoup itself for the loss of rents. A similar tax is enforced in many of our capital cities, and it is a fairly heavy burden. The Sydney City Council has resumed many freeholds which, when they are again parcelled out, are on a leasehold tenure.
– I have heard statements to the contrary.
– A similar procedure occurred in London. Where a freehold tenure exists, a fairly heavy unimproved land value tax is imposed. Does the average civil servant and householder in Canberra desire to be faced with the necessity, in future years, of paying an ever-increasing land value tax ? I submit that it is infinitely preferable that, for some years, we should leave in the pockets of those people the capital they would have to pay for their land under a system of freehold tenure. I believe that the tax they would have to pay would be practically equal to the rents nowpaid, and they would labour under the disadvantage of being deprived of the greater portion of the capital that they had accumulated. Whilst admitting that there are advantages in the scheme proposed by Senator Elliott, I believe that they are more than outweighed by its disadvantages. There is no reason why the Government and the commission should not come to the rescue of the residents of Canberra and advance them the money necessary to establish homes of their own. The housing scheme which was recently dealt with by this Parliament will shortly be available to Canberra residents under a leasehold tenure, and its operations may be extended to overcome the difficulties mentioned by Senator Elliott. I regret that I cannot support the honorable senator, but I believe that the time is inopportune to inaugurate the freehold system.
– When I spoke on this subject this afternoon I said that I had a very deep-rooted conviction in favour of freehold. As the land tenures of this Capital city are in the nature of an experiment, I should like to see that experiment carried through, and really have no wish to stop it at this stage. But I understand that Senator Elliott’s amendment gives discretionary power to the commission to grant either leasehold or freehold, as it thinks fit. I see no harm in that. After having listened to the various speeches on the subject, which have been of general application, I cannot bring myself to vote against the convictions that I have held all my life in favour of freehold.
– I found it somewhat difficult to follow the argument of Senator Duncan. It seems to me that his financial ideas differ radically from mine. Honorable senators are aware that the commission is borrowing money at an average of about 6$ per cent., which it is lending at 5 per cent, to people who purchase land in the Territory, thereby’ losing at least 1^ per cent, on the deal. If the land were sold on a freehold basis and the proceeds utilized by the commission, it would save a clear li per cent, of the taxpayers’ money.
– Who would get the unearned increment that would result?
– I fail to see where that unearned increment comes in. The report of the Accounts Committee states that land in this Territory is bringing up to £175 per foot, which is equal to £35,000 an acre. The Government, with the assistance of the Valuer-General of New South Wales, searched that State high and low in an endeavour to locate cities with land values which would compare favorably with those of Canberra during the next 50 years. Goulburn and Bathurst were two of the cities chosen, and by some remarkable method of calculation the average land value in Canberra was fixed at £20 a foot, or about £4,000 an acre. But when the land sales eventuated here, the commission, finding that about 60 people wished to purchase blocks, put up only ten or twenty and so forced people to bid one against the other. The commission admitted to the Committee of Public Works that land values had been inflated. Although £20 a foot was the value determined upon, the commission by a “get rich quick Wallingford “ stunt, brought about an inflation of values, and it will be at least 150 years before that inflated value becomes the actual value here.
– That inflation was caused by speculators.
– Those bidders certainly paid too high a price, and I fail to see where the unearned increment comes in.
– It is now with the commission ; under the scheme of the honorable senator, it would be with the speculators.
– If, as the commission admits, those people purchased at inflated values, there obviously cannot for many years be anything in the nature of unearned increment.
– Those values apply to only a few blocks. What is the area of the whole Territory?
– About 900 square miles, but I am dealing with the city area. It is only in the capital cities that there is likely to be any unearned increment. Land is cheaper in Ballarat to-day than it was 50 years ago. Land in Kalgoorlie which cost £20 a foot 30 years ago, can now be bought for a song. It is population that gives an increment to the value of land, but there is nothing to induce people to flock to Canberra. We had in Victoria some most enthusiastic Labourites who were in favour of the leasehold principle at Wonthaggi ; but the moment they got their leases they began to feel the shoe pinch. No one would finance them when they wanted to build better houses. That great reservoir of finance - money held in trust for investment - cannot be tapped by the leaseholders of Canberra. Honorable senators have referred to London leases. Those leases are for extended periods without re-appraisements. If there were reappraisements, there would be no financial stability about the London leases.
– What has been the experience in the Northern Territory?
– I am not an authority on what has happened in the Northern Territory. All that I know is that the present Government amended the law to permit of the sale of land in Darwin under the freehold system. The
Labour Government in Victoria is patting itself on the back for selling workmen’s blocks at Fishermen’s Bend under the freehold tenure.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Question - That the proposed new clause (Senator Elliott’s amendment) be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . .8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Clauses 15 and 16 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Motion(by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the report be now adopted.
– I move -
That thebill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 16.
As the Chairman put the question, “ That clause 16 be agreed to,” before honorable senators had resumed their seats after the division which has just been taken, I was precluded from moving an amendment to clause 16, which is the most important in the bill.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [10.47]. - I cannot agree to the course suggested by Senator Elliott, who I do not think has been altogether fair to the Chairman of committee (Senator Plain). The honorable senator was on this side of the chamber when the division was taken, whilst I was on the Opposition side, and I had time to resume my seat before the Chairman put clause 15 and subsequently clause 16. While that was being done the honorable senator was engaged in conversation.
– But would it not be fair to give the honorable senator an opportunity to state his case?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That is not the point. He fully ventilated the subject which I understand he wishes to discuss on the motion for the second reading. I ask the Senate not to agree to the recommittal of the bill.
– I am rather surprised at the attitude adopted by the Minister (Senator Pearce) on this occasion. There has been a slight misunderstanding, and I think there should be extended to Senator Elliott the courtesy of agreeing to the recommital of the bill. There should not be any desire to burke discussion, especially as we shall be here until the end of the week. Such action leaves a sting in the breast of the honorable senator concerned. We may not agree with his opinions, but I think he should be given an opportunity to express them, particularly as he considers the subject of vital importance.
– I hope the Minister (Senator Pearce) will agree to the recommittal of the bill. I do not agree with Senator Elliott, who asserted that the Chairman put the clause before he had time to resume his seat. There was ample time for the honorable senator to rise, but he was engrossed for the moment in his work, and was not aware that the clause was being put. He should be given the right to make the observations he desires to put before the Senate, and the debate should not be restricted in any way, particularly when the honorable senator is sincere in what he is endeavouring to do. I entirely disagree with some of his opinions, and have voted against him. On behalf of the Opposition I ask the Minister to reconsider his decision.
Question - That the bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 16 - put. The committee divided.
Majority …… . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: (Recommittal).
Clause 16 (Amendment of section 12) .
– As this measure has been introduced ostensibly with the object of instituting a change in the system of government in the Federal Capital Territory, it is astounding to find that this clause which is quite foreign to the subject-matter of the bill, has been inserted.The Minister (Senator Sir George Pearce), dealt with this subject in his second-reading speech, and read a letter from Allen Allen and Hemsley, a firm of solicitors acting presumably for the Commonwealth Bank, the concluding part of which is important, but which does not contain any justification for the sweeping amendment introduced by the Government. It reads -
In the absence of any judicial decision on the point, and bearing in mind the frequent occasions upon which the members of the High Court bench take different views upon the points of law submitted to them, we feel that you would be justified in asking the Federal Government to remove all doubt by providing by regulation and by-laws under the act 1924-26, for the same matters as are covered by the ordinances No. 11 and No. 12 of 1928.
It will be noticed that the firm has not suggested any amendment of the act, and the regulations to which reference only is made are thrown in sheafs on the table of the Senate from time to time. Neither of these ordinances was under considera tion, and this clause has apparently been inserted for some other purpose. It reads - “ 28a. Section twelve of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910 is amended by omitting the words ‘ Until the Parliament makes other provision for the government of the Territory,’.” (2.) This section shall be deemed to have commenced on the date of the passing of the Scat of Government (Administration) Act 1924.
Those words seem to be quite harmless, but they have an important bearing upon the conditions under which residents of the Territory are to live.
– What effect have they?
– They are intended to do exactly what was intended in another form by the retrospective ordinance which was discussed at length the other day.
SenatorReid. - Will the clause do an injustice to any one?
– Of course it will. I believe that even this attempt on the part of the Government would be overruled by the High Court on appeal. Substantial rents are charged to lessees who, in some instances, pay from £3 to £4 a week for blocks 20 feet by 80 feet absolutely unimproved, and if this clause is passed it will give the commission power to superimpose upon the already exorbitant rents all manner of charges. We have seen the way in which the footpaths have been torn up in front of this building and replaced, and if this clause is passed it will enable the commission to tear up roads and footpaths at the expense of the lessees to their heart’s content.
– They can do that now.
– If they can do it under a retrospective ordinance, there is no need for this provision. The commission is now awaking to the fact that its ordinances are invalid, and to. make the position quite secure, without the slightest regard for the lessees, the Government ask the committee to adopt this proposal. Is that a fair deal?
– This does not amend an ordinance.
– No. When the Minister threw out his challenge,I sent a letter to the commission the next day saying that “we were not going to pay these charges as they were invalid and asking it to issue a summons. A fortnight afterwards - a day or so ago - I received a letter to the effect that the commission was considering the matter. It has been thinking hard, and has found that what I said is true.
– Could the conditions be varied ?
– Quite so. That is the position. The charges cannot be enforced, but the Government hopes that, by inserting this provision in the bill, to make it still more difficult to prove their invalidity. If a tenant decides to contest the charge and briefs counsel from Sydney, counsel will charge a fee of perhaps a hundred guineas and the police magistrate has not authority to order more than about £5 5s. costs. The leases are drawn in black and white, duly signed, sealed and delivered, so they should determine the relation between landlord and tenant. The Government as the landlord, with an obedient Parliament at its back, claims to read into the leases by means of their ordinances or regulations any terms that it wishes to have introduced, however, oppressive they may be; but if the court considers that the terms are iniquitous, it will, in my opinion, declare that the exercise of this legislative power is ultra vires, because there is a provision in the Constitution that a man’s property shall not be acquired except on just and equitable terms. If by means of these amendments it is possible for the Government to import any terms it pleases into a lease, clearly the Government has power to do what it likes, to the extent of even forcing him to give up his property.
– It may repudiate a contract.
– That is so, in effect. I believe, and my view is strengthened by the opinion of counsel, that even this amendment will be ineffective. But no one is anxious to contest the issue. I therefore appeal to honorable senators to support me. The Government had its legal advisers. The bargain is in black and white. “Why .should the weight of the Commonwealth Parliament be thrown in the scale against the tenant? I ask the committee to reject this clause.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [11.5]. - I have already dealt with the point raised by Senator Elliott, and I can only repeat now what I have said previously, namely, that this clause did not originate, as Senator Elliott believes, out of the position with regard to charges for guttering and kerbing. That matter is King Charles’ head with the honorable senator. This amendment originated out of a doubt expressed by the solicitors to the Commonwealth Bank, whether there was power to make, an ordinance relating to housing. The reasons were set out in the letter which I have read from the solicitors acting for the bank. Senator Elliott can see nothing but the ordinance relating to kerbing and guttering. That is not the only ordinance involved. If the doubt that has arisen is well founded, not only that ordinance, but other ordinances made by the Federal Capital Commission since 1910 are involved. Rather than allow that doubt to remain, * and because of the confusion and loss that would result, the Government deems it wise to validate all ordinances back to that year. In what way will this validating provision prejudice any one except those who wish to embarrass the Commonwealth by taking advantage of a technicality? All those ordinances have been legally made, or if they were not legally made, it was through an oversight on the part of the legal advisers to the Crown. Nevertheless, the Government passed the ordinances in good faith, and contracts have been made under them as between landlord and tenant. What Senator Elliott is asking honorable senators to do is to leave the issue open to doubt. If they vote against this clause that will be the position. Are we as legislators, legislating in the interests of the people of Australia, justified in leaving this matter open to doubt, and all that that means? The charges for guttering and kerbing have nothing to do with this clause at all. The merits of that particular ordinance were debated on a motion submitted by Senator Elliott recently. That was the time to raise this issue. It is not involved in the clause under discussion. The question now is, shall we allow all the ordinances made since 1910 to be open to challenge with all the loss that may be involved? I appeal to honorable senators to support the Government.
– It seems to me to be highly improper, if leases have been entered into in good faith, to allow a tenant to take advantage of any weakness or flaw in those leases. I could not support an amendment having that end in view. If it was Senator Elliott’s desire in asking the committee to reject this clause, merely to prevent any variation or alteration in the conditions under which leases have been issued, for the purpose of imposing additional penalties on the leaseholder, I should feel disposed to support him. But we have had an assurance from the Minister on this point, and I feel sure that the Leader of the Senate would not mislead honorable senators. I appreciate the position in which Senator Elliott finds himself; but I think it undesirable that we should do anything to make it possible for tenants to evade their just responsibilities under their leases.
Clause agreed to.
Bill reported without further amendment; reports adopted.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . … 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion(by Senator Sir George
Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
SenatorNEEDHAM (Western Australia) [11.15]. - Before this motion is agreed to, I should like to know whether the Leader of the Senate can give us any information regarding the business still to be dealt with. In ordinary circumstances, most honorable senators would be travelling to their respective States tomorrow night, but, as things are, we do not know whether the. business will be completed in time to enable us to leave Canberra. We should know what business isto be brought before the Senate, when it will be here, and whether it will be completed in time to enable us to leave to-morrow or the next day. If we have to remain here beyond to-morrow, we shall have to make arrangements accordingly.
[11.16]. - It is the desire of the Government, and I am sure of honorable senators generally, that we should go straight ahead with the business still to be transacted, so that honorable senators and members of another place may return to their electorates. The business remaining is the consideration of the Estimates, and a bill dealing with employment on the waterfront, in addition to the Estate Duty Assessment Bill, which is already on the Senate notice-paper. That measure will be the first business to be dealt with to-morrow. It is anticipated that of the measures still to come from another place, one will reach the Senate to-morrow, and the other on Saturday or Monday. It is the intention of the Government to go straight ahead until the business is completed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 September 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1928/19280920_senate_10_119/>.