12th Parliament · 1st Session
ThePresident (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Proposed Advisory Council
-I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, without notice -
– I have notseen the press statements referred to by the right honorable senator, and I am not in a position to answer the honorable senator’s question, but I shall do so before the Senate rises to-day.
– Has the Leader of the Senate seen a statement made recently in the press by Dr. R. R. S. Mackinnon, of Macquarie-street, Sydney, that clothing other than wool invited the development ofthat bodily state which resulted in cancer? Ifso, will he bring the matter immediately under’ the notice of the Minister for Health in order that it may be thoroughly investigated, and so that a warning may be issued to the public against the use of artificial silk?
– My attention has been drawn to the matter by the honorable senator, and, as I have already intimated to him, the matter to which he has called attention will be referred to the Minister for Health with a request for a report.
– I should like to ask you, Mr. President, a question relating to the Joint House Committee; whether it is not a fact that Australian apples of high class quality are easily procurable, and, if so, why preference is not shown to the Australian product in the Parliamentary refreshment rooms. American apples purchased, so I am informed, from Connell and Co., Sydney, are placed before members for consumption in the Parliamentary refreshment rooms ?
– The matter raised by the honorable senator comes as a surprise to me. I shall certainly have inquiries made, and let him know as soon as possible whether his information is correct, and, if so, what steps it is proposed to take.
Allegations Against Ministers
– I should like to ask, without notice, the following questions of the Minister representing the Prime Minister -
– The answers I can supply offhand to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
I have answered the honorable senator’s questions, but I should like to ask you, Mr. President, whether they come within the ruling you gave yesterday that questions should be put solely with the object of eliciting information?
– What about a royal commission?
– Certain parts of the honorable senator’s questions I regard as being distinctly out of order, and if the Leader of the Senate had asked for notice of them, the portions which I regard as being out of order would have been excised. The Standing Orders and authorities on parliamentary procedure are very explicit that questions may be asked only for the purpose of obtaining information, that no implications and, as far as possible, no suggestions may be admitted into them; and that the information sought should be information which, in the ordinary course of parliamentary business, is likely to prove useful in debate.
– I give notice that I shall ask the question on the next day of sitting.
– That being the case, I ask leave to make a statement. (Leave granted.). Obviously the honorable senator’s question was based on an article which appeared in a Sydney newspaper and which I have had an Opportunity to read. So ingenious was the evasion of the law of libel that the Ministers concerned had no opportunity to clear their characters, but I am instructed by them to say that if the newspaper will be fair enough to state the facts upon which it allegedly bases its conclusion, they will take the necessary steps to protect their honour and the dignity attaching to the holders of Ministerial portfolios: There will be no need to wait for the appointment of a royal commission, which, by interjection, one honorable senator has suggested should be appointed.
Senator DOOLEY brought up the reports of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence and a plan relating to the proposed development of the civil aerodrome at Mascot, New South Wales, and the proposed construction of public baths at Canberra.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
Tariff Embargo-Price in Western Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– I am informed by the Minister that the information will be. obtained.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained as far as possible.
Employment or Natives
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Homo Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Home Affairs has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : - 1 and 2. It will be necessary to communicate with the Administrator of New Guinea in order to obtain the detailed information desired by the honorable senator. This is being done. 3 and 4. Reports from the gold-fields indicate that the climate is not unsuitable for the employment of white labour, and no occasion has arisen for an investigation of the question.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What progress, if any, has been made relative to establishing telephonic communication . between Tasmania and the mainland States?
– The position is being carefully investigated in the light of developments in the manufacture of cable.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Visit to Tasmania
– On the 26th March Senator Thompson asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate the following questions. -
To these questions I gave the following replies : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator that the committee has advised that the information cannot yet be furnished as some accounts are still outstanding; but the cost to date is £557.
– On the 28th March last Senator Chapman asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Transport the following question : -
Is it a fact that the whole of the shipping space for apples for the coining seasonhas been booked up ?
To this I furnished the following answer : -
No official advice has been received respecting this matter, but inquiries are being made with a view to ascertaining the position.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator that official advice has been received to the effect that the whole of the shipping space available for apples for the present season in the regular steamers trading to Australia has been reserved, and it will be necessary in addition to arrange for whatever tonnage is available outside the regular lines.
The following papers were presented : -
Contract Immigrants Act - Return for 1929.
Immigration Act - Return for 1929.
Science and Industry Research Act - Third Annual Report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, for year ended 30th June, 1929.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinance No. 4 of 1930 - Advisory Council.
Advisory Council Ordinance - Regulations.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No.6 of . 1930- Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union.
No. 7 of 1930- Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union.
No. 8 of 1930 - Australian Postal Electricians Union.
No. 9 of 1930 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia.
Debate resumed from 9th April (vide page 998) on motion by Senator Daly -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [11.18]. - Although this is a measure that can be more effectively debated in committee, I wish to give the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) an opportunity to obtain answers to some questions which may he raised during the second-reading debate. The first point which I wish to bring before the Minister is this : There are certain retrospective provisions in this measure and in the Land Tax Assessment Bill recently passed, and the explanation given was that these retrospective provisions were necessary in order to safeguard the departmental position in regard to taxation not yet collected. I should like to know if the Government will give an assurance that these retrospective provisions will not be used to re-open settled assessments. That question is creating a good deal of interest.
The crux of the bill is clause 2 in which apparently an endeavour has been made to meet the objections raised in the Senate concerning the definition of “ improvements.” What we need to concern ourselves with is whether the Government in this amending measure has met the criticisms which were then offered in that regard. There are two points to which I particularly wish to direct the attention of the Senate. The first relates to the definition of “ value of improvements “ - “ Value of improvements “ in relation to land means the added value which the improvements give to the land at the time as at which the value is required to be ascertained for the purposes of this Act irrespective of the cost of improvements including in such added value the value of any hotel licence or other similar interest the value of which has been included in the improved value.
As I read that it means that the value of an hotel licence or any similar interest is excluded from the taxable value. I should like the Minister to say whether that is the correct reading of the definition. It is somewhat obscure, but that is how I believe the Government is meeting the criticisms in regard to cases of that kind. The second point to which I wish to direct special attention relates to the proviso to paragraph c of clause 2 which reads:
Provided that the added value shall in no case exceed the amount that should reasonably be involved in effecting, at the time as at which the value is required to be ascertained for the purposes of this Act improvements of a nature and efficiency equivalent to the existing improvements.
It may be that that proviso does not mean what I think it means, but the object of my remarks at this stage is to give the Minister an opportunity of looking into the matter and of later informing the Senate what it actually does mean. For the purpose of making my point clear I may cite two illustrations. Take the case of town lands. An area of land adjacent to a township is opened up for sale in subdivisional lots. Let us say the value of that land is £2,000, but the owner, in order to facilitate its sale expends £2,000 in constructing roads. The additional value given to the land for sale purposes, by the construction of these roads, is, say, £4,000, so that the selling value of the land is £6,000. Upon what value is the area to be taxed? Is it to be taxed upon the value of the land, £2,000, or is the taxable value £2,000 plus not only the £2,000 spent in the construction of roads, but the added value given to the land by such road construction ? It is clear to my mind that the construction of these roads would be an “ improvement.” and if we tax the value given to the land by the construction of roads by the owner we are taxing his improvements. It seems to me that the proviso makes it possible for the department to tax in that case not only the £2,000, the value of the land, hut that £2,000, plUs the £2,000 added value given by the construction of the roads, and even to add to that the actual cost of the construction of the roads, thus taxing the owner on a value of £6,000. That is a construction which I think it is possible to place upon that provision and I should like to know whether my contention is right. The second illustration which I wish to cite is in connexion with agricultural lands. Let ns assume that a person owns 1,000 acres of land which possesses little or no unimproved value. The person who buys that land or who takes it up may spend, say, £2,000 in fencing and providing water supply or improvements of that nature to give it a productive value. The cost of the improvements that the owner places upon the land let us assume is £2,000; but in spending that amount he gives to the land a productive value which it did not possess before. Thai productive value may be more than £2,000- it may be £4,000. As I read the proviso all that such a person could deduct would be the actual value of the improvements that he had placed upon the land, namely £2,000, but he would be taxed upon the value that is given to the land by placing these improvements upon it, which might be double their actual cost. When I was speaking on the first Land Tax Assessment Bill, introduced a week or two ago, I said that there was a very clear principle in relation to the taxation of the unimproved value of land. There are two values: There is the value given to land by the energy, enterprise and activity of the owner, and the value given to it by the presence and needs of the community. I can illustrate those two different values in this way: In the first case that I cited A has 1,000 acres of land which is within ten miles of a township, a railway and other amenities of civilization. On the other hand B owns a block of equal .value, from a productive viewpoint, but 60 miles from a township or a railway. Both A and B spend the same amount of money in improvements, but it is obvious that there is a value in the case of the land owned by A which does not exist in the cas,e of the land owned by B. That value in the case of the land owned by A is the value given by the presence and needs of the community. This is called the unearned increment, and is the value that is always regarded by those who advocate the taxation of unimproved land values as a fair basis of taxation. That, however, is not the value that is created by the enterprise or activities of the owner, but by the presence and needs of the community. It appears to me that this amended proviso departs from that principle and that the department in framing these amendments is endeavouring to tax not only the value created by the presence and needs of the community, but also the value that is given to the land by the enterprise and activity of the owner of the land in improving it.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [11.33]. - I am afraid that I cannot accept the suggestion qf the Leader of the Senate that this is a bill for consideration in committee. We have, first, to decide the principle underlying the measure, and satisfy ourselves that a sufficient reason exists for altering the present act. I am not satisfied that good reasons do exist for the alteration. Such inquiries as I have been able to make in the limited time available have confirmed me in the view that there is no need to alter the present legislation. I should be the last to suggest that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) had any desire to mislead the Senate, but I certainly was misled by some of his remarks. Honorable senators will recollect that the Minister referred more than once to land which had a value of £10 an acre, but which would decline in value to £9 an acre unless something was done to maintain it at its original value. His repeated reference to land worth £10 an acre led me to believe that the matter which had induced the Government to introduce this amending legislation had reference to land worth approximately £10 an acre. But the case which was decided by the High Court which led to the introduction of this legislation related to land the full improved value of which was only £1 14s. 3d. au acre. The land in question comprised an area of 12,973 acres, the fair selling price of which, with all improvements, was £22,250. Included in that valuation were the following items - the amounts are approximate : - Water supply, £3,000; buildings, £720; fencing, £2,000; timber treatment, £5,000. Before we can consider the cost of clearing the land, and eradicating the prickly pear, approximately 17s. an acre must be deducted for visible improvements, thus bringing the value of the land down to 17s. 3d. an acre. In addition, a deduction must be made in respect of invisible improvements - what it costs to eradicate the prickly pear and make the land useful. I know nothing about the cost of clearing prickly pear, but I do know that agricultural land in Western Australia, valued at £1 14s. 3d. an acre, including visible improvements worth 17s. an acre, would be worth not more than 5s. or 6s. an acre in its unimproved state, even giving it all the advantages of proximity to railways or other facilities. “When Parliament fixed a minimum of £5,000 it never intended to tax land of that value.
The second point I desire to submit is that the High Court decided this question on what it conceived to be the principles which guided Parliament in imposing land taxation. Three judges held one view and one judge a different view. T do not suggest that the Senate should concern itself with determining which view was right in point of law; but it is competent to decide which view represented the intention of Parliament when it imposed legislation for the taxation of unimproved land values. The view of the judge who first heard the case - a view confirmed by a majority of the High Court - was expressed by the late Chief Justice of the High Court in the following terms : - in thu legislation in Australia imposing tax on the unimproved value oE land we think it is clear that the subject matter sought to be taxed has always been that part of the value of the land at the relevant date which has been commonly described as the “unearned inclement.” The value at any given date of any given parcel of land has been considered as including two factors, viz. - (I) The portion of the value at the relevant date attributable to improvements on or appertaining to the land made by the owner or his predecessors in title; mid (2) the portion of the value at such date attributable to extrinsic circumstances such as public roads or railways, increased settlement in the neighbourhood, public services brought within reach, and other causes not brought about by the operations on the land of successive occupiers . . .
We think the unimproved value which is the subject of taxation under this act is the value at the relevant date of the land in its natural state as for the time being affected by extrinsic circumstances of every kind, as for example those above-mentioned, but not by what has been done to it or upon it in the shape of improvements of any kind effected by the operations of successive owners the benefit of which continues as a factor in the then present value of the land.
I maintain that that is an accurate statement of the policy of Parliament in imposing a tax on unimproved land values.
Bcf erring to the construction placed upon the section by Mr. Justice Isaacs the majority of the court said : -
Such a construction of the words of the Act as that suggested would, in the case of tha greater part of the rural lands in Australia, result in the inclusion in the subject-matter of the tax - the unimproved value of the land - of an amount wholly attributable to operations generally recognised as improvements in fact which had been effected by the owner at his own expense - a result which appears to us entirely inconsistent both with the expressed intention of Parliament and with the theory underlying the imposition of the tax.
We have there a clear exposition of what Parliament wanted to do when it decided to tax unimproved land values.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Then why bother about the decision at all?
The absence of prickly pear is, of course, such an advantage as compared with land still infested, and adds to its unimproved value, just as any other incidental expense would, but cannot be deducted from the capital value of the land as it stands …. What the Act requires is really quite simple. The one question as it seems to me the valuer has to answer is - “What sum would the hypothetical purchaser and the hypothetical vendor in open market agree to as the fair price of the bare land as a vacant site in its actual state at the statutory date of valuation?”
It is clear that in the opinion of the learned judge unseen improvements should not be taken into consideration when arriving at the value of the land. That means that the property as it stands is valued, and from that valuation is deducted the cost of effecting the visible improvements to ascertain its value for taxation purposes. The judgment of Mr. Justice Isaacs continued -
That sum the land represents in cash, and is the statutory measure of the owner’s present pecuniary capacity to contribute to the present needs of government.
I do not know that Parliament when imposing this land tax had any idea of the statutory measure of the owner’s pecuniary capacity to contribute to the present needs of government. If that is to be the basis of valuation, the Government would not be justified, in the present state of our primary industries, in expecting to receive any considerable revenue from the taxation of land. We have, therefore, as the basis of this legislation, a conflict between two opinions, not as to the legal interpretation of a section of an act of Parliament, but as to the intention of Parliament when the legislation was passed. Whatever its legal value, there can be little doubt that the majority view is the correct interpretation of the will of Parliament. Seeing that the act in its present form carries out that intention, it should not be altered. My inclination is to vote against the second reading of the bill; but I shall not do so if the Minister in charge of it will agree to allow the committee stage to be held over until after the Easter vacation, so that honorable senators may give the matter full consideration. If he is not prepared to do that, I shall oppose the second reading, for I do not see how it is possible for honorable senators in the limited time at their disposal, especially in view of the necessity to refer the bill again to another place, to give it full and proper consideration.
The wording of the measure is the most extraordinary that I have ever come across. When the bill was previously before the Senate I drew attention to three words that were tediously repeated, and I was informed that they were employed to give the phraseology its necessary legal import. I invite honorable senators to examine the proviso in paragraph ?; of the proposed amendment to section 3 of the principal act. There they will find the words - the value of improvements from the improved value at the time as at which the value is required to be ascertained for the purposes of this act. “As at which!” Why should not the simple words. “ the value of the improvements from the improved value at the time the value is required to be ascertained,” suffice? I doubt whether any legal mind could torture them into anything other than they are intended to mean. To me the words “ as at which “ are pure jargon, and mean nothing at all. It is recognized to be extremely dangerous to put into an act of Parliament, words that have no meaning. If the words “ as at which “ have any meaning, I ask the Leader of the Government to explain what it is, and not to put honorable senators off with a statement that they are necessary legal phraseology. I have searched the whole of the land tax acts of this country and of New Zealand, and have been unable to find a similar expression in any one of them. I do not know that, as a result, they have been defective. Honorable senators will find in. the paragraph dealing with the definition of “ taxpayer “ the words, “ includes all such destruction of suckers and seedlings”-
– Order! The honorable senator is dealing with matters of detail that might better be left for discussion during the committee stage.
– I have appealed to the Leader of the Government not to attempt to rush this measure through committee, and I think that I am entitled to point out the difficulties that will result if that is done. The use of those words appears to mc to be dangerous. Again, in paragraph c) which defines “value of improvements,” I find words which, to my mind, arc meaningless. They are, “ irrespective of the cost of the improvements.” It has already been suggested that “value “of improvements “ means the added value which the improvements give to the land at the time of the valuation. How can the cost of those improvements possibly enter into the matter? There are other words which are most dangerously used, in my opinion. If they have any meaning it is one which I cannot understand, a meaning into which the court might be asked to read anything. I refer to the words - irrespective of the cost of the improvements, including in such added value the value of any hotel licence or other similar interest the value of which has been included in the improved vallue.
I am reminded of a painter who, after painting a picture of a forest, determines to include in it a cart and horse. The words appear to me to be an irrelevant after-thought. If there is any reason for including “ the value of any hotel licence or other similar interests,” what sort of interest are we refraining from mentioning?
I suggest to the Leader of the Senate that the bill is not sufficiently perfect to justify his rushing it through. The Senate would be lacking in its duty if it permitted the proposed amendment of section 3 of the principal act to go through in its present form. I object to the retrospectivity of. the legislation. To my mind it is a weak argument to claim that this legislation is justified because it is carrying out the original intention of Parliament. I maintain that in this instance the intention of Parliament is being carried out by the law as it stands.
I hope that the Senate will insist on either one of two things: Either ample time should be allowed for the mature consideration of the measure, or its second reading should be negatived. Personally I do not care which course is chosen. I am merely anxious to help the Government in the matter.
– I express my dissatisfaction with the bill as at present drafted. It is very ambiguous, and I do not understand much of its phraseology. Although I do not wish to cast any reflection on the desire of the Government to do the right thing, and to comply with the requests previously made from this side of the chamber, I cannot help entertaining a suspicion of the bill as it is now worded.
Provision is made for the destruction of suckers and that sort of thing, but not for the man who has cleared his country, drained it, cultivated it, and sown it down with permanent pastures. It should be the endeavour of the Government to encourage people to increase the carrying capacity and productivity of their land, as such improvements must inevitably result in the engagement of additional labour to carry out the work. However, it appears to me that this bill will penalize the progressive individual. As was pointed out by Senator Pearce, if a man increased the value of his land by from £3 to £4 an acre, he would subject himself to excessive taxation because of his effort and forethought, as he would probably be assessed on the increased value of the land. So far as I can see, provision is made for the deduction only of visible improvements. I agree with Senator Colebatch that that was not the original intention of Parliament when it imposed a tax upon unimproved land values. I believe that the drafting of the measure is unsound and dangerous. Unless the Leader of the Senate can satisfy me that invisible as well as visible improvements are to be deducted from the improved value for taxation purposes, I am determined to vote against the bill as it is now drafted.
– -I sincerely trust that the Senate will not adopt the suggestion thrown out by Senator Colebatch, that the second reading of this measure should be negatived. Honorable senators will remember that we spent some hours on a previous occasion in discussing the principles underlying it. They will also recollect the circumstances under which I then withdrew a certain clause, after Senator McLachlan had spoken upon it. To refresh their memories I shall read the debate that occurred just prior to its withdrawal. Senator McLachlan said -
The Leader of Hie Senate is asking us to accept a proposal which is utterly unreal. All that is necessary is to substitute for this clause a provision to prohibit any person from enjoying exemption benefits twice over.
The Senate was behind the Government when it agreed to redraft the clause to prevent taxpayers from claiming and enjoying benefits twice, and the clause was withdrawn.
– That was not the only cause.
– I am aware of that; but I am pointing out that when I made the following statement it had practically the unanimous approval of honorable senators : -
The Government could bring in another measure to deal with it, but it would not be desirable to have the debate all over again. I am rather impressed with the suggestion made by Senator McLachlan, and I have placed it before the taxation authorities for consideration. All that we are anxious to do is lo prevent, any people from getting benefits both ways, as the honorable senator has explained. I suggest, therefore, that the views of the honorable senators opposite will be met if we allow the clause to be negatived, because, hs .1 have stated, this particular clause is not urgent, and next week 1 will introduce certain provisions iti :i not her measure to deal with this matter.
Whatever may bc their individual views as to the verbiage of the bill, I ask honorable senators, in view of the previous debate, not to negative its second reading. All that the Government is anxious to do is to protect taxpayers and the department.
– In what way will this bill protect the taxpayers?
– I use the term “ taxpayer “ in the general, and not in the particular sense. Taxpayers have to provide the revenue necessary for the carrying out of the functions of government. If any specific class of taxpayer is allowed to escape from the general liability to pay taxation an added burden is imposed upon the shoulders of those called upon to bear taxation. Admitting that the principle of taxation of unimproved land is sound, it is a fair thing that everybody owning land which comes within the scope of the act should be compelled to pay his equitable share of taxation on the income expected to be der:md from that land, and that nobody should be permitted to escape paying any portion, of his taxation. By the most eminent authorities, the Government was’ advised that certain loopholes existed in the law as it stood, which assisted taxpayers to escape their proper payment of “taxation.
– Does that apply to freehold or to leasehold land?
– I am dealing with general principles. I am directing the minds of honorable senators to the bill as it stands, and calling attention to the duty of the Senate towards the Government on this specific measure. The fears entertained by Senator Guthrie may or may not be well grounded, but the proper time to debate them is when the committee stage of the bill is reached. This measure purports to do nothing more than to prevent anybody from evading the principle of the payment of taxation on unimproved land values. It is simply an amendment of the principal act dealing with that principle which has not. I believe, been attacked by Senator Cole? batch in connexion with this bill. The bill simply deals with certain definitions, and also regulations and statutory rules.
– In the act the reference to “ unimproved value “ ‘in relation to improved land, contains the phrase “ assuming that . . . the improvements had not been made,” and in paragraph b of clause 2 we find the words “ assuming that . . . the improvements did not exist.” What is the reason for the change in verbiage?
– This definition was discussed at some length when the previous Land Tax Assessment Bill was before the Senate. It would be more convenient to deal with the point raised by the honorable senator in the committee stage of the bill.
– No fewer than sixteen cases have been decided on those words.
– I am aware of that.
– Is not the point raised by Senator Guthrie met by the inclusion of the words “ improvements in relation to land . . . “?
– Yes. So also are the objections raised by Senator Colebatch. If at this stage honorable senators expect me to reply to the specific points that have been made in the course of the debate I am afraid we shall be duplicating the discussion which must take place in committee. As to the doubt expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) concerning the practice of the department, I am afraid the right honorable gentleman does not recognize that every word in these definitions i3 really part of the general scheme of amendments.
– 1 raised the point mentioned so that it could be dealt with in committee; but I did challenge the retrospective application of the definitions in order that it could be debated during the second reading stage of the bill.
– If the definition of “value of improvements” is considered in its proper collocation in the general scheme, the objections raised by Senator Sir Hal Colebatch disappear entirely.
The sole purpose of this measure is to recognize whathas been the practice of the department for many years. It does not introduce any new principle of taxation. To meet the objection of Senator Pearce as to the policy of the department I can give the right honorable senator an assurance that these amending provisions are intended to clarify the law and make it possible for the department to deal with outstanding assessments. No part of this bill and no part of the rules will be applied to assessments that have been paid. The position is simply this: thatthrough no fault of our own a dispute has arisen asto the liability of certain taxpayers to the Government on the question of taxation and this bill will clarify the matter and prevent further litigation involving heavy cost to both the Government and litigants. We believe that this measure contains the right basis of calculation and clearly defines what was in the minds of honorable senators when we discussed this subject a few days ago. If there is still doubt about the meaning of the verbiage of the bill I shall give careful consideration to any suggestions that may be made in committee.
– When will the committee stage be reached?
– We had a full discussion on the general principles of this form of taxation when the previous bill was before the Senate and the Government takes the view that no good purpose would be served by delaying the passage of this measure. After the Easter vacation, the Senate will be fully occupied in the discussion of certain constitutional amendments. The Government is anxious to have this bill passed so that honorable senators may, after Easter, give their undivided attention to constitutional issues.
– Will any real harm be done if consideration of this bill is postponed?
– Yes, because the taxation authorities are unable to proceed with assessments and the Government is anxious that it should not be held up too long. Decisions in respect of certain appeals have already been given by the High Court.
– Those appeals were in respect of leaseholds, were they not ?
– But the definitions in this bill relate to both leaseholds and freeholds.
– Exactly; but the real dispute is in relation to leasehold assessments. I cannot see the need for the further postponement of the bill. Honor- , able senators will have all day and tomorrow, if necessary, and as the Government has no other important business to submit this week, surely it should be possible for the Senate to dispose of this legislation before the Easter vacation.
– Even if we become embarassed in committee, we can still postpone the discussion.
– That is so. Honorable senators opposite are in a substantial majority, and may postpone discussion on the bill at any stage. I hope they will agree to the second reading.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section three of the principal act is amended -
by inserting after the definition of “ Taxpayer “ the following definition : - “ ‘ Improvements ‘ in relation to land means improvements thereon or appertaining thereto and made or acquired by the owner or his predecessor in title, and includes all such destruction of suckers and ‘seedlings as is incidental to the destruction of timber, and also includes the destruction of othervegetable growths and of animal pests on the land to the extent to which such destruction retains its utility, but docs not include the destruction by any person of any such growths or pests which establish themselves on the land during his ownership, except to the extent (if at all) to which it restores wholly or partly so much of the utility of a previous improvement in the nature of the destruction of such growths or pests as is, by the subsequent provisions of this definition, deemed to have been lost, and any improvement consisting of the destruction of such growths or pests, by whomsoever the same may be effected, shall be deemed to have lost its utility to the extent to which, after it has been made, other growths or pests, as the case may be, establish themselves on the land.”;
– I should like to hear the views of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) upon this paragraph of the definitions. The questions involved in it, as well as in paragraphs b and c, are extremely complex, but the Minister’s explanation of this paragraph may be helpful when we are dealing with the two remaining paragraphs of the clause.
1 11.13]. - I did not intend to speak upon this paragraph of the definition, but in view of what Senator McLachlan has said perhaps it is desirable that I should do so. All that the Government is attempting to do is to enumerate the different classes of improvements concerning which honorable senators expressed doubt as to whether they would be covered by a provision in general terms. There is a specific reference to classes of improvements. This plan has been followed for a specific purpose. Honorable senators will notice that the definition is inclusive, but not exclusive. The department does not admit the necessity for enumerating all the various classes of improvements. Counsel, to whom the bill was submitted, took the same view, but the Government believes that, in its present form, the paragraph will make clear the intention of the department. If honorable senators believe that other classes of improvements should be specifically defined so as to remove any doubt as to the attitude of the department, I am prepared to give consideration to any suggestions that may be made. At times we are inclined to confuse matters by the continued use of the word “deduction.” The question is asked whether taxpayers will be allowed to deduct such and such costs as an improvement. But it is not a deduction in the true sense of the term. It is an attempt to ascertain the basis upon which the assessment should be made, and the cost of the improvement enters into consideration only when the value of the improvement to the land has been decided. If a man with a farm costing £1,000 provides a dam at a cost of £400, which serves to increase the unimproved value of the land by only £200, obviously the unimproved value of the land for the purpose of taxation would not be £1,200 less £400.
– The honorable senator is now dealing with visible improvements.
– The honorable senator seems to have the impression that the taxing authorities will be able to take money out of the pockets of the taxpayer who topdresses his land.
– No; I am thinking more particularly of the man who sows clown with permanent pastures.
– The taxing authority will say to the man who sows down with permanent pastures, “ You have spent, say, 10s. an acre in doing this, but we shall not allow you more than 10s. an acre, although by increasing the .productivity of the land you have enhanced its value by £3 an acre.
– That is not provided for in paragraph a. It is probably covered by paragraph b.
– The points raised by Senator Guthrie are covered by paragraph b and not by paragraph a which the committee is now considering. Paragraph a is simply a classification, as exhaustive as it is possible for us to make, to meet the objections raised by Parliament, but is still wide because it is inclusive and not exclusive.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [12.20]. - The Minister did not do himself justice when he said that the only alteration made by the bill was one to give effect to the suggestion made by Senator McLachlan when the first bill was under consideration that a man should not be allowed to charge twice for the work he had done. Another vital alteration has been made by the bill as the result of criticism raised by Senator Guthrie. IIn the bill as originally introduced, paragraph b dealing with the value of improvements, provided that “ the added value shall in no case exceed the amount that would reasonably be involved in effecting, at the time, as at which the value is required to be ascertained for this act, &c.” That has now been altered by paragraph a of the clause now under consideration by the use of the words “ improvements in relation to land means improvements thereon or appertaining thereto.” They may be invisible improvements. In the previous bill no allowance was made for improvements appertaining thereto at the time the valuation was made, hut Senator Guthrie’s misgivings about invisible improvements are met by the amendment made to paragraph a. Another criticism raised by myself, I thirds, when the first bill was under consideration was that paragraph b did not make it clear that once timber was rung adequate provision was made for subsequent suckering. The bill was capable of being read as meaning that only the actual destruction of the timber could be classed as an improvement and not the recurring suckering. I cited the poison land in Western Australia, where shoots appear for several years after the first grubbing. Previously, the department said that, although the law did not actually express it, the practice had been to make allowance for recurring suckering and that i§ now expressly set out in paragraph a of this bill. In all respects, therefore, the criticism raised in the Senate on the previous bill is met by the present measure.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [12.23].- The act itself contains no definition of “ improvement “ such as is now proposed to be provided. The words of the act are “ assuming that the improvements thereon or appertaining thereto and made or acquired by the owner.” That is a simple question of principle which a court can interpret, and it did so in the case which has formed the basis of the bill now before the committee. It is suggested that the definition of “ improvements “ we find in the bill is not exhaustive, although it goes into a great many things, perhaps into trifling things. The dissenting judge in the ca<;e to which I have referred, said -
A has a vacant piece of land, never altered by man, and worth, say, £1,000. li has a vacant piece of land also worth £1,000, but it was, by an ancestor 50 years ago, converted from swamp to arable land. G has a vacant piece of land also worth £1,000, which was menaced by prickly pear, but which, fortunately, was preserved free and of full utility at a slight expenditure, which will be duly acknowledged in his income tax assessment. All three are equally competent to contribute to the consolidated revenue for current needs of the nation. What possible justification in reason is there for supporting an intended discrimination ?
If the reasoning is good when applied to something done 50 years ago, it is equally good when applied to something done a year or two ago. But under this interpretation which 1 have just quoted, no invisible improvement would be taken into consideration.
– The bill does not follow that interpretation.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.But under the Isaacs interpretation, while the destruction of suckers and seedlings would be included as incidental to the destruction of timber, the destruction of the timber itself would be excluded. Does not that suggest the danger of having a definition of improvements that necessarily cannot be exhaustive? Senator Daly. - It suggests that Parliament should do what the courts are now asked to do.
– How can Parliament decide a particular matter that crops up in a different way in every instance? Can Parliament decide whether something is an improvement or not? Is it not much simpler to leave the simple statement of fact in the act that an “ improvement “ means “ the added value given to the land by the owner or his predecessor and which still exists,” leaving it to the court to decide the matter without being hampered by a definition which, because it is not exclusive, must set up all sorts of extraordinary ideas in the minds of the courts?
– The view I expressed previously that there was no need for this elaborate legislation still holds. While the judgment of the court may have gone to the length suggested by the Leader of the Government (Senator Daly) in relation to duplication, it does not convey to my mind that it did so, and I can hardly see any necessity for the definition of improvements in paragraph a. I have no desire to repeat what I have already said on previous occasions in regard to this matter. I cannot see what is aimed at by defining “improvements.” If the decision in the McGeoch case was as the Minister put it to us on the introduction of the previous measure, I could see necessity for this definition, but, on a re-perusal of that decision, J cannot find that the departmental gloss to which the Minister has given expression is borne out by the judgment of the court.
– The bill seems to be in accord with the judgment of the court.
– To that extent it seems to be good judge-made law.
– A majority on the High Court Bench to-day might be in the minority to-morrow. It is best to get down to something solid.
– If it is the intention of the Government to give legislative expression to a majority decision of the High Court, I do not think we need deal with the language used. The Minister has pointed out that the deductions allowable are not exclusive of everything else. They are really to point out to the department the way in which it should proceed. A portion of paragraph a reads - . . and also includes the destruction of other vegetable growths and of animal pests on the land to the extent to which such destruction retains its utility, but does not include the destruction by any person of any such growths or pests which establish themselves on the land during his ownership.
I take it that those words are used in order to overcome the point which was raised in the McGeoch case. If a landowner is allowed a deduction for the complete destruction of certain growths, he cannot be allowed a further deduction for subsequent destructions. That paragraph continues - except to the extent, if at all, to which it restores wholly or partly so much of the utility of a previous improvement, in the nature of the destruction of such growths or pests as is, by the subsequent provisions of this definition, deemed to have been lost. . .
I shall be glad if the Minister will explain later exactly what those words mean. What is meant by “ subsequent provisions of this definition “ ? These words do not appear to have any bearing on any other portion of the paragraph.
– They refer to the proviso at the end of paragraph c.
– I am referring to these words - . . so much of theutility of a previous improvement in the nature of the destruction of such growths or pests, as is, by the subsequent provisions of this definition, deemed to have been lost.
Where has the loss occurred ?
– That is dealt with in the proviso.
– The proviso does not deal with anything that has been lost. It reads -
Provided that the added value shall in no case exceed the amount that should reasonably be involved in effecting, at the time as at which the value is required to be ascertained for the purposes of this act, improvements of a nature and efficiency equivalent to the existing improvements.
That deals with specific conditions in what may be termed a water-tight compartment. There is no reference to losses.
– Will the honorable senator read the words which follow “ deemed to have been lost ? “
– They are- and any improvements consisting of the destruction of such growths or pests, by whomsoever the same may be effected, shall be deemed to have lost its utility to the extent to which, after it has been made, other growths or pests, as the case may be, established themselves on the land.
– That is the qualification.
– With great respect to the person who drafted this paragraph, I must say that it is confusing even to the legal mind. I am not sure whether there is not something in the contention of Senator Colebatch, but I should like the Minister to explain what that paragraph actually means.
– I quite agree with the views expressed by Senator Colebatch that it would be preferable to give the owner of the land the benefit of all the improvements he has carried out. and which are not exhausted. If the Government intend to do that, the definition will have to be made clearer than it is at present, and with that object in view, I intend to move at a later stage to insert after the words “ incidental to the destruction of timber “ the words “ or the clearing of the land.” That would mean that we would give to the owner of the land, or his predecessor in title, credit for the improvements incidental to the destruction of timber, which would include the destruction of suckers and seedlings. A good deal of the land on which suckers grow is not timbered at all.
– Suckers follow the destruction of timber.
– There are large areas of land which sucker very badly, and on which there is no timber. Credit should be given to the man who destroys seedlings, poison plant and so on.
– They are covered by the reference to vegetable growths.
– They come only after the land is cleared.
– Is not the honorable senator referring to seedlings and not to suckers?
– To both.
– Would not . suckers be covered by the words “ other vegetable growths.”
– I do not think they would be covered, and to make the position quite clear. I intend to move so that the paragraph will read - “ Improvements “ in relation to land means improvement thereon or appertaining thereto, and made or acquired by the owner or his predecessor in title, and include all such destruction of suckers and seedlings as is incidental to the destruction of timber or the clearing of the land. . . .
That would cover mallee land, which in Western Australia we term scrub land, but where there is no timber at all.
– But mallee is timber.
– A great deal of the mallee growth in Western Australia is only 3 feet high, and cannot be regarded as timber. Fencing posts have in some cases to be carted twenty miles.
– The definition of “ improvements “ does not appear to me to cover the damage done by flood waters. I have known instances along the Murrumbidgee and the Murray where flood waters have not only seriously destroyed the frontage country, but also caused red gum suckers to grow very rapidly. It was practically impossible for the owner of the land, through lack of funds, to destroy them in the early stages of their growth. Eventually the money was provided by a company, but the cost of clearing the land of suckers was then £10 per acre.
– How many years had they been growing?
– Three or four years. They had to be cut out from below the bulb, although at one stage it was questionable whether it was worth while incurring the cost. ‘ The land was subsequently sold by auction at Wagga, and realized from £13 to £16 an acre. If land which eventually proved to be of that value should be abandoned because of insufficient consideration being shown to the land-owner, it would be very detrimental to the development of this country. The expenditure had, to use a colloquialism, to be met in one “ wad “ because the land-owner could not find the money to remove the suckers in the earlystages of their growth. The firm which the land-owner approached in the firstinstance for financial assistance, refused to make the necessary advance, but he subsequently approached another company which provided the money, and as I have said, the land was cleared and sold at a good price. Is provision made for such costs to be deductable?
– During a flood period a good deal of land on river frontage is washed away, and the cost incurred in checking further washaways should be deductable.
– Consideration would be given to any decrease in the unimproved value of such land.
– But in the meantime the owner would be paying on the original assessment.
– That would be the only basis of calculation at the time.
– I am glad to know that the cost of suckering in cases such as I have quoted are taken into consideration.
– That cost would be allowed only to the person who bought the land in that condition.
– The land to which I am referring is at Ganmain on the Murrumbidgee flats, and consists of an area of about 10,000 acres. After a big flood red gum suckers came up as thick as hair on a dog’s back. A syndicate which then owned the land realized the danger and unsuccessfully approached its financial backers for assistance. I was then asked to inspect the land and I had to make up my mind whether the company which I was representing should advance the money to clear it because if that were not done it would become valueless. It was a harbour for rabbits and other vermin and the suckers were so thick that one could hardly walk through them. I decided that if the land could be cleared for £10 an acre, it could be subdivided and sold at a higher price. The company which I was representing then decided to let a ‘ contract at the price I had stated and the land was eventually sold by auction at from £13 to £16 an acre. I should like to know whether costs of that kind would be deductable.
– There appears to be some confusion as to the meaning of the word “ deduction “. Does Senator Guthrie mean the amount that could be deducted from the unimproved value of the land after a flood. In the case he quoted he said the land owing to the growth of suckers was practically worthless. Supposing that land worth £10 an acre. was reduced in value to £1 per acre as a result of a flood. For restoring land valued at £10 an acre £9 an acre might be spent in clearing it, and obviously the owner could not claim that the £10 should be deducted from land valued at £1 per acre. The department is anxious to get at the actual unimproved value of the land. There have been certain judicial decisions in this connexion. In the case mentioned by Senator Colebatch three judges of the High Court gave one basis of computation, but a fourth arrived at an entirely different decision. Any change in the personnel of the High Court might result in a change of the basis of computation. The Government is asking Parliament only to lay down the principle whereby if litigation cannot be entirely avoided the chances of litigation arising should be reduced to a minimum. It is the duty of the committee so to legislate as to reduce the possibility of litigation. Sitting suspended from 12.]fl to 2.15 p.m.
– I asked the department to prepare a number of hypothetical cases to show the basis of calculation, and have been supplied with the following report : -
A mau buys land infested with prickly pear, which bo clears at a reasonable cost of £2,000. The clearing will be ,allowed for as an improvement at the amount of £2,000, plus interest lost on his capital while the improvement is being completed. If, during his ownership, he allows, by neglect, the pear to partly reestablish itself and then later clears that new growth at a cost of £1,000 he will be allowed the £1,000, but the value of the original expense of £2,000 will be treated as having disappeared to the extent of the cost of the new work, and his total allowance for clearing prickly pear will be £2,000, plus interest. If an owner clears at a cost of £2,000 and allows reversion of growth to the equivalent of a cost of £1,000 and sells the land to another in that reverted condition, the purchaser will acquire a clearing value of only £1,000. If the purchaser then proceeds to clear the reverted country at a cost of £1,000 lui will be given credit for that expense. His total allowance for clearing prickly pear will be £2,000, made up of £1,000 personal expense and £1,000 acquired value from his predecessor in title. If an owner clears at a cost of £2,000 and allows reversion of growth to the equivalent of the cost of £3,000 and sells the land to another in that reverted condition, the purchaser will acquire no part of the original clearing value if he proceeds to clear the land of pear at a cost of £3,000; he will be allowed that amount plus interest as the value of the improvements. “With reference’ to the point raised by Senator E. B. Johnston, I submit that the definition, in its present form, meets the case of land on which the clearing is an actual improvement as opposed to mere maintenance. It includes the destruction of suckers and seedlings. Suckering is possible only where timber is on the land or was previously on the land.
– Land on which there is no timber sometimes grows suckers. Mallee is not timber.
– If it is not timber, then it is a vegetable growth. The department may arrive at a basis of computation which later comes before the High Court. That body sets out what it considers to be the true basis. Senator Colebatch gave a striking example of the confusion caused by that procedure. One judge laid down a certain basis of computation, but his three colleagues arrived at an altogether different conclusion. The dissenting judge is now the Chief Justice of the High Court. Unless Parliament desires that litigation shall continue, and the department’s rulings liable to be challenged from time to time, it would be better for us to arrive at a basis of computation for ourselves. Senator Colebatch suggested that we should leave to the court the fixing of the basis. It would be better for Parliament to determine the basis, so that the risk of having to ask for a legal interpretation may be reduced to a minimum. Honorable senators must admit that the inclusion of this definition in the bill makes litigation much less likely than would otherwise be the case.
– I fear that it will increase litigation. “We have now a clear judgment; but the new definition might give rise to further arguments*
– I do not agree that We have a clear judgment. The honorable senator himself admitted that the judgment of the High Court was given on a certain set of facts. The department has a number of cases in connexion with which it has not been able to make assessments. Are we to have a test case in every instance? The definition in the bill, while not seeking to alter the law as expressed in the judgment of the High Court, seeks to apply the same principle to other cases that might conceivably be determined on a different set of facts. The Government is trying to give to that principle a general application. Allowance is made for every factor that can bc foreseen, other than factors which come within the definition of maintenance as opposed to improvements.
– The case of a thick growth of seedlings mentioned by Senator Guthrie should be met. That could be done by inserting the words “ are allowed to “ before the word “ establish.” The case mentioned was an act of God. I do not want to penalize a. man who has looked after his land.
– The case mentioned by Senator Guthrie referred to land on which a large number of red gum seedlings grew after a heavy flood, the seeds having been carried there by the waters.
-Several years elapsed before that man could borrow sufficient money to clear the land of these seedlings. By the time the work was undertaken it cost him £10 an acre to clear it.
– Any property is liable to infestation by noxious Weeds washed down from higher country.
– The department is of the opinion that the cost of clearing those weeds should come under the heading of maintenance.
– A property might become overrun with noxious weeds in that way.
– We cannot possibly legislate to meet every contingency.
– That is the trouble.
– While we may not be able to mete out full justice, we should endeavour to mete out the fullest measure of justice possible. If We leave things where Senator Colebatch would have them left, we shall place ourselves in the position which made it possible for the McGeoch case to go to the High Court. Is it not better to reduce the chances of litigation than to leave the matter in the hands of the court to decide? By retaining the definition we shall reduce the chances of litigation arising.
-The definition does not remove the possibility of litigation.
– No ; but i t minimizes the risk of litigation.
– There is a danger of the matter being made more complicated. Cases other than those which have been brought under the notice of the Minister might arise.
– The definition is fairlycomprehensive; it contains all for which honorable senators have contended. I ask the committee to retain it.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [2.29]. - My suggestion is not exactly what the Leader of the Senate would have us suppose. I agree with him that it is impossible by any definition however comprehensive to cover every case that might arise. For that reason the Senate should lay down clear and definite principles, leaving the court to determine any case which might arise. Certain trouble is alleged to have arisen over this matter of prickly pear infestation. I do not think that there has been any trouble at all. The court decided the case on the principles laid down by Parliament and, to my mind, it decided it rightly, in the way that Parliament intended that such a case should be decided. If there is any direction in which we should amend the principal act, it is to strengthen the judgment of the court and to make it impossible for the minority view to prevail at any future time. In order that that may be done, I suggest that whatever we may do in setting up details, we should at all times be definite in our principles. I therefore move -
That after the word “ thereto “, in the definition of “ Improvements “, paragraph a, the words “ whether visible or invisible “ be inserted.
Those words cover a principle.
– I am prepared to accept the honorable senator’s amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
– Does not the Minister think that it would be a fair thing to insert the words “ are allowed to “ after the word “ be “ in the last line of paragraph (a) ? Senator Guthrie has gi ven an example of heavy floods bringing down a lot of seeds, which germinate on land, and so depreciate its value. We are legislating, to put it colloquially, against the man who has not given attention to his country. But the case instanced by Senator Guthrie does not come within that category, and the owner of that land would be unfairly hit. If the words suggested by me were incorporated in the paragraph it would connote that the owner of the land had been negligent and had brought about that result. If the condition of the land is the result of an act of God, that would be taken into consideration in arriving at the true unimproved value of the land, and the man would receive an allowance for combating the pest. It has been suggested to me that my amendment should be placed a little earlier in the definition, so I propose to move -
That before the word “ establish “ first occurring, the words “ are allowed to “ be inserted.
– I am prepared to accept the amendment.
– I stress the fact that at times suckers and seedlings are most injurious in certain parts of Western Australia, where there was orginally no timber on the land. Low bush mallee is most difficult to eradicate, and it certainly cannot be classified as timber. I therefore move -
That after the word “ timber “, in the definition of “ Improvements “, paragraph a, the words “ or the clearing of the land “ be inserted.
The paragraph would then read -
Improvements in relation to land means improvements thereon or appertaining thereto and. made or acquired by the owner or his predecessor in title, and includes all such destruction of suckers and seedlings as is incidental to the destruction of timber or the clearing of the land.
– I am prepared to accept the amendment suggested by Senator McLachlan, as it would assist to clarify the paragraph, but the position would be complicated if the words suggested by Senator Johnston were inserted. If the clearing of land is for the purpose of destroying suckers and seedlings, or vegetable matter, that is covered by the words already in the definition. To incorporate the words suggested by Senator Johnston it would be necessary’ entirely to recast the paragraph, because of the possibility of the charge for maintenance creeping in. I suggest that the alterations advanced by Senators Colebatch and McLachlan amply cover the position.
– Will the honorable senator alternately accept the addition of the words “ or mallee “ after the word “ timber “ ?
– I am prepared to do that.
– Then I ask leave to withdraw my previous amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator E. B. Johnston) agreed to -
That after the word “ timber “, in the definition of “ improvements “, paragraph it, the words “or mallee” be inserted.
– It appears to me that the position is becoming more complicated. Certain, principles are laid down for the taxation of land. A number of honorable senators have had specific cases brought to their notice which they have ventilated in this chamber.I have no doubt that each of us, if he chose, could collect innumerable instances of a similar nature; but it would be impossible specifically to provide in the bill for all of them. In stead of removing the possibilities of litigation, we appear to be clouding the issue, and making it more difficult for the department to interpret the intention of Parliament. I am afraid that the resultant act will be a happy hunting groundfor members of the legal fraternity when demands are levied for taxation, and claims for exemption are submitted to the department. It is a hazardous procedure to amend a definition such as this at a moment’s notice. Shortly after the luncheon adjournment the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) clearly outlined the attitude of the Government and the department in regard to the interpretation of this measure. He pointed out that the principles of which Parliament approved when the principal act waa passed are those which are accepted to-day.The honorable senator gave a clear example of that.
SenatorMcLachlan. - It is difficult to putthat example into statutory form.
– It is no more difficult to do so than to incorporate in this haphazard way items which are brought up by honorable senators at a moment’s notice. If we are going to itemize what shall and what, shall not be excluded, and what shall and shall not be allowed, we must inevitably make the legislation more complicated. It would be far better to make the necessary provisos by regulation.
Amendment (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That after the word “which,” in line 13 of the definition of “ Improvements,” paragraph a, the words “are allowed to” be inserted.
Paragraph a also consequently amended.
Provided that the unimproved value shall in no case be less than the sum that would be obtained by deducting the value of improvements from the improved value at the time as at which the value is required to bc ascertained for the purposes of this act.”; and
will agree to delete the words “ as at which “ in the definition of unimproved value in relation to improved land. £f he cannot do that, willhe tell us what the words mean ?
– I am assured that the usual phraseology has been adopted. Personally, I consider that if the words were omitted, the sense of the proviso would not be affected, but I am informed that it is desirable that they should stand. The honorable senator, like myself, comes from a State where there is no division of the legal profession, and I understand that when a barrister settles the details of a bill for presentation to Parliament, he adopts this kind of legal phraseology. The inclusion of the words do not invest the provision with any legal complexity. Senator Colebatch appeal’s to regard them as a surplusage. That is not a sufficient reason for their omission. I should like to meet the honorable senator’s wishes, but I am advised that it would not be desirable to do so.
– In the act, the definition of unimproved value in relation to improved land, contains the words “ assuming . . . that the improvements had not been made,” and in this paragraph, the words “ did not exist “ have been substituted for the words “ had not been made “. The definition in the act has been the subject of almost innumerable legal interpretations, and presumably the words “ had not been made “ have now a fairly definite meaning. In the circumstances, i, seems a pity to arbitrarily alter them and so set free another flood of legal interpretation. I move -
That the words “ did not exist “ in the definition of “unimproved value,” paragraph h, lie loft out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ had not been made.”
– During the luncheon hour, I had the following memorandum prepared, setting out the reasons for this alteration in the definition of unimproved value in relation to improved land : -
The principal object of the bill is to overcome the result of the affirmation by the High Court in McGeoch’s case of the interpretation of f~.li is phase of the law as laid down in Toohey’s case, in which the court rejected the method of discovery of an unimproved value by deducting the value of improvements from 1 lie improved value because the words in the definition were “had not been made” and were to be read as if they were “ had never been made.”
The replacing of the words “ did not exist” by the words “had not been made” would require it to be assumed, in ascertaining the unimproved value of land, that the relevant land was in a state of nature undisturbed by human agency and subject to such infestations of noxious growths and pests as would establish themselves thereon if unchecked.
This requirement would give a signficance to thu word “improvements” (in the definition of “unimproved value”) which would possibly take it out of the definition of “ improvements “ - a definition which only applies unless a contrary intention appears.
Therefore the first result of the suggested substitution of words would be that improvements as contemplated by the substantive part nf the definition of “ unimproved value “ would not be comparable with improvements as contemplated in the proviso to the definition, because the word “ improvements “ in the proviso would bc governed by the definition of “ improvements.”
If, in addition to the suggested substitution of words, the proviso to the definition were omitted (as was proposed in another place) the result would be to render this act entirely nugatory so far as it purports to overcome the effects of the decision in McGeoch’s case.
The explanation of that position lies in the fact that the elimination of the proviso disconnects the definition entirely from the definition of improved value, improvements, and value of improvements, leaving the unimproved value to be ascertained by reference to the condition of the land in a state of nature such as that al read/ described.
Because of the decision in the McGeoch case, the department takes the view that the retention of the original definition is not desirable. The change has been made on the advice of counsel to establish the practice which has been in operation for so many years.
– I have been troubled somewhat owing to the observations of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) on this proviso as well as the proviso to paragraph c, and the explanation just given by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) seems to confirm a suspicion which I had that a new levy is being imposed upon taxpayers under the altered phraseology of these definitions. In the Nathan case, it was held that, for the purpose of ascertaining the ‘taxable value, the land was valued as a registered racecourse and in circumstances suggesting that the registration of the property as a racecourse would not be refused in the future. Therefore, to ascertain its unimproved value it was only necessary to have regard to the value of improvements, estimated according to the sense given to the value of improvements by the definition in section. 3 of the act. In that case, the procedure followed was to deduct the value of the improvements without having regard to the value of the property as a quasi racecourse or, as in Toohey’s case, a quasi hotel.
– That is specifically excluded under these definitions.
– It is specifically included in the two provisos. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that Senator Pearce had good reason for the doubts which he expressed during the second reading debate. If land for ordinary business purposes is worth £10 a foot, and if by reason of the fact that an hotel, theatre, or racecourse is established on it, it may have a value of £100 a foot, it seems to me that this added value is due to the enterprise of the man who established the hotel, racecourse or theatre on it. I cannot help thinking that the proviso of paragraph c strikes at such cases. As I understand the Land Tax Assessment Act, it was never the intention of Parliament to impose this penalty on enterprise. It seems to me that the inclusion of these provisos will make the position of taxpayers somewhat worse than it -vas.
– I invite the honorable senator to look at the proviso in its relation to the following paragraph. The value of improvements referred to in the proviso has a specific meaning which is to be found in paragraph c. In fact the two paragraphs have to be read together and, taking them in that way, their effect is as follows: -
Provided that the unimproved value shall in no case ‘be less than the sum that would be obtained by deducting the value, of improvements which in relation to land means the added value which the improvements give to the land at the time as at which the value is required to be ascertained for the purposes of this act.
– Irrespective of the cost of the improvements?
– Yes, irrespective of the cost of the improvements included in such added value, such as a hotel licence or any other similar interest. The racecourse suggested by the honorable senator is covered by the words “ or other similar interests “. This amendment was made in another place to meet the objection now raised by Senator McLachlan. The proviso does not rope in additional taxpayers, nor the particular value to which the honorable senator has been referring.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [^3.3]. - If the proviso is stripped of all its “ as-at-whichs” and other legal verbiage it means - “ The unimproved value should not be less than the improved value less the value of the improvements.” What is to be gained by putting a phrase like that into an act of Parliament? I might just as well say that two and one when added together shall not exceed three. I do not think this novel provision is to be found in any other statute, and unless there is some hidden purpose for including it in the Land Tax Assessment Act it can have no meaning at all.
– My purpose in moving my amendment is to avoid litigation. The words “ had not been made “ for which the bill has substituted the words “ did not exist “ have now a definite meaning, and I have heard nothing from the Minister to show that they should be -replaced by other words.
– If the honorable senator is desirous of perpetuating the anomaly which the Senate is trying to overcome he can best do it by insisting upon his amendment; but before he does so I urge him to peruse the McGeoch case. If he does so he will see that if what the court has shown to be a loophole is not to be perpetuated it is absolutely necessary that words which have been given a certain legal meaning, and have created the anomaly to which I have referred, should be altered.
– The definition of “improvements “ given in paragraph a is quite sufficient to get over the difficulty raised in the McGeoch case and I cannot see any need for any further alteration. The use of the word “ exist “ seems to connote that something must be seen. I am apprehensive of making a change which will suggest to the court that there is something in the mind of Parliament that the court’s method of dealing with this part of our legislation has been wrong. Obviously the court will accept this amendment to the act as an intimation to that effect, and I hesitate to interfere with the long course of decisions which up to date have done no harm.
– My recollection is that a rather artificial meaning was attributed to the “words “ had been made,” hence the draftsman’s anxiety to avoid future complications of that sort. I do not think any possible hardship can be inflicted by accepting the language adopted by the parliamentary draftsman, although I do not think it carries the law any further.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [3.11]. - 1’ should like the Minister to advise the committee if the parliamentary draftsman is satisfied with the way in which the provision relating to hotel licences has been thrown into paragraph c. It seems to be clumsy. It seems to me also that the words “ irrespective of the cost of the improvements “ cannot possibly mean anything, and that the proviso needs careful consideration. All that we are allowing the taxpayer is the value of the improvements at the time the valuation is made, and I cannot see why it should be necessary to say that it must not exceed “the amount that should reasonably be involved in effecting at the time as at which the value is required to be ascertained for the purposes of this act improvements of a nature and efficiency equivalent to the existing improvements.” Surely there is no need for this when it is already provided that all the taxpayer can get is the value of his improvements at the time of the valuation being made. What is the object of saying that it should not exceed what it costs to make equivalent improvements to-day ?
-It may be to make allowance for age.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCHNaturally the value varies with the age of the improvements whose value is being assessed. I think the proviso is unnecessary.
– I am advised by the taxation authorities that the drafting of this provision was entrusted to Mr. Jordan, K.C and. that when the amendment was suggested in another place it was referred to Sir Robert Garran. The clause as it stands in the bill has been agreed to by both those eminent legal authorities. With regard to the other point raised by Senator Colebatch, the value of improvements is defined in the principal act as follows -
Value of improvements in relation to land, means the added value which the improvements give to the land at the date of valuation irrespective of the cost of the improvements.
Following that is a proviso which, in substance, is similar to the proviso in the bill. It reads -
Provided that the added value shall in no case exceed the amount that should reasonably be involved in bringing the unimproved value of the land to its improved value as at the date of assessment.
In substance that proviso is the same as that which is in existence to-day.
– There is nothing in the existing act concerning “ a nature and efficiency “ equivalent to the existing improvements.
– I -understood that the honorable senator’s suggestion was concerning the non-efficacy of placing such a proviso in this clause.
– What does “ a nature and efficiency “ mean ?
– The proviso to this paragraph reads -
Provided that the added value shall in no case exceed the amount that should reasonably be involved in effecting, at the time as at which the value is required to be ascertained for the purposes of this act, improvements of a nature and efficiency equivalent to the existing improvements.
If honorable senators will refer to the proviso in the amending bill which was previously before the Senate, they will see that the words “ a nature and efficiency “ have been substituted for the words “ of equal utility.” The Government considers that these words more effectively express what is intended than do the words “ of equal utility.” It is really a question of arriving at what would be the improvements, and the Government in another place accepted an amendment embodying the substitution of those words’ as more appropriately expressing the intention of Parliament.
– This measure deals only with the visible improvements.
– In that connexion we must return to the definition of “improvements.” It is simply a choice of expressions between the use of the words “ of equal utility “ and of the words “ a nature and efficiency.”
– Why use either term?
– I have already read the proviso in which these words are used. Supposing, for instance, that a person, consistent with his principles, decided to construct a dam on the day-work principle instead of under the contract system. Day work might cost more than the department would contend should have been the proper cost incurred in such work. Honorable senators will see that if a deduction is to be made, it must be on some proper basis.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [3.19]. - Will the Minister (Senator Daly) consider the position which might arise in connexion with the clearing of heavily-timbered land? I am not submitting an imaginary case, but stating what has actually happened. It cost a land-owner £40 an acre, say, to clear his laud, but after the lapse of a few years improved methods of clearing which were not available when the land was cleared, were introduced. With those improved methods it might have been possible to clear the land for £20 an acre. Does this provision mean that the man who had compulsorily spent £40 an acre in clearing his land is to be allowed only £20 because that would be the cost of effectively clearing the land when the valuation was made?
– I presume the honorable senator has in mind the case of a mail owning land worth £”i an acre which he holds for fifteen years and then clears it. Is that the position?
– It does not matter.
– It does, because the department would value the land not at the moment it was about to be cleared. The question of a decrease % or an increase in the cost of clearing, if one takes into account the real basis, does .lot affect the matter. The honorable senator must realize that if the deduction were made on the higher cost, it would be made from the higher value, and if from the lower cost from the lower value. If the honorable senator is alluding to land which the owner allowed to remain in a virgin state from 1910, say, to 1930, and the cost of clearing increased during that period by 20s. an acre, the owner would be entitled to deduct from the improved value the actual cost in 1930.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [3.21]. - That is the opposite to what I am suggesting. A man may own 10 awes of land, the unimproved value of which is very small, indeed. It may, perhaps, be £5 an acre; but it may cost him £40 an acre to clear it, thus making the improved value £45. After the lapse of a short period more improved methods of clearing heavilytimbered land might come into vogue, and reduce the cost of clearing to £30 an acre. The land which cost £40 to clear has the same value as the land which cost £30 an acre to clear. Would the man who spent £40 in clearing his land be allowed only £30 because that is all that would be required to effect improvements of a nature and efficiency equivalent to the existing improvements?
– The proviso means that or does not mean anything.
.- The proviso reads -
Provided that the added value shall in no case exceed the amount that should reasonably be involved in effecting at’ the time as at which the value is required to be ascertained for the purposes of this act improvements of a nature and efficiency equivalent to- the existing improvements.
It seems to me that some amendment is necessary in the paragraph defining the “value of improvements,” a portion of which reads -
It seems that in order to make those words effective we should insert after “ provided that “ at the beginning of the proviso, the words “ except as hereinafter provided.” It appears to me that’ the two provisions are at present contradictory, and that the whole proviso nullifies the amendment which was inserted in another place. I move -
That after the word “that”, line 1 of the proviso, paragraph 6, the words “except as hereinafter provided “ be inserted.
.- I am at a loss to understand the principles of interpretation which Senator E. B. Johnston is attempting to apply. The words which he wishes inserted appear in some documents, but when we attach a proviso to a particular provision, such words as “ except as hereinafter provided “ are not used, as the proviso is part of the section. There is nothing in the preceding paragraph that necessitates the insertion of those words; there is nothing of a contradictory nature. I could understand the necessity of adding them as a qualification of something which the proviso might affect in some other section other than the section of which it actually forms a part. But that is not so in this case.
In these circumstances I suggest that the honorable senator should not press his amendment.
– In view of the explanation of the Minister I shall not do so.
Clause as amended agreed to.
Clause 3 (Application of act) -
Senator Sir HAI COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [3.28]. - Some very strong reasons should be advanced by the Minister (Senator Daly) before the committee agrees to make this measure retrospective for twenty years. I have just received a telegram from a constituent, which reads -
Am told taxation amending bill retro-active to 1910. Try best extract undertaking from Minister that should necessity arise Government will similarly go back remedy outstanding anomalies taxpayers under all other taxation acts.
This gentleman believes that “ what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” I am not in favour of making this measure retrospective to 1910, unless there is a good reason for so doing. As I have previously said it is extremely difficult to take retrospective action of this kind, and we are pertainly departing from principles previously laid down by Parliament.
– I can assure honorable senators that the reason for the insertion of this clause is the same as that given in connexion with the amending Taxation Bill previously before this chamber. A number of assessments are outstanding in. connexion with the point raised in the McGeoch case, and therefore if the law is to have any application at all it should be retrospective to enable the department to deal with those assessments. The bill sets out what has actually been the practice in the department over a period of years. Honorable senators will see the chaos that would result if the decision reached in the McGeoch case was to form the basis of future assessments. Other provisions are to get over that portion of the judgment which differed from our contention as to what was the proper intention of the act.
– Is it not dangerous to give any government power tomake taxation retrospective ?
– I have already given the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) an undertaking that the department will not re-open any assessment already made. The purpose of the clause is to enable the department to make assessments in regard to matters outstanding between taxpayers and the department. The Government does not desire to adopt the principle of retrospective legislation generally; but if this measure is to express the principle which Parliament believes should form the basis of departmental assessments, it is obvious that that principle should apply sufficiently far back to cover outstanding assessments. I give a clear and unequivocal undertaking that no assessments that have been made will be re-opened. This legislation in its retrospective application will apply only to matters not yet finalized between the department and the taxpayers.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Regulations) -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.32]. - I should like the Minister to give the Senate some information regarding Statutory Rule No. 33 of 1930, which reads -,
These regulations shall apply to any lease to which section 28 of the Land Tax Assessment Act 1910-1930 applies, which is -
The unimproved value of a leasehold estate in land under a lease to which these regulations apply, shall be calculated under table I in the schedule to the land tax regulations.
Already some revenue has been collected under the attempt to tax Crown leases, but about £160,000 is still outstanding. I should like to know, first, whether these statutory rules involve any alteration of the law in respect of the taxation of Crown leases in cases in which some taxation has already been paid under the law as it stood; secondly, whether they involve any alteration of the law in respect of Crown leases on which a portion of the amount claimed is still outstanding and, thirdly, whether they involve any. alteration of the taxable value in Crown leases. I understand the taxable value in Crown leases to be its equivalent in freehold. Is something new now proposed, or do the rules merely set out the practice of the department in connexion with the collection of tax from Crown leases ?
– I am informed by the taxation authorities that these regulations do not involve any alteration of the department’s practice. The money already received has been collected on a basis similar to that contained in this regulation. The regulation is simply a declaration of the existing policy of the department.
– Is it the same law as that under which the money already received was collected?
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; reported adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Report (No. 2) brought up by Senator Thompson and adopted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Daly) read a first time.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
– I move -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
I have conferred with the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) with reference to this bill, which is considered to be of a non-contentious nature. The Government desires the bill to be dealt with to-day, in order that it may make arrangements for the Easter vacation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Towards the end of 1928 the ship-owners, after consultation with the Australasian Merchants Association in London, announced certain increases in freight rates to Australia. The ship-owners made an agreement with the exporters from London that freights were to be increased, but at the request of the Commonwealth Government the increase in freight rates from Australia was suspended. Eventually an imperial shipping conference was held in Australia in April, 1929, to consider the whole question. The conference decided that, in order to avoid an increase in freight rates, it was essential to enter into an agreement as to freights and services. In the following June the Australian Oversea Transport Association was formed at a conference of accredited representatives of importers and exporters, and representatives of overseas ship-owners from each State. The association is a representative body consisting of graziers, wheat merchants, dairy producers and others - it is probably the most representative body of producers ever formed into an association. The object of the association was to avoid increases of freight and to ensure regular and efficient transport. This was the first time that separate producing organizations had come together to deal with the important question of transport. Representatives of the association urged an amendment of the Industries Preservation Act in order to remove all doubt as to the legality of contracts or agreements which might be made between shippers and ship-owners. The objects sought by the association were -
The Government insisted upon freight rates going into the agreement. The amendment of the act which is now proposed will allow for an agreement between ship-owners and shippers. The draft standard copy has been handed to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce). The amendment will not give to the shipowners any greater powers than they have to-day. The period of contracts at existing freight rates has yet to be determined, but in no case will they be for less than one year, and they cannot be terminated, except by giving three months’ notice. If notice is not given, the contract will continue for another year on the same conditions. The agreement will tend to stabilize freights, which can only be altered after a thorough investigation by the producers and the ship-owners. Notice would have to be given to the shippers if it were proposed to increase freights, and no alteration could be made without a consultation with the whole of the producers concerned. At the present time the ship-owners can increase their freights without consulting the shippers. Competition will not be shut out as between the various lines. Take a shipment of wool. If ten or twelve ships went, say, to Queensland when only six are required, there would be a great deal of wastage and the freight would necessarily be higher. If two boats went to Townsville and got a load of meat, it would bebetter than half a dozen going there and each getting a partial load. It would save a lot of wastage if one boat lifted the fruit from Tasmania, and one from the rest of Australia. The more wastage there is, the more expense and higher freight there naturally would be. An agreement would provide for regularity, efficiency, and speedy service.
Ship-owners have discussed this matter with representatives of different industries, and there has been a general desire to have an amendment of the Industries Preservation Act to enable an agreement to be made; Resolutions have been passed by the different organizations asking the Government to take this action. The President of the Australian Farmers Federal Organization said that the agreement would marshal the freight and organize the tonnage. At the present time shippers did not know what tonnage is available. It is absolutely essential for the primary producers to have the whole transport business thoroughly organized. The ship-owners have promised that if the tonnage is organized they will organize the freight. This will ensure cheaper rates and prompter service. At present there is no system and no organization. Twenty-two regular lines, which include British and foreign, will be included in the agreement, when it is made. Competition between these 22 shipping lines will continue, but the Shipping Board will allocate the portion to which each is entitled. The proposal will shut out competition from outside the 22 lines but if anyother shipping companies desired to come under the agreement they could be admitted. Paragraph 4 of the proposed agreement reads : -
The ship-owners further agree during the term of this agreement and in respect of the goods specified, not to enter into any arrangements with any shippers on more favourable terms than those of this agreement and that any shipper is entitled to enter into an agreement with the ship-owners in all respects similar to this agreement, and for the same cargo rates and conditions, irrespective of the quantity of cargo shipped by him.
If there were, say, 1,000 tons to be shipped from Sydney, various ships, working under the agreement, would still be competing to get it. Unless the producers get the cheapest possible freight rate and the quickest service for their wheat, fruit, butter, &c, it will seriously affect the development of the country. If the producers’ organizations are not satisfied that they are getting a fair deal, the agreement can aways be terminated.
– What is the period of the agreement?
– It will operate for twelve months, and is then subject to termination at three months notice. Mr. Osborne, representing the Co-operative Butter and Cheese Factories stated that all the producing industries are unanimous in their desire to bring about this agreement. He stated that the New Zealand Dairy Produce Board made a satisfactory agreement as a result of which, its products are transported at a considerably less freight than is paid in Australia. The Dairy Produce Board here is in a position to control the whole of its exports, but it is unable to arrange a contract with the ship-owners, owing to the existence of section 7a of the Industries Preservation Act. This agreement is not intended to cover wheat, flour, or cargo of that kind, which will be left to *ramp steamers. The ships which carry the bulk of the wheat are chartered in London.
The Government believes that the interests of the producers are safeguarded by their representatives on the association, and recommends this bill for the concurrence of the House.
. I am wondering what effect the tariff wall recently built up around Australia will have on this agreement. It appears to me that ships will now have to come out to Australia empty, and that there is every prospect of shipping companies increasing their freights on our products sent to the markets of the world. I should be glad to know whether anything has been done to guard against such a contingency.
– The passage of time brings us
Strange experiences. This bill is one. It takes us back to the “ bad old days “ of the shipping ring which existed in London, when there was a rebate system that conferred conditions similar to those proposed in this bill. I was never against the withdrawal of the rebate system, although I am aware that it was suspect in the community outside of commercial circles. That system insured what this bill proposes to effect, continuity of employment of ships, and regularity of imports and exports which, after all, is a great deal more to the trader than rates of freights. I notice that rates of freights are to be stabilized by this measure, and that we are to have regularity and continuity of service. That is, above all things, of benefit to the importer and exporter. There is no suggestion of rebates under this system, and I am glad that that is so. In the old days there existed a monopoly - an autocracy - of shipping which was difficult to surmount. I was in London on one occasion arranging two charters of sailing vessels on behalf of my firm and the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company Limited, one from Liverpool and one from London. I was immediately met with an objection from the ring, and told that the charters could not be made; that the ships could not be loaded. However, through the influence of our London agents, who were considerable shippers, the objection was removed and the two shipments effected. Fortunately, that sort of thing no longer obtains. Under this bill we shall enjoy the conditions of continuity and regularity which the old rebate system gave us. I see no objection to the bill, and I am prepared to support it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) [3.55]. - ‘This morning Senator Duncan asked the following question : -
I should like to ask you, Mr. President, u question relating to the duties of the Joint House Committee - whether it is not a fact that Australian apples of high-class quality are easily procurable, and if so, why preference is not shown to the Australian product in the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. American apples purchased, so I am informed, from Connell and Company, Sydney, are placed before members for consumption in- the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms?
I have caused inquiries to be made, and the following report has been presented to me : -
All cooking and dessert apples used in the refreshment rooms are grown at Young, New South Wales. A small box of Australian dried apples was ordered from the firm mentioned in Senator Duncan’s question, but, as no Australian apples were in stock at the time, the firm, without consulting the refreshment rooms, supplied a box of American apples which, however, has not been used and is being returned.
.- by leave- This morning the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, the following questions : -
I promised the honorable senator that I would investigate the matter, and as a result the ordinance has been tabled. There was no intention on the part of the Government to delay the tabling of the ordinance, or in any way to dodge its responsibility in that regard. The matter has been engaging the. attention of the Government and yesterday, immediately the final draft was completed, it was submitted to the Executive Council and put through. It has only just returned from the printer, and I have taken the very earliest opportunity to lay it on the table of the Senate.
The Advisory Council Ordinance of the Territory for the Seat of Government was drafted, in the main, on the provisions of the Northern Australia Act relating to the constitution of Advisory Councils in the Territories of North Australia and Central Australia. The bill for the Northern Australia Act was introduced in the Senate by Senator Sir George Pearce, who was responsible for the policy outlined in the measure. In North Australia and Central Australia, the Advisory Council consists of the Government Resident, two nominated members and two elected members, that is, three Government representatives and two non-government. The Advisory Gouncil of the Federal Capital
Territory consists of four Government representatives and three nongovernment.
There is also an advisory council in the Territory of NewGuinea, but it is comprised wholly of Government officers.
– The Minister is making a speech which would really be relevant to a motion for disallowance of the ordinance.
– I am making an explanation to satisfy the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition, who raised this issue this morning.
– The honorable the Minister obtained leave to make a statement, and it should be as succinct as possible.
– I am endeavouring to be as brief as possible.
– The Minister is arguing as to the advisability of establishing the Advisory Council.
– Very well, I will say no more. I think I have made it clear that there is no desire on the part of the Government to evade its responsibilities, and that it has made the ordinance available to honorable senators as soon as possible.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [4.4]. - In view of the fact that the Senate will adjourn to-day until the 30th instant, I ask leave to give notice of motion that the ordinance be disallowed.
-I now give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move -
That the Advisory Council Ordinance of the Territory for the Seat of Govern ment be disallowed.
Motion (by Senator Daly) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till Wednesday, 30th April.
Proposed Select Committee
Debate resumed from 27th March (vide page 582) on motion by Senator Foll - 1. That, in view of the surplus production of coal and sugar cane in Australia, a Select Committee of the Senate be appointed to inquire into the desirability of enforcing in the Commonwealth the use of power spirit manufactured from coal, and/or power alcohol manufactured from sugar cane and other primary products, as an admixture with imported petrol, or in substitution therefor.
– In view of an undertaking which I have given Senator McLachlan to give precedence to the Life Insurance Bill, introduced by him, and in view of the lateness of the hour, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Penny-a-Word Messages: Report or Select Committee.
Debate resumed from 27th March, (vide page 5S4) on motion by Senator Herbert Hays -
That the “report from the Select Committee appointed to inquire into and report upon the desirability and commercial possibility of sending messages from Australia to England over the Beam Wireless at a penny a word, presented to the Senate on 14th August, 1929, be adopted.
.- This subject has been engaging the attention of the Government for some considerable time. The Ministry is anxious to provide every facility for the cheapest means of communication between Australia and other parts of the Empire but the subject involves many considerations. At the moment I am not in a position to give honorable senators further information, and I therefore ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 27 th March (vide page 595), on motion by Senator McLachlan -
That in the opinion of the Senate a committee of experts should be appointed to consider and report upon the advisability and economic soundness of paying a bounty on the production of gold to be employed exclusively in meeting obligations in respect of Australia’s overseas indebtedness.
– This also is a subject which has caused the Government a great deal of concern. I regret that reports which I intended to bring under the notice of honorable senators are not yet available Consequently, I ask leave to continue my remarks on a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
In committee: (Consideration resumed from 27th March, vide page 587) -
Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 - (1.) In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears -
Life insurance business “ means the issue of, or the undertaking of liability under, life policies and any business in relation thereto but does not include industrial insurance business or any scheme or arrangement whereby staff superannuation benefits are provided by an employer or his employees through his or their organization; “ Owner “, in relation to any policy, means the person who is for the time being the person entitled to receive the sums payable under the policy;
– I move -
That after the word “ employer “ in the definition of “ life insurance business “ “ and/ “ be inserted.
This amendment is necessary, otherwise superannuation of all classes will not be included in the bill.
Amendment agreed to.
– I should like to know the reason for the inclusion of the words “ (not being death by accident or specified sickness only) “ in the definition of “ life policy.”
– In order to distinguish a life policy from an accident policy or any other policy of that nature, a life policy is defined as not to include a policy which means insuring payment of money on death due to accident or specified sickness.
In another portion of the clause there are definitions of other classes of policies. For instance, we have - “Policy” means a policy of insurance in any class of insurance business.
– Life policy is denned as follows : - “ Life policy “ means a policy insuring payment of money on death (not being death by accident or specified sickness only) and so forth. It seems to me that the words in brackets so qualify the meaning that a life policy does not necessarily mean the payment of money on a death occurring through an accident or from a specified sickness.
– The bill segregates different classes of policies. Omitting the words in brackets, the definition reads - “ Life policy “ means a policy insuring payment of money on death or the happening of any contingency dependent on the termination of continuance of human life.
The words in the brackets are inserted because they refer to a different class of policy altogther. There are dozens of classes of risks taken by insurance companies, and, as the bill develops, it will be found that they are dealt with in. a different way. It is not a life policy if the individual contracts with the company against accident. I suggest that when we reach a certain stage we retain the bill in the possession of the Senate in order that we may clarify any points that are at all in doubt.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [4.19]. - I move -
That the words “but docs not include a beneficiary “ be added to the definition of “ Owner.”
The definition will then read - “ Owner “ in relation to any policy means the person who is for the time being the person entitled to receive the sums payable under the policy, but docs not include a beneficiary.
The amendment will make it clear that the owner is the owner, and not some one with a remote interest in the policy.
– The owner of a policy is a distinct legal entity, either by assignment or by enforcement of a mortgage or by virtue of the fact that he is entitled to receive the sums payable under the policy.
A beneficiary is not entitled to receive any sum payable under a policy except through the channel of the executors of the estate of the deceased owner of the policy. It is, therefore, not appropriate to add the words proposed by Senator Colebatch.
– In glancing through the definitions in this clause it seemed to me that the clause was somewhat like the play of Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. In this case the Prince of Denmark is the policy-holder. In ordinary insurance parlance, we always use the words “ policyholder “ and I thought, naturally, there would be a definition of “ policy-holder “ in this bill. Perhaps it would be better to use those words than “ owner,” Throughout the second reading it seemed to me the policy-holder was not very much in evidence and that the representations of the great insurance companies had been given careful consideration.
– I am inclined to think that there is something omitted from the definition of “ owner.” If I insure my life on an all-life policy I can never get the results ; the money is paid over to some one after I die. How, therefore, can I be described as the person entitled to receive the sums payable under the policy? Am I the owner ?
– Of course. There is a variety of ways in which the honorable senator can receive .suras payable under his policy. He can borrow on it; or surrender it and get its surrender value, or assign it.
– My experience is that a policy-holder gets mighty little for his policy when he surrenders it. I cannot see how I can be described as the person entitled to receive the sums payable under the policy, although I may be entitled to borrow on it or sell it for its surrender value. The sum payable under the policy is the total sum for which I am insured, and if I make a will bequeathing my interest in the policy to some other person, the other person becomes the owner ; I do not. It seems to me that the interpretation fogs instead of clarifies the position. I agree with Senator Thompson that the words “ policy-holder “ would probably he better than owner.” Of course if my policy were an endowment policy, payable at a certain age, I could draw it; but [ cannot see how a person who takes out an all-life policy can be properly described as the owner of it.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [4.28]. - I cannot see anything in the point raised by Senator Rae, or in the amendment moved by Senator Colebatch, because in certain instances the owner of a policy is the beneficiary under the policy, and the amendment would serve to shut him out. If I” were to take out a policy to mature at the age of 50, if it were still possible for me to do so, I should be the beneficiary under it.
– If the honorable senator bequeathed his policy to half a dozen people would he call them owners ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.No; but I do not think it is necessary to exclude beneficiaries. I take it that the definitions in the bill have been drafted by legal men and that they are based on accepted definitions in existing life insurance legislation of the State. It would, therefore, be unwise to alter the language used unless good reason is shown for an alteration.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the term ‘ owner “ has been regularly employed in life insurance circles?
– I cannot say, but if it is used in State legislation Ave ought to be shown good reason why it should not be used in this bill.
– I am afraid I have not made myself very clear ; but I give honorable senators an assurance that if there is any doubt concerning any of the clauses they can be passed, and, if necessary, reconsidered later on. In this particular case 1” cannot see any justification for the observations of Senator Rae, or the amendment suggested by Senator Sir Hal Colebatch. This is a legal question, and we have to determine for the purposes of insurance that some person is the owner. If Senator Rae should unhappily take that long journey to which he has referred, and had made a will, his policy would be handled by some person appointed to control his affairs. If, however, he died intestate, his legal representative would be the owner of his policy, the proceeds of which would be passed on to those entitled to participate. In those transactions the life insurance company would not take any part. This measure provides for dealing with the person who has a legal estate in, and who, for the purpose of life insurance, is the owner of “the policy. On the other hand, some person must be the owner of the policy held by a living person. If the owner of a policy should meet with an accident, any return from the policy would go to the holder of the policy. The honorable senator is confusing the position by making a distinction between a life insurance policy and any other property. A life insurance policy, subject to certain legal limitations and protections, is treated in the same way as any other property. That is all that is intended in this definition.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [4.34]. - I direct the attention of the committee to the definition of “ owner,” which reads - “ Owner,” in relation to any policy, means the person who is, for the time being, the person entitled to receive the sums payable under the policy.
In nearly every other portion of the bill, reference is made to the policy-holder. Let us take the case of a man who has insured his life specifically for the benefit of his wife or children. Senator McLachlan has referred to the surrendering of policies and the collection of bonuses, but the definition clause provides that the “ owner “ is the person who is for the time being the person entitled to receive the sums payable under the policy. That would be the wife or the children, or those on whose behalf the policy had been taken out.
– In that case, the wife or children would be the owner.
– The owner is the person who has taken out the policy. Does the honorable senator suggest that half a dozen persons could be regarded as the owner?
– Those who received the proceeds.
– If that is the intention, we shall, if we pass this clause, be setting up a most confusing state of affairs. It is easy to visualize a case in which a bonus is payable or the surrender value of a. policy is available, and a wife, or child coming along and wishing to collect and perhaps some of the children saying that they did not wish to do so. It is a very bad definition, ana if adopted will establish a very bad principle. I ask the committee to closely study this definition in conjunction with the other clauses and to see if there is any justification for its inclusion.
– If any provision is considered unsatisfactory we can postpone it.
– I am not at all satisfied with Senator McLachlan’s explanation. The honorable senator contends that a life insurance policy can be handled in the same way as other property, but he must remember that if a person mortgages a house or land, it may fall into the hands of his creditors. On the other hand, a person may take out a life insurance policy on which he pays the necessary premiums, but he may deliberately forfeit the policy. In such cases a life insurance policy ‘differs from ordinary property. If a person who for the time being is the person entitled to receive sums payable under the policy is the owner, then the person who takes out that policy is not the owner because he can never enjoy the benefits for which he pays. As those benefits will go to his heirs through the executor or administrator of his estate he cannot be regarded as the owner. Bonuses as a rule are not . paid in cash but are added to the value of the policy on maturity. The person who takes out a life policy is never the owner. Such a person deliberately takes out such a policy for the benefit of someone else. According to the definition the owner is the person to whom the proceeds of the policy are payable. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) said that this definition was probably taken from some State act, but if that is so, it seems to me to be a rather unusual way of dealing with such an important subject. If that is the case, why does not the Minister take one of the State acts and submit it as a Federal measure?
– To some extent that is what is being done. 7
– This is supposed to be a consolidation of various State acts in which the most satisfactory provisions are embodied. The definition does not seem to me to be clear and I am sure it does not satisfy either Senator Colebatch or myself.
. In the first place I felt disposed to agree with the contentions of Senator Rae, but on perusing the bill I find that he is adopting a wrong attitude. In view of the definition of “ owner “ the position seems extraordinary. In order to make the position clear, I wish to refer honorable senators to clause 33 which reads -
The moneys and securities deposited with the Treasurer under this act, shall be available to satisfy any final judgment obtained in the Commonwealth by a policy owner against the company in respect of any policy . . .
Let us take the case of a holder of a life policy.- The definition provides that the owner is the only person entitled to receive the sums payable under the policy, but it will be seen that the policyholder is not entitled to receive the amount at all. Clause 66 reads -
A policy owner who desires to discontinue further premium payments on a life policy which has .been in force for three years or upwards or on an industrial policy which has been in force for five years or upwards, shall, on application to the company bc entitled to receive a paid-up policy ….
Under that clause the policy-owner can act in a certain direction, but under another clause the beneficiaries would actually be the owner of the policy. The definition does not coincide with clauses 33 and 66 and should be amended. Under clause 66 a policy-holder may apply to the company for certain things to be done, but a policy-owner can only leave the proceeds to others. In the’ one case a beneficiary is to be regarded as the policyholder, and in the other, the policy-owner.
– Is there a definition of “ policy-holder “?
– It may be necessary to make some amendments to these definitions. Whether we use the word “holder” or the word “ owner “ is, after all, only a matter of verbiage. It should not be difficult to frame a definition in such a way that a policy-holder and a policyowner shall be’ the same. The language used by the draftsman has been decided on after careful consideration. The English legislation of 1909 defines a policyholder as -
A person who for the time being is the legal holder of the policy or secures the contract with the insurance company.
The definition of “ owner “ in this clause reads - “ Owner “ in relation to any policy, means the person who is for the time being the person entitled to receive the sums payable under the policy.
Although the person entitled to receive the sums payable under the policy might not be known until after the death of the insured person, the person so entitled is the owner. If the policy continues until the insured person dies, there is room for some doubt as to who is entitled to receive payment; but if during his life the insured person elects to accept payment, or should his policy be payable at a certain definite date, he, himself, is the person entitled to receive the sums payable.
– He may not be entitled to receive any money. His policy may be payable at death. He cannot get a paid-up policy when he is dead, and therefore he is not entitled to the money.
– A man who has a policy payable at death must get rid of the policy if he desires payment during his lifetime. He can surrender the first policy, and with the money received for it buy a paid-up policy. Surely in such a case he is the owner of the policy all the time.
– The definition is the opposite of that in the English act.
– If honorable senators prefer the English definition it can be embodied in the bill; but we must preserve the word “ owner “ because it. appears in other clauses. If honorable senators desire it, I have no objection to the clause being postponed.
Clause5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Registrar of Life Insurance) -
– During the last 30 years the expectation of life has increased by twelve years.
– That matter will be dealt with later.
– Notwithstanding the greater expectation of life, the premiums and bonuses have not been altered; policy-holders are deriving no benefit from it. The result is that big secret reserves are being built up. The policy-holders should benefit from such a unique position.
– On a previous occasion, I mentioned an instance in which a policy had been altered by an insurance officer after the policy-holder - an office cleaner, who suffered from a carbuncle - had received benefits under her policy for only a fortnight. I should like to know whether the Registrar will have power to deal with such cases.
– I shall take an opportunity later of dealing with the class of case to which Senator Dunn has referred. I point out, however, that a policy-holder cannot receive benefits twice over. If he insures against an accident or sickness, and an accident or sickness occurs, and the company makes payment accordingly, he has no further claim on the company. It is customary for insurance offices in such cases to strike out the appropriate portion of the policy. If the insured person wishes to insure against a further accident or further sickness, he must make fresh arrangements. In the case of any irregularity the Registrar would be authorized to take any necessary action. His control will be limited only by an appeal to the court.
– Will the Registrar have any control over the appointment and the duties of auditors?
– He will have no control over their appointment, but the balance sheets of the insurance companies will have to be submitted to him.
– I mention the matter now, because I desire in the appropriate place to move that the auditors shall be appointed by the Government, and be changed from time to time. There is at present a tendency for auditors to become members of cliques. It would appear that some insurance companies charge excessive rates to insurers and divide the spoils in a way not always desirable.
Unless provision is made elsewhere for the appointment of auditors, the Registrar should be authorized to appoint them, in order to ensure that only trustworthy and competent men shall undertake these duties.
– I am pleased to see that the Registrar must be an actuary. There is need for greater care in the appointment of the Registrar than there is in the appointment of auditors.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 13 agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - (13 a.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, a company shall not be entitled to registration under this act under any name which, in the opinion of the Registrar, is likely to mislead.
It has been brought under the notice of the Attorney-General’s Department that, on occasions, persons have registered companies in the name of wellknown organizations operating in Australia. Naturally, those organizations took steps to protect their names in certain of the States. This bill is following the practice adopted in South Africa and elsewhere, of allowing every insurance company to register. Those companiesthen come under the discipline of the Registrar. But it is necessary to make some safeguarding provision such as that outlined by me, to protect the public.
– I believe that the proposed new clause is a very good one,but I suggest that it does not go far enough. I take it that clause 13 applies only to the registration of new companies.
– That is so.
– Is it not necessary to provide that the Registrar may refuse registration in the cases of companies that have become bankrupt or are not complying with the conditions prescribed ?
– We must give every company carrying on insurance business in Australia the right to register, whether it becomes insolvent or not. That is a right obtaining throughout the British Empire. My endeavour is to guard against those people who are so . astute as to seek to obtain benefit by using the name of an organization that has some measure of popularity. As the bill stands, the Registrar has no power to deny such a company registration. That is an opinion that I have received from the Attorney-General’s Department, in which I respectfully concur. I am not seeking to invest the Registrar with disciplinary powers, but with powers of refusal.
– I approve of the proposal, but it does not go far enough. What power is there to cancel the registration of a company that is not complying with the regulations ? Let me give an illustration. Certain enterprises are conducted by the governing authorities; for instance, the Commonwealth Bank. It would be highly improper if any other bank was allowed to assume a name which would lead people tobelieve that it was being conducted by the Commonwealth. Similarly, companies may seek to obtain advantage by describing themselves as co-operative concerns, when there is no principle of co-operation in their constitutions. I desire to see some specific prohibition of the use of certain terms or titles which may give the general public a fake idea as to the composition of the company. I desired to employ words to give effect to whatthe honorable senator requires, but was advised by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department that they might be misleading. Could not some specific precaution be embodied in the bill to prevent the use of misleading titles or terms ? I remember that during the war regulations were issued prohibiting the use of the term “ Anzac “ in connexion with any commercial undertaking. Could not something similar be done in this case?
– I considered the matter very carefully, and although I had some wording in my mind to give effect to “ what the honorable senator desires, the parliamentary draftsman showed me certain effective statutory prohibitions that are already in existence. I cannot think of many for the moment, but I know that one related to the term “Anzac.” On mature consideration the draftsman stated that he considered that the words “ is likely to mislead “ would have the widest possible application.
– Might their use not lead to litigation ?
– Possibly, and why not? These people have been given the right to register. They apply for registration. The Registrar refuses registration on the ground that they are using some name, say, “ The Red Cross Insurance Society “ which is considered to be misleading. I think that that would be a satisfactory case on which the Registrar could go to court if he had to.
– And what of the case where the title was very nearly a copy of an existing one?
– That is covered by dozens of judicial decisions. I believe that the words “likely to mislead “ are sufficient. I am quite ready to accept any amendment that will improve the bill. I am even ready, with the consent of the Senate, to have it recommitted if the circumstances warrant it.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [5.12]. - Sub-clause 2 of clause 1.3 reads -
An appeal shall lie to the court from any finding of the Registrar under this section, provided that the appeal is instituted within the timeand in the manner prescribed.
The clause that Senator McLachlan proposes to insert will follow clause 13. I take it that there is no more desire to make the Registrar a dictator in this matter than in any other. Is it not necessary to add to the proposed new clause, “ Provided that any company, refused registration by the Registrar under this provision, may, within the time and manner prescribed, appeal to the court against such refusal “? Otherwise no provision is made for appeals.
– I am perfectly willing to accept the principle of the right of appeal. It is one that obtains throughout the measure. But I nsk honorable senators first to accept clause 13a. Then, if any one had an amendment to move on the lines suggested by Senator Colebatch, it could be considered. I realize that if we did not provide a right of appeal the person concerned would probably be able to obtain a mandamus to compel the Registrar to register his company.
Senator Sir JOHN NEWLANDS (South Australia) [5.15]. - No safeguards for the Registrar are provided. If a manager of a company has been punished for certain offences against the law and later becomes associated with another company, the registrar may refuse registration, and perhaps be involved in a libel action. Is it possible to include in the bill a provision to safeguard the Registrar from the legal consequences of his action in such a case as that?
– The difficulty mentioned by the honorable senator is one which I think the insurance companies will have to face. Senator Newlands will find, in later provisions of the bill, a number of safeguards which the . authorities consider adequate. These companies will have to furnish returns and must conduct their businesses with propriety. I do not think it would be competent, and if it were competent, I doubt that it would be proper, to vest in the Registrar the power suggested by the honorable senator. Any provision of that nature would be contrary to the principles of jurisprudence. The bill gives the Registrar considerable control over all companies, and directors of these concerns will have to see to it that undesirable persons are not placed in positions of responsibility.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Sir Hal Colebatch) agreed to -
That the following clause be inserted - 13b. Any company refused registration by the Registrar under the provisions of section 13a of this act may, within the time and in the manner - prescribed, appeal to the court against the refusal of registration.
Clauses 14 and 15 agreed to.
A foreign company shall not be entitled to registration unless it has appointed some person who is a resident of the Commonwealth, to be its representative in the Commonwealth in all matters between itself and the Registrar, and has lodged with the Registrar a notice in writing of the name and address of the representative.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [5.21].- I move-
That all the words after “ registration “ be left out.
Already we have a sufficient number of companies operating in Australia. Foreign companies should be entirely excluded.
– Our life insurance companies are extending their businesses in other countries.
– Possibly they are. The people of other countries can be entrusted to look after their own affairs.
– Would the honorable senator shut out English companies ?
– I am prepared to accept a definition of “ foreign company”. I see no necessity for any outside company to come to Australia to carry on insurance business of any kind.
– The question raised by the honorable senator was the subject of investigation by a British committee which reported absolutely against action to prevent foreign companies from carrying on business in Great Britain, because of the tremendous re-actions which would result. It would be a very bad gesture for us to prohibit foreign companies from doing business in Australia. Personally, I regret that a considerable sum of money is sent overseas in connexion with insurance, particularly in fire insurance premiums; but apparently the whole of our risks cannot be carried by Australian companies. On the other handI should be loth to prevent any great companies from extending their businesses to Australia, for we need not only the strength which they would give us, hut also their capital.
– Foreign companies do not introduce new capital.
– Yes they do. The honorable senator’s amendment to prohibit foreign companies from becoming established in Australia, is in line with his political principles, but anything in the nature suggested by him would be a very serious matter. The position is amply safeguardedby the deposits, which some honorable senators would like to see increased substantially, and the maintenance of statutory funds.
– We have English companies operating here already.
– Exactly; and Australian companies have extended their operations to Great Britain and the sister dominions. The Australian Mutual Provident and the National Life Insurance companies have offices in London, and I believe the Colonial Mutual Insurance Company is operating in South Africa. If we took action to prevent outside insurance companies from operating in Australia we should, I am afraid, get short shrift in the sister dominions. I hope the amendment will be rejected.
– I intend to press my amendment to a division, hut I wish it to be clearly understood that my desire is that the principle should apply only to new foreign companies that may seek to establish themselves in the Commonwealth. I presume that the bill provides that all existing companies will be registered automatically, and I have no wish to interfere with them.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Rae’s amendment) be left out - put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Plain.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 17 to 20 agreed to.
Before an application is made for confirmation by the court of any scheme for transfer or amalgamation - b notice of the intention to make the application shall within one month after the copy of the scheme has been deposited with the Registrar, be published in the Gazette, and, for a period of fifteen days after the publication of the notice, the scheme shall be open to the inspection of any policy-owners or shareholders thereby affected at the offices of every company concerned; o the Registrar shall, if so directed by court, cause a report on the scheme to be made by an independent actuary, and shall cause copies of the report to be sent to the companies concerned.
– Among the various conditions to be complied with before a scheme of amalgamation can be effected, I see nothing to provide that persons who are vitally interested - the policy-holders in the- -respective companies proposing to amalgamate - should have a voice in the transaction. The insurance companies are not supposed to be run solely for the purpose of benefiting shareholders.
– I direct the honorable senator’s attention to subclause 3.
– And to paragraph b of sub-clause 1.
– It is provided in paragraph b that notice of the intention to make an application must be published, and that the scheme must be open to inspection by any policy-owner or shareholder, and sub-clause 3 provides that any person whom the court thinks likely to be affected shall be entitled to be heard on any application made to the courts ; but here as in most laws we have all sorts of technical requirements with which very few persons can comply.
– Would the honorable senator suggest a referendum of the policy-holders ?
– Certainly. The opinion of the policy-holders should be taken. The matter should not be left to an individual policy-holder. How can an individual policy-holder at his own cost secure the collective opinion of policy-holders scattered all over the continent or get them to take collective action against a proposed amalgamation ?
– It is the same with the shareholders.
– The only protection the policy-holders have ever had in Australia is that afforded by paragraphs a, b and c of sub-clause 1 of this clause.
– Although that may be the case there is no reason why they should not be afforded further protection. Too many gigantic swindles have been perpetrated on policy-holders in matters that, as the law stands to-day, cannot be brought within the law, but which if we had a sound law could be prevented. Life insurance at present is to a great extent a huge swindle. Policy-holders are robbed by the enormous overhead charges which are used as a cloak to provide fat billets for many people whoare quite unnecessary. Policy-holders do not get more than a fraction of the benefits they should receive from the excessive premiums they pay. Honorable senators opposite have claimed that costs of production must be reduced in order to reduce the cost of living. Let them take some steps to see that these insurance companies which are now run in the interests of a few head serangs are so controlled that the interests of the policyholders are protected. It is impracticable for a policy-holder who is discontented with any scheme of amalgamation to agitate and bring about successful opposition to it.
– He could call a meeting of policy-holders.
– When they are scattered from Kalgoorlie to Darwin? We know that in the Arbitration Court every individual employer is supposed to be cited and that the one who is not cited is exempt from the operation of any award that is made. It is quite possible for a meeting of policy-holders to be declared null and void because the notice of the meeting has not reached every individual policy-holder.
– Would not the Registrar see that things were done correctly?
– Possibly. There are certain steps which the Registrar must take, but I propose to impose upon him another duty, that of seeing that the opinion of the policy-holders is obtained before any amalgamation takes place.
Because I am aware that there are crook insurance concerns in New South Wales - some of them have lately been absorbed by others - and that there has been all sorts of fishy work going on, I want to see provision made in this bill that before any scheme is entered into which may or may not be to their advantage, policy-holders who provide the profits of the insurance companies shall be properly consulted.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [5.40] - I certainly agree with Senator Bae that this clause is far too important to be passed over without the Senate being satisfied that everything that should be done in the interests of the policy-holder is done. I have not had the time to study the matter carefully, but it seems to me that the clause does not go so far as the provisions of the English act in the direction of protecting the policy-holder. The English act provides that, unless the court otherwise directs, copies of a scheme of amalgamation, together with an actuarial report or other reports upon it, including a report by an independent actuary upon which the scheme is founded, shall be transmitted to each policy-holder of each company in a manner prescribed by section 136 of the Companies Clauses Consolidation Act.
– That protection is afforded in the bill by paragraph d of sub-clause 1.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Paragraph d provides that before an application is made, any directions which may be given by the court upon application made with respect to any proposed scheme shall be compliedwith, but the requirement in this respect is exactly the opposite in Great Britain. Whereas under this paragraph the court has to go out of its way to direct certain things to be done, these things have to be done under the English act, unless the court can be satisfied that it is not necessary for them to be done.
– The English act falls short of the insurance covered by the bill before the committee.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.The English act provides -
Before any such application is made to the court -
It does not seem to me that the clause under consideration goes as far as the English provision, and as this matter is of extreme importance to policy-holders, I think that before we agree to it we should have an opportunity to consider it exhaustively. I am not yet satisfied that under this bill the policy-holder is afforded the protection given to him under the English act.
– The transfer and amalgamation of companies in Australia have hitherto been governed by State legislation in Western Australia, South Australia, and Victoria. This legislation has been examined by the draftsman and other Government experts, and clauses 20 to 23, both inclusive, are the result of their combined efforts. Before any amalgamation can be brought about certain requirements, as provided in the articles of association of a company or by State Companies’ Acts, have to be complied with. Honorable senators should regard this provision not from the opinions they may form from a perusal of two or three clauses, but from a general survey of the whole bill and particularly those clauses which have been framed for the protection of shareholders. The legislation in force in the States has, in some cases, been adopted. Honorable senators will agree that exception cannot be taken to any amalgamations which have been brought about in Australia. Some years ago an American company amalgamated with a Victorian company, and there was no confusion or dissatisfaction. I think we would be placing too great a burden upon the companies if we asked them to acquaint every policy-holder of a proposed amalgamation.
– They do that now.
– Yes, in a sense. Under this measure the judge who is to be the custodian of the rights of policy-holders has before him the actuarial position of the company which has accepted the responsibility. While I do not agree with the view suggested by some honorable senators that an amalgamating company remains liable, I wish to point out that the actuarial position of the company accepting the liability is the key to the whole situation. The judge who has to decide is in a better position to determine its actuarial position than any policy-holder, because he has before him, in tabloid form, a statement of the company’s liabilities, from which he can. ascertain if it is in a sound position from a policy-holder’s view-point. He has on the one hand the liabilities that are being taken over with respect to policies, and on the other the assets of the company. Is not the judge in abetter position to determine such a point than policy-holders? It is not obligatory upon companies to send notices to individual shareholders or policy-holders, but that is a responsibility of which they should be definitely relieved. The five requirements to be complied with are set out in clause 21, which reads -
Before an application is made for confirmation by the court of any scheme for transfer or amalgamation - (a) a copy of the scheme shall he deposited with the Registrar, together with a copy of the actuarial and other reports, if any, upon which the scheme is founded.
That gives the Registrar an opportunity to study in detail the actuarial position of the company. The clause continues -
– Who bothers about the Gazette?
– I read a little while ago where a disgruntled policyholder in Western Australiabriefed counsel to appear for him in connexion with an amalgamation case and was allowed costs because he had a right to appeal. The clause continues -
Under that provision the judge has to be satisfied concerning the liabilities and assets and to be assured that the company is in a position to meet the responsibility which it is undertaking. The bill does not provide for sending out notices which Senator Colebatch thinks necessary.
– Which the British act requires.
– The honorable senator may have it that way if he likes. The judge is charged with the responsibility of looking after the interests of the policy-holders. He is the judicial trustee. The clause continues - . . copies of the scheme and of every report received by the Registrar in accordance with -the provisions of this sub-section shall, unless the court, upon application made in that behalf, otherwise directs, be transmitted by the companies concerned, at least fifteen days before application is made for confirmation of the scheme to every policy-owner of any class affected bythe scheme.
The court will not “ otherwise direct “ unless it is satisfied that the transaction is clean.
– That is placing the cart before the horse.
– If the honorable senator were placed in the position of an insurance company he would be the first to say that this unnecessary and stupid expenditure should not be incurred. The judge is charged with the duty of looking after the interests of the policyholders. The assets of the average insurance company are more than ten times sufficient to meet its actuarial liabilities. Why should we impose unnecessary obligations upon insurance companies in the protection of policy-holders, seeing that, if there is any suspicion in the mind of the judge, the policy-holder will have an opportunity to be heard. A policy-holder can be heard at -the expense of the company. Sub-clause 2, of clause 21, reads -
Application to the court for the confirmation of the scheme may be made by or on behalf of any company concerned, and an application to the court with respect to any matter connected with a scheme or proposed scheme may be made at any time before confirmation by the court by any person whom the court thinks likely to be affected thereby or by or on behalf of the Registrar.
I t may be an ancillary application. Subclause 4 reads -
The court may confirm the scheme submitted to it in accordance with the provisions of this act cither unconditionally or subject to such modifications as the court thinks fit.
Sub-clause 5 provides -
A scheme confirmed by the court in accordunco with the provisions of this act shall bo binding on all persons, and shall have effect notwithstanding anything in the memorandum or articles of association of any company. . .
Having regard to the drastic provisions applying to companies, and to the statutory funds provided for in later provisions, the policy-holders are in a very safe position, and there is no reason why the clause should not be passed in its present form.
– I move -
That after the word Gazette, sub-clause 1, paragraph b, the words “ and in newspapers circulating in each and every city and town in which the policies have been issued” be i inserted
As 5 per cent, of the policy-holders do not read the Gazette I trust that Senator McLachlan will accept the amendment.
– After hearing the interjection by Senator Thompson I expected an amendment of this nature. I feel that it is one that cannot be resisted and if the honorable senator would have it drafted in proper form it could, I think, be adopted. I have no objection to it.
– My objection to this clause is that it puts the cart before the horse. The court is asked to attend to a number of matters which should be settled first by policyholders. So far as I am aware, there is only one important insurance office in Australia that is a company; all the rest are co-operative societies, in which the policy-holders are really the shareholders. They should be consulted in the first instance. Some years ago, a fire insurance company with which I was connected had an opportunity to sell its shares to another company for 10s. each. Instead of notifying the shareholders, the directors purchased the shares at from ls. to 2s. each beforehand, so that the shareholders lost the difference. That might not occur here ; but I suggest that the policy-holders should be consulted before matters are taken to the Registrar or a judge. I should like to see the wording of the English act take the place of the present wording.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [6.2]. - There is a contradiction of terms in this clause. Subclause 1 reads -
Before an application is made for confirmation by the court of any scheme for transfer or amalgamation. . . .
the Registrar shall, if so directed by tha court-
How can the court give the Registrar directions before any application is made to it? I suggest that the words “oh an application being “ should be substituted for the words “ before an application is.” The clause would then read -
On an application being made for confirmation by the court on any scheme for transfer or amalgamation. . . .
the registrar shall, if so directed by the court-
There appears to be some error in the drafting.
– Clause 20 provides for an application being made to the court. It refers to “ a scheme prepared in accordance with this section and submitted to, and confirmed by, the court in accordance with the provisions of this act.” Immediately that scheme is submitted to the court, the judge has cognizance of it.
– Should not the policy-holders be consulted first?
– I am not prepared to take the responsibility of requiring insurance companies to notify every policy-holder of proposals of this nature, although I agree with Senator Dunn that notices should be inserted in the newspapers for the information of policy-holders. First, a scheme is submitted to the’ court and later an application may be made to the court for its confirmation. Every procedure that is open in any High Court action is open in regard to the proceedings which are contemplated under clause 20.
Amendment agreed to. Senator RAE (New South Wales) [6.6]. - I move-
That the words “ if so directed by the court,” sub-clause 1, paragraph c, be left out.
The paragraph would then read “ The Registrar shall cause a report on the scheme to be made by an independent actuary.” That should provide an efficient safeguard.
– Would the honorable senator be prepared to allow the Registrar discretion in the matter ? There are many cases in which no report is necessary.
– I realize that if the matter were left to the discretion of the Registrar, he would have to bear the blame for any neglect to refer the scheme to an independent actuary; but that would not help the poor, suffering policy-holder.
– If we substituted the word “ unless “ for the word “if” the responsibility would be transferred from the Registrar to the court. The paragraph would then read - “ The Registrar shall, unless so directed by the court, cause a report on the scheme to be made by an independent actuary . . . “
– There is no need for reports in simple cases. The wording is perfectly clear.
– If everything is so clear that he who runs may read, it should not be a big task for an actuary, and the expense should not be prohibitive. On the other hand, if the amount involved is large, and the transaction affects thousands of policy-holders, the expense of obtaining an actuary’s report would be justifiable. I desire to protect the interests of the policy-holders. Ordinary persons are not so likely to see discrepancies and disadvantages in proposals placed before them as are men specially engaged to investigate them. If an official notice is not to be sent to policy-holders the least we can do is to protect them by having the scheme submitted to an actuary. A report from an independent actuary could be relied upon. Unless something of this nature is done tens of thousands of policy-holders will know nothing of these schemes until they have been finalized.
– I should like to meet the honorable senator’s wishes, for he has made out a good case; but once this scheme has come before the court the responsibility rests on the court, not on the Registrar. If the judge is not satisfied he would consult with the Registrar.
– But if put in the bill, it would not be the responsibility of the judge.
– Honorable senators have said that the policy-holders will be left without protection. That is not so, for this clause gives them a measure of protection almost unparalleled. Surely it should be sufficient to leave in the hands of the judge of a High Court the decision as to desirability of obtaining a report from an independent actuary. It is no light matter to undertake an actuarial investigation of a scheme of this nature. I have known of an actuarial valuation occupying eight or nine months.
– Without this safeguard we shall be buying a pig in a poke.
– I assure honorable senators that an actuarial valuation, especially when two large companies contemplate an amalgamation, is no light undertaking.
– On account of certain undertakings given to the Opposition whip regarding the conduct of to-day’s business, and the probability of difficulty inmaintaining a quorum, I suggest that progress be now reported. It was understood that we should rise for the dinner adjournment, and if that is to be done it will be necessary to bring the President in before 6.15 p.m. Is the honorable senator prepared to report progress ?
– I am.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Daly) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Daly) read a first. time.
Mining Leases in New Guinea : Allegations against Ministers - Seat of Government: Advisory Council Ordinance- Wheat Pool: Labour Conditions.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Has the Leader of the Senate lost sight of the fact that this chamber has made certain amendments to the Land Tax Assessment Bill?
– I have been assured that those amendments are acceptable to another place.
Sitting suspended from 630 to 8 p.m.
– 1 wish to direct attention to an article which appeared in Smith’s Weekly on 5th April relative to a New Guinea mining ordinance and making allegations against certain Ministers. I have taken, this step because I find it is impossible to bring it before this chamber in any other way.
– The honorable senator might say why he finds it impossible to do that.
– I was assured by the President, and I was shown authorities in support of his view, that it was not possible to ask questions concerning statements made in a newspaper unless I was prepared to accept responsibility for the truth, or otherwise of such statements. .
– Why did not the honorable senator do that? Why adopt this cowardly method?
– Order !
– I have adopted this method because I am unable to determine the truth or otherwise of the statements contained in the article referred to.
– The honorable senator should make his statement outside the Parliament. He would then be given an opportunity to establish its truth.
– I am, as I say, unable to say whether the allegations in the article are true or false, but they have been made in the public press and concern responsible Ministers and the honour of the persons mentioned, as well as the honour of this Parliament. I trust, therefore, that some action will be taken. One statement in the article is, on the face of it, libellous, and if it is untrue the persons concerned have an opportunity to gain heavy damages from the newspaper which’ published it.
– Does the honorable senator say that the statement is libellous?
– If untrue it is libellous, but if true it is not.
– Is that the honorable senator’s interpretation of the law?
– Yes. This is the particular statement to which I direct attention : -
These four Ministers, whose initials make the word STAB, formed themselves into a sub-committee of Cabinet and last January decided on an ordinance which gave to the big business mob every concession - except the right to indent Asiatic labour.
The newspaper alleges that Mr. Anstey is in partnership with Mr. John Wren, and that by means of their agents or dummies they have taken up a certain gold-mining lease in New Guinea. It states further that Mr. Anstey was one of a sub-committee of the Cabinet which altered the mining ordinance in such a manner as to give the mining syndicate of which he is a member greater opportunities than the law, up to that date, allowed to practically ignore the obligations to employ white labour in the development of the lease. It alleges further that this alteration of the ordinance made it possible for the syndicate to hold a far greater area under lease than was permissible under the ordinances previously existing. If these allegations can be supported, they amount, in my opinion, to a charge of corrupt conspiracy to manipulate the laws of the Commonwealth for the purpose of private gain. What could be more libellous and more ‘ damaging than a statement like that? There would be no defence at all. The onus would be on the newspaper concerned to prove the truth of its allegation. The court would compel it to prove the charge to the last line, or cast it in heavy damages. Surely such charges as these are not going to be passed by in silence. I suggest to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) that if these allegations are not going to be investigated in the law courts, the Senate will readily agree to the appointment of a select committee to inquire into them. Such grave charges should not be permitted to remain unanswered. I should have thought that the Leader of .the Senate would welcome the opportunity to deny, firstly, that Mr. Anstey was a partner with Mr. John Wren, and, secondly, that no such alteration had been made in the mining ordinances.
– I thought the honorable senator was capable of reading the ordinance himself.
– Am I to understand from the Minister’s interjection that he admits that the allegations, so far as they refer to the alteration of the ordinance, are correct? I have not had an opportunity to read the ordinance, because ordinances are thrown on the table in sheaves and it is impossible to read the whole of them. The Senate practice with regard to ordinances emphasizes the need for the appointment of a committee of this chamber to watch more closely over the procedure. However, I do not wish to elaborate further the statement which I have made. I have said enough, I think, to impress upon the Minister the need, at the earliest opportunity, to probe to the bottom the charges made by the newspaper in question.
.- - I regret the occasion which requires me to refute the statements made by Senator H. E. Elliott.
– I made no statements.
– The honorable senator repeated statements made in a certain newspaper, and as a member of a highlyplaced profession he must be well aware that they will have wide circulation. He informed us that, if the state ments contained in the newspaper referred to were not true, they were libellous. We are justified in asking what is behind these charges which the honorable senator has repeated to-night? He has made imputations against the honour of members of the Ministry, and would have us believe that he himself is a monument of political purity. I ask honorable senators to remember what the honorable senator said some time ago when certain proposals with regard to the development of Canberra were being discussed in the Senate. I hope the honorable senator will be good enough to remain in the chamber and, if necessary, give up the idea of returning to Melbourne by train to-night, so that we may fight this matter to a finish. On the occasion to which I refer the honorable senator made reference to certain leases in Canberra. It is generally known that he has considerable investments in buildings and land leases at Civic Centre. Possibly, also, he has investments in Melbourne. His grievance, when we were discussing these matters some months ago, was that unexpected developments had taken place at the Eastlake shopping area no doubt to the prejudice of his Civic Centre interests. Possibly the honorable senator is under the impression that, if the development of Canberra had proceeded according to plan, his investments here would have given handsome returns.
– The honorable senator must not make a personal attack upon another honorable senator. He may give expression to his views concerning the matter under discussion ; but he must refrain from personalities.
– I should be the last to disobey your ruling, Mr. President, because I believe you are impartial; but while I am a member of this chamber I will do all in my power to defend any member of my party from unfair charges. Senator H. E. Elliott reminded me of a man who was raking over a muck-heap. He made damaging allegations against a member of the Ministry, stating that he was in partnership with Mr. John Wren, of Melbourne, in the ownership of certain mining leases in New Guinea. The right honorable the Prime Minister, shortly after the publication of thi charges to which Senator H. E. Elliott has alluded to-night, made the following statement to the press: -
There is no foundation whatever for the charges being made against the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), and the Assistant Minister (Mr. Beasley), with regard to the ordinance governing the mining leases in New Guinea, which was laid on the table of the House of Representatives on Wednesday last.
Does any one suggest that the Prime Minister would make such a definite statement as that if the facts were not as he had put them? It is not difficult to trace these allegations to their source. A man named Williams, who was proved to be a liar, a pimp, and a blackmailer in every sense of the word, because he could not get a job from this Government at £600 a year wont out into the highways and by-ways and slandered responsible members of the Australian Labour party, as well as members of the Ministry. L have a wire from Mr. A. J. Jones, ex-Minister for Mines in the McCormack Government - some of our Queensland senators will probably know him - giving the history of Williams, which any honorable senator can peruse if he so wishes. I have no desire to weary the chamber by narrating some of the various episodes of this man’s career in Queensland, but I have a copy of the evidence given by Mr. T. W. Waldron, solicitor to the Sydney Council, before Mr. Fleming, the late Chief Civic Commissioner of Sydney, which proves that Williams is a blackmailer and pimp in every sense of the word.
-I should like to know what connexion all this has with the matter mentioned by Senator H. E. Elliott.
– It has a distinct bearing on the statement made by that honorable senator who has left the chamber. Perhaps I shall be in order in quoting a few extracts from the official organ of the Labour party in New South Wales, which shows that the central executive of the Australian Labour party in New South Wales instigated an inquiry into the recent press statements, because Williams was at one time the selected and endorsed candidate for Woollahra, and that the investigating committee arrived at the conclusion that the press statements were something in the nature of a stalking horse for the purpose of attacking the present Government. So far as Senator H E. Elliott is concerned, he has an obsession. He has a purpose–
– I cannot permit the honorable senator to make any further personal attack on Senator H. E. Elliott, whose character is not under consideration.
– The characters of the King’s Ministers are under consideration. Senator H. E. Elliott possibly has a motive in trying to build up a case in Hansard, and on that account probably thinks he is entitled to say whatever he likes, but so far as I am concerned, while I am here I shall defend Ministers against any false statement about their connexion with New Guinea mining leases.In the library, the other day, I read in an American journal how one senator at Washington interjected that another was not fit to carry guts to a bear. I am prepared to say that at the present time–
– Order ! I shall not allow the honorable senator to use such language here, whatever may be said in America, and this is the last time I shall warn him. If he continues to disobey the Chair I shall be obliged to report him to the Senate.
– I do not propose to say much more.The press statements read by Senator H. E. Elliott are not true. If any one is prepared to repeat them on a public platform there are ways and means of having the issue decided in a court of law, so that the public may know whether there is any foundation or not for the innuendoes that have been cast upon the conduct of Ministers of the Crown.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [8.19]. - I have no intention of speaking about the matter referred to by Senator H. E. Elliott and Senator Dunn, but when the Minister is replying I should like him to say whether the Government proposes, during the Easter adjournment, to take action under the Advisory Council Ordinance for the Territory for the Seat of Government. The ordinance itself was presented to the Senate at such a late hour to-day that it was impossible for me to take immediate action, but I have given notice of motion to disallow it, and it would be extremely improper, I submit, until that motion is disposed of when we next meet, to proceed with an election under the ordinance. Action may be taken, but I warn Ministers that it will not deter me from asking the Senate to support my motion, and that the Senate cannot be expected to be deterred from disallowing the ordinance if it is of the same opinion as myself. At the moment I do not know what its opinion is.
Yesterday Senator Rae asked the following questions : -
To this Senator Daly replied -
The Government has announced that it proposes to give a guaranteed price for wheat. If wheat does not realize that guaranteed price the payment made will be in the nature of a bounty on the production of wheat in Australia, and I, therefore, ask whether the policy enunciated in the reply given to Senator Rae is to apply to the production of wheat. Are we to understand that trade union rates and conditions must be observed by all employers participating in such governmental benefit? If that be the case, ii is well that those who are asked to express an opinion on this guarantee should know that that is to be a condition under which the bounty will be payable.
– If the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) will refer to the question asked by Senator Rae and the answer given by me he will see that what the Government said was simply that the law would be observed. The Senate will have every opportunity to discuss the Wheat Marketing Bill, and whatever the law may be when that measure leaves this chamber or leaves Parliament after a conference between the two Houses, it will be observed by the present Government.
I am not in a position to give the right honorable gentleman an undertaking on behalf of the Government in respect of the Advisory Council Ordinance for the Seat of Government, but as the Leader of the Government in the Senate, I shall certainly convey to Cabinet exactly what the right honorable senator has said in regard to his intentions, and it will be for Cabinet to decide what action shall be taken.
I regret that the position I hold forces me to refer to the subject raised by Senator H. E. Elliott. I regret for the sake of the Senate that it has been introduced. Unfortunately I cannot address my words to Senator H. E. Elliott himself because, after getting all the publicity he sought, he has left the chamber without thought for the damage he has done to the people to whom he referred or the pain he has caused to honorable senators. If the matter was as important as the honorable senator made it out to be, the least he could have done was to be courteous enough to remain until the Leader of the Senate had an opportunity to reply. I hope when he reads Hansard he will note my remarks and determine in future to sacrifice his own personal interests by remaining here, instead of hurrying away after making an attack on the personal reputation of others. Last night I referred to the minority of honorable senators of the Opposition. The majority of the Opposition, I am pleased to say, are “ playing cricket.-“ They are treating the issues that arise with the serious consideration that they merit, and I can have no cause for complaint at their attitude. My complaint is against one or two who seem to pay very little attention to their political duties, but are pleased to stir up mud and give rise to the unfortunate spectacle we have had to-night of an honorable senator being frequently called to order. In the present position of the Commonwealth our task is a big one. Instead of filling the columns of the press with matter? of no real moment to the nation, I hope honorable senators will concentrate upon the business of the Senate. To-night we had the sorry spectacle of the honorable senator who has provoked this discussion, admitting that he had not had time to read the ordinance about which he was talking, although he had had plenty pf time to read Smith’s Weekly. I advise him to read the ordinances in future, because then he will be better able to decide whether newspaper statements even border on accuracy or not. I regret very much that the matter of the New Guinea Mining Ordinance has been raised here. I can say that it deals with an area not even within decent range of a mining lease held by a Minister of the Grown and cannot possibly affect the interests of any one connected with the administration in New Guinea. So far as the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) is concerned, I may state that he is not financially interested in New Guinea, not even to the extent of a half-penny. But Senator H. E. Elliott, instead of coming into my room and meeting the Ministers concerned, and having it out with them, has preferred under the cloak of privilege to gain a little cheap notoriety in the press. If honorable senators are not prepared to realize their own responsibilities I ask them, at least to have a little sympathy for the responsibilities of others.
As we are about to adjourn over the Easter vacation, I wish you, Mr. President, on behalf of the Senate, a very pleasant holiday.
– I thank the honorable senator.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 8.31 .p.m. till the 30th’ April st 3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 April 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19300410_senate_12_123/>.