12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Rural Industries: Continuation of Investigation
– The Senate having unanimously agreed that a thorough investigation should be held into the economic position and condition of wheat growing and fruit growing in the Commonwealth and the late Government having referred that subject to the Development and Migration Commission, will the present Government cause the investigation to be pushed to a finish before the commission is disbanded?
– The Government has not arrived at a decision to disband the Development and Migration Commission. The economic position of wheat growing and fruit growing is at the present time receiving the very serious consideration of the Government. I can assure the honorable senator that I personally have given a great deal of attention to it, and that steps will be taken to reap some benefit from the very fine debate that took place in the Senate upon the motion submitted by the honorable senator for the holding of this investigation.
– On the 28th November Senator Guthrie asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator as follows: -
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate in a position to say whether the Government has come to any decision in regard to the request placed before the Prime Minister a few days ago by a deputation from South Australia and interested persons from other States, for an increase of the bounty on export wine ?
– I understand that the Prime Minister will make a statement on the matter either to-day or to-morrow.
The following paper was presented.- -
Superannuation Act - Seventh Annual Keport of the Superannuation Fund Management Board, year ended 30th June, 1929.
– In view of the cabled announcement that large numbers of agriculturists have effected their escape from Russia with Canada as their destination, will the Government intimate to the Russian authorities, either directly or through the British Government, that Australia will welcome wholeheartedly our fellow proletariats and potential workers to our now idle lands?
– The honorable senator’s question will need some slight amendment unless Senator Daly chooses to answer it as it is.
– In what way, Mr. President?
– I suggest that “ our fellow proletariats “ is scarcely the proper term to use.
– I am prepared to drop that phrase and call them potential agriculturists of a high order.
– The Government’s intention in regard to assisted migration has been made perfectly clear.
– The Government has not yet received a reply to the communication referred to by the right honorable gentleman.
Report of General Sir Harry Chauvel
– Will the Government, before the Senate is asked to discuss the defence Estimates, make available to honorable senators the report of General Sir Harry Chauvel on the Commonwealth Military Forces, which I understand was tabled a week ago?
– The printing of the report referred to by the honorable senator will, I presume, be considered by the Printing Committee when it isappointed.
-Will the Minister make a copy of the report available to those honorable senators who require it?
– I shall be most happy to do so if copies can be obtained. customstariff.
Refund of Duty
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
-The answers are -
asked the Minister, representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the questions asked in regard t6 the New Guinea Public Service on 21st November, will the Minister supply the following further information: -
Is it a fact that a letter from the Public Service Association of New Guinea, dated 8th August, 1928, addressed to the Minister for Home and Territories, and sent to the Administrator in August, 1928, with a request that it should be forwarded to the Minister, was not so forwarded until, a question having been asked in the Senate in March, 1929, the Administrator’s attention was directed to the matter?
What reason (if any) was given by the Administrator for the delay before he complied with the request subsequent to his return to the Territory from Canberra?
Have not the Public Service Associations of the Commonwealth a similar right to approach the Minister to that requested by the Public Service Association in New Guinea in this case?
Has the attention of the Minister been directed to articles in the press at intervals during the last two years alleging serious discontent amongst the public servants in the Territory of New Guinea?
Will the Minister cause inquiries to be made into such alleged discontent?
When may the decision of the Prime Minister asked for in the letter of 8th August, 1928, above referred to, be expected?
– The answers are -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– These matters oan be more suitably dealt with in the course of the debate on a measure which will shortly come before the Senate, and I suggest, therefore, that they be brought up at a later stage. To a large extent the questions have already been dealt with by the Treasurer in the debates in another place.
Terms of Lease
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries will be made, and the honorable senator will be informed as soon as possible. telephonecharges.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers are : -
Negotiations with South Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister. upon notice -
– The answers are: - 1 and 2. The Government proposes to discuss with the States on Monday next the question of amending the Federal Aid Roads Agreement.
Oil Boring at Popo.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are : -
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice. -
What progress has been made in regard to the establishment of a wireless telephone service between Tasmania and the Mainland?
– Tenders are under consideration and necessary experimental work has been undertaken to determine the best conditions for the operation of such a service. In view of substantial improvements which have recently taken place in the design of submarine telephone cables, further investigations are being pursued so that the relative merits of the two systems under present day conditions may be determined.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries will be made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
Bill received from the House ofRepresentatives, and (on motion of Senator Daly) read a first time.
Debate resumed from 4th December (vide page 644), on motion by Senator Barnes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [3.19]. - I congratulate the Assistant Minister for Works andRailways (Senator Barnes) upon moving for the first time the second reading of a bill in this chamber. Honorable senators were very pleased with the debonair manner in which he performed his task. This bill increases the amount to be expended on the railway between Kyogle and South Brisbane, as agreed upon between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Queensland. It is an important measure, as it deals with the construction of what is the first link in the unification of our railway gauges. For a number of years the subject of the unification of those gauges has been before the public of the Commonwealth generally, and many conferences have been held between Commonwealth and State representatives in an endeavour to arrive at finality in the matter. I believe that it was in the year 1920 that all parties concerned agreed to submit the problem to a royal commission, the report of which recommended that a standard gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in. should be adopted. Later, an agreement was entered into between the States and the Commonwealth that there should be unification of gauge on that basis, the Commonwealth Government to pay one-fifth of the cost involved, and the States to bear the remaining four-fifths, in proportion to the ratio of their population. It will be realised that both the States and the Commonwealth” are likely to experience difficulty in raising the money necessary to bring about the unification of railway gauges, and that considerable time must elapse before the change is effected. Victoria and South Australia have extensive railway systems with a gauge of 5ft. 3in., and I urge that, when constructing rolling stock for immediate needs, they should keep in mind the eventual’ conversion of those systems to a 4 ft. 8-J in. gauge.
This line is not only important because it is the first step in the unification of railway gauges in Australia. It is also of considerable local importance to the States of New South Wales and Queensland. It will confer greater comfort on those who travel between the two States, and it will reduce the travelling time between Sydney and Brisbane from the present 27 hours to about 20 hours. .It will also expedite and facilitate the transport of goods, which will be a particular boon to the primary producers of Queensland, who handle tropical products of a more or less perishable nature. Their output will be marketed in Sydney more speedily and in better condition. The existing break of gauge at the border of New South Wales and Queensland imposes a hardship on Queensland primary producers. Honorable senators are aware that considerable areas both north and south of Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, are devoted to the production of tropical fruits, and the necessity to tranship these products at Wallangarra, when consigned to Sydney, and again at Albury, when consigned to Melbourne, is a considerable drawback to Queensland growers. The greatest hardship of all was imposed upon Queensland cattlemen. A good portion of the coastal area of that State is devoted to the raising of cattle, which are tick infested. Quite rightly, the State of New South Wales prohibits the importation into that State of these tick-infested beasts, so that Queensland cannot transport live cattle into New South Wales. That deprives Queensland producers of a very excellent market, and it also deprives the consumers of New South Wales of the opportunity to purchase beef at a reasonable price when a shortage occurs in their own State. With the completion of this section of the line, and the provision* of abattoirs in Brisbane, it will not be long before Queensland producers are able to send their beef direct from the abattoirs, where it will be chilled, to Sydney, where it will be available for the southern consumer. At present they are at a great disadvantage because of the difficulty in marketing fat stock in Sydney, where prices are frequently double the rates ruling in Brisbane. The Adelaide market also is much more attractive, prices obtainable frequently being three times higher than in Brisbane, though owing to the break of gauge at Albury they will still have some difficulty in reaching southern markets. There is a railway line on the 3 ft. 6 in. gauge from Brisbane to Coolangatta, at the mouth of the Tweed, and on the southern side of the Tweed a New South Wales line runs from Grafton to Murwillumbah, but as there is no bridge over the Tweed River, New South Wales producers on the southern side are shut out from the Brisbane market, and for the same reason producers on the northern side of the Tweed are unable to reach the Sydney market. The construction of the bridge over the Clarence River is now in hand, and the completion of the Kyogle to South Brisbane standard gauge railway will provide a through means of communication from Sydney to Brisbane. At present this communication is by way of Sydney to Newcastle, thence through the New England district and Tenterfield to Wallangarra on the border, where passengers and goods have to be transferred from the 4 ft. 8£ in. gauge line to the Queensland 3 ft. 6 in. railway, which traverses the Stanthorpe fruit-growing district, thence through the rich agricultural Darling Downs country, down the range at Toowoomba and thence through the agricultural country in the Lockyer district. The highest point on that line is 4,500 feet above sea level, whereas the highest point on the Kyogle to South Brisbane line is 800 feet above sea level. The latter route is through excellent country in the northern rivers district of New South Wales and the southern districts of Queensland. When this railway is completed passengers will be able to travel between Sydney and Brisbane in much greater comfort, and producers in both the southern part of Queensland and the northern rivers district of New South Wales will have more accessible markets for their products. The original appropriation in 1924 was £3,500,000. This was increased to £4,000,000 in the amending bill of 1926, and now, for the reasons given by the Minister in introducing the bill, an additional £350,000 is required. Increased cost of permanent way material and increases due to industrial causes are responsible for this additional expenditure. The completion of this important railway work will not only be of immense benefit to the two States directly interested, but also will be the first stage in the unification of our railway gauges. I hope that it will not be long before something is done to obviate the breaks of gauge between Adelaide and Port Augusta. When that work is done it will be possible for passengers to travel from Albury through Melbourne and Adelaide on a 5 ft. 3 in. gauge, and thence to Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie on a 4 ft. 8£ in. gauge. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill, and hope that it will have a speedy passage.
Senator dunn (New South Wales) [3.37]. - It gives me a great deal of pleasure to support the first bill introduced by the Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes), and to endorse the remarks of the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat (Senator Glasgow). The Government in bringing forward this measure to complete. the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway is giving effect to the wishes of the people as regards the unification of our railway systems. The Kyogle to South Brisbane line is a costly undertaking. It starts from Casino and traverses rich agricultural country to Kyogle, thence to 0’Grady’s Creek, where the work is just about at its finishing stages. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Glasgow) stated, the new railway passes through some mountainous country, and the work includes the construction of a very costly tunnel. It is a fine piece of railway construction, carried out by capable engineers ; but it is costly. The line will pass through some; of the most fertile land in New South Wales, and reduce by seven hours the time occupied in a journey from Brisbane to Sydney. The New South Wales Government should strengthen the line be- tween Taree and Casino, which was built during the war period.
– Yes; but very little work is being done on that section. The line to Wauchope passes through some low-lying country, which in wet weather is subject to floods coming from the hinterland of the New England district. Between Wauchope and Kempsey also the land is low-lying; a fall of 3 inches of -rain will cover the delta of the Macleay River districts with water to a depth of 6 or 7 feet.
– Do the localities mentioned by the honorable senator come within the scope of this bill?
– Yes, Mr. President.
– The bill deals with a line from Grafton to South Brisbane ; but if the honorable senator assures me that it covers the localities he has mentioned I must accept his assurance.
– It is part of the one scheme. The Commonwealth Government is carrying out its part of the contract, and the Government of New South Wales should not fail to do its share. I do not wish to detract from the remarks of Senator Glasgow, or to adopt the attitude of a small state-righter. Nor do I desire to take away any of Brisbane’s maritime trade. That city is built on a noble river, and the wharfs at Pinkenba have been equipped to deal with both ocean-going and coastal steamers. Coff’s Harbour is now being equipped on modern lines, and when completed will be of great benefit to the primary producers in northern New South Wales as well as to shippers. The new line will branch off at Casino and continue to Kyogle and South Brisbane. The main line now goes to Tweed Heads, after which it connects with the narrow gauge system of Queensland. In constructing the railways referred to in “this bill we are moving in the right direction, for it is a further step towards the unification of our railway gauges. At present a traveller by train across Australia has continually to be picking up his portmanteau and changing to another train at the various break-of-gauge stations. I look forward to the time when there will be only one railway gauge in Australia.
Senator e. d. ELLIOTT (Victoria) [3.46] . - I was unfortunately absent from the chamber when this bill was introduced. I, therefore, inquired from a number of honorable senators who were present during the second reading what arguments were advanced by the Minister in support of the bill, but they were unable to enlighten me. For that reason I listened with considerable interest to the remarks of Senator Glasgow, particularly those in which he stated that this railway will assist the primary producers of Queensland and northern New South Wales. I am one of those who believe that the future of this country depends upon the development of its natural resources. Our primary industries should be developed in order to enable us to produce a surplus for export, for without a surplus for export Australia’s economic position cannot be sound. I should like to be able to agree with the reasons adadvanced by Senator Glasgow for the additional cost of this railway, but I cannot do so. In my opinion, the adoption of the “ government stroke “ is responsible. This is the third time that the estimates for this work have been revised. The original estimate was £3,500,000, which, later, was increased to £4,000,000. Under this bill a further £350,000 is appropriated. I believe that the cost will be even greater than the present estimate. Senator Glasgow has, apparently, forgotten that additional expenditure, and, consequently, a heavier interest bill is inevitable when big works are undertaken on the basis adopted in this instance. Unfortunately, we have not to look very far for other illustrations of estimates of- big public works having been exceeded. The estimate prepared in 1914 for the Murray River works was £4,660,000. Twelve months ago the actual expenditure was £14,000,000; and the work is still going on. I predict that that scheme will cost the country several million pounds more before the work is finished. The Eildon Weir in Victoria was originally estimated to cost £750,000 and to take three years to complete. The actual cost to date is £1,500,000, and it is probable that ten years will elapse before the job is finished.
Originally when tenders were called for this work, I understand, that sealed estimates were submitted by the New South Wales Railway Department for the New South Wales section of the line, and for some reason or other the Commonwealth Government refused to give the contract to an outsider. Negotiations over the matter covered a period of four or five months, during which time the council controlling construction had access to the detailed figures of the tenders, and retained deposits running into £40,000 or £50,000 without compensation in any shape or form. The understanding was that the estimates given by the State Governments would not be exceeded. One argument advanced by the council was that as the work would be done by day labour, the constructing authorities would be free from the need for supervision, and on that account it therefore deducted £40,000 or £50,000. I should imagine that those who have had experience of government day labour work, would think that in such circumstances supervision would be even more necessary than if the work was to be done by outside tenderers. On this railway the council controlling the matter was master and servant. How could any one expect efficient and reasonable service under those conditions? The other day Senator Daly appealed to us to help his Government in solving some of the difficulties that come before it. We should be helping his Government very much if we could induce it to thoroughly investigate the details of the conditions under which this additional money is demanded by the railway council. My feeling is that if the position were thoroughly investigated it would be found that there is no definite obligation on the part of the Commonwealth Government to pay this money. I understand that one reason advanced for the additional cost is that a washaway was occasioned by heavy rains. But washaways are a risk railway contractors always accept, and it is one which should be carried by the Queensland or the New South Wales Government whichever is involved. It should certainly not be passed on to the Commonwealth. This is a direction in which considerable expenditure could be avoided, and an investigation on the lines I suggest would give the Government’ a wonderful experience of the disadvantages of the daylabour system. I happen to have been in a position to study the conditions of these contracts at the time they were let. I really did not think that it was possible for the industrial conditions of Queensland to go back on those existing at the time these tenders were prepared. In estimating the cost, provision had to be made for only 212 full working days in the year. Provision had also to be made to allow the men a twenty minutes “ smoko “ each morning and afternoon, and the time-off was not to start until the men were under shelter. It was not to count from the moment they downed tools. In Queensland, provision had also to be made to pay the fares of workmen to their homes at each week-end, if they were within range, and at least once a month if their homes were out of range. Even if Senator Barnes is unable to withdraw the bill, I should like him to make an investigation, and tell us the result of his experience. In business a refusal to face disagreeable facts leads to bankruptcy, in war it leads to defeat, in science to false conclusions, in theology it is commonly believed to lead to perdition, and in politics it leads to all these disagreeable consequences. If we close our eyes to this great expenditure and to the drawbacks of the day-labour system I am afraid it will lead to trouble.
– This is a measure on the introduction of which I can congratulate the Government.
– Can the honorable senator throw any light on the increased costs?
– There .is a familiar ring about the Victorian opposition to this bill, but on the present occasion it has a good deal more to support it than it had when Victorian senators opposed the original bill for the construction of this railway. I agree with Senator R. D. Elliott that the expenditure provided for in the bill, should be scanned very cerefully. But we are committed to the construction of this railway and the bulk of the expenditure has already been incurred. It is now merely a question of completing the work, and we have no option but to trust the Government to do the best it can to finish the job as economically as possible, and scan this expenditure carefully. We do not want any of the fantastic schemes just mentioned by Senator R. D. Elliott, and I am sure the Government will see that the practices to which the honorable senator has drawn attention will not be continued.
One thing that has disturbed me as a frequent traveller is the announcement by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) that the journey from Sydney to Brisbane will be reduced by six hours only. I hope that Senator Glasgow and Senator Dunn, who declared that the saving in time would be seven hours, are more accurate. We were looking forward to a greater saving of time than five or six hours. I agree that the new railway will provide more comfortable travelling. The jolting which now occurs about Ben Nevis and the high levels before Wallangarra is reached will be avoided.
I take this opportunity to urge upon the Government the need for expediting the construction of the Clarence river bridge, so that after the completion of this railway there will be no great interval of time before the line will be workable right through from Brisbane to Sydney. The other day, in a question, I mentioned the need for a daily service between Sydney and Brisbane. I hope that Senator Barnes will endeavour to bring pressure to bear on the railway commissioners of Queensland and New South Wales, to see that a daily service, including Sundays, is provided. That facility is now provided between Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, and surely the great State of Queensland should not be allowed to lag behind the other States in this respect.
As has been mentioned by other senators, the Grafton to South Brisbane railway will be another link in the 4 ft. Si in. standard gauge railway we hope to have some day running from Brisbane to Perth. This section will enable the journey from Brisbane to Albury to be made without a break of gauge, and I should imagine that it would be a comparatively easy matter to add a third rail to the 5 ft. 3 iri. gauge railway lines between Albury and Melbourne and Melbourne and Adelaide. Railway experts say that it is a difficult matter to work a third rail, and I suppose we must believe those who ought to know more about it than laymen.
– The Public Works Committee has inquired into the possibility of having a third rail on a 5 ft. 3 in. gauge line in South Australia, and has reported favorably upon it.
– I am pleased to hear it. It gives ground for the hope that in the not too distant future we can have a standard gauge railway from Brisbane to Adelaide, from which point it could easily be arranged to continue the gauge to Port Augusta. If that is done, I hope that the Western Australian Government will not be long in extending the 4 ft. Si in. gauge from Kalgoorlie to Perth. We should thus attain the objective of the royal commission which inquired into the question of the standard gauge, and that is to have a 4 ft. 8J in. gauge between all the capital cities of Australia. I think we should then be content to rest for many years to come, because it would cost the States colossal sums to convert their 3 ft. 6 in. gauge lines to 4 ft. 8i in. gauge lines. For instance, Queensland has well over 6,000 miles of 3 ft. 6 in. gauge railways, and in the opinion of people whose knowledge entitles them to credence, the cost of converting that length of railways to the 4 ft. Si in. gauge would be in the neighbourhood of £70,000.000. I understand that Western Australia has from 4,000 to 5,000 miles of 3 ft. 6 in. gauge lines, the cost of converting which to the standard gauge would also be enormous. It stands to reason, therefore, that it would take a very long time indeed, and the process would be very gradual, before the internal lines of the States could be converted to the universal gauge. If we have the 4 ft. Si in. gauge between the capital cities within measurable time, we shall have done all that is necessary for many years to come. Victoria, and, perhaps, South Australia, may prove stumbling blocks in this matter; but there is always a possibility and probability of a line being built, by the most direct track, through Broken Hill to Port Augusta, on the 4 ft. Si in. gauge, which would certainly mean a great saving of time and expense to the people from Queensland and New South Wales who travel to the western coast. That line, if built, would .shut out Melbourne and Adelaide, and I hope that the consideration of that possibility will remove any objection the representatives of Victoria and South Australia may have to a proposal to bring about a uniform, gauge from Brisbane to Perth.
.- Despite all the criticism directed by the Labour party towards the late Government, practically every measure submitted to Parliament by the new Administration is in continuation of the policy inaugurated by the Government it displaced. It should make the people realize that there was no need for a change of administration.
Like previous speakers, I am pleased that the work of building a railway line between Kyogle and South Brisbane is nearing completion. The contracts that were entered into between the parties for the construction of this line were exactly similar to those which are entered into everywhere in Australia, inasmuch as provision was made in them to meet the eventuality of labour and also certain materials increasing the cost during the progress of the contract. In this case the additional cost was to be borne by the Commonwealth Government. In practically every contract of this nature, provision is also made that, in the event of an award of the Arbitration Court increasing wages, or reducing the hours of employees, the person letting the contract shall be responsible for the extra cost.
– That is the position in connexion with the North Shore Bridge in Sydney.
– Tes. “When the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway was commenced a few years ago, a 44-hour week was not general throughout New South Wales, and consequently the additional cost in that respect alone has increased expenses to a great extent. It would have been practically impossible for the Queensland Government to bear the whole of the extra- cost involved, in consequence of increased wages and the higher prices of material. In these circumstances, there is no justification for the statement made by Senator B. D. Elliott, that this additional expense should have been borne by the Queensland Government, instead of by the Commonwealth authorities.
– Senator B. D. Elliott was not in the chamber when I gave the details of the increased expenditure.
– The position was explained by the Assistant Minister. During the debate on the second reading of the South Australia Grant Bill last night, frequent reference was made to the cost of State railway construction and maintenance, and to-day we are considering a measure in which provision is made for a further sum to be made available by the Commonwealth for railway construction in two States. What does this suggest in the matter of railway policy? That the railway and transport systems throughout Australia generally have reached a stage when it is practically impossible for the States to carry out further extensions, or to fully cope with the costs of maintaining their railway systems. Recent happenings suggest that it will not be long before the whole of the transport system of Australia will be brought under the control of the Federal authorities.
– Does the honorable senator favour the Federal control of ports?
– Eventually they will come under Commonwealth jurisdiction. At present, I believe, the network of railways throughout Australia could be more economically controlled under one authority than under the six State administrations, with numerous railway commissioners, assistant commissioners, and the necessary central administrative staffs. Recent Commonwealth legislation, in the direction of granting financial assistance to the States, owing to the unsatisfactory financial situation, suggests that the day is not far distant when something on the lines I have suggested will be seriously considered, if not adopted.
– -If that should ever come about, there would not be many developmental lines constructed.
– Necessary lines would always be constructed; but four of the States already find it practically impossible to undertake the construction of developmental lines. I trust that the construction of the Grafton to South Brisbane railway will be expedited. When completed, it mli be a means of rapidly transporting, at a reduced cost, the fruit and primary products of the areas to be traversed by it, and bringing them ‘within reach of those living in the thickly-populated areas. Many kinds of tropical and semi-tropical fruits grown in the southern portion of Queensland, and in the northern rivers district, cannot, at present, be obtained in Sydney at a reasonable price, owing to the circuitous route over which they have to be transported to reach the Sydney market.
– Would a difference of five or six hours in the journey be of any benefit?
– Although the reduction in time taken by passenger trains will be six or seven hours, that taken in the transport of fresh fruit will probably be reduced by 24 hoars. The completion of the line will result in new markets being opened up for those engaged in the production of mangoes, paw-paws, custard apples and other products, which, at present, can be obtained in Sydney only at an almost prohibitive price. In these circumstances, I trust it will not be long before Brisbane and Sydney are connected by a 4 ft. 8$ in. gauge line, which, I hope, will eventually be extended so that passengers may be able to travel from Brisbane to Perth on a railway of uniform gauge.
– It is gratifying to learn that the first section of a uniform- gauge railway for Australia is within reasonable distance of completion. The royal commission, which inquired into the ‘ question of a uniform gauge for Australia, recommended the adoption of a gauge of 4 ft. 8£ in. between the capital cities of Australia, both from the viewpoint of defence and for commercial purposes. I have not the slightest doubt that this line, which is being constructed on the 4 ft. 8£ in gauge, will bc of great assistance to the travelling public, and also of incalculable benefit to primary producers and others in those portions of Queensland and New South Wales to be served by it. It will assist the development of additional territory and enable settlers, who, at present, are without railway facilities, to transport their produce to two large consuming centres. During the four years’ drought recently experienced in Western Queensland, pastoralists and graziers would have been in a much better position had they been able to obtain supplies of lucerne hay and artificial fodder from those States which had experienced satisfactory seasons, and had a surplus on hand. In 1927, pastoralists in the far west were paying £12 10s. a ton for lucerne hay delivered in Townsville, whilst that commodity was being quoted in the vicinity of 70s. a ton in Victoria. Owing to difficulty and cost of transporting this produce, they were prevented from obtaining supplies.
– Would not Victorian fodder be shipped from Melbourne to Townsville?
– Yes, but if the line now under consideration had been completed, supplies could have been sent from the interior of New South Wales to Queensland, possibly at a cheaper rate than that at which it could have been shipped, and the rapid transportation of fodder, which is of vital importance for the feeding of starving stock, would have been assured. The completion of this railway will be of great assistance to those engaged in agricultural, fruitgrowing, and cattle-raising industries. If the cattle, which come chiefly from Albert and Logan River Valleys, Beaudesert and Canungra districts, which are some of the finest produced in Australia, had not to be. transhipped between Brisbane and Sydney, it would be of great advantage to pastoralists. - When this line is completed paw-paw, custard apples, pineapples, persimmons, and citrus fruits from the Cleveland, Redland Bay, Victoria Point, Manly and Winnum districts will be readily transported, and placed on city markets at a lower rate than at present. As has been pointed out, the new line will effect a valuable saving of time in the. transport of goods as well as of passengers. At the present time perishable fruit has to be sent by train to Brisbane, reloaded there and sent thence to Sydney by. the round-about route via Toowoomba, Stanthorpe and Wallangarra, where it is transhipped and sent on to the New South Wales capital. When this line iB completed growers in the Cleveland, Redland Bay and adjoining districts will be able to put their produce on the train and have it sent to its destination with only one handling. It must also be remembered that, including the population of the two cities a population of over 2,000,000 between Brisbane and Sydney will be served by this line, to the advantage of all. Further, the tourist possibilities of the new line are tremendous. It will traverse ohe of the most picturesque sections of Queensland, the National Park, Lamington plateau, and the Macpherson range. On the other side of the border, tourists will be able to view the magnificent northern rivers of New South Wales, and the attractive country in the ranges between the border and Grafton.
The necessity for the provision of this additional sum of money has already been explained. I can readily realize that, under the contract system and the arrangement which provided that pay-, ment should be made for the actual material shifted, it was practically impossible to forecast precisely the expenditure that would be involved. Also, it was necessary for the contractors to provide for possible increases in industrial rates. I understand that more spoil had to be shifted than was originally allowed for, and that additional excavation, banking and channelling was encountered in the mountainous country.
The highest point that, will be traversed by the new railway will be only 800 feet above sea level, whereas at the Summit, near Stanthorpe, in Queensland, the existing line climbs to a height of 4,500 feet above sea level. The Toowoomba range will also be avoided. Haulage on the new line will, therefore, be correspondingly lighter. That will cheapen freights between Brisbane and Sydney, and confer a considerable advantage both upon the primary producers and the consumers.
I am not in favour of the immediate unification of railway gauges throughout Australia, as I consider that the magnitude of the expenditure involved is not warranted in view of our small population and rather stringent economic situation. If it is practicable, I should like to see co-ordination effected between our railways and motor transport traffic, as has been done in Great Britain. We all realize that motor traffic is fast encroach- ing upon the preserves of railway transport, and it is only by co-ordinating both methods that we shall stabilize them.
I understand that the Queeusland portion of this line is almost completed, and that a section of it has been operating and producing revenue “ since September last. I sincerely hope that through traffic from Brisbane to Sydney will be made possible at an early date. I have no hesitation in supporting the bill, as I consider that the additional expenditure is justified.
.– I cannot quite agree with some of the statements that have been made by my Queensland colleagues about this wonderful railway. It is all very well to paint an attractive picture; I remember when the scheme was originated, some 30 years _ ago, by the late Hon. E. W. O’sullivan, who was then Minister for Works for the State of New South Wales. I was at the time a member of the Queensland Parliament, and both States entered into an agreement to extend their railway systems from their respective capitals to the Tweed River. The New South Wales line was taken to Murwillumbah, and that of Queensland to Tweed Heads. Then New South Wales, like many other States, got into financial difficulties, and its railway activities were held up. In the meantime the people in the northern river districts of New South Wales discovered a new route of communication, and this railway was constructed from Casino to Kyogle, thence to Beaudesert and Brisbane. A good deal of Queensland’s original preparatory work, such as the construction of tunnels, is rendered useless by the introduction of a broader gauge. However, that is a thing of the past, and I am very pleased that, in a couple of years, the whole line between Sydney and Brisbane will be opened up.
– Is the honorable senator serious in saying two years? Surely it will be sooner than that.
– I do not think that the line will be completed within from twelve to eighteen months. It all depends upon the progress made with the Clarence River bridge. Although the Clyde Engineering Company has the girders all ready, ^consider able difficulty has been encountered in connexion with its foundations. When completed the line will represent a very important improvement in the communications of the two States concerned, and it will be the first step in the unification of Australia’s railway systems.
Senator Barnes made reference to the provision of a third rail in existing 5 ft. 3 in. gauge systems, in order to convert them to a 4 ft. 8-J in. gauge. The honorable senator and I were members of the Works Committee that inquired into the practicability of the third rail. That committee found that all the Railway Commissioners of the Commonwealth approved of the scheme, with the exception of Mr. Clapp, of Victoria, who was very much opposed to it. No doubt that gentleman was influenced by the policy of his government. Mr. Webb, the Commissioner for South Australia, who had had twenty years’ railway experience in the United States of America, stated that he had operated several third rail services in that country without any difficulty or greater proportion of accidents than is usually associated with the two-rail system.
– South Australia has had a short length third-rail service in operation for several years.
– It has, and New South Wales also has a similar short length service. The general trend of the evidence tendered to that committee was that the third rail was a workable proposition. The only drawback is the adaptation of railway yards and stations, which have a congested system of rails. There the operation of the points becomes so complicated that no engineer has yet been able to evolve a system which would be quite safe. On the line from Red Hill to Adelaide a special platform had to be provided, and deviations had to be made to avoid the junctions in order to overcome this” weakness in the third-rail system. Apart from that the project presents no difficulty, and it would be possible to have a uniform gauge from Brisbane to Perth if a third rail were put down where necessary.
The line between Kyogle and South Brisbane will make available to the producers of the northern rivers of New
South Wales a ready market. At the same time they will have their normal shipping points available at Byron Bay and Corf’s Harbour, and may select either the direct or indirect route when they desire to market their products. They will be enabled to send their goods direct to Brisbane, where they may be shipped to the London market with very little handling. The terminus of the standard gauge railway will be south of the Brisbane River so that any produce from Northern Queensland, intended for the Sydney market, will have to be transhipped from the Central station goods-yards to South Brisbane, where it will be placed on the new railway line. North Queensland growers of tropical fruits will be served much better by this arrangement than is possible at present, because once fruit is on the “train it will have a clear run through Sydney as far as Albury and it will be possible to distribute it to all the towns along the route. Furthermore, the railway journey will be shorter and there will be a saving of about seven hours compared with the time occupied along the existing route through Wallangarra, and if there were a third rail on the standard gauge from Albury to Melbourne, it would then be possible to send tropical fruits from North Queensland right through from Brisbane to the capital of the southern State.
– Will there be any saving in the handling of produce at South Brisbane, as compared with Wallangarra ?
– Yes, because produce shipped on trains at South Brisbane has to be transferred at Wallangarra to the New South Wales . 4 ft. 8$ in. line, whereas if it is placed on the standard gauge line at South Brisbane it will be taken right through as far as Albury without a break of gauge.
– While I do not wish to intervene in the debate, I remind the honorable senator that the only purpose of the bill is to provide for an additional £350,000 for the completion of the line from Kyogle to South Brisbane.
– I am aware of that Mr. President, but I was endeavouring to inform Senator H. E. Elliott to what extent the new railway will benefit Northern Queensland producers in their attempts to reach the southern market with their produce. As to the line itself, the work is being well done. The tunnel in the Macpherson Range on the Queensland border is on the principle of a corkscrew, and when passengers emerge from the tunnel on top of the range, they will have a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean. The tunnel, I understand, is not only the longest in Australia, but also is the only one of its kind on any of our railway systems, so I shall be interested to travel over the line when it is opened. Construction work has been carried out by day labour. The Queensland Labour Government, which has had considerable experience in the construction of railway works by day labour, submitted a price to the railway council, ‘and as the cost of the work has been exceeded, I should like to have some explanation from the Minister as to the reason.
– I gave all the details in my second-reading speech yesterday.
– I regret that I was unable to follow the Minister, but I understand that the extra cost for labour is in the neighborhood of £122,000. Were Arbitration Court awards and a reduction in the hours of labour responsible for this increase in the cost ? I hope that when the bill is in committee, the Minister will be able to give us more exact information on this point. I understand, however, that wages were increased by an award of the Arbitration Court.
– Were the hours of labour reduced,, and was any extra work rendered necessary ? ‘
– If the honorable senator is right, I hope the Minister will be able to tell us whether any inherent faults in the day labour system were disclosed during construction. At one time I was a strong advocate of day labour for public works, and I helped the Queensland Government to introduce that system. For many years it worked to the entire satisfaction of the .State Ministry, but eventually, employees became indifferent, and as it was administered in Queensland, by the late Labour Govern ment, it became a disgrace. Senator Thompson has addressed a number of questions to the Minister with regard to the running of Sunday trains between Brisbane and Sydney. For many years the only Sunday trains in Australia were running on the Queensland and New South Wales railway lines. My State had Sunday trains over 40 years ago, but for some reason they were discontinued about ten years ago.
– A discussion on the- running of Sunday trains is not relevant ,to the motion for the second reading of the bill.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. President. My only reason for mentioning the subject was that Senator Thompson had addressed questions to the Minister, and I was about to explain that the practice of running Sunday trains in Queensland was discontinued owing to the heavy expenditure due to awards of the Arbitration Court, and the adoption of a 44-hour week.
– Why should Sunday trains in Queensland be more costly than in any other State?
– As the run from Brisbane to Wallangarra is a particularly long one, extra time rates of pay to railway employees proved too expensive. I am glad that the railway will soon be open for traffic. I hope that before the bill reaches the committee stage the Minister will be able to obtain the information for which I have asked. We should be clear as to the reasons for the estimate having to be further increased. The money should be spent in the best way. If day labour costs more than the contract system, I want to know why day labour should be continued.
– I have no, intention of repeating the arguments that, have been advanced as to the usefulness of this railway when completed, and the necessity for the unification of the gauges. The railway, good or bad, will soon be finished. In moving the second reading of the bill, the- Minister gave details of the extra cost of the line. He pointed out that £83,300 was saved on the estimate of £4,000j000 ; that additional work would have cost £433,300, but the deduction of the saving of £83,300, gave the £350,000 provided for in the bill. That last mentioned amount includes £122,000 for increased wages and improved industrial conditions due to ArbitrationCourt awards. Honorable senators opposite indignantlyresent any suggestion that they are opposed toarbitration. They must, therefore, accept the results of arbitration.
– What court made the awards?
– The State court.
– In that case, honorable senatorswho recently wantedto give theStatecourts full power inarbitration matters should bethe more favorable tothe awards ofa State tribunal. Increases due to advances inthe , prices for materials represent £42,100 ; material for the permanent way,, £14,400;cost pf closingdown works due tocurtailment of fundsby the late Commonwealth Treasurer, £20,,600;extracost of land resumption, £31,900; and extra costof surveys, £11,400. Those items are increased by additional quantities tothose provided in the schedule of quantities in the contract specification amounting to £190,000.
– What is the reason forthat?
– Land slides necessitated an enormousamountof additional earth works. That was not provided for in the originalspecification.
– That should have been the contractors’ risk. (Senator RAE. - £20,600 is, as I have stated, set down as the added cost due to the closing downof the works because of funds notbeing (provided bythe late Commonwealth Treasurer.
– Thatwas in New Soiuth Wales.
– It does not matter on which side of the border the work ceased; it was due to the necessary funds not feeing supplied by the late Commonwealth Treasurer. Unfortunately, Australia has many instances of the cost of public works having been considerably increased through undertakings being left for a time in a more or less unfinished condition, and then recommenced. It was pointed out by the Minister that the first surveys were necessarily incomplete. The line passes through rugged country, and from time to time fresh surveys had to be made to ascertainthe best route.
Honorable senatorsopposite : seem to be uncertain whether it is better to carry out public works by contractor by day labour. In this case, the State railway authorities of NewSouth Wales and Queensland were the contractors, but whenever work is undertaken by a private contractor, it is, after all, done by day labour. The Government may let a contract to a contractor;but he employs men who ; are paid at daily rates. It is day labour in any case.
– Some . private contractors make day labour pay.
– The only difference between the twosystems is in the supervision exercised. Effective supervision is essential to satisfactory results. I have worked on a number of government jobs,and I have never found any opportunities for loafingor pointing ; but I have found in connexion with some of them, extravaganceof the worst kind. There is, frequently, a sinful waste of materials,because those holding administrative positions either do not know their work or are not sufficiently conscientious to do it properly. Not many years ago I was engagedon day labour, and I found that it was more difficult to dodge the work than to do it.
SenatorGuthrie. - Things have changed since that time.
– I am referring to a period onlyeight or nine years ago. On one occasion, whilst so working, I was instructed to take a hammer and break up somevaluable stones - valuable because of the work which had been done in dressing them. I was informed by those in control of the yard that the stones were “ a confounded nuisance,” because it had been found necessary to shift them on a few occasions. I offered topay a fair price for the stones; but was informed by my superior officer that he could not sell them. Yet he could order me to break them up! Later, a contractor was paid to take them away. Extravagance and waste are important factors in the cost of many public works. Lack of conscientious supervision is another cause of increased costs. In Sydney, recently, I spoke to a man who had been engaged in mixing concrete for the approaches to the Sydney Harbour bridge then being carried out by the State Public Works Department. He told me that, normally, four bags of cement went to each batch of concrete, but that he saved one out of every four. If the inspector came around, four bags of concrete were always ready to be placed in the batch, but when he was not there, only three went in. He said that he did not get the other bag himself, but he admitted that he was dishonest enough to assist others to make money by that means. A tremendous lot of thieving takes place on some jobs unless there is both efficient and honest supervision.
– Thehonorable senator’s remarks are a condemnation of the day labour system in connexion with public works. He has accused public officials of dishonesty.
– My point is that whether the work is done by day labour or by contract it is actually done by day labour; and that not only the cost, but also the quality of the work, under either system depends on the supervision ( exercised.
The act authorizing the construction of this railway provides that should there be any advance in the price of materials, or increase in the wages paid, the contract price shall be adjusted accordingly. Some honorable senators have declaimed against that provision, and have said that a contractor should take the risk. If he does, he will increase his price to cover such contingencies, so that the Government will pay in any case. It is regrettable that the earlier estimates have been exceeded in this instance; but, unfortunately, that is not an uncommon experience in connexion with public works. Indeed, they are rarely executed for the original estimate. There are, however, cases in which work done by day labour has been completed at less than the estimated cost. Such cases are not so rare as some honorable senators would have us believe. I can quote instances of tenders having been rejected and the works carried out by day labour at less than the original estimate of the department.
I am familiar with the country through which this line passes. It is estimated that there will be a saving of time on the journey from Brisbane to Sydney when the new line is in operation; but I point out that considerable improvements must be effected on the line from West Maitland before it can be regarded as an express route. That section of the line contains a number of curves of small radius, and a considerable portion of it has only light rails. The permanent way will have to be improved if there is to be any considerable saving of time oh the journey. It is to be regretted that the bridge over the Clarence river was not commenced earlier in order that it might be completed simultaneously with the railway.
– I may remind the honorable senator that the main principle of this bill was dealt with in the parent bill, of which this is an amendment. The task of honorable senator? who speak on the measure now before the Senate is to justify, or otherwise, the extra expenditure of £350,000.
– I thank you, sir, for the reminder. I merely wish to add that while this expenditure is amply justified, and has become necessary, we must at the same time realize that other expenditure will probably be necessary, if it has not already been incurred, so that this railway may realize the ideals of those who have supported the project from the commencement.
– I am grateful for the unanimity expressed by honorable senators in regard to the proposal to complete the work of building a railway between Kyogle and South Brisbane, and strengthening the existing line between Grafton and Kyogle. There has been practically no criticism from honorable senators; on the contrary they have shown their desire that the work shall be completed as speedily as possible. . I assume that they look upon it as one that is vitally necessary for the development of the Commonwealth along national lines. It is, in brief, an endeavour to correct one of the mistakes of the past made by people who did not seem to realize that Australia would be a nation continent .wide, and that its people as a whole would need to do their work in a co-ordinated fashion. This expenditure is the first instalment of Australia’s attempt to correct the mistake of the past, and I think it has been amply demonstrated that it must go on. Senator Rae having quoted figures from my notes, I do not think there is any need for me to offer any further explanation in reply to Senator R. D. Elliott or Senator Reid.
– Will this money complete the work?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Suspension of Sessional and Standing ORDERS
Motion (by Senator Daly) proposed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stage without delay.
.- Our Standing Orders lay down a proper procedure for the passage of bills through ic Senate. Surely our noticepaper is not so full that we need to have the Standing Orders suspended in order that a more or less formal stage of this bill should be taken at once instead of to-morrow. Our Standing Orders have been drawn up in order that the rights and privileges of honorable senators may be preserved, and it is the duty of honorable senators to see that those rights and privileges are maintained. There is no need for this bill to be read a third time to-day instead of to-morrow, and as no explanation has been given by the Minister why the proper routine should be set aside, even if mine is the only dissentient voice, I shall vote against this motion.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [5.16], - Even at the risk of suggesting that there may be a rift in the lute on this side of the chamber, I rise to say that I support the motion. I do so because I have had experience as Leader of the Government in the Senate in trying to get business through. Whenever I submitted a motion of this kind from the other side of the chamber, the Leader of the Opposition always objected. I often, thought that he was very foolish in doing so without having regard to the position of public business or the nature of the bill under consideration. I certainly say that we should not make a fetish of our Standing Orders. The Senate is greater than its Standing Orders. Every one knows that we wish to adjourn at an early date to get away for the Christmas season, and we all realize that the measure now under consideration is one about which there is no difference of opinion. If it were otherwise, I should be one of the first to object to the Standing Orders being suspended ; but I think it is rather straining a point to insist that they should not be set aside on a bill upon which we are all agreed. The Senate can always refuse to agree to a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders. We need have no fear for the care of the Standing Orders when the minority happens to be on the Government benches. The care of them reposes with the majority, which for the time being happens to be on the Opposition side of the chamber. I suggest to Senator Foll that he should have some regard for the circumstances, and support the motion.
.-^1 have some little ^sympathy with what has been mentioned by Senator Foll, because at the tail-end of a session the Senate has always been treated with rather scant courtesy by governments. - In another place ample time is given to discuss measures; but no such opportunity is afforded in this chamber.
– The same motion is repeatedly moved in another place.
– I am not supporting Senator Foll on this occasion, because I realize that we must get on with the business, and we have a good deal to handle. I agree with him that the rights of the Senate must be preserved; but I think on the present occasion we should be pushing tie matter tothe extreme if we objected to the motion submitted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– It is my intention to ask the Senate to suspend the Standing” Orders only in connexion with non-controversial measures. When I was Leader of the Opposition, I often wondered why there was opposition to their suspension, particularly when there did not appear to be any sound objection to offer. Senator Foll stated that the Standing Orders are for the control of the business of the Senate; but he should remember that we have also the power to suspend them. That surely suggests that it must have been realized by those who drafted them that occasions would arise when their suspension would be necessary. I give the Senate my assurance that except in cases where it is absolutely necessary to pass a bill without delay, or where a measure is non-contentious, I shall not attempt to exercise the power sought under the contingent notice of motion I have moved.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Barnes) read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Daly) read a first time.
Debate resumed from 4th December (vide page 645), on motion by Senator Daly -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [5.23].- This bill becomes necessary as a result of the recent election. As honorable senators are aware it was the intention of the Bruce-Page Government to amend the Arbitration (Public Service) Act because of the overlapping of the workof the Public Service Arbitrator and that of the Public Service Board. I feel sure that the present Government, in view of the many matters of first-class importance with which it has to deal, has not yet had time to review the operations of these two authorities which now control the Public Service. We on this side of the chamber will offer no opposition to the passage of this measure; but I seriously and earnestly impress upon the Government the necessity, before framing any further legisla tion relating to the Public Service, of giving serious consideration to the overlapping which now exists.
When I moved the second reading of the Arbitration (Public Service) Bill, introduced by the Bruce-Page Government, I gave some instances of what I might term the scandals arising out of that overlapping. That overlapping still continues. It is not healthy, it is not good for the Public Service, the community of the taxpayers of this country. During the election campaign the members of the Labour party, then in Opposition, took advantage of our proposal to amend the Arbitration (Public Service) Act to appeal tothe passions and prejudices of the members of the Public Service by spreading inaccurate reports as to our intentions if the amending legislation were passed. I warn the Government that that is a two-edged sword. In every democracy there is very grave danger in appealing to any section of the community in an endeavour to stir up sectional strife and to gain sectional votes. In the case of the Australian democracy that danger is greater than in any other, because in this country we have proceeded through State instrumentalities to do many things which other countries have left to private enterprise. The consequence of that policy is that we have in the community an abnormal number of Commonwealth and State public servants. Let me illustrate this particular point in a way that will serve to show the danger to which I am referring.
First of all, let us look at the adult population of Australia. On the 12th October last-election day - there were 3,542,950 electors on the roll, and allowing for those not on the roll, the adult population of the Commonwealth on that day may be set downas being approximately 3,700,000 persons. On the 30th June, 1929, the number of permanent officers in the Commonwealth Service was 28,764, and the Commonwealth temporary and exempt staff numbered 8,882, making a total of 37,646. There were also 2,500 vacant positions in process of being filled, which gives a total for the Commonwealth of 40,146. If we add to that number the allowance and unofficial postmasters and postmistresses, who number 9,400-I shall give later my reason for this addition - the total for the Commonwealth is 40,546, or, in round figures, 50,000 public servants. The Official Year-Book shows the number of permanent officers in the State Civil Services for 1926-27, including those in the service of the railways and tramways, as well as police, teachers, and officers in other similar departments, as follows -
If on the basis of Commonwealth experience, we add one-third to represent the temporary employees, a further 67,117 must be included, which gives a total for the States of 268,470. To that total we must add the 49,546 Commonwealth employees mentioned, thus making a grand total of 318,016 permanent and temporary employees for the Commonwealth and States. As these are all adults, it will be seen that 10 per cent, of the electors on the roll are either Federal or State public servants. If these persons, as a class, are to be appealed to to disregard all political considerations and vote simply on some issue affecting them, and them only, we shall be faced with a public danger and one that will be detrimental to the future of this democracy. Such power may be used against any Government at any time. If one party in the political arena acts as honorable senators opposite and their colleagues did during the last election, there will be the danger of another party adopting the same tactics at a subsequent election. We might thus have a sort of Dutch auction - the two political parties bidding against each other to secure this block vote of 10 per cent, of the electors of the Commonwealth. If that goes .on, democratic government in Australia will become impossible.
Such an attempt was made by the Labour party at the last election. There was deliberate misrepresentation of what the late Government had proposed. The members of the Labour party told the electors that we were out for a general reduc tion in salaries and wages. A circular was issued to allowance postmasters and postmistresses in the Commonwealth, who are not subject to arbitration at all, and who were not concerned with any of the late Government’s proposals, in which it was stated that if we were “returned and the Government’s arbitration proposals were carried, there would be a percentage reduction in the amount made available to allowance postmasters and postmistresses throughout the Commonwealth. That I flatly deny. Moreover, I was informed, when recently in Tasmania, that a circular was sent to State school teachers in that State setting out that a reduction in salaries and wages was proposed by the Bruce-Page Government, and that this would be followed by a similar reduction in the salaries and wages of State public servants. The State school teachers were appealed to, to come to the rescue of themselves and their colleagues, by voting against the supporters of the Bruce-Page Government. In Western Australia, according to press reports I have seen, the Labour candidate for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) and ex-Senator Needham, who was a candidate for Perth, represented to public servants of that State that we were proposing to establish a tribunal on which the public servants would have no representation whatever. They said it was to be a packed tribunal in which the Commonwealth Public Service Board only would have a voice in the fixation of the salaries of Commonwealth public servants. That was an entire negation of the facts. The Bruce-Page Government proposed to set up a board on which Commonwealth employees would for the first time have a direct representative - a board exactly similar to that constituted by the Labour Government in Queensland, when it had power to establish an industrial body, and also by a Labour Government in New South Wales when it established an industrial court in that State. It was to be exactly similar to the tribunal which exists in Western Australia and on which the employees and employers are directly represented.
I have no criticism to offer concerning .this short amending measure. It is merely of a stop-gap character to enable the Government to carry on until it can bring forward more comprehensive legislation ‘relating to arbitration in the Public Service. I deprecate, however, in the strongest possible terms the use which was made of the public servants at the last election, and which is calculated to bring into the election arena a very dangerous element. I warn the present Government that while such unfair tactics suited the Labour party this time, a similar procedure could be followed by their opponents at the next election and might result in their undoing. In any case, it is undesirable because it leads to the contending parties making bids for which the taxpayers have to pay; It is a form of political bribery that should not be tolerated.
There is another point to which I wish to direct attention. According to press reports, the Government contemplates an alteration of the basis of the Commonwealth Public Service Board. It will be time enough to deal with the Government’s proposals in that respect wl n they come before the Senate, but I should like to say at this stage that our Public Service to-day is, I believe, in a very efficient condition, and a great deal of the credit for that is due to the Public Service Board. The clashing of the authority of the Public Service Arbitrator with that of the Public Service Board has led to any inefficiency that does exist, and if the Government is wise it will very seriously consider the position before it lessens the power of the present board. . The question whether there should be one commissioner or three is not one of principle, but it is essential that there should be some body to ensure that there shall be discipline in the Public Service. No service can be efficient if undisciplined. There is a high standard of discipline in the Public Service. An arbitrator cannot lay down discipline. He can do nothing to ensure the discipline or the efficiency of a department. He may lay down conditions of wages and salaries, and all that kind of thing, but he cannot govern efficiency, although he may upset it. The vital factors in a public service are efficiency and discipline.
In conclusion, I contend that, while the maintenance of discipline and efficiency is necessary in the interests of the taxpayers, it is doubly necessary in the interests of the. public servants themselves. An undisciplined, inefficient service means that the man who has character and personality, who is an honest and faithful servant, will not receive the recognition that he merits. It means that the. slacker will do as well as the efficient and conscientious worker. That is not good for the Public Service. Whilst agreeing to the passage of this temporary measure, I hope that the Government, before it brings forward any comprehensive bill dealing with the whole matter of our Public Service, will think seriously before it does anything that will tend to lower the morale and the efficiency of the Commonwealth Public Service, as it exists to-day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Report adopted ; Standing and Sessional Orders suspended and bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 4th December (vide page 647), on motion by Senator
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [5.40]. - I support the second reading of this bill, which is modelled on precisely the same lines as the measure proposed by the BrucePage Government. I shall refer briefly to the bill and to the history of the Tasmanian grant. As a member of previous Governments which dealt with Tasmanian grants for many years, I am of the opinion that fair credit has not been given to the activities of representatives of Tasmania in both federal Houses in connexion with the grants that have been made to that State. I know how assiduous were those representatives in presenting the case for Tasmania. I have a knowledge of the splendid work that they did in making their representations and in presenting the facts to the Commonwealth Government from time to time. It was, therefore, rather astonishing to find that frequently, when the Commonwealth had practically made up its mind and was about to make an announcement that a grant was to be made to Tasmania, certain Tasmanian State Ministers would indulge in a trip to the mainland and consult the Commonwealth Government on the subject. Then, judging from the subsequent press statements, the people of Tasmania were led to believe that the making of that Commonwealth grant was due entirely to the efforts of those State .Ministers. Nobody has been more ready, without justification, to take credit for past grants, than the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Lyons). I remember one occasion when the Commonwealth Government, having considered the representations made by Tasmanian representatives in both Federal Houses, had decided to make a grant, and had fixed its amount. Before it was possible to make a public announcement, the press indicated that Mr. Lyons, who was then Premier of Tasmania, was coming over to the mainland to consult the Commonwealth Government on the matter. That Government decided not to proceed with the grant until Mr. Lyons arrived. The result of the interview was that the grant was not altered in any manner whatsoever, but when Mr. Lyons went back to Tasmania, he was greeted by brass bands and hailed as the hero of the hour, who had obtained the grant. To-day there exists in Tasmania the belief that had it not been for the valiant fight put up by that gentleman the island State would not have obtained justice from the Commonwealth Government.
It was the custom of the BrucePage Government to make grants to Tasmania only for yearly periods. There was a reason for that. I am confident that it will be agreed that a State is in a far better position if it does not need a grant from the Commonwealth Government. Prom its survey of the position of Tasmania, the Commonwealth Government concluded that if it rendered certain practical aid to the State it would not be necessary for it to seek so much financial assistance. Consequently,’ it arranged that the Development and Migration Commission and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should actively associate themselves in an endeavour to assist Tasmania to rehabilitate its agricultural, mining and forestry industries. We have already learned the value that has resulted from those activities. Particularly good work was done in advising Tasmania to set up a transport authority to deal with its railway and road problems. Then representations were made by the Tasmanian members of both Federal Houses, that it was not a fair thing to grant that State assistance only on a yearly basis. The Commonwealth Government conceded to the request that grants should be made over a number of years and agreed to make available to Tasmania an amount of £250,000 per annum for five years. Honorable senators will recollect that during the last general election, the present Postmaster-General described the assistance granted ‘by the Commonwealth to Tasmania as niggardly, and promised that it would be much more liberal if a Labour Government was returned to power. A Labour party is now in power. What benefit has Tasmania obtained from it? It has been given the same grant that the Bruce-Page Government proposed, on the same terms, spread over the same number of years - plus the promise of a further inquiry. I venture to suggest that Tasmania, has had about enough of inquiries. That State has been subjected to so many inquiries that it is liable to die of chronic post-mortems if the practice is persisted in. It is offered by this Government another inquiry - a stone, when it asks for bread.
I am convinced that the grants that the Commonwealth Government have made to Tasmania have enabled that State to reduce the rate of its direct taxation, which has taken a load off its industries, and given them an opportunity to succeed. The assistance given by the late Commonwealth Government has done a good deal to rehabilitate the agricultural industry of Tasmania, and the establishment of an agricultural bureau will continue to confer a benefit on the producers of that State. The late Government also assisted Tasmania to- establish a paper pulp industry, and I am confident that eventually Tasmania will be enabled to set its house in order and carry on without the assistance of grants from the Commonwealth. I am sure that is what all Tasmanians desire.
– I rise, animated by a spirit of regret, to answer some of the statements that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce). Honorable senators are aware that the right honorable senator has just returned from a visit to Tasmania. They also know that a by-election for the Franklin seat, held by the late Mr. Mcwilliams, is now in progress. I regret that a man who has had such a long and distinguished career in the National Parliament of Australia should use the occasion for the dissemination of political propaganda.
– The honorable senator must not impute motives to other honorable senators.
– It will be the endeavour of this Government always to do the right thing to the various States. For many hours yesterday the Senate indulged in a long discussion upon the merits and demerits of the grant that was made to South Australia, as a compensation for the disabilities suffered by that State under federation. Whatever may be the facts of the case, the representatives of a State have the right to present them before this Parliament for consideration. The Commonwealth and the States are co-operating through the Loan Council to ensure a satisfactory allocation of their respective loan requirements. I strongly protest against the sneering references of the Leader of the Opposition to brass bands and illuminations in connexion with the return to Tasmania of Mr. Lyons, who, as Premier of the State, had interviewed the Commonwealth Treasurer of the day with a view to obtaining financial assistance for the State. The ex-Premier of Tasmania now occupies a high and distinguished position in the Commonwealth Government. If he did claim that he was instrumental in obtaining financial assistance for Tasmania, he was merely stating the truth. This Government is making a grant to Tasmania. The Leader of the Opposition, who has had a long career in the public life of this country, is well aware that when the present Postmaster-General was Premier of Tasmania, he did much to lift the State out of the financial mire. I emphatically protest against the right honorable gentleman using this chamber for political propaganda in connexion with -the forthcoming by-election in Tasmania. I am a new senator, but I will never remain silent while another honorable senator seeks to vilify or indulges in cheap sneers at a distinguished member of my party. ‘
– Order! The honorable gentleman must not allude to the utterances of any other honorable senator as “ cheap sneers.” I warn him on this occasion. If he so offends again I. shall ask him to withdraw the remark.
.- I should not have spoken so early in this debate but for the utterances of the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat (SenaDunn). He made a deliberate attack on the Leader of the Opposition simply because the right honorable gentleman was determined that there should be due recognition of the efforts of those honorable senators representing Tasmania to place before the Government the claims of that State for financial assistance. The Leader of the Opposition was absolutely correct when he said that the Tasmanian representatives in this chamber, and in another place had been working unitedly for many years to impress upon the Commonwealth Government the urgent need for financial aid. The present PostmasterGeneral is well aware of all that the Tasmanian representatives in the Federal Parliament have done. On more than one occasion, in my presence and in the presence of others, he has acknowledged our services to the State in this connexion. The Leader of the Opposition was also correct in his statement that when Mr. Lyons returned to Tasmania after having interviewed the Commonwealth Treasurer, there was no reference in the press to the services which federal members were rendering. Clearly Mr. Lyons gave the people tounderstand that financial aid from the Commonwealth Government was the outcome of his visit to the mainland. .
I welcome the bill, not because I consider that Tasmania is in the role of a mendicant State, but because it indicates- that the previous Government recognized the urgent need for financial assistance being given to that State. I, therefore, thank the previous Government for having formulated the proposals contained in this bill. for a grant of £250,000 annually, for a period of five years. This arrangement will enable the State Treasurer to prepare his budget from year to year. Hitherto, owing to the uncertainty as to the amount which the Commonwealth might grant, the State Treasurer has experienced considerable difficulty in the preparation of his budget. When the previous Government announced that it proposed to grant a sum of £250,000 a year for five years, the arrangement was regarded, generally, as a satisfactory solution of the State’s difficulties for the time being. The present Premier expressed regret that the amount was not larger, but he was honest enough to acknowledge that, in view of the state of Commonwealth finances, he could not reasonably expect a larger annual grant. But the present Postmaster-General, in his election campaign a> few months ago, never wearied of referring to the grant proposed by the BrucePage Government, as a niggardly offer. He made this statement on many occasions, and it was repeated by those -who were associated with him in the campaign. In view of the implied promises contained in the speeches of Labour candidates in Tasmania, we naturally expected when Labour was returned to power that the “niggardly” grant of £250,000 a year, promised by the BrucePage administration, would be substantially increased. Consequently we were surprised at the announcement that the Government proposed to advance only the same amount, though we are told also that the position of the State is to be the subject of investigation by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. Tasmania has had enough of investigations and inquiries. All the evidence that the Public Accounts Committee is likely to obtain is already on the files, and is available to the Government at any time. I am disposed to believe that the Government has instructed the Public Accounts Committee to make this investigation so that the Ministry may be able to claim that the Government is doing something to give effect to the promises made by Labour candidates during the election campaign.
– I hope that this Government will fulfil its promises to the returned soldiers.
– In view of the uncertainty of the Government’s attitude’ in regard to many matters, I shall be surprised if it does anything in the direction indicated by the honorable senator.
– Labour has never broken a promise.
– But the Labour party has made promises which it knew it could not redeem. During the election campaign it was stated definitely that if Labour were returned to power the New South Wales coal mines would be reopened in a fortnight.
– The Labour party made no such promise.
– But Mr. Theodore, who is a leading member of the party, did give that undertaking. I do not wish to import an acrimonious tone into the debate, but I feel obliged to refer to the statement of the Leader of the Government in the Senate that when Tasmania received a grant of £378,000 for two “years the State Treasurer was able to show a surplus of £185,000 in one year and. £S5,000 or £90,000 in the second year, but the result was that in the following year the grant was reduced by the Commonwealth Parliament to £200,000. Any honorable senator who is not conversant with the real financial position of the State might be at a loss to understand what this means. As a fact, the surpluses shown in the State Treasurer’s financial statement were non-existent. A perusal of the figures contained in the financial statement shows that in a suspense account there were several items which should have been debited against current revenue. If they had been met, the paper surplus would have disappeared, and the State Treasurer would then have been able to secure a larger grant from the Commonwealth. I mention this fact because the State Treasurer at that time presented his surpluses in such a way as to create ah impression that they were the result of his satisfactory work as Treasurer. The items referred to represent. a debit of about £700,000. They include losses on soldier settlement, and depreciation of railway stock. They must remain in the suspense account until the current revenue is sufficient to discharge them. It is not necessary for me to impress on honorable senators the necessity for supporting the measure, so I shall not detain the Senate much longer.
– Does the honorable senator think it right that the Commonwealth should be committed to the payment of this grant for five years? Tasmania might be in an affluent state before the expiration of that period.
– It is right that the grant should be paid over the period mentioned, because of the uncertainty that might exist, otherwise, as to the State’s revenues. Tasmania is in its present position owing to circumstance’s over which it has no control. Although its population is less than 200,000, it has shown remarkable enterprise in the development of a wonderful hydro-electric scheme, which is the admiration of the rest of Australia.
– Is it paying?
– It is, I think, a paying proposition. If Tasmania had not developed those wonderful resources, it would have been condemned by the people in the mainland States. That work has put Australia on the map of the world. Our wonderful hydro-electric scheme has attracted attention in many other countries, and I believe that one day the industrial development which it will make possible, will lift Tasmania out of its present difficulties, and render further aidfrom the Commonwealth unnecessary. With your permission, Mr. President, I propose to read a short extract from the report of the Economic Advisory Committee upon the effect of the Commonwealth tariff onState finances.
– I suggest that a discussion on those lines will not be relevant, unless the honorable, senator proposes to connect his remarks with the measure before the Senate.
– IfI did not intend to connect them with the bill, I should not have referred to the report.
In Appendix W of the Australian Tariff : An Economic Inquiry, the following statement appears under the heading, “ The effects of the tariff upon the State finances “ : -
The unequal effects between States are probably the most embarrassing consequences of the tariff, but they have their roots in the unequal effects between industries, which are natural and inevitable consequences of tariff protection. Were Australia one small, compact, economic unit, in which the benefits of protection were thoroughly diffused, in which one common tax system operated, and in which developmental expenditure was equally shared, differences between areas would be less important. But, with our diverse geographical conditions and our federal system of government, this is not the case. . . .
The subsidies to production through the tariff are £38,000,000, which would average all round £6 per head of population. But if the £30,000,000 is distributed amongst States in proportion to the quantity of protected industry, the amount per head will vary greatly from State to State, as shown approximately in the following table : -
If those figures are correct, and the assumption of the authors correct, they show that South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia have suffered materially from the operations of the tariff.
As a representative of Tasmania, I am proud of my State. When I was a boy, I heard a great deal of the assistance that Tasmania had rendered to both New South Wales and Victoria. Now I wonder why the representatives of those States do not speak more favorably of Tasmania than they do. I am, however, grateful that whenever any measure for the granting of relief to Tasmania has been before this chamber, the representatives of the other States have been sympathetic. It is true that they have criticized Tasmania, but it has been goodnatured criticism. I am optimistic regarding Tasmania’s future. I believe that Tasmania is destined to be one of the richest gems in the southern seas; but, during the present critical period, it needs assistance. I support the second reading.
– The debate last night, on a measure to grant financial relief to South Australia, continued until such a late hour that I was afraid it would engender opposition to the bill. It is sometimes wise for a speaker to be brief ; and I shall .be brief on this occasion. I welcome the bill which follows, generally the late Government’s proposal. t is interesting to consider what has led up to Tasmania’s present position. In 1923-24, the people of Tasmania felt that they were not being treated fairly by the Commonwealth, for they knew that certain legislation passed by this Parliament had adversely affected their State. Some of them went as far as to advocate secession - a most outrageous proposal. Believing that “God helps those who help themselves,” a number of Tasmanian citizens combined to do something in the interests of their State. An organization, which it was suggested should be called the Tasmanian “Wrongs League, but which became known as the Tasmanian Rights League, was formed. I know a good deal about the work of that association, because I was its assistant secretary, and did a lot of organizing work for it. Perhaps all that was done by the league was not in good taste, but it was done with the object of assisting Tasmania. The association obtained some thousands of “ stickers,” depicting a Tasmanian lion, and underneath it a legend indicating that Tasmania had not been fairly treated by the Commonwealth. Those “ stickers “ were placed on all our correspondence, particularly that which was addressed to members of this Parliament.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to S p.m.
Private business taking precedence, after 8 p.m.,
.- I move-
That, with a view to improving the legislative work of this chamber, and increasing the participation of individual senators in Bud work, a select committee of seven members be appointed to consider, report and make recommendations upon the advisability or otherwise of establishing standing committees of the Senate upon -
It has been suggested that in moving this motion I aim raising very wide issues. That thought, or should I say that fear, is probably’’ prompted by the realization of the fact that the Senate has not taken full advantage of. its wonderful opportunities to render service to Australia. Honorable senators will remember that at the Federal Conventions no more difficult subject was presented for consideration than the constitution of this chamber. They will recall the lengthy debates on this subject and how bitter they were; how, as a matter of fact, the wide differences of opinion on the constitution of the second chamber on several occasions endangered the possibility of the conventions coming to an agreement. But all the delegates to the conventions were in agreement that it was essential to the federal principle to have a strong second chamber; that without the safe- ‘ guard it would afford, federation, instead of proving a blessing, might bring in its train injustice and bitterness. Fears were expressed, on the one hand, that the smaller States might be overwhelmed by the more populous States, and on the other hand, that by a combination of the smaller States, the two more populous States, Victoria and New South Wales, might be at a disadvantage. A compromise .was, however, effected, and as a result, we have a Senate in which the States, regardless of area and population, have equal representation.
When any proposal is put forward for a change of procedure it is, I suppose, quite natural for honorable senators to Cast their minds back to the intentions of the men who evolved our Constitution, but I shall not follow that theme. Nor shall 1 develop the line of thought that it is the duty of the Senate to keep watch over State rights and see that the Commonwealth keeps within the scope of the Constitution. That is not directly the purpose of my motion. But I wonder whether a recognition of the full responsibilities of the Senate, and their exercise, would not have prevented the enactment of laws and regulations that have led Australia into that artificial atmosphere into which it has, unfortunately, drifted - I am. afraid the drift is still going on - and the repeal or amendment of which has been made great issues at general elections. I shall not proceed further in that direction for the moment, but I propose to make one quotation to establish a link between those great men of the early ‘nineties and the Senate as we have it to-day. In the 1891 Convention, when the subject of the Senate was under review, Sir Henry Parkes said -
What I mean is an upper house, call it what you may, which shall have within itself the only conservatism possible in a democracy, the conservatism of maturity of judgment, the distinction of service, length of experience and weight of character, which are the only qualities we can expect and bring into one body in a community as young and as inexperienced as Australia.
My purpose in moving this motion tonight is to make this august chamber interesting and at the same time to afford honorable senators an opportunity to render greater service to this country of such abundant natural resources. This motion, contrary to the view that has been expressed that it raises wide issues, is designed in the simplest possible language to enable honorable senators to take a keener interest in matters and to bring a considered opinion to bear on the measures that are presented to Parliament. For reasons that I shall explain a little later, I trust that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) will afford an opportunity for a vote to be taken on this motion to-night. Those honorable senators who are quite satisfied with the way in which the business is now conducted in the Senate, those who are quite satisfied with the inactivity or the lack of considered thought in dealing with measures, the lack of individuality or per- sonality which has put the Senate on such a plane that the press, the public and the State Parliaments almost disregard its deliberations, will vote against my motion. Those honorable senators who wish to carry their share of the weight of the responsibility of their opinions, who wish the Senate to be something more than a nozzle through which the legislation of the lower chamber passes almost automatically and as a matter of course, those who recognize their obligations to the Senate, to the public and to the country, will vote for it.
If we recall our experience last session we find that the attitude of the Senate seemed to be one of accepting all that was sent along from another place. Measures were explained in extremely interesting statements by Ministers, listened to with very great attention by honorable senators and more or less accepted at face value. Bills have been passed without honorable senators having a knowledge of the pros and cons; probably through our own ignorance or lack of opportunity to see both sides of the question, they have gone through. I shall, by way of illustration, quote one or two cases that have come within my own experience in this chamber. Last session the Arbitration (Public Service) Bill was introduced by the then Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) with a wonderfully interesting statement. The picture he set up of the cost of gathering evidence, the number of typists who had to be employed, the cost of having an arbitrator going to various States to hear hundreds of witnesses, whose evidence in many cases was mere repetition, and of the cost of the thousands of sheets of evidence that had to be prepared, almost eclipsed all other features of the measure. We had at that time a sense of economy and more than one honorable senator expressed the opinion that if such a situation was capable of arising under the principal act we should by all means do all in our power to get rid of it. I feel now that if honorable senators had had an opportunity to consider that bill around a table and go into the pros and cons of it to understand its provisions not only from the standpoint of the Government, but also from that of the Public (Service, we might have saved the Senate from dealing with a bill which was used as an effective weapon against the late Government at the recent election.
I shall cite another instance within my own experience which occurred last session. An insurance bill affecting very important interests in Australia was introduced, again with a wonderful and interesting statement apparently prepared by experts who knew their business. I am not suggesting that the Minister did not, because he made it clear to us that he did, but during the course of the debate we found that the expert advice of big insurance companies had been used up to a point and then for some reason or other forgotten. When the bill was circulated .this discrepancy was pointed out and an appeal was made in the Senate that the measure should be submitted to a select committee in order to get the benefit of the expert advice available. That request was not granted. We were told that the matter had to be dealt with on the floor of the Senate where, it was thought, excellent legislation could be framed; but when some of us came here prepared to undertake the task we found that it had suddenly been withdrawn. It had been decided in the party room that the measure was to be referred back for expert opinion.
During my short experience as a member of this chamber, I have formed the opinion that such measures, if submitted to a committee, could have been studied from all angles, and the information so gathered then submitted to the Senate. If would not, of course, be necessary for the members of such . a committee to come to a unanimous decision; the majority as well as the minority would be able to express their views when the measure, with which the committee had dealt, was before the chamber for consideration. The fact that additional arguments could be presented would provide a better opportunity for useful debate, and lead to the presentation of facts which otherwise might not be disclosed. I am not discussing this matter from a party viewpoint. I have it brought forward only in the interests of what I consider to be the good government of the Commonwealth.
The first paragraph in the motion which I have moved relates to statutory rules and ordinances concerning which I must admit I am rather ignorant. It has been interesting to me to sit in this chamber at the opening of a session and hear Ministers read long list’s of rules and regulations which are being tabled id the Senate. I have at times looked with amazement at such lists, and I am afraid that many of these rules and regulations are never perused by honorable senators.
– Tes they are.
– I am glad to know there are some honorable senators who have sufficient time and interest to do so.
– It would be quite impossible for honorable senators to read them all.
– I agree with the honorable senator. These regulations are framed under a section which is contained in most acts and which reads -
The Governor-General may make regulations not inconsistent with this Act prescribing all matters which by this Act are required or permitted to be prescribed or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act.
The Wireless Telegraphy Act No. 8 of 1905 consists of one sheet of paper, but the regulations framed under it run into 73 pages. The Air Force Act, No. 23 of 1923, consists of one page and a quarter, while the regulations framed under it and which in the absence of any objection by the Senate have been agreed to, cover 173 pages. I mention these two instances to illustrate the number of regulations to which the Senate gives practically no attention and which are framed under comparatively insignificant measures. It was recognized that in passing a regulation section such as I have just quoted, Parliament was giving to Ministers - which, in most cases, means the heads of departments - very extensive powers. In order to protect the Government, however, an act, known as the Acts Interpretation Act, No. 1 of 1904, was passed. It was drafted to give the Parliament an opportunity to exercise some control, and under it Parliament has the right, within a prescribed number of days, to disallow any regulation. It would be an advantage to have a committee of this Senate responsible for perusing these regulations when they are tabled, to see if they, .are consistent with the act under which they are framed and not in any way detrimental to the interests of the people. If these regulations were reviewed by a committee the Government would not be in any way embarrassed; but the members of the Senate would be aware of their effect. If it were found that the powers for which the act provided were being exceeded, the committee could report accordingly. My comments in this direction are not intended to be in the nature of criticism, but more as constructive thought.
– What is there to prevent the Senate appointing such committees at present?
– There is an old saying that “what is everyone’s business is no one’s business.” My suggestion is that the work of reviewing regulations should be the definite responsibility of six or seven of the members of this Senate.
– The honorable senator suggests that what is now an individual responsibility should be made a collective one.
– At present it is no one’s responsibility to watch these regulations.
The next paragraph relates to the appointment of a committee to study international relations. I am not suggesting that this committee should interfere in international affairs, but isolated geographically ^ as we are, aud not sufficiently in touch with the complicated subject of foreign relations - a study which requires intimate knowledge - a great responsibility has been cast on us. I feel that we should have a committee of honorable senators with the definite responsibility of closely following the proceedings of the League of Nations Assembly at Geneva, and carefully perusing the reports of Australia’s representatives who are sent abroad from time to time. I fully realize that it would be quite impossible for any Government to disclose to such a committee the confidential communications on international subjects that pass between the British Government and the Australian Government. Such com munications are, of course, secret, and must not be disclosed to other than Ministers of the Crown.
– How could such a committee inform its mind on such a subject ?
– Many papers on international subjects are circulated for the information of honorable senators, from which a good deal of information can be obtained. The reports of our delegates to the Assembly of the League could be studied. Although some delegates may be sent abroad merely because the Government thinks they need a holiday or that it would be an advantage for them to be absent, the information contained in their reports would be beneficial to such a committee. Our experience is that the reports of such delegates receive scant consideration at the hands of this Parliament. They have, in effect, been cast to the four winds of heaven. No effort has been made to coordinate the recommendations made, or to ensure a continuity of policy in the matter of international relations.
Closer consideration of this subject would lead to a better understanding of what is in the minds of other nations. If it is suggested that the term “ international relations” is not altogether - desirable, I am willing to amend it to read “Empire relations,” because after all, our international relations are essntially Empire matters. The common interests of Australia and Great Britain are so closely interwoven that we are likely to overlook their importance, and I have often wondered how we can strengthen the silkencord that binds us. In time of trouble, our help will come, not from America or Prance, but from Great Britain, and a committee such as I have suggested should watch, develop and protect that silken cord. Senator Millen asked what information such a committee would have to work upon.
– I said how could a committee inform its mind on such a matter as that to which the honorable senator is referring?
– I can answer the honorable senator’s point by referring to the manner in which the reports of the delegates to the League of Nations have been considered by this
Parliament. The report of the Australian delegation to this Assembly was tabled in the Senate on the 15th March, 1927. A speech was made by the Minister in introducing’ it on the motion “ That the paper be printed.” The debate was adjourned, and on the 23rd March the motion was agreed to without debate. This report was also tabled by the AttorneyGeneral in the House of Representatives on the same date, and a motion moved “ That the paper be printed.” The debate was adjourned, and was not resumed until the 26th April, 1928, when the motion was agreed to without further debate.
The report of the Australian delegation to the 8th Assembly of the League of Nations was laid on the table of the Senate on the 30th November, 1927, and a motion moved “ That the paper be printed.” The debate was adjourned, and proceedings were not resumed on the motion until the 22nd March, 1928, when the motion was agreed to without debate. This report was tabled in the House of Representatives on the 30th November, 1927, and a motion moved “ That the paper be printed.” The AttorneyGeneral did not conclude his speech on that day, and was given leave to resume his remarks on a future date. On the 26th April, 1928, the debate was resumed and the Attorney-General concluded his speech. The debate was then adjourned, and proceedings were resumed on the 3rd May, 1928, when the motion was agreed to after a short debate.
I could give honorable senators further information in this respect, but I think I have said sufficient to convince them it would be of great advantage to this Senate if reports on international matters which had received such scanty consideration were carefully considered by a committee of the Senate. This would give to Parliament an opportunity to keep in touch with the proceedings at Geneva, and to evolve some continuous policy.
The next paragraph in my motion relates to finance, which is always a most interesting subject, and presents many intricate problems. In connexion with the Life Insurance Bill which I have already mentioned, a finance committee could have conducted an investigation to ascertain its effect upon all sections of the community.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that such measures should be considered by a committee of ./U Senate before they come to this chamber?
– Such a committee would consider the bills in the form in which they were presented to this chamber, and the information it obtained would be for the benefit of honorable senators.
– The appointment of such a committee would be a simple matter, but its work would be difficult.
– Its work would be interesting, and the information obtained would be of great value to the Senate. There is nothing- revolutionary in the proposal, as similar committees are in existence in other legislatures.
– Is it not rather a reactionary proposal?
– The Minister will admit that in the rooms of the party of which he is a member, half a dozen members are appointed a committee to report to the whole party. If he goes further and examines the proceedings in the Canadian Senate, he will find that they have there a very complete system. I shall not attempt at this stage to go into the machinery of the scheme. After a Minister makes his second-reading speech, the matter may be referred to the committee concerned, with instructions to report to the Senate at a definite and not distant date. Honorable senators may, at first sight, believe that this plan would delay legislation. I can. only point to the experience of the Senate of the United States of America, which annually deals with at least 1,600 bills. Here, our maximum would be no more than 60. I am not attempting to bring the United States of America’s experience to bear here, because their system is very different from our own. There, the Government is away from the legislative chamber. But that is not so in Canada, and I also believe that the House of Lords has committees which tender it advice.
I have here House of Commons’ Papers, Reports from Committees, No. 7, of 19H, and in them honorable senators will find, at page 378, a very interesting report on the subject under discussion. That report shows that it is common practice to get a section of members round the table to beat out the pros and cons of a proposal. All honorable senators realize that the best work is done always by a small committee of three or four. At a round table conference the matter is treated as man to man, unhampered by points of order, or the presence of Hansard. I also have before me the Journals of the Senate of Canada, to which honorable senators may refer in the library. It may interest them to know that that Senate has nineteen committees, Railways, Telegraphs and Harbours, Miscellaneous, Private Bills, Public Buildings and Grounds, Public Health and Inspection of Poods, Immigration and Labour, Internal Economy and Contingent Accounts, Finance, Civil Service, Administration, Debates and Reporting, Divorce, Commerce and Trade Relations of Canada, Agriculture and Forestry, Banking and Commerce. We have many subjects on which such committees could tender guidance and advice, and by their appointment we should not be establishing anything new.
– Do those committees report on bills?
– I have not gone into the machinery of the scheme. A. bill is presented to the House and then referred to the appropriate committee, which returns it to the House with its studied criticism. It is placed not merely before the Ministry, but before the whole House, and the plan does not in any way restrict debate.
– What stage does the bill reach before it is submitted to the committee ?
– That is entirely a matter to be decided upon. There has been a reference to a committee on private bills. I have searched the records of the Senate and, so far as I can observe - and here, again, I may be speaking in ignorance - only one measure introduced by a private member has been passed by Parliament. It was presented by Senator Payne, and dealt with compulsory voting.
– There have been several others, including one introduced by the late Senator Grant.
– In the history of this Parliament, only two or three private members’ bills have been presented and accepted. They are not welcomed by any party.
I feel that I have been elected in the hope that I will do my best to place on our statute-book legislation that will confer the greatest benefits upon the community. I am here as an individual, and not as a cog in the wheel. It is that individuality that these committees would develop, to the advantage of all.
– Would the honorable senator make these’ committees statutory creations, like the Public Works and Public Accounts Committees?
– They would be honorary committees. It is not suggested that members of them should be paid a remuneration or receive fees under the guise of expenses. Membership of them would be part and parcel of the duty of honorable senators, and would give some of us, at least, an opportunity’ to earn our .salaries.
– Would the Government have the same representation on the committees as the honorable senator’s party?
– There is no suggestion that they should be party committees. That would be of no use.
– But every measure introduced is a party measure.
– Unfortunately, we are a party house, but the establishment of these committees, and round-table talks would enable us to understand all points of view instead of, as at present, seeing only one side, that of the party which we represent. In doing that we overlook very vital issues. After all, we are elected to represent all sections and not one party. As a Country Party man I hold that I am here to represent all sections pf the community of Victoria. I am not anti-labour, although I do not belong to the Labour party. I am nonLabour so far as my political views are concerned. I believe that if any man in public life stated that he was anti-Labour he would deserve to be hounded out of public life. We* are here to bring about the greatest good for the greatest number.
I shall now refer to the attitude of the present Government. Quite a number pf honorable senators have already done so, and some have regretted the fact that we have in the Senate only two Ministers. I have endeavoured to analyse the matter and discover the reason for that. I am not sure whether it is because there were so many men in another place who wanted office, or because the party to which the Leader of the Government in this chamber belongs particularly wanted to get rid ‘ of him. It “ has certainly imposed on the honorable senator a work so great that he will be super-human if it does not kill him. I hope that that is not the objective of the honorable senator’s party. If it is, I assure him that we shall do all that we . can to save him from that fate.
I remember that at the close of last session I was absent from the chamber for about twenty minutes, and during that time honorable senators approved the expenditure of over £20,000,000, and passed a considerable amount of other business. It will be interesting to see whether that ia repeated next Friday. If we refuse to accept our responsibilities there is an even more effective method to force us to honour them than the appointment of committees, and that is to reduce our salaries. My experience of life is that when a man is working in an honorary or almost honorary capacity he gives of his best.
– That is all very well for those who can afford to do it.
– I remind Senator Daly that in the early days of the Labour movement, its secretaries received £25 a year, or were honorary officers, and it must be admitted that greater work has never been done for the movement than was done by those practically unremunerated officials. They were actuated by a public-spirited desire to help their fellows.
– That is a good argument in favour of the voluntary system of defence.
– I thank the honorable senator for his suggestion. There we have another opportunity to appoint a committee, which would investigate and submit a sound report on the subject.
I have made it clear that these committees should be honorary and interparty. I feel that service is the rent that we pay for the space that we occupy on the earth. Careful and mature consideration of measures is the service that we as honorable senators should give for the salary that we are paid.
I mentioned something of the artificial condition into which Australia has drifted. I have wondered if that is due to the fact that honorable senators and others have not realized and exercised the whole of their responsibilities. The subject of the fool’s paradise in which we are living to-day is an interesting one, but I shall not labour it at the moment. “We in Australia have to take to heart the fact that economists are generally agreed that high wages can exist only when labour is highly productive. We are passing from one artificial condition to another, drifting- on, afraid to face the facts and the true economic position. We cannot remove difficulties without facing them, and I think that the appointment of these committees would give us the opportunity to face the difficulties that are before us.
I am merely one who attempts to be a business man, and I sometimes wonder whether Australia has not more politicians than it can carry. Probably honorable senators would not agree with that idea, but I feel that it behoves the Senateto gird its loins and carry its full weight of responsibility.
– Would it not be necessary first to alter the franchise for the Senate before we could attain to such a high plane?
– I think not. This Senate is the most democratic chamber on the face of this earth. It is elected by adult suffrage. There are no restrictions, and no exemptions, the only qualification being that those enfranchised shall be 21 years of age. I might be inclined to agree with Senator Thompson that the fewer minds employed on any problem the better the result, even if it be in connexion with the selection of members of Parliament. Australia has too many dangerous competitors to be able to play the fool with its affairs, as I think we in Australia are inclined to do.
For these and many other reasons I ask honorable senators to vote for this motion. I hope that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) will not move for the adjournment of this debate. Three or four weeks ago the honorable senator, in the course of a press interview, criticized my proposal and said of me -
Before the election he signed a platform pledging himself to a certain line of policy. Docs he now suggest, having signed the platform, that he is entirely to repudiate the pledge ?
The honorable senator is reported also to have said, referring to legislation of an important nature that was rushed through without mature consideration, “I cannot understand why, when the Government adopted that attitude, Senator B. D. Elliott did not raise his voice in protest.” I am new to the political sphere, but I deny that I signed any pledge to surrender .my individuality when I entered this chamber, and I can assure the Leader of the Senate that I shall not take that stand. I have been elected as a representative of the people of Victoria, and it is my intention, to the extent of my ability, to discharge my duties fearlessly according to my experience and judgment.
Some time ago, Mr. Baldwin, the exPrime Minister of Great Britain, said -
If I were asked what are the two root principles which we should always keep in mind in trying to decide on a political issue, in judging of legislation, in judging of political action, I think I should say common sense and the preservation of what has always been the most precious thing in this country - our individual freedom.
If we apply these tests, we shall seldom go far wrong. There are many people who think that we can cure the ills of the world by legislation ; but we must first examine the proposed legislation to see whether it is adapted to the practical experience of daily life, and whether the freedom of the individual is affected by it. If we are not satisfied on these points, we can rest assured that the legislation in the long run will do more harm than good. I suggest, therefore, that we should waste no time in determining the share of blame for all our political actions; that we should bind ourselves together in a spirit of public service to preserve, develop and maintain the .industries of the country upon which the fortunes of all its citizens so vitally depend. This may be done by creating opportunities or machinery whereby the members of this chamber can. give careful, mature and studied consideration to the measures that come before it.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [8.50]. - I have no objection to offer to the proposed appointment of a select committee,” but I take exception to the reasons advanced by the honorable senator why the Senate should accept the motion. I do not admit that the Senate has failed to discharge its function as a branch of this legislature. I know that the general belief is that the Senate was’ intended to be a States House, and that a not inconsiderable number of people are convinced that it has not fulfilled its mission. But this again depends upon what those people believe to be the functions of the Senate. In the main, they take the view that if certain legislation, to which they object, is not” opposed by this chamber, the Senate is not acting its part as the defender of State rights. Everything depends upon the determination of what are State rights. And who is to judge what is, or what is noi a State right? The duty of the Senate, I take it is to ensure the passage through the Federal Parliament of legislation that is acceptable to the majority of its people. If an honorable senator vote3 against the interests of his State it is safe to assume that he is either taking a grave political risk or is incorrectly interpreting public opinion in his State. Most of us, in our own interests, strive to interpret correctly public opinion in the State which we represent, and to express in our speeches the views of our people. I have had an opportunity not vouchsafed to any other member of this chamber to judge of these matters, for I happen to be the only remaining member of the original Senate. I was interested, therefore, when Senator Elliott referred to the views of the late Sir Henry Parkes, as to what constituted an ideal Senate. The first Senate complied in every respect with the ideals of the late distinguished statesman, for it consisted, in the main, of men who had long experience in State political spheres ; men who had long since reached years of discretion, and were in every respect fitted to discharge their duties as members of this important branch of the legislature. I was one of the youngest members at that time, and I am convinced that the first Senate was just as much a party House as is the Senate of to-day. The line of cleavage then was the fiscal issue. We had in this chamber, representatives of the high protectionist party, then led by the Barton Government, and we had representatives also of the free traders, so the line of division in this chamber ran parallel with the line of division in the House of Representatives. We had, in the then Labour party a disturbing factor - a third party, holding the balance of power. As a member of the Labour party of that day, I was one of the culprits, just as today, Senator R. D. Elliott represents- in this chamber, the third party, which in the last Parliament held the balance of power, though I am sorry to say it does not do so in this Parliament. Thus history repeats itself.
One reason why the Senate will always be o£ the same political color as another place is that its members are elected on the same franchise though on a slightly different basis, members of another place being elected by divisions, whereas the senators are elected by States. The same franchise will always give the same result.
The mover of the motion suggested, that because the Senate does not always do what some people think it should do, it has failed in its mission. I do not agree that the Senate, as it is constituted to-day, is a negligible factor in Commonwealth politics, and I think some people will wake up to this fact before they are much older. The Senate is what it is to-day, because, although our Constitution is modelled on that of the United States of America, the framers of the Convention grafted on to it the British system of responsible government. On this fact I well remember a significant remark of the first President, Sir Richard Chaffey Baker, that either the Senate would kill responsible government or responsible government would kill the Senate. Because we adopted the British system of responsible government, the Senate does not occupy in the Federal Constitution, the position of the United States Senate under the American Constitution. The Government in the United States of America is not responsible to Congress, whereas under our Constitution, Governments are made or unmade in the House of Representatives. For this reason that chamber will always be the more popular House, and public attention will always be focussed upon it. I suggest, therefore, that nothing that we can do by the appointment of committees or in any other way will affect the position of the House of Representatives in the Constitution. If the people in the United States of America had, as we have, a Government responsible to its House of Representatives, the American Senate would occupy exactly the same position as this chamber does under our Constitution.
I also disagree with the honorable senator’s views as to the manner in which the business of this Senate has been carried out. The Senate is what individual senators make it. It is no excuse for a senator to say that he was so impressed with the eloquent speech of a member of the Government’ that he did not study the bill. Such a remark is a condemnation of himself. It is idle to say that the Arbitration (Public Service) Bill introduced by the late Government received no criticism in this chamber. It was criticized severely by the present occupants of the ministerial bench.
– We called for frequent divisions.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Every honorable senator had the opportunity to acquaint himself with the contents of that bill. No one in this chamber can restrain any other honorable senator from exercising his full rights of criticism, although he may subject himself to certain political risks by exercising them.
I come now to the proposals of the honorable senator to cure what he regards as. the unfortunate position of the Senate. He seems to assume that, as a member of a committee, a senator will do something which he will not do as a member of the
Senate. In my opinion, a man who is lazy as a senator will be lazy as a member of a committee, unless all the willing horses are placed on committees and the lazy senators excuse their inaction by saying that they were guided by the committees. A Senate so constituted would not be an ideal legislative body. I cannot see that by appointing these committees we shall improve the way in which honorable senators carry out their duties; and, that, after all, is the point. I have seen some honorable senators throw into the wastepaper basket the ordinances and regulations supplied to them from time to time. But not all honorable senators do that. I have known honorable senators to move that the Senate dissent from certain regulations. It is no excuse to say that so many regulations and ordinances are issued that no senator can hope to understand them all. If 36 senators cannot study these matters, how can six members of a committee do so? As a private member, I shall watch very closely any regulations issued under certain classes of legislation, for I know that a government can do many things by regulation. In other cases in which I know that very little change can be wrought by regulation I shall not be so interested. I shall do the same with the ordinances which are gazetted from time to time. It is the duty of honorable senators to watch these things, whether members of committees or not.
There appears to be one important omission from the motion ; it contains no reference to the relations of the Commonwealth with the States. It refers to international relations, but if the Senate is to be a States house it must have regard to the interests of the States. Various matters dealing with the relations of the Commonwealth and the States come before us from time to time. I instance the Financial Agreement and the Federal Aid Roads Scheme. If we are to have Standing Committees, one of the first things with which they should deal is our relations with the States.
Although the motion includes international relations, I cannot see what these committees could do in that connexion. It is impossible for any one to deal adequately with international relations - even with the League of ‘Nations - unless he had access to all the files in the External Affairs Department that deal with the relations between the various units of the British Empire and foreign nations. How can a man attending an Assembly of the League of Nations form any proper idea of the subject with which he will deal there unless he knows how it came to be placed on the agenda? Before he can deal with it at the Assembly he must know its history, and what has taken place between, say, Britain, New Zealand, Canada and the Irish Free State, in regard to it.
– A committee could deal with Empire relations.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Empire relations impinge on foreign relations. The several British dominions are regarded by the. League of Nations as separate nations. Nearly every question dealt with by the League of Nations must be considered as to its effect on both the British Empire” and foreign relations. I am sure that no government will ever permit the members of any committee to gain access to those confidential papers.
– Of course not.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE A Minister must accept responsibility in these matters; but a private member of this Parliament could do what he liked with the information he obtained. Without the right of access to those papers, I cannot see how a committee of the Senate could deal with international relations. In the Senate of the United States of America there is a foreign affairs committee, which approximates to a department of foreign affairs, for it determines the policy of the United States of America in regard to foreign affairs. Honorable senators who have read the history of the arbitration treaty between Britain and the United States of America know that it is not the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs who decides these matters, but a committee of foreign affairs in the Senate. Under pur Constitution, we cannot have a committee of that kind.
– That was not suggested.
– If a committee could not do those things, I do not see what it could do. We already hare a Public Accounts Committee to deal with matters of finance, and on that committee the Senate is represented. It might be well to have a committee to examine private members’ bills; but the number of such bills is not great.
The position of the Senate to-day is largely due to the attitude of the press. Newspapers generally publish what they believe to be popular news. Some of them publish. some excellent educational articles, particularly in their Saturday supplements; but otherwise they are not concerned with the publication of matters of educational value as news. Their concern is to obtain news for sale. They want good copy. The report of a debate in the House of Representatives is much more saleable than is the report of a similar debate in this chamber, because in that branch of the legislature governments are made and unmade. The public is more interested in the happenings in another place than in what takes place here. It may be the day will come when the Senate will make and unmake governments ; but, so far as I can see, at present it can only do so by taking action which will lead to a double dissolution. Even in the reports of speeches in another place the press does not pay particular regard to the soundness of the arguments advanced. A man may make a constructive speech, the preparation of which has involved weeks of hard study; but he will not get such publicity as will a man who defies Mr. Speaker and makes a scene by calling some one a liar or a fool. I recently addressed an election meeting in Tasmania., and, naturally, I hoped that my remarks would be well reported. At the commencement of the meeting I saw a newspaper reporter sitting at a table in the front of the hall, prepared, as I thought, to record the wisdom which would fall from my lips. The meeting was noisy, and there were some clever interjections. When, a little later, I looked for the reporter, I found that he was not at the table, but at the rear of the hall getting particulars of the interjections After the meeting I asked him why he left the table, and he replied that a report of the interjections and’ of my replies to them made better reading for the subscribers to his newspaper than would a report of my speech. He was not there to record what I said so much as to get good copy. He was not greatly concerned with either my words of wisdom or that of the interjectors; but a clash between us was just what he wanted. The press of Australia practically ignores the Senate. The very newspapers which at times describe the Senate as the guardian of the weaker States frequently do not report the proceedings in this chamber. When in southern Tasmania recently, I should not have known., from reading the local newspaper, that the Senate met last week; yet that paper has at times appealed to the Senate to stand up for the rights of the smaller States. I do not know that the formation of these committees will accomplish much good; but I have no objection to the appointment of a select committee- to inquire into the matter.
– I am not entirely in accord with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), regarding the proposal of Senator’ R. D. Elliott. The motion seeks to systematize the work of this chamber, and to bring it more into line with what is happening elsewhere. It is quite plain that a chamber with no system for the conduct of its work must fall a bit behind a corresponding chamber not lacking in that respect. It is equally true that as political developments have taken place in Australia there has been a steady move from the simple to the complex state of society. In the early days of settlement, and up to a comparatively recent date prior to the establishment of responsible government, the business of the various Australian colonies was carried out by a Governor with an Executive Council. That particular system had to give way to a slightly more complicated one and the colonies were given self government. It is clear that what followed on the simpler form or system of government was bound to be replaced by a still more complicated form of government. I shall cite the case of New South Wales as a typical example of what has happened throughout Australia. At first New South Wales was a Crown colony and then came the colonial Parliament with a government and Parliamentary committees; but as time went on it was realized in New South Wales that even responsible government was not all-sufficient and the belief became prevelant, although inarticulate foi a time, that some other form of government should supersede it. What was thought quite ample for the time being was bound to be out of date and not equal to the exigencies of the hour, and federation was brought about. But is the federal system as we know it to-day the same as it was 21 years ago? Some attempt has been made to bring about what modern captains of ‘industry would describe as standardization or systemizati on. I shall dip into the commercial world for a parallel. No one would imagine that a big and growing concern like the Newcastle Steel Works could be controlled by the simple system which sufficed 25 years ago. The necessities of the hour demanded that the Broken Hill Proprietary, in its control of these steel works, should replace what should suit a milder form of enterprise by a very complex method of systemization. Had that not been done the works would not be as successful as they are to-day. Applying the same reasoning to this chamber, it is clear that we have arrived at the time when the inarticulate feeling that the work of the Senate has not been properly carried out should find expression in some such form as that conveyed in the motion submitted by Senator R. D. Elliott. The motion may have its shortcomings, but they are outweighed by its advantages, and if it be carried into affect it should have a salutary effect in neutralizing or checking the influence of party government in this chamber. We are all aware that party government cannot be abolished, but if we can do anything to minimize its evil effects which we have all witnessed, some headway will be made, and I think that this motion, if thoroughly examined, will provide some such remedy although it may not be the most perfect for the purpose.
As mentioned by Senator Pearce’, we have ready at hand a Public Works Committee and a, Public Accounts
Committee which represent a certain stage of development under the federal system. No work estimated to cost over £25,000 can be proceeded with until the Public Works Committee, comprising members of all parties and mostly representative of all the States has inquired into it and reported on the advisability in the public interest of undertaking it. And when the recommendation of the committee comes to hand, no matter what party may bc in power, the Government says “ This is the recommendation of the Public Works Committee, not a section of it.” That fact carries weight, and the existence of this committee exercises a valuable check upon the influence of the dominant party in politics for the time being. The same can be said about the Public Accounts Committee. Both committees exercise a salutary check upon the work of party government in either chamber, and I am certain that in the long run, the people of this country benefit. Senator R. D. Elliott’s motion is in thorough keeping with the line of development which has led to the appointment of -these committees, and if carried into effect would impose a further check upon the influence of party government which rather too often sacrifices public interest to party advantage.
I do not think Senator Pearce was quite right when he described the first Senate as’ a purely party chamber. If I remember aright, it was a gathering of independent men the like of which I am sure has not been seen in any other Parliament in Australia. But if the same men could revisit the political scene to-day, how would they fare ? If Sir Richard Chaffey Baker,’ Sir J ohn Downer or Mr. O’Connor had stood as independent candidates at the last election campaign, I venture, to say that, with all their reputation, with all the glamour surrounding their names and with all their independence, they would not have been elected to the Senate at all. The rise of the machine in politics has been so meteoric that it has been reflected in this chamber as well as the other. The first men in this chamber may not have been entirely free from party influences, but we know well enough that the candidates for the first Senate invariably attached themselves to the standards of the prominent figures in the, political field at the time, Sir Edmund Barton on the one side and Sir George Reid on the other. Many stood as independents and were returned as such, but such a change has come over the scene in the meantime, that if they had stood at the last Senate election as independents, they would not have been returned. I mention this in reinforcement of Senator Pearce’s contention that the great trouble with the Senate is the “ overflowing attention given to it by the press.” I do not expect any decent treatment from the newspapers, . because when we we:re in Melbourne I tried to exclude the representatives of the Melbourne metropolitan journals until they guaranteed to give to the debates of this chamber at least as much space as they were prepared to devote to a second-rate football match. That settled me, so far as press reports are concerned. My troubles about them ! Senator Pearce, however, was right when he said that the newspapers of Australia, for some inexplicable reason, have made a set against the Senate for some years past. ,
In spite of its critics, the Senate still lives and even if the editors of these papers stood as independent candidates for the Senate, they would not be seen in the conflict; they would not be heard of simply because, for better or worse, richer or poorer - the poorer I think - the party machine has been in the ascendant for many long years. I have all along insisted that the party machine influence in this country is not, generally speaking, for the public good, and it is because there is some necessity for instituting means by which that influence may be checked, that I favour Senator Elliott’s proposal.
Federal systems throughout the world are a rather seductive tit-bit, and I do not know whether I should be in order in reminding the Government that there is no administration in any country in the world to-day that is not based upon the bi-cameral system. Even in Russia the government is designedly based on the federal plan. The Irish Free State ransacked the world in an effort to remodel the Irish Senate, and the result has been to put it in a position of greater solidity than ever, the only defect being that it has been made more amenable to the party machine.
I see nothing wrong with holding the investigation suggested, by Senator R. D. Elliott because, as he said, nothing stands between the people and the Senate. We are here because the people sent us here. We spring direct from the loins of the people, and it is because we are so thoroughly democratic and so thoroughly representative of the popular will, that our critics are so much annoyed. But while they criticize us, they have little to say about the Legislative Councils. Why do these escape censure while the Senate comes in for all the blame? When I dealt with this subject previously, I pointed out what work was done by the Legislative Councils, and I placed in juxtaposition with it the work done by the Senate, showing that the former was only a fractional part of what is done by this chamber. ‘ But that did not keep our critics from saying that the Senate was shirking its duties, or not doing its work properly. The Senate is here to stay. On the clay when this Senate is abolished federation must also go. The Senate is the only citadel which the States possess,; notwithstanding what has been said to the contrary, it is still the bulwark of the States. It has proved to be the bulwark of, not only the States, but democracy as well. When another place challenged the right of the Senate to follow in’ a certain course that it adopted some time ago, this chamber emerged triumphant from the conflict. When the Financial Agreement Bill was before this chamber - a measure which I opposed from beginning to end - I said it would be the means of impoverishing the States. The truth of my words is shown by the fact that already two of its chickens have come home to roost in the form of bills providing for the granting of financial, assistance to South Australia and Tasmania. These States have discovered that they cannot carry on with the resources at their disposal, and are now appealing to the Commonwealth authority for grants-in-aid to enable them to meet their financial obligations. This chamber ratified the financial agreement, but certain honorable senators were sufficiently far-sighted to see that its effect upon the States would be to sadly impoverish them,1 and that they would be obliged to come to this Government for relief. Only a few months after the agreement was ratified two States, at least, were on the doormat of this Parliament asking for assistance. In passing the Financial Agreement Bill the Senate was only giving effect to a policy which had the universal support and confidence of the people. When an appeal was made to the electors a majority were, unfortunately, on the side of those who supported the ratification of the agreement and it eventually became law.
I am supporting the proposal of Senator B. D. Elliott, because I believe the time has arrived when the work of the Senate should be conducted in a more businesslike way and because it is our duty to avail ourselves of every possible opportunity to gain information to enable us to carry out our important duties more successfully in the interests of the people. If every honorable senator is not willing to tackle his responsibilities this’1 proposal will provide a means whereby a committee, consisting of, say, half-a-dozen honorable senators will be able to conduct inquiries on the lines mentioned in the motion, and thus enable this chamber to legislate more effectively in the interests of the people.
Motion (by Senator Daly) negatived -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– I am afraid that some honorable senators do not realize the significance of the motion moved by Senator’ R. D. Elliott, and the effect of its adoption by the Senate. I direct the attention of honorable senators to the way in which it is framed. I do not think that there is any intention to create a false impression, but the first line reads - “ With a view to improving the legislative work of this chamber.” It is suggested that one of the reasons for the appointment of the proposed committee is to improve the legislative work of this chamber. That undoubtedly suggests that the legislative work of this branch of the legislature needs improving.
– But even good work can be improved upon.
– Good work may become better, but it is the legislative work of this chamber which it is suggested should be improved. Under the bicameral system of government operating in the Commonwealth, what is the duty of the Senate and of individual senators? In order to thoroughly grasp the situation, one has to understand the difference between a legislative act and an executive act. Senator R. D. Elliott referred, at the outset, to the number of statutory rules and regulations which he said were printed and ‘ circulated, and were probably never read by honorable senators. Once the power to make regulations has been delegated by Parliament to the executive, such regulations become legislative acts, and it is the duty of every honorable senator to study them, in order to determine whether they should be allowed or disallowed. Because all honorable senators do not read these statutory rules and regulations, Senator R. D. Elliott’s remedy is to appoint a committee of the Senate to peruse them and report the result of its investigations. I invite the honorable senator to name any British Parliament, constituted as this Parliament is, in which any member has the right to delegate his legislative powers to another honorable member. A member has the right to move for the appointment of a committee to make inquiries into proposed legislation, and to ascertain facts which cannot be obtained on the floor of the chamber, but he has not the right, under our present system of government, to delegate any of his legislative powers to a body such as is suggested.
– That is not suggested in the motion.
– The legislative . power, as I interpret it, means not only actually voting on a bill which comes before the Senate, but the exercise of that power which involves inquiry into the state of the law at the time of the passing of a proposed law, the remedy proposed and the reason for it. These are inquiries which Senator R. D. Elliott suggests should be delegated from one honorable senator to another.
– Not delegated at all.
– The motion suggests that a committee he appointed for improving the legislative work of the Senate. The legislative work of the Senate is to inquire into the cause for proposed legislation, and its nature, and then to decide whether it should be passed. A committee, such as suggested, would have to inquire into the first two questions, and then report to the Senate.
– Similar committees exist in Canada and elsewhere.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce) made it perfectly clear that there are marked distinctions between the Constitution of the United States of America, Canada, and the Commonwealth. The committees in other countries, referred to by the honorable senator, are comparable with our Department of Home Affairs ana the Department of External Affairs, as we know them under our system of government. “We have no right to delegate our powers to others, in order, as suggested by the mover of the motion, to improve the legislative work of this chamber. We have the right, under our system of government, to delegate legislative powers to the executive, but one senator has not the right to delegate his power to another.
– ls it not a delegation of duty that Senator E. D. Elliott is seeking?
– An honorable senator has not the power to delegate a portion of his duty to another honorable senator. I ask honorable senators to recognize that, apart from an executive act, which cannot bc delegated to a sub-committee, the practical work of this Senate is to review legislation that comes to it, and which represents the considered opinion of the majority in another place. Although all parties in this Parliament have in mind the same ideal - the betterment of Australia - we immediately part company when we have to decide the best means of reaching our objective. A subcommittee sitting round a table could thoroughly discuss matters of major or minor importance, with the one object inview; but the members of the Labour party on such a committee would naturally hold views totally different from those of the members of the
Nationalist party. Is it suggested that such a committee should come to a unanimous decision on proposed legislation?
– They come to the chamber with a majority and a minority report. They take the place of what we might term the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Government presents to the Senate the majority report and the Lender of the Opposition the minority report. We listen to both. It may be that there has been a spirit of compromise on the subject. For example, the Labour members may have been able to draw the Liberals just a little closer to Labour’s ideals, or vice versa. The Leader of the Government, desiring to put the Government’s policy into effect, explains to the Senate exactly what are his views on the reports, and the Leader of the Opposition does likewise. So, instead of what at present happens in the Senate, we will have at least four or five opinions on the matter. How would that improve the legislative work of this chamber?
I urge honorable senators to consider this motion very carefully before passing it in its present form. Its acceptance would be an. acknowledgement from the outset that the legislative work of this chamber needs improvement. The committee would receive a definite mandate from the Senate to proceed on the assumption .that the work of the chamber does need improvement, and that it should search for the means of improvement. It would be an admission by honorable senators that the present system of dealing with statutory rules and ordinances is wrong, and the committee must devise a better method than that which now operates.
As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) has intimated, we come to a more difficult problem when we arrive at the proposal contained in the second paragraph of the motion. The committee therein proposed would inquire into, not the necessity or otherwise for improvement, but the definite need for improvement, of. our legislative work relating to international relations. The acceptance ‘of the motion would also be an admission that our present system of legislation with regard to finance is wrong and must be improved. No advice is- to be given to the Treasurer as to the spending of our revenue. Then we come to the matter of private members’ bills and “ such other subjects as may be advisable.” The important point is that such a committee is to be appointed definitely to improve the legislative work of this chamber, and honorable senators must take the responsibility, if they approve of the motion, for advising the general public that existing methods of legislation are unsatisfactory. It is not a matter of the systematic presentation of bills or of papers. It is an admission that this chamber needs improvement to the extent suggested by one of its newest arrivals, Senator R. D. Elliott.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [9.51]. - I should not take up the time of the Senate in discussing this motion, but that its mover has paid me the compliment of including my name amongst those whom -he wishes to serve on the committee. I feel bound to warn the honorable senator that it would be quite impossible for me to .approach the suggested work of that committee with an impartial mind. I should entirely prejudge that work; I should come to it with a- firm conviction that whilst it might be possible to improve the methods and work of this Senate, that was not likely to be done in the manner he suggests. I am not actuated with a desire to influence any other honorable senator, nor do I say that I am right and they are wrong, but so long as I am a member of this Senate I shall endeavour to represent the best interests of my State without the slightest obligation to any party; free not only from any party, but free also to hold myself entirely uninfluenced by the decisions of any party. I do not contend that that is the attitude that other honorable senators should adopt. .1 merely say that it was the attitude adopted by me when I contested the election at which I was chosen as a representative of this Senate.
– Was not the honorable senator endorsed’ by a party ?
– Certainly, on that strict understanding.’ The party that endorsed me invited ap plications from persons who were willing to offer themselves to represent the State of Western Australia, and to pledge themselves to abstain from entering into any party obligations-. It was on those conditions that I nominated and was accepted, conditions that must be well known to every person who cast a vote in my favour.
Reference has been made to the State Legislative Councils. I do not pretend to be familiar with the procedure of every State Legislative Council, but I do say that in the State of Western Australia, to which I belong, no member of that branch of the legislature supported by what may be termed National or Liberal opinion has ever attended a party meeting, nor has he regarded himself as being in any way bound by the decisions of a party. I was a member of the Legislative Council of Western Australia for eleven years. Except for the period when I was a member of the Crown I never attended a party meeting, and when I was a Minister of the Crown I attended party meetings merely to be kept in touch with any measures that I might be called upon afterwards to put through Parliament. I never spoke at any of those meetings unless invited to do so, and never was I permitted to vote at them.
– But the honorable senator had to depend on the members of his party to carry his measures through.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Not at all. I depended on their merits to get them through. If you, Mr. President, were at liberty to say so, you would bear me out when I say that during the seven years when I was Leader of that House - and, incidentally I sympathize very keenly with the Leader of the Government in the Senate, because for thu greater part of the time I was the only Minister in that chamber and piloted all bills through it - most of my fighting was against those who were nominally supporters of my party. They claimed that that House was the House of individual opinion, and that is what I think this Senate ought to be. There is good reason for it. In another place that makes and unmakes Governments many members may be compelled, from time to time, to make a very difficult choice. They have to choose between voting for something in which they do riot believe, and’ throwing out the Government in which they do believe, and putting in its place an administration that they think would be bad for the country. In that way they might be rightly and honorably forced into voting for something with which they did not agree. We in this Chamber are free from that obligation. Our vote does not make or unmake governments, and, therefore, we should be at liberty to pass an opinion on any measure before us, irrespective of the party by which it is introduced.
I wish to say, with the very deepest respect to my friend, Senator Sir George Pearce, that so long as I am a member of this Senate I cannot recognize any Leader of the Opposition. I recognize only the Leader of the House, and I hold myself at liberty to agree or disagree with any measure that he puts forward. The function of an opposition is to oppose. I submit that it is the function of this chamber not to oppose, but to review every measure put before it, and to review it in an impartial spirit, irrespective of whether it comes from Labour or the Nationalist party. It is utterly absurd for any one to think that the people of Australia can be divided into two camps; that all the people on that side are supporters of the Labour party, believers in State socialism,, while all on the other side hold a contrary opinion.
– We have considerable evidence that that has been the case.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH Not at all. Sometimes an election is won by an enormous majority by one party and on another occasion there is an enormous majority for the opposing side. That indicates that a very large section of the community is by no means pledged to either side, and is prepared, and does so, to swing from one side to the other as it thinks advisable. I venture to say that you cannot divide the members of the Senate into two separate parties, assured that on all questions they will vote this way or that way.
Reference has been made to the first Senate. I remind honorable senators that it was not the practice in that Senate for Nationalist or Liberal members to attend party meetings. I believe that I am right in saying that the practice was not adopted until after 1916.
– It was the practice of the Labour party.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Of course it was, because the Labour party members never recognized that the Senate ought to exist at all. They maintained a perfectly consistent attitude, and placed no value on the Senate as a protector of State rights. It was only after a certain number of Labour members, led by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), came over to the Nationalist party that the practice of Nationalist members attending party meetings began. I am not criticizing that practice. My own opinion is that it. is a bad one, and because that is my opinion I do not and will not attend party meetings. Those who think differently are quite at liberty to exercise their own opinions.
– Did not the honorable senator’s name as a candidate appear on a party ticket at the last election ?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.This Senate has made it practically impossible for any one to be elected to it unless he is prepared to link himself up with two other candidates, and go to the country on those lines. My name appeared with those of two other candidates, but it was quite well known to the public exactly how each of those three candidates was placed. Senator Johnston, representing the Country party, and I, were on the same platform, and while his pledge was of a slightly different character the people generally were conversant with the nature of the pledges and the undertakings which we gave.
– We were pledged to put the State before the party.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.^ Reference has been made to the constitution of the Senate contemplated by the late Sir Henry Parkes. I venture to suggest that the Commonwealth Parliament has itself clone its utmost to destroy the possibility of the Senate ever complying with that ideal, by the inclusion in the Electoral Act of a provision which, if not an actual violation of the letter of the Constitution, is certainly a gross violation of its spirit. I refer to that provision -which prohibits members of State Parliaments from nominating for election to either House of the Commonwealth. The Constitution, in anticipation that this Parliament would be composed largely of members who had seen service in State Parliaments, goes so far as to say, in sub-section 4 of section 44, which prohibits any person holding an office of profit under the Crown from taking a seat in the Federal Parliament, that Ministers of a State shall be exempted. That is to Bay, a State Minister, although drawing his salary as a member of Parliament, is eligible for election to this Parliament, and may sit in it.
– Even if he is then a State Minister?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Yes, if the people wish him to. Ignoring the provision of the Constitution which sets out clearly what are to be the disqualifications of members, the Commonwealth Parliament, in my judgment without good reason, has prohibited members of a State Parliament from seeking election to this Parliament. By that legislative act the Commonwealth Parliament destroyed absolutely the possibility of the Senate being composed largely of men of experience in the Parliaments of the States.
There is in the motion one provision which I hope the mover will omit, otherwise I do not see how I can support it, much as I should like to have this subject inquired into, and that is the provision that the select committee shall be at liberty to move from place to place.. If the committee is expected to move about it will necessarily have to go to those distant States in relation to which the Senate is of the greatest importance.
– Is there any necessity for the committee to move from place to place?
– I consider that there is no necessity for the committee to move about at all. I do not contemplate with equanimity the idea of seven members of this chamber wandering about Australia asking the people what is wrong with the Senate. I should like to know if Senator B. D. Elliott has read and considered carefully not only the report of, but also the evidence submitted to, the recent royal com mission on the Constitution, which thoroughly investigated all these matters ?
– I have read a good deal of the report.
– If the proposed select committee is going to study documents of that kind and, as a result of its study, make suggestions to the Senate, well and good; but if it is contemplated that the committee shall traverse the same ground again and move about from place to place to take evidence, I doubt that I can be a member of it.
– Has the honorable senator noticed the date within which the report has to be presented ?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Yes, and I think that is one more good reason why the committee should not wander about Australia. I intend to support the motion in the hope that it may do some good, and with the conviction that it can do no harm. I was impressed by the remarks of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly), and I may say that members of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, in the course of their inquiry, found few people who were prepared to applaud the Senate. On the contrary, this chamber was criticized in every State, the general tenor of the criticism being that it had failed to fill the place in the life of the Commonwealth Parliament which it was intended to occupy; that it had become too much a party house. That, too, is my own conviction. I am convinced that the bill to abolish the per capita payments to the States would never have been passed by a Senate dominated by the Nationalist element in politics if the members of that party had not been subject to party influences to a much greater extent than the Constitution contemplated.
– There is considerable force in the criticism levelled at the terms of the motion by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly), and I suggest to the mover, who, I am sure, is actuated by the very best of motives, that, since it is capable of interpretation in a manner not contemplated by him, it should be somewhat modified. I understand that it was not his intention to examine so much the legislative functions of this chamber, as the position which has arisen with regard to statutory rules and ordinances, which are presented by all governments in this chamber in such tremendous volume. I believe that the Government is about to issue a consolidated volume of these ordinances, and I may add that this work was put in hand some time ago. This new volume comprises about 1,400 pages of ordinances passed under Commonwealth legislation, and these honorable senators will be expected to peruse. For my own part, I have always felt that the statutory rules laid on the table of the Senate should receive more consideration than it is possible for individual members to give to them, so possibly some good service will- be served if, by the appointment of a committee, we can regement the forces of the Senate with a view to the perusal or general review of these ordinances and statutory rules. The tendency of all governments is to legislate in this manner. I suggest, therefore, that no harm will be done if the honorable senator amends his motion by omitting the words “ improving the legislative work of this chamber and “. The motion would then read -
I think the honorable senator has indicated already that he considers that paragraph b, dealing with international relations, may be considerably modified, because the committee could not make recommendations upon international relations without having access to secret communications. If the honorable senator amends the motion in the direction I have suggested, he will take out of it some of the Sting which some honorable senators feel it contains in its present form.
– The feeling that has actuated the mover of this motion must have come to every honorable senator when he first entered the Senate. I know that I should have been glad if there had been a subcommittee to deal with the Bankruptcy Bill, which came before this chamber shortly after I entered it. That bill was of a non-party character, and would have lent itself admirably to investigation by a sub-committee. In considering it I found myself at a great disadvantage. I entered the Senate possessed of some commercial knowledge, but being unacquainted with the procedure here, when I tried to amend the measure in various directions I found that I was unable to do so. If there had been a sub-committee the various matters could have been threshed out there, and amendments could have been moved at the right time. I feel sure that that measure will have to be revised considerably before it becomes as effective as it ought to be.
For Senator B. D. Elliott’s proposal to function properly the Senate would have to be a non-party chamber, and a house of revision, but with a franchise similar to that for another place, it is almost impossible for it to get away from the party aspect. Senator Colebatch is opposed to party politics; but if he had not received the support of a political party he would not be here. We all might like to adopt an idealistic attitude, but we cannot, do so. Nemesis would pursue us when we submitted our names to the various political organizations with which we are associated. While the present franchise remains we cannot reach that ideal. In the case of the Irish Free State at one time no candidate for the Senate could be less than 30 years of age, with a similar franchise limit, but it was soon found that that restriction was unworkable. The latest method adopted there is to have a Senate selected from a panel chosen by the two Houses. That would make the Senate really a house of review; but, as things are in Australia, we cannot adopt that system. Only in connexion with matters of a non-party nature could subcommittees function satisfactorily. Nevertheless, I have no objection to an inquiry by a select committee. In an ordinary commercial concern sub-committees would be appointed ; but our Standing Orders do not provide for them. A sub-committee is not so elaborate as is a select committee, which generally finds occasion to travel about the country in the search for information. Some time ago, I was a member of a select committee, which travelled a good deal, and must have cost the country a considerable sum. If a select committee is appointed, it should not be given authority to travel from place to place. With that . reservation, I am inclined to agree to the appointment of a select committee, although I am afraid that it will not solve our problems.
– I entered the chamber while the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) was saying that the ordered proceedings of the Senate were given less publicity than is given to frivolous or exciting incidents in another place. It is unfortunate that sensational incidents are given such prominence in the press, while logical reasoning is for the most part, overlooked. That indicates that the Senate needs more “ pep,” more “ ginger.” It is probably because most of the members of this chamber are over 80 years of age, that the proceedings here are so dull.
– We want new blood in the Senate.
– We want not only new blood, but also, perhaps, men who are prepared to shed it, if necessary ! The Leader of the Opposition said that if a member called another a liar the incident would be fully reported. Then why not amend our Standing Orders to permit one honorable senator to call another a liar? We might even go further and allowreflections on the virtue of honorable senators to be made. If that were permitted, men of powerful physique, like Senator Foll and myself, might occasionally invite each other outside to settle matters, and then surely the proceedings of the Senate would be given prominence in the newspapers! The Senate is ignored to such an extent by the press that I doubt whether half the people of Australia know that it exists. Only recently I received two letters - one from a business firm - addressed to Senator Rae, M.H.R. It might be that the writers of those letters were of the opinion that membership in one house included membership in the other. We are ourselves largely responsible for the Senate being ignored. We do not assert ourselves; the debates are too dry. Even Hansard might be improved by the insertion of cartoons; and then the young fellows and flappers of the community wouldrush each edition as they now rush Beckett’s Budget and Truth and other “ high-class “ publications. We all know the advantage of taking physical exercise. The physical exercise that I get away from Canberra enables me to live through the tedium of the debates here. Senator Sampson’s idea of compulsory military service might well apply to honorable senators. If we were obliged to take physical exercise on the floor of the Senate the public galleries would be filled, and the Senate known far and wide as a glorious institution. It is rather strange to hear Senator Colebatch, who accepted nomination from a political party, decry party politics.
– I claimed freedom from party ties before, not after, I accepted the nomination of a political party.
– All of us are not able to make such splendid terms; we have to scrape through a selection ballot, and be glad to do so. There is no harm in party government, and I should be sorry to see it abolished, because then there would be less fun in the Senate than there is now. Even with different parties in the chamber it is difficult to get up a decent “ scrap “. What would be the position if we all belonged to one party, and were unanimous regarding everything? Rather than be a member of the Senate in. such circumstances I would prefer to be translated to another and higher sphere.
The limitation of the powers of the Senate by the Constitution has largely detracted from the influence of the Senate. If we gradually asserted ourselves we might accomplish more. It will do no harm to agree to the motion, but, owing to the vagueness of the proposals, I cannot see what good it can do. For instance, how would international relations be affected by any report which a committee might make ? The honorable senator’s proposals are so vague that it is difficult to understand what he had in his mind. Still, something should be done to make the Senate more interesting to the public. Seeing that honorable senators are responsible to the electors of a State, not only a portion of a State, and can disregard little cliques and coteries, it would appear that if either House is to be abolished, it should not be the Senate. Even if the Labour party does favour the abolition of the Senate because of the recognition of its comparative uselessness as things are, it does not think that anything should be done to belittle the chamber while it does exist.
Motion (by Senator Barnes) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I thank honorable senators for the interest they have shown in my motion. I shall not occupy any time in replying to the arguments advanced,but I should like to say in reference to Senator Colebatch’s hesitation about joining the committee, that it is really his attitude of criticism to the general scheme that would make his association with the committee of particular value. I am not proposing to have a select committee composed of men of the same political views. I want to have matters discussed from all angles, and, therefore, I feel particularly pleased that Senator Colebatch has consented to take part in this inquiry. It has been suggested that my motion should bc altered, and I am quite agreeable to accept a suggestion made by Senator McLachlan,which, I understand, meets with the approval of Senator Daly. I ask leave to amend my motion.
Motion amended to read as follows: -
That, with a view to increasing the participation of individual senators in the work of the Senate, a select committee of seven members be appointed to consider, report, and make recommendations upon the advisability or otherwise of establishing Standing Committees of the Senate upon -
Question as so amended resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
So that honorable senators may make their arrangements, I wish to notify them that I have conferred with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce), and we have agreed that the Senate shall adjourn from to-morrow until Tuesday. I had intended asking honorable senators to meet on Monday, but it is proposed to get over the difficulty by sittiug if necessary on Wednesday and Thursday mornings.
Questions resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 December 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1929/19291205_senate_12_122/>.