12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Is it a fact that the Commonwealth conditions of tenders for public works have been amended by omitting therefrom the provision requiring preference in employment to returned soldiers for labour engaged on such work?
Is it a fact that provisions have been inserted in such conditions of tender requiring that labour shall be engaged through the Trades Hall or trades unions?
Is it a fact that a condition has also been inserted requiring that such labour shall be paid through the Trades Hall or trades unions ?
– As the honorable senator’s question relates to a matter of Government policy which is now under consideration, I must ask for notice of it.
– I give notice that I shall ask the question to-morrow.
– I should like the Leader of the Government in the Senate to say whether the Commonwealth Government has recommended to the Imperial Government an Australian citizen or a citizen of Great Britain for the office of Governor-General, and whether, if the Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Isaacs Isaacs, has been considered as one who is suitable for the office, the Senate may be assured that his dissenting judgment in the recent coal case will not count against him?
– As matters affecting the exercise of His Majesty’s discretion should not form the subject of questions in any of His Majesty’s Parliaments, I do not propose to answer the honorable senator’s question.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs state when Parliament will be given an opportunity to discuss and consider the tariff schedules tabled in the House of Representatives in November and December last?
– The opportunity will be afforded at the earliest possible moment.
Statement by Mr. W. M. Hughes.
– As the honorable senator informed me of his intention to ask a question of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition, I have had an opportunity to look into the possibility of its being asked without any infringement of the rules of procedure or the Standing Orders relating to questions. As Leader of the Opposition in the Senate the right honorable senator is in charge of many matters, and my ruling is that, therefore, a question may be submitted to him.
– In Sydney at the end of last week, the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes made the following statement: -
If Bruce had come back with the abolition of the Federal Arbitration Court, the White Australia would have gone too. They would not have stopped at anything.
I desire to ask the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition whether the Bruce-Page Cabinet, of which he wasa member, at any time discussed such a question - whether there was in the mind of any member of the Bruce Page Cabinet any suggestion that would give rise to the statement made by Mr. Hughes?
Senator SIR GEORGE PEARCE.The allegation contained in the statement by the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes is absolutely untrue and uncalled for. There is not the slightest basis or scintilla of truth in it.
– I should like to ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister, the following question, without notice -
– The portion of the honorable senator’s question which was audible to me has no relevancy to any matter over which this Parliament has control, and it is therefore covered by the ruling of the President that the object of asking questions is to elicit information.
– I give notice of my question for to-morrow.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether, in view of the Prime Minister’s statement that he regarded the triumph of Labour in South Australia as a vindication and endorsement of the Government’s fiscal policy, he regards the defeat of Labour in Western Australia as a condemnation of that policy, and, if so, whether he will shape the policy of his Government to suit the needs of Western Australia according to the latest opinion expressed there?
– For the convenience of honorable senators I shall advise the Prime Minister to publish the ruling given by the President relating to questions.
– As the Leader of the Government in the Senate seems to have slightly misunderstood my question, I give notice that I shall ask it again to-morrow.
Motion (by Senator Carroll) agreed to-
That three months’ leave of absence be granted to Senator R. D. Elliott on account of urgent private business.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– Owing to the absence of the Minister for Health (Mr. Anstey), I have been unable to obtain the information asked for,, but I shall endeavour to supply it as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– I .regret that I have not the information to-day, but I hope to be able to furnish the honorable senator with a reply to his question tomorrow.
The following papers were presented : -
Export Guarantee Act - Return showing assistance granted - To 31st March, 1930.
New Guinea Act - Ordinance No. 10 of 1930 - Mining (No. 2) - (in substitution for that tabled in the Senate on 12th March, 1930).
Spirits Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 35.
Treaty of Peace (Germany) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930,’No. 31).
Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation
Act - Regulations amended - Statutory
Rules 1030, No. 40.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at
Fitzroy, Victoria - For Commonwealth
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 25 -No. 27- No. 28.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Australian Industries Preservation Bill. Land Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2).
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator
Daly) read a first time.
Message received from House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in this bill.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.16]. - I move -
That Ordinance No. 4 of 1930, Advisory Council, made under the Seat of Government Acceptance Act, and the Seat of Government (Administration) Act, be disallowed.
I desire at the outset to affirm that my action in submitting this motion is of an entirely non-party character, so far as members of the Senate other than Government supporters are concerned. This ordinance has not been discussed in the Nationalist party room, nor have I asked any honorable senator sitting on this side of the chamber to support the motion. I do not know whether there is a majority of honorable senators in favour of the disallowance of the ordinance or not; I am following this course entirely of my own volition. I am quite within my rights in doing so, but I think that it is fitting that I should make this explanation, because it might otherwise be assumed that I have tabled this motion as Leader of the Opposition, when, in fact, I am acting merely as a private member. I think that the- Senate has some cause of complaint against the Government, owing to the procedure it proposed to adopt in regard to this ordinance. In the first place, the ordinance was not brought before the Senate until almost the last minute of the day on which we were to rise, and it was announced subsequently in the press that the arrangements for the election of the council had so far proceeded that it would have taken place, I understand, on Saturday next, the 3rd May. Thus the Senate was to be deprived, practically, of any opportunity to register its opinion regarding the ordinance. However, I had been watching for an opportunity to bring the matter under the Senate’s notice, and, by the courtesy of the Senate alone, I was able to give notice of the present motion, although the ordinary time for giving such notice had passed. Had it not been for the consideration extended to me, apparently the Government would have gone on with the election, and would have practically deprived the Senate of any opportunity to express its opinion concerning the ordinance. The Assistant
Minister representing the Minister for Works took occasion some time ago to review what were alleged to be my motives in giving notice of this motion, and he justified the proposed action of the Government on the ground that a previous Ministry, of which I was a member, had appointed an Advisory Council for North Australia. It was said that this proposal was on somewhat similar lines. It is not. It is true that there is an advisory council for North Australia; but it consists of elected members. There is no analogy between the Federal Capital Territory and North and Central Australia, excepting that they are all territories of the Commonwealth. North and Central Australia are represented in this Parliament by a m’ember who has a voice, but no vote, in the House of Representatives. It will be seen therefore, that the residents of those territories have a means of expressing their views which the people of the Federal Capital Territory have not.
It might be well if I were to meet in anticipation the gibe, which has already appeared in the press, that because I was a member of a previous Government which did not give effect to the views which I now urge on the present Government, my hands should be tied and my mouth sealed. It is said that if I had had any opinion regarding the control of the Federal Capital Territory I should have given effect to it then, and that because, as a .member of the late Government, I was not successful in giving effect to my view, I must henceforth have no opinion of my own. I refuse to be bound in that way. Honorable senators should know what is meant by cabinet solidarity. A member of a cabinet must abide by, and, indeed, accept responsibility for, whatever cabinet does. But once the cabinet of which he is a member has been dissolved, he should be free to take whatever course he thinks fit in connexion with any matter that might arise.. To say otherwise would be to say that any honorable senator having once become a member of the Cabinet shall not only be bound while he is a member of the Cabinet, but that for ever afterwards his actions and votes must be governed by what that Cabinet did. I refuse to be so bound. If, however, there remains anything in the contention that I should be bound by what the late Government did, I meet it now by saying that the view I hold to-day and am now about to express is the view that I have held all along.
There are two activities in the government of this Territory. There is, first, the national activity associated with the establishment of a federal capital. That activity has caused the expenditure of large sums of money for the erection of Parliament House and public offices, the removal of public servants from Melbourne to Canberra, as well as in the laying out of the city to make it suitable for a national capital. Those activities are national in their scope, and are not concerned with the people who happen to be living in the Capital. They are the concern of the people of Australia as a whole. There is abo the fact that there are some thousands of people who, either compulsorily, or of their own volition, have made their homes in Canberra, and have to live in the Federal Capital under the conditions which exist here. They have come from localities in Australia where they have been used to certain privileges, not only in connexion with parliamentary representation - both Commonwealth and State - but also in connexion with local government. They have been accustomed to having a voice and a vote in local affairs. It cannot be denied that in the Federal Capital Territory there are many activities of a purely local character - activities similar to those of, say, the cities of Melbourne and Syd-ney, or ‘ any of their suburbs. Those activities are merely incidental to the national undertaking of the establishment of a federal capital. .During the years that have elapsed since the Federal Capital was established in Canberra, there has developed more or less dissatisfaction and bad feeling between the local residents and the Government of the day irrespective of its political nature. That dissatisfaction is likely to continue. If honorable members will trace, as I have had occasion to trace, the causes of that dissatisfaction, they will find that in nearly every case it is due, not to national activities in the Federal Capital or to those bigger things that are done in the name and for
Senator Sir George Pearce. the benefit of the nation, but to those matters of local concern which in other parts of Australia are dealt with by some form of local government. There was another matter which at one time caused a great deal of dissatisfaction, but which now, I believe, has been satisfactorily adjusted. I refer to the higher cost of living here compared with that of the city from which most; of the public servants, now in Canberra, were transferred. As that disability was caused by the establishment of the Federal Capital here and was national in character it was met by a cost of living allowance. Apart from that one source of dissatisfaction, it is safe to say that the discontent which still exists has its origin in purely local matters. It should be the desire of every honorable senator to soc. not only that we establish a capital which shall be worthy of Australia, but that the people who live in it shall be happy and contented in their surroundings. If the causes of their discontent can be removed without loss to the community, or danger to our national aspirations as typified by this, national city, they ought to be removed. In an endeavour to remove them the late Government brought forward a scheme for the residents of the Federal Capital Territory to elect a representative on the Federal Capital Commission, but this, instead of removing grievances, stimulated them ; instead of making things better, it made then worse. The elected representatives felt it to be their duty to protest against almost everything done by the Commission. It cannot be said that the election of a third commissioner did anything at all to allay the bad feeling, or to remove the discontent felt by the local residents. It is useless in this connexion to blame the individuals who have acted as Third Commissioner. The first elected representative of the people of the territory was Dr. Watson, who immediately on his election adopted the role of a critic. He retired from office, and in his place Dr. Alcorn was elected. He, too, adopted the role of a critic. The system, not the individual, was at fault. The system failed to accomplish what was expected of it. I have come to the conclusion that the time has arrived when we should separate the national undertaking of the establishment of a Federal Capital from the municipal government of Canberra. If the Government were alive to its own interests it would take this opportunity to-make that division. I am not at the moment concerned whether the national activities are carried out by government departments, or by a commission, although I am of the opinion that before many months have passed the Government will be sorry that it. lias placed under departmental control much, that relates to the Federal Capital Territory. I am convinced that the municipal activities of Canberra must be handled as they are handled in every other part of Australia - by a responsible elected council of local residents, who should have full powers of administration in regard to such matters. TI i ore is one qualification that I wish to make in this respect. Any municipality in Australia with a population similar to that of Canberra has to raise all thi; revenue necessary to meet the cost of local government. In some States I believe it has been customary to grant a subsidy to municipalities, but I do not know if that is still done. If it is, the amount is not substantial, and in many cases the payment of subsidies has ceased. Generally speaking, municipalities with a population similar to that of Canberra have to raise all the revenue necessary for the municipal government of the town. I recognize, however, that that could not be done in Canberra, for the simple reason that, although we have a population of about 8,000, there is no municipality with such a population anywhere in the Commonwealth that is laid out on the same elaborate scale as is Canberra. No municipality is aspiring to be a future Federal Capital. It would be a fatal blunder to deal with the lay-out and growth of this city as if it were an ordinary township with a population of 5,000 to 8,000 people. We have to look ahead, because we hope the day will come when the population of the Commonwealth will be much larger than it is today, and when the number of residents in Canberra will be much greater than it now is. We have to look 100 years ahead in building a Federal Capital. In these circumstances, there has to be an adjustment in the division of the responsibilities between the nation and the local inhabitants. Some financial allowance will have to be made in the case of Canberra because of the heavy responsibilities placed upon the people in regard to municipal matters, the carrying out of which has been made costly by the elaborate plan upon which Canberra is being built. That, however, I submit is a matter capable of easy adjustment. The method of adjustment I suggest is that the Government should select, say, half a dozen municipalities in the different States with a population equal to that of Canberra, ascertain their cost of municipal government, and then lay it down that the residents of Canberra shall be liable to raise revenue equal to that raised in municipalities of a similar size.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That would have to be inquired into, but it is not incapable of adjustment. A small committee, consisting of an accountant and some persons versed in local government, could recommend a basis of adjustment that would be fair to the residents of Canberra and to the nation. That, to my mind, is not an insuperable objection.
My first criticism concerning this ordinance is that it is neither fish, flesh, nor good red herring. It sets up an advisory council to consist of the Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs, the Director-General of Health, the Secretary for the Department of Works and Railways, a civic administrator, and three residents of the Territory to be duly elected. The proposed Advisory Council is to consist of four public servants and three residents of the Territory. What are their duties? The Civic Administrator is to be chairman.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes. Clause 12 of the ordinance reads -
The Council may advise the Minister in relation to any matter affecting the Territory, including the making of new ordinances or the repeal or amendment of existing ordinances.
The council may advise the Minister in relation to “ any matter affecting the Territory.” Why should the local residents have any voice in advising the Minister on national matters which are the responsibility of the nation? The planning of the capital and the carrying out of that plan has nothing to do with the residents of Canberra. They were not responsible for the establishment of the Federal Capital. No responsibility is resting upon them in that respect. Why should they have any voice in the matter . with which they are not concerned? The development of the Federal Capital is the responsibility of the whole of the people of Australia. Yet the Government proposes to give to four public servants and three local residents of Canberra the right to advise the Minister on these matters. What on earth have they to do with the development of Canberra? They have no more to do with these matters than any three residents of Perth or of Hobart. These are national ‘matters and are of no more concern to them than they are to the rest of the people of the Commonwealth. There is to be no restriction as to the matters upon which they can advise the Minister.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Clause 12.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes, for the co-operation of experts, but the council will have the right to deal with any matter. Are the three elected representatives of the council to have a voice in the construction of, say, a permanent Parliament House? What has that to do with them ? Are these three elected representatives to be given the right to express their opinions on whether the Department for Defence should be transferred to Canberra? What has it to do with them ? Nothing at all.
Senator Dunn. A revolutionary proposal !
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Because it is not their job, and it is not right that public officials should be appointed.
If the Government wished to give the citizens of Canberra a real form of. selfgovernment a proposal on entirely different lines should have been brought down. The people should not have been humbugged in this way. They may think that they are going to get something out of this form of local government but before three or four months have elapsed they will realize that they are not. Why then go through this farce of laying an ordinance and regulations under it on the table for the election of three representatives of the people, and making provision for postal and absent voting and all the paraphernalia of a general election of the Federal Parliament? Recently, the Leader of the Senate gave expression to a pious hope with regard to regulations. Apparently he has not made a very good start, for while this ordinance occupies only three pages of foolscap, there are about a dozen pages of regulations for the election of a body which, as I have shown, will be impotent and will prove to be but another source of irritation to the people of Canberra.
I turn now from a review of the ordinance to direct the attention of honorable senators to the opinion of a man who should be competent to advise in this matter. I refer to Sir John Butters, who was for some years Chief Commissioner. He saw this young city through its teething troubles, and when he retired from his position he was thoroughly conversant with all its vexing problems. His views are to be found in the fifth annual report of the Federal Capital Commission, for the year ended 30th June, 1929. Sir John Butters was then retiring from the office of Chief Commissioner and therefore, was at liberty to state his views based on actual experience over a term of several years. On page 17 of the report dealing with the form of local government which he thinks should be established for the future government of the city, he states -
The result of my experience, and the impressions which I have formed during the last live years with regard to the Government of of the Federal Capital Territory, may be of value.
Iam convinced that the most satisfactory procedure would have been to have continued the original Commission form of government.
He then goes on to state -
The municipal side of the Commission’s activities form a small part of its everyday work, and obviously its general activities could not be made subsidiary to the smaller, but troublesome, points associated with local government. My knowledge of the condition of affairs under dual control during preCommission days, combined with my experience since, has led me to the conclusion that it would be nothing less than a tragedy to subdivide the activities of the Commission and distribute them among two or more Departments -
He is here dealing with the subdivision of the developmental work among the departments in Canberra -
Should such a proposal be carried into effect it will certainly be disastrous, just as it was in Washington many years ago. I am certain that it is essential at this stage of the city’s development to retain one centralized administration for the Territory. On the other hand, it must be recognized that the reponsibilities carried by the present Commission are far greater and more varied than have ever been attempted in any other city in the world. As I have said elsewhere, the Commission has had to assume responsibility for the control of every public utility, is ground landlord, house landlord, publican, education and hospital authority, and, in fact, has had to deal with everything from the maternity home to the cemetery, and some subdivision is in my opinion essential. Coupled with this there is the fact that the Canberra resident is suffering a serious feeling of “ disenfranchisement “ and the agitation in this direction has been allowed to proceed too far to stop now. I haveon numerous occasions attempted to draw a dividing line between construction and maintenance in the hope that some economical way could be found by which utilities on completion could be handed overon bloc to some other authority, but I have been unable to see a solution; on the contrary, greatly increased expense and difficulty has become obvious. The close co-ordination of land development, constructional activity and city economics is so essential as not to need emphasis. There are three paramount and distinct interests which suggest a solution of this problem -
General Administration and the construction of Federal Government buildings and works ;
The essential control of city design and development, and
He recommends further -
That a local territorial or municipal council be established and that the following activities be handed over to it forthwith: - All recreational facilities, public halls, public health, the hospital, milk control, the cemetery, the slaughter house, social service activities, the bus service, the fire brigade.
Consideration might also.be given as to whether the time has arrived when the responsibility for primary and seconda ryeducation might be handed over to such a body.
It is then suggested that as the final transfer is approaching completion consideration be given to establishing an organization by which the maintenance of all engineering services be handed over to the local governing authority to operate on the completion of the work, it being borne in mind that at this stage major constructional activities in these lines will be approaching completion.
This proposal will involve some measureof control over the budget of the local governing authority, but this should be capable of solution.
It is not considered possible to handover to this body the responsibility of the management on behalf of the Commonwealth of the large investment in property such as land, houses, &c. It is suggested that provision be made by which all Ordinances, by-laws and regulations in connexion with the Territory be subject to consideration and criticism of this local governing authority before they become law.
I feel that such a scheme would provide a satisfactory solution of this problem; that it is capable of progressive development as the local governing authority gains experience and proves itself capable of carrying its responsibilities, whilst it runs no ‘risk of involving Canberra in the disastrous experience which occurred to the city of Washington in its earlier history, and I commend it to your consideration.
It may be thought that many of the matters which could be controlled by a local governing body in Canberra are of little importance, but let us consider what they are. One is the control of recreation facilities, which involves the control of all recreation grounds. I happen to know that there has been continual friction between sporting bodies in Canberra and the Federal Capital Commission. It is quite possible that the Commission has always been right and that the sporting bodies have always been wrong. I am not saying who was right or who was wrong, but is it not obvious that the local bodies know best what they want and what will best suit their purpose? Is there any body more fitted to control the recreation of the people of Canberra than the people of Canberra themselves? And if they were given that control is it not equally obvious that they would carry it out as successfully as it has been carried out by local residents in every other town in Australia? Recreation is one of the things that affect the daily life of the people of the capital, but to-day they have no voice in the control of their recreation grounds, and under the advisory council system they will still have no voice in that regard. Their representatives may advise and if they can get the four public servants to agree with them, may get the approval of the Minister to a resolution, but under my proposal, the obligation to control recreation matters would be imposed upon the people themselves and a lot of grumbling would be avoided. At any rate, if there were any grumbling it would be at the representatives of the people themselves and the people themselves would have full power to rectify any matter which became the subject of complaint. Public halls are also part of the recreation facilities of the people, but the people have no voice in regard to them.
The same remarks apply to public health matters. The ramifications of health intimately affect the daily life and well-being of every man, woman and child in Canberra. Why should it be thought that health matters in Canberra can be dealt with only by a Government department or a Government committee? Surely it is within the competence and rights of the people of this city to control such’ matters themselves, as they are handled in every other part of Australia, even down to the smallest roads board. We know that in all the cities of Australia of any size there is a hospital board. These boards usually consist partly of Government nominees and partly of members elected by subscribers and they do valuable work; but in Canberra no resident has any voice in the control of the hospital. If he were in any other part of Australia he could take an active interest in the affairs of the local hospital and there are many self-sacrificing men and women who devote a g6od deal of their time to hospital management, to the infinite satisfaction of the people and with great benefit to the institutions themselves. Other health matters affecting the daily life of the community, such as milk supply, cemeteries and slaughter houses, are controlled in every other part of Australia by local authorities. Social service activities, transport, fire brigade and such like matters also affect the daily life of the people and the people themselves should be consulted about them. They should have not an advisory, but a controlling voice in regard to them.
If the people of Canberra were given full control in the matters I have enumerated, a budget could be arranged with the Government which would provide that the rates upon the people of Canberra should be as high as, but not higher, than rates paid by people in towns of similar size throughout the Commonwealth. The people of Canberra would thus not escape their just obligations, but the greater expense which is involved in the maintenance of Canberra by reason of its being the Federal Capital, and by reason of its wide-flung lay-out would be borne by the people of Australia who have created it. Things which have been festering in Canberra for years, irritating and interfering with the happiness and contentment of the people would disappear. The people themselves would feel that whatever was happening to cause irritation was the result of their own fault or folly and that they had means of rectifying it. Criticism would cease to be directed at the Government, the Parliament, or the department. It would fall solely upon the local council.
In every part of Australia there are persons with sufficient civic pride to come forward to represent their fellows on municipal councils, and I am sure that there are in Canberra persons who have been here long enough to have a civic pride in their city. There is, however, no way in which they can express it ; there is no service they can render except perhaps under this hollow proposal for an advisory council on which they will find they are wasting their time without being able to accomplish anything.
The Government has an opportunity to do something practicable to solve the problem of the administration of Canberra. Let it give a trial to local government. If it does so, I venture to predict that the people of Canberra, will respond by showing that they are just as public spirited and as earnest as are people in other towns of similar size throughout the Commonwealth. It would not be a costly experiment, not so costly, I venture to say, as the proposed advisory council. In every other part of Australia, citizens are content to serve on municipal councils without financial reward. Here it is proposed to pay the members of the advisory council £100 a year and to create expensive machinery to hold an annual election. An election once in three years is all that is necessary for ft municipal council. I venture to say that the desire to be associated with the first municipal council for the Seat of the Federal Government would bring forward a class of men who would make a success of municipal government in Canberra. Could there be any pride in being associated with the proposed advisory council which will have no executive power; whose members will be tongue-tied ; and which cannot express itself by resolution unless it has the approval of a Minister? The representatives of the citizens on the ‘advisory council may adopt the role of Dr. Watson or Dr. Alcorn; they may voice their protests individually and may have the satisfaction of seeing them appear in the local newspaper; they may criticize, but they could never do anything of a constructive nature. On the other hand, a municipal council, I suggest, could do constructive work. The average Britisher does not want to waste his time on a board or advisory council which can simply carry resolutions and do nothing. He wants to see some practical result from his labours.
Education is a very serious matter to the residents of Canberra. There are many persons here whose salaries, if they were living elsewhere, would enable them to provide their children with a university education. The late Government did something in the direction of establishing university classes, and I understand that the idea has been carried on by the present Government. But education, primary, secondary, university or technical, affects the family life, and in every State of Australia, men and women come forward eagerly to serve on school committees, university senates, and technical school boards, in order to help these various systems of education. No such scope is afforded to the people of Canberra. They will not have it under the advisory council.
I ask the Government not to take my motion as hostile. I have seen it stated in the press that some residents of Canberra at a meeting have said that my motion is intended as a rebuff to the Government. It is not intended to be anything of the sort. I assure the Government that my action is a friendly one. I am acting in the sincere belief that the Government, in the course it is proposing to take, is likely to open up another chapter of bickering and discontent and of trouble for itself, whereas it has the opportunity to do something practical which will gi-ve satisfaction and bring contentment to the people of Canberra. I ask Ministers to try the experiment of trusting the people of Canberra to govern themselves in regard to local municipal matters.
– I accept the assurance of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce) that he has launched his motion without any hostility to the Government, and solely in an honest endeavour to bring about what he thinks would be a more satisfactory method of governing the Territory for the Seat of Government. I agree with him that it is not a party matter. I think it will be understood by every honorable senator that the Government in its endeavour to arrive at a method of control for the Territory, which will prove satisfactory not only to the residents of the Territory but also to the rest of the people of Australia, is, to a certain extent, obliged to experiment. The development of Canberra has taken place on different lines from those on which other cities in Australia have grown. It cannot be claimed by the residents that this Parliament is concerning itself with their “parish pump “ affairs. The Government is endeavouring to build a city that will conform with the ideals of the nation, and, therefore, Canberra affairs concern the nation as a whole rather than the fortunate or unfortunate few who have their habitation here.
In selecting a form of local government suitable for the Territory, the Government was guided to an extent by what has been done in the administration of other territories that could not be governed in the ordinary way. The present ordinance is framed largely on the lines adopted by previous govern.ments for the administration of other territories. The council will be elected by a method similar to that employed under the Northern Territory (Administration) Act. That measure was introduced by the present Leader of the Opposition, and the representation provided under it was an advisory council consisting of the Government Resident, two nominated members and two elected members, making three Government representatives and two non-Government representatives. The Advisory Council of the Federal Capital will consist of four Government representatives and three non-Government representatives. While there may be some ground for the argument advanced by the right honorable gentleman that the whole of the members of the council might well be elected by the residents of Canberra, and that governmental functions might be separated from purely civic functions, I suggest that it would be extremely difficult to separate those functions in a city such as Canberra. It might be possible, by some miraculous process, to govern the Territory in that way, and to assess the amount of taxation that the residents should pay; but I think that it would be extremely difficult to arrive at any satisfactory arrangement of that nature. It has been said in the Senate before, and there can be no dispute about it, that the residents of the Federal Capital Territory contribute about 6 per cent of the money expended -in the Territory, while the remaining 94 per cent, is found by the people of the rest of Australia. The Government claims that under the present ordinance the residents will be amply represented. They will have the right to elect three representatives of their own choice, and the three representatives of Government departments, as well as the chairman, will also be residents of Canberra. Therefore, the residents will have a controlling voice in the decisions of the council, because all its members will be citizens of the Territory. The council will have no responsibility in finding the money required for the services of the Territory; that is a matter concerning the people of Australia.
I am not aware of any strong public opinion among the residents of Canberra in opposition to this ordinance. I noticed, in a press report, that a public meeting, summoned to consider the ordinance, was attended by only nineteen persons, of whom eleven were candidates for the three positions as representatives of the citizens. One would have thought that, if the residents regarded the ordinance as unsatisfactory, they would have attended to express their opinions concerning it. Nobody questions their right to voice their views as citizens, and any expression of opinion by them would have been accepted by the Government in good faith, just as it welcomes the opinions expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce). The Government claims credit for the best of intentions in drawing up the ordinance for the government of the Territory. It is making an honest attempt to provide a satisfactory system of local government. The scheme that it has propounded is not unalterable.
Under clause 12 of the ordinance, the council has the right to make recommendations for the alteration of regulations where thought desirable. It was claimed by the Leader of the Opposition, and most unfairly - although I do not think that the right honorable gentleman intended to be unfair - that the heads of departments who would be appointed to the council would be influenced entirely by the wishes of their Ministers, but the position undoubtedly is that they would be absolutely as free to express their opinions on matters engaging the attention of the council as if they had been elected by the residents. The proposed form of local government is largely an experiment. In all probability the Government will amend it from time to time, on the advice of the Advisory Council, in order to remedy any defects that may be discovered; but at least we are making an honest beginning in giving effect to the legitimate claim of the residents for a voice in the administration of local affairs. Parliament is called upon to control the expenditure in Canberra in the interests of the people of the whole of Australia. The taxpayers of “Western Australia will hold the Leader of the Opposition responsible for seeing that the national purse is not unduly drained in providing for expenditure in Canberra. The Government is making at least a reasonable effort to give practical effect to a scheme that will enable the residents to keep closely in touch with the affairs of the government in the Territory. We do not claim that this ordinance provides a perfect piece of machinery, hut it gives the residents representation that we hope will be satisfactory to them. It is an experiment, and, as I have already said, alterations can be made from time to time at the will of the residents, subject to the approval of Parliament. I hope that the Senate will not disallow the ordinance. Unfortunately, it was laid on the table under circumstances that have occasionedunfavorable comment by the Leader of the Opposition ; but I think that he needs no assurance from me that there was no desire to be disrespectful to the Senate, to the Opposition, or to anybody else. The Government was anxious to give effect to the ordinance at the earliest possible moment, and, if the Easter holidays had not intervened, the ordinance would have been open for dis cussion on the day after it was tabled Since acceptance of the ordinance would place the residents under no disability the system of government for which it provides should at least be given a trial Whatever alterations may be found desir able or necessary as a result of our experience can be made from time to time as the necessity arises. I hope that the Senate will not. disallow the ordinance.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [4.20]. - I do not desire to give a silent vote on this motion, There are two methods by which - the Federal Capital Territory can be governed. There is, first, the method which I believe to be the correct one - government by an act of Parliament. So far this Parliament has not found time to pass an act for the control of the Federal Capital. If governed by an act of Parliament, honorable members of both Houses would have an opportunity to express their opinions regarding the details of control, and to make the machinery as perfect as possible. The other method is that which successive governments, with the concurrence of Parliament, have adopted - government by ordinance. The attitude I take up is that, so long as the proposed ordinance is in accordance with the principles of the act under which it is made, I should not raise any objection to it. When the method of control is government by ordinance, it is quite impracticable for Parliament to deal with the details of every ordinance that is made. A few weeks ago I moved to disallow an ordinance made by a previous government, because, in my opinion, it conflicted with the principle of the act under which it was made in that it gave power to make regulations which would go behind the back of Parliament. This ordinance has a similar provision in regard to the making of regulations; but it also provides that all regulations shall be submitted to Parliament. I can find nothing in this ordinance which goes outside the principles of the act under which it was made. Are we to examine the details of the various systems in order to decide which is the best after we have admitted the principle that the government of the Territory should be by ordinance?
I do not intend to say much in regard to the machinery proposed to be set up by the Government - time will prove whether it is good or bad - but I consider it. to be a reasonable procedure in accordance with the act. Senator Pearce underestimates the character and standing of responsible public servants.I have had no experience of the Commonwealth public servants, but I have had a long and extensive experience of State public servants, and I say without hesitation or fear of contradiction that I have never found one highly placed public servant who, while loyally carrying out the decisions of the Government, or of Ministers, would hesitate to place before his Minister his honest opinion, even if he knew that it would not be acceptable to the Minister.
– But he would allow his Minister to lay down the policy to be followed.
– I feel confident that any highly placed public servant who may be a member of the Advisory Council will decide the various questions that will come before him in accordance with his honest convictions. I do not believe that, in tendering advice to his Ministerhe will be influenced by any knowledge, or assumption, of the advice the Minister desires to receive. In saying thisI am not defending the system proposed, or saying that it will work perfectly, but I think that Senator Pearce places too low an estimate on the character of highly-placed public servants when he says that they will give the Minister the advice he desires.I do not believe that men of that character rise to the highest positions in the Commonwealth Public Service. Certainly they do not do so in the State Public Service. I speak as one who has had seven years’ experience as a State Minister. I have never met a highlyplaced public servant who would not offer his Minister the benefit of his honest opinion.
In the control of the Federal Capital Territory various methods have been followed. First, we had control by a commission. I say without hesitation that that was an outrageously costly method, which saddled the people of Australia withan enormous financial burden. Then we had a mixed commission, which Senator Pearce says was a failure. Now we are to have a form of ministerial control with advice from officials and citizens. Instead of being governed by ordinances, Canberra should begoverned by an act of Parliament. I hope that before long the Government will give Parliament an. opportunity to consider a bill for the proper control of the Federal Capital Territory. I agree with the Minister that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to divide national from purely local matters in the government of Canberra. The provision of roads, footpaths, lighting, drainage, public health and other utilities are partly national and partly local, and I do not see how they can be divided. 1 believe the late Chief Commissioner, Sir John Butters, made some suggestion as to how these functions could be divided; but I have yet to be convinced that the division he proposed would prove practicable or satisfactory. It must be remembered, moreover, that Sir. John Butters put forward that proposal only as an alternative. His idea was that the commission form of control should be continued. He made what to me appeared a curious remark when he said that we must be careful to avoid repeating the disastrous experience of the City of Washington in the United States of America. The people of Australia are alive to the fact that, in avoiding the experiences of Washington, we have engaged in a far more disastrous experiment because of the way we have begun the building of the City of Canberra. Honorable senators are familiar with the history of Washington, and I shall therefore not relate it here. Washington was allowed to grow in its own way, with a minimum of capital expenditure and overhead expenses. Difficulties were met as they arose. Nearly a century later, when the population had increased and the city had developed, the people of the United States of America set about making their capital worthy of their great country. They went back to the original plan of L’Enfant. They appointed a commission which roved all over the world and examined the best examples of civic art. Instead of the experience of Washington being disastrous, the method by which that city was allowed to develop saved the people of the United States of America a huge capital outlay in its early days. We, in Australia, have adopted the opposite course. We have begun by planning for a city of 40,000 inhabitants, whereas, as yet it contains less than S,000 persons. Many years are likely to elapse before full use is made of the facilities provided. The enormous capital expenditure in Canberra is a heavy burden on the .taxpayers of Australia. Every twelve years the interest on the capital expenditure equals the capital cost. Time will prove that the method adopted by the American people was far from being disastrous.
The late Government acted on the principle that the appointment of commissions relieved it of a great deal of trouble and responsibility. The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) said that the present Government would be sorry that it departed from that principle. I believe that he was right, and that the Government will, indeed be sorry. But I do not think that this Parliament, or the country as a whole, will be sorry that there has been a different method of control of the affairs of Canberra. The old method was bad, and while I have not a great deal of confidence in the method now proposed, I do say that until Parliament is prepared to pass an act for the proper control of the Federal Capital, it is futile for us to concern ourselves with the details of an ordinance. I shall vote against the motion.
– During the Easter vacation the Sydney press contained a statement that Senator Pearce would throw down the gage of battle in connexion with this ordinance; that the fate of the Federal Government would be decided in connexion with a matter of local policy - the provision of roads and guttering in Canberra. I remind honorable senators that before we adjourned before Easter the right honorable gentleman, in a doleful speech, complained that the time of this National Parliament was likely to be wasted in dealing with matters of purely local concern. It is true that the Government proposes to govern the Federal Capital Terri tory by means of ordinances, but only for a’ time, for later it proposes to introduce legislation to give complete control of local affairs to the residents of Canberra. The ordinance provides that there shall be an Advisory Council for the Territory, comprising the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, the DirectorGeneral of Health, the Secretary of the Department of Works and Railways, the Civic Administrator and three residents of the Territory, who shall be elected for a period of twelve months and be eligible for re-election. One wonders whether the opposition of Senator Pearce to the Government’s proposal is based on his knowledge that among the residents of Canberra who are seeking election to the Advisory Council are three representatives of the Labour party. I should be sorry to think that that is his reason. At a later stage something may be done in the direction of introducing some form of municipal government in the Federal Capital. I do not know whether this matter was ever discussed at caucus meetings ‘ of the Nationalist party, or at Cabinet meetings when the late Government was in power, but it is amusing to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) who was a member of a government which was in office for six years, now suggesting that this Administration, which has been in power for only about seven months, should do that which the Ministry of which he was a member failed to do. The right honorable gentleman who has brought this ordinance prominently before the press of this country, and particularly the Canberra Times, now suggests he had no intention of making it a party matter; but the whole of his speech was delivered in a party spirit. I agree with the views expressed by Senator Colebatch, who has said the responsibility will rest upon trusted public servants, and that the. Government is taking a step in the right direction. Conditions in Canberra have changed since Sir John Butters occupied the position of Chief Commissioner, when he expected every one to jump when he cracked the whip. The people of Canberra have had two different elected representatives, but the Commission form of Government has proved wholly unsatisfactory. There should be no reasonable objection to the ordinance. The administration of the Federal Capital will be in the hands of trusted public servants who, with the assistance of the elected representatives, will be capable of tendering such advice to the Minister as will assist the satisfactory development of the Federal Capital. I oppose the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposion.
– I cannot agree with the contention of Senator Colebatch who, in effect, said that an ordinance made pursuant to a statute should not be open to criticism. It is a’ function of this chamber and of another place to closely study ordinances, and, if they contain provisions which are not in the best interests of the country, to move that they be disallowed. While I realize that the Government is confronted with a difficult problem, and one which will cause it a great deal of anxiety, I feel that the method adopted in this instance to meet the wishes of the Canberra residents is mere “ eyewash “. There is not one provision in the ordinance which gives the citizens of Canberra any power whatever. The Government’s proposal in this instance is to set up an advisory council which will have power only to advise. If that is likely to make for the good government of Canberra suggestions made by any section of the people interested in the place would be of equal value. No one deprecates more than I the introduction into this Parliament of minor matters concerning the administration of Canberra, but the proposals of the Government in this instancewill not prevent a recurrence of what has happened in the past. As the policy of the four Government representatives on the council will, in some cases, be opposed to that of the elected representatives, the position will be much the same as itwas under commission control. Is the council to advise the Government in regard to national questions as well as with respect to matters of municipal concern? National activities should be covered by ordinance, leaving municipal matters to be handled in the manner suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce). The Honorary Minister (Sena tor Barnes) said that this ordinance is capable of amendment ; but we are dealing with the position confronting us to-day, and not with a situation that may arise in the future. Senator Dunn suggested that ultimately some form of municipal government may be provided for, but no such announcement was made by the Minister. This is an unfortunate attempt to overcome the difficulties which have been recurring for some time and concerning which we have heard so much in this chamber and in another place. The proposal does not contain anything likely to satisfy the residents of Canberra, who, we have been informed, have had to put up with a good deal of trouble and irritation. It will not be good for the country if the people of Australia think that the Government is not even capable of managing the Territory of the Seat of Government, when it is supposed to control the destinies of the nation. I am not concerned whether the halls referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) are under the control of the Government or a municipal council, but as buildings of that character were erected at the expense of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, I think they should be controlled by the Government. The Honorary Minister said that the ordinance would not have any detrimental effect upon the nation or upon the people of Canberra, but seeing that it is so framed that the Minister will have sole control, everything will depend upon the policy of the Minister. It is all moonshine to say that the people will secure some form of local control under this ordinance; they will not. I admit that the conditions which prevailed here during the late Government’s term of office, were not all that could be desired, but in view of altered circumstances and the development of the civic spirit amongst the people, there is now a good opportunity to introduce an entirely different form of control under which the residents of Canberra would have some effective voice in the management of the local affairs. I join with those who hope that the people of Canberra will realize their responsibilities and be able to manage their own affairs. The Government might well say to the people - “ We will entrust you with a measure of municipal control, and because of the lavish manner in which plans have been adopted for the development of the national capital, we will give you so much revenue towards the cost of upkeep.” But local control, 1 submit, is lacking in the scheme brought down by the Government. On the advisory council there will be three official representatives and the Civic Commissioner who, in addition to a deliberative, will have a casting vote on all matters that may come up for discussion. This may be all very well for the Minister controlling the department, but it is not acceptable to the people. Why should the Senate accept this hollow sham ? The measure of self-government proposed will simply delude the people into the belief that they are to have some form of civic control when actually they will not. This ordinance does not fulfil what I conceive to be the objective that the Government should have in view, namely the establishment of some form of municipal control for the people of Canberra. I shall, therefore, have no hesitation in voting for the motion to disallow it on the ground that it is simply an attempt to hoodwink the people. In saying this I do not wish to be offensive to the Minister. I am simply stating what I believe will be the effect of this proposal. The people of Canberra will be in exactly the same position as they would be if the Minister for Home Affairs exercised direct and complete control over the development of this delightful centre.
– One cannot cavil at the action of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) in submitting his motion, or object to anything which he said in support of it. He indicated at the outset that he hoped it would be discussed in a purely nonparty spirit and decided on its merits. I hope that will be done. In considering this matter, we should keep in mind the alternative to the scheme propounded by the Government in the ordinance which the Senate is now asked to disallow. The right honorable gentleman urged that some form of self-government should be given to the citizens of Canberra - that it should not be difficult to evolve a scheme under which a suitable measure of representation and self-government could be provided and, at the same time, adjust the financial obligations of the people of Canberra and the citizens of the Commonwealth. The Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes) in reply pointed out that the people of Canberra contributed approximately 6 per cent, of the revenue necessary for the development and maintenance of the Capital city and that the citizens of the Commonwealth were responsible for the balance.
– That percentage relates to the expenditure on the whole of the developmental activities.
– That is so. The small percentage of revenue contributed by the people of Canberra would not warrant a very great measure of representation in any scheme to control the whole of the activities mentioned. It is necessary to segregate the several activities and determine which are national and which are purely municipal in character. Only in this way will it be possible to determine the proportions of expenditure which should be borne respectively by the taxpayers of Australia and the people of Canberra. Because of the many obvious difficulties, I venture to say that when the time comes to determine these respective obligations and responsibilities, those, who attempt the task will suffer severely from headache and experience many misgivings. The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition suggested that the average expenditure of a number of towns of comparable size would be a fair basis for determining the liability to be borne by local residents. But Ave have to remember that very few country towns of the size of Canberra have the same public services such as lighting, roads, footpaths, sewerage and water supply. The financial provision for all those services is usually the sole responsibility of the local governing body, whereas in Canberra it is not.
– And in no other country town have the people to travel so far as in Canberra.
– I thank the honorable senator for his interjection. lt reminds me of yet another public service, the expenditure for which is provided by the nation. I refer to transport. Because this city, rightly or wrongly, is being developed to a plan the author of which visualized a city worthy to be the capital of a great nation, the residents of Canberra are called upon to travel great distances in the pursuit of their various avocations. Consequently the transport system is a charge upon the nation. Similarly with regard to water supply. In the State from which I and Senator McLachlan come, the provision of water services is’ almost entirely a State obligation. In South Australia there are only one or two local water trusts, and the people served by them are asking the State Government to take over the schemes. Generally speaking the whole of the water supply systems in South Australia, including those for the metropolitan area, are provided by the Hydraulic Engineer’s Department.
– Are those systems controlled by local authorities?
– No. Because of the conditions under which this city is being developed, the water supply system for Canberra must necessarily be a national responsibility. The same argument may be applied to roads. In most of the States, control of road construction and maintenance is falling more and more into the hands of national roads boards, or some other governmental body. No one will suggest that the residents of Canberra should be taxed on a scale sufficient to yield the necessary revenue to maintain the roads and footpaths in a manner required for the Capital city of the Commonwealth. For the same reason all of the major public services must necessarily be a charge on the public purse. Consequently, a local governing body in Canberra would be responsible only for minor services such as parks, recreation grounds, and so on. Are we justified in establishing a fully fledged municipality with officers, staff and all the paraphernalia of local government for the control of these minor services which, because they entail no heavy financial commitments, can be removed from the category of national works and included in the schedule of municipal undertakings?
On the other hand, if we adopt the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition, and authorize a scheme of complete municipal control, with a Commonwealth subsidy to make good a deficiency in revenue, we shall be perpetuating the undesirable system of expenditure without responsibility.
– I did not suggest that any of the services mentioned by the honorable senator should be under municipal control.
– Then where is the need for a municipality?
– Surely the responsible Minister would have the right of veto?
– I under.stood Senator McLachlan objected to that. I believe he argued that the proposed advisory council would be of no use to the citizens of Canberra because the Minister for Home Affairs would have the right to veto its decisions.
– No, this ordinance does not give the council any power; they do nothing.
– The advisory council may recommend that the Minister should do certain things and its power in that respect will be just as effective -as would be that of a municipal council subject to the right of veto by the Treasurer, whose responsibility it would be to provide the funds to enable the municipality to carry on. There is not. much difference in practice between the vetoing of ordinances, regulations or bylaws, and the preventing of certain things being done by refusing to provide the money. I have every sympathy with the people of Canberra. They are in a difficult position. The great majority of them have been brought here, as Senator Pearce rightly pointed out, from centres where they enjoyed all those amenities which he claimed they should enjoy here, but which are not within the realms of practical administration at the present time. The ordinance which the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition seeks to disallow is a step forward in so far as it gives the people in the Territory for the Seat of Government the right to elect their representatives to an advisory body which may from time to time bring under the notice of the Ministers in control of the Territory matters which they think should be dealt with in the interests of the citizens.
– How can they do that if they are over-ruled by a majority?
– I am not so fearful as are other honorable senators of this “ huge majority “ which the Government will have on the proposed advisory council. In any case, are they not residents of Canberra? Are they not men who live here side by side with those other citizens for whose interests honorable senators have suddenly become solicitous ? They will certainly be the responsible heads of public departments, but that, in my opinion, qualifies them all the more to sit on the advisory council and make recommendations to the Ministers’ as to the control of the city in which they and other citizens live. In the course of his remarks Senator Pearce endeavoured to make us believe that the advisory council may be found to be debating and making recommendations on all kinds of subjects, such, for instance, as the transfer of public departments to Canberra. I do not think the right honorable gentleman himself believes that it will do any such thing. If he peruses the parent act he will find that the council will not have power to make recommendations outside matters relating to the government of Canberra. I have not a very close knowledge of the history of Washington, but I remember having read that for about 70 years Washington was controlled by a municipal council and that this form of administration was replaced by commission control. If after 70 years of practical experience of municipal control it was found necessary in Washington to revert to commission control the Commonwealth Government is wise in hastening slowly to bring about complete municipal control in Canberra. Senator Colebatch made quite a good point, in my opinion, when he said that the proper course was for Parliament to allow this ordinance to go as other ordinances made under the Seat of Government Administration Act had been permitted to go; that we should give the new system a fair trial and take an early opportunity to consider a bill for the establishment of some form of proper control for the Territory. Although the late Govern ment was in office for 61/2 years it evidently had not sufficient time to give proper consideration to this problem. The present Government has only been in power for a very short period, yet it has made some improvement. I agree with Senator Colebatch that one of the matters to which the advisory council might well turn its attention is a scheme for the future control of the Territory which, while safeguarding the revenues of the nation, would at the same time establish a larger measure of contentment among the citizens of Canberra. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave. - At 5.30 o’clock a conversation by wireless telephone will take place between the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the Prime Minister of Australia, and in order to afford honorable senators an opportunity to be present on that historic occasion I suggest, Mr. President, that you should leave the chair until 8 o’clock.
– In accordance with the wish of the Leader of the Senate, I shall leave the chair until 8 o’clock.
Sitting suspended from 5.15 until 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended to enable honorable senators to participate in the epochmaking ceremony of the inauguration of wireless telephonic communication between Great Britain and Australia by an exchange of greetings between the Prime Ministers of those countries, I had dealt with most of the important points raised in this debate. It was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce) that the Senate had had very little time in which to protest against the operation of the ordinance, but the Assistant Minister has shown that the limitation of time waa due to circumstances over which the Government had no control. If the ordinance is disallowed, honorable senators must accept the responsibility of having deprived the citizens of Canberra of this proposed measure of representation, which is greater than they have hitherto enjoyed. This matter ought not to be treated lightly, because, if the motion is carried, the citizens will have no respresentation upon any body, advisory or otherwise, until a new policy has been formulated or until the Seriate is prepared to accept the present proposal.
– I draw the attention of Senator O’Halloran to the fact that, in Melbourne, water and sewerage services are not under the direct control of the Government.
– I did not mention Melbourne.
– The honorable senator said that those services should not be committed to the charge of a municipal body ; but I contend that there is no reason why such services should not bc. controlled by a government department. The Melbourne City’ Council does not operate the tram or electric light services, a.nd, at the present time, it is considering handing over’ the main thoroughfares to a board similar to the Country Roads Board. The control of the main roads has been taken from the various local governing bodies throughout the country districts of Victoria, and has been vested in a separate board. Notwithstanding that fact, the Local Government Act of that State comprises some 700 sections dealing with other subjects. Municipal government is carried on in Victoria on lines that permit of the exercise of very considerable powers by the local inhabitants with regard to their own affairs. The Local Government Act applies to every municipality in Victoria, except Melbourne and Geelong, which have their own acts.
– What is the honorable senator’s objection to this ordinance?
– It is a pretence. It does not give the citizens of Canberra greater control of local affairs than they have had under the system to be replaced; in fact, they will have less control under the new scheme.
– What power would the honorable senator give to the residents ?
– I suggest a statute on the lines of the Local Government Act of Victoria. I have the strongest objection to legislation by means of an ordinance such as that now under consideration. If the residents of the Territory were asked to vote on the pro- ‘- posed form of representation, I believe that they would have no hesitation in rejecting it. I intend to support the motion.
– So far as I can gather, this ordinance represents an effort to determine the responsibility and the status respectively of the Commonwealth Government and the residents of the Federal Capital Territory. When the seat of government was transferred to Canberra, the local control was vested in a government department, and, in the early stages of the Capital’s development, that system operated satisfactorily. I well remember that one of the chief works in Canberra, the provision of sewerage, was carried out by the Works Department, and the sum of about £30,000 was saved to the taxpayers by reason of the fact that the department carried out that undertaking for a sum about £30,000 below the lowest private tender. I do not wish to be understood to mean that, while a department may admirably carry out the duties that properly belong to it, it. might be totally unfit to be entrusted with the duties of sole civic authority. Following departmental control^ in Canberra, we tried the Commission system, and that proved most costly. I rather deplore the tendency in this country to raise an insane outcry against persons selected to fill important public positions. All the faults imaginable are attributed to such public officers, although nothing of the kind occurs when new managers are appointed in private institutions. In the case of high public officers this faultfinding seems to be chronic, and.it must have a serious effect on the efficiency of their work. I consider that an unreasonable amount of fault-finding occurred during the term of office of the late Chief Commissioner in Canberra, when he was doing his best to discharge his duties faithfully and well. We have tried the
Commission experiment ; it has been weighed, and found “wanting. Now we are reverting to the other extreme, and a department is practically to take the place of the civic authority. That is not quite the position, because it is proposed to have an admixture of local thought and aspiration by appointing’ to the. proposed advisory council three members elected by the citizens; but it will be noted that care has been taken to keep those representatives in a minority, for the obvious reason that the department is expected to rule. If it had been intended to make the voice of the local residents more than an echo, they would have been given a majority on the advisory body. The result will be that the Minister, when requiring the advice of the council, will turn, not to those who will be the vehicles of local thought and feeling, but to those who are for the time being in his employ, and are to a certain extent not likely to run counter to his wishes. It is said that members of the Public Service can be relied upon to give an independent opinion, whenever called upon for it, and on the other hand it is urged that they may not express an independent opinion for the simple reason that they are the servants of the public and of the Minister. My experience has taught me that a public servant in a responsible position has to be loyal, in the first place, to the Minister under whom he serves, otherwise he will find his position uncomfortable. If he expresses independent opinions, they may operate to his own disadvantage. He has to servealternately different chiefs of different political parties. He must be loyal to his Minister. “When a Minister of a different political complexion lakes control of the department he must be asloy al to him as he was to his predecessor. Since the foundation of the Commonwealthwe have had a variety of Ministers in office We have had men of strong will, who have impressed their personality upon the departments under their control. We have also had examples of weak Ministers. It would appear that the fate of Canberra is to be a matter of chance; that the condition of its inhabitants will be determined by a throw of the political dice. Senator Pearce has asked the Senate to refuse to set its seal of approval on the Government’s proposal. On the other hand, the Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes) has asked the Senate not to disallow the ordinance.
– The Leader of the Opposition said that he had moved the motion on his own initiative, without consulting the members of his party; yet he expects them to follow him blindly.
Senator- LYNCH- That the Leader of the Opposition has not consulted members on this side is evidence that there is no chain-gang on this side of the chamber. The members of the Opposition are free to express themselves and to vote according to the dictates of their conscience; they have true parliamentary freedom. Until a few years ago the site of the Federal Capital was sheep country. But after Canberra was chosen for the Federal Capital, land here acquired a much higher value than it formerly possessed. The land itself might not be worth more than similar land at, say, Wyndham or Thursday Island, but because Canberra is the seat of government, land in the Federal Capital has appreciated considerably. Canberra is regarded as a good place in which to make a living, and, consequently, landwhich a few years ago was worth only a few pounds an acre, is now valued at many hundreds of pounds per acre.
– Business people have not found Canberra a good business investment.
– I do not know that that is so. I understand that already Canberra is almost paying interest on its capital expenditure. At any rate, we shall not have to wait long before the Federal Capital, instead of being a liability, will be a valuable asset to the people of Australia.
– That might be so if the rents were increased.
– We do not want to increase the rents. It is difficult to visualize Senator Barnes as a rackrenting landlord. Yet even Senator Barnes, whose kind disposition we all know, would have to deal effectively with any Canberra tenantwho failed to pay his rent. He would demand from him the key of his house, and give him instead the key of the street. The Minister in charge of the Federal Capital is collecting rent and rates on behalf of the people of Australia. Much as I trust the Minister, I should not like to see bini have full control over the people of Australia, or of Canberra. Let us consider the position of the people of Canberra ii the event of the seat of government being removed elsewhere. Would ve be prepared to leave those 7,000 or 8,000 people without any civic rights whatever ? Would not our first impulse be to give to them the same rights that are enjoyed by other citizens of Australia? Supposing thai, the seat of government were transferred co Albury, is there one person in Australia who would dare to suggest that, in that event, the residents of Albury should suddenly forfeit their civic rights? Canberra owes a great deal to the people who live here. In considering the future of this city, we must have regard to then interests as well as to the interests of the Federal Parliament and the government of the day. The people of Canberra ask that they shall be given a voice in the government of the country. At present, they have no say whatever in the administration of the city in which they dwell, or in determining the destiny of the nation of which they form a part. Their representatives on the proposed advisory council will have no adequate voice in the control of the city. The best that can be said for the proposed representation is that it would be an echo. When Senator Digger Dunn was on active service, he was under no obligation to obey an echo; but he had to obey the voice of command. So long as the three representatives of the people on the proposed advisory council can be out-voted every time, the citizens of Canberra will be voiceless so far as the administration of the city is concerned. What have the residents of Canberra done that they should be deprived of their citizen rights ? They should not receive different treatment from that meted out to other citizens of Australia. While I might be prepared to trust the present Government, the turn of the political wheel might place in office a worse government. That possibility fills me with apprehension, because another Minister might play fast and loose with the rights of the people of this city. It has been stated that only 6 per cent, of the expenditure on Canberra is paid by the citizens, and that 94 per cent, is paid by the Government.
– That is only in the matter of rates and does not include rentals.
– That is so. I should like to know how those percentages are arrived at, and if Federal Parliament House and other Government buildings contribute to the revenue of Canberra in the form of rates. If this building were offered for sale is it likely that any one would purchase it at its present capital value? Would any buyers be offering for the buildings at Civic Centre? Very satisfactory land sales from the viewpoint of some were effected in that centre, but it would be interesting to know what prices would be offering if the land were re-submitted for sale to-day. Who is benefiting from the prices obtained for the leases of those lands? It is not those who purchased them, but the government of the day. I am endeavouring to hold the scales as evenly as I can between the residents of Canberra and the whole of the people of Australia as represented by the executive government for the time being, in order to see where we stand. I am trying to draw a line of demarcation between the respective authorities and to ascertain how these percentages of 6 and 94 have been reached. Have they been submitted only for the purpose of argument and do they include revenue from this and other public buildings? The Honorary Minister (Senator Barnes) is the rate collector in Canberra, whether he likes it or not. He is in effect the tax gatherer and the gentleman who complains if the people of Canberra do not keep their houses in proper order. The government of the Territory must be efficiently conducted ; but what is the position of the citizens of Canberra? Does the Government propose to deprive them of any voice in the government of the Territory? Under this proposal they will not have an effective voice, notwithstanding the fact that we have in power a Labour Government, which we have always been led to believe favours freedom of speech, the liberty of the subject and control by the people of matters which are vital to them. Are not the 8,000 free citizens of Canberra to have the right to select their own playgrounds or to have some voice in the planning of streets, the planting of trees or the establishment of recreation reserves? The citizens of Canberra are to be treated differently from those in other cities of the Commonwealth. Why should they be ? Apparently this is merely an attempt by the Government at the last moment to walk around this matter instead of facing it and endeavouring to find a fair basis of adjustment between the central government of this country, and residents who have to contribute towards the revenue of Canberra. Would Senator Barnes like to be a citizen who is to have no effective voice in the control of the city in which he lives? The trouble with most of us is our total incapacity to place ourselves in the shoes of the other fellow. That has been responsible for most of the difficulties with which the world is confronted. The Government in endeavouring to minister to the needs of the nation, and in carrying out the civic duties which devolve upon it in this instance, is denying the people of Canberra that civic authority, pride and freedom which are given to the people in other cities.
– Why did not the Government of which the honorable senator was a supporter give them that- civic authority?
– I am not responsible for the policy of the late Government. I am now pleading for those who are compelled to pay rates, and who are not allowed a voice in the government of the capital. Is that freedom? What sort of a world are we living in? I am not surprised at this proposal. I have almost lost the capacity for being surprised. I should like the Minister to go into this percentage business and see what it actually means. We are anxious only to do that which is fair and have a scheme which will be in the interests of the Government and those people who are residing here. Their presence is somewhat convenient to the Federal Government and, of course, the fact that the seat of government is here is handy for them. They have mutual and coincident interests, but there is no reason why the people of Canberra should be treated differently from any one else. I trust the Government will pay some regard to the opinions that have been expressed in the Senate to-day, and will come to the conclusion that a sharp line of demarcation must be drawn between the two interests in order to ensure that those who are living here and who are rendering a very useful service to the community will not be deprived of those privileges and rights which are enjoyed by other people. When that line of demarcation is drawn the Government should not endeavour to escape its responsibility. . It is in exactly the same position as is a State Government in relation to a capital city. The State Governments, as owners of property in capital cities, have to contribute to their revenue. In Melbourne, Sydney and other cities there is, of course, a fully developed measure of selfgovernment; but that is not proposed in this ordinance. At present we have ministerial control which may be good or bad, but it cannot be denied that the people of Canberra, like other people, if they had the choice, would prefer to be governed badly by themselves than well governed by the departments. Under the present system there will always be chafing, dissatisfaction and unwillingness to bow the neck for the simple reason that the people are not being treated as others are. Although some time has been taken up in discussing the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) I do not think it can be contended that time has been wasted; the debate. has shown the necessity for changing the present form of control. This will give the Government an opportunity to formulate some scheme that will be more satisfactory to the residents of Canberra. I trust the Government will pay some regard to the opinions that have been expressed, and will bring down a proposal that will be more acceptable to the people than that embodied in the ordinance now under discussion.
– This matter is not as simple as the Leader of the Opposition would have us believe. It is not a question of whether it is or is not a party matter or of whether the right honorable gentleman has consulted honorable senators opposite before submitting it to the Senate. The motion submitted by him is a direct and deliberate challenge to this Government, and a challenge “which the Government accepts. The present Administration was not responsible for the statutes under which the Federal Capital is controlled. The act under which we are administering the affairs of the Federal Territory was passed by a government of which the Leader of the Opposition was a member, and that Ministry imposed upon this and all subsequent Governments the responsibility of governing the Federal Territory by ordinance or by amending the existing legislation. Section 12 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act reads - .
Until the Parliament makes other provision for the government of the Territory, the Governor-General may make ordinances having the force of law in the Territory.
– No one objects to that.
– Of course not. No real objections have been voiced against this ordinance in the Senate to-day. A good deal has been said concerning householders being deprived of the right of planting roses or otherwise laying out their gardens in the way they desire. Senator Lynch might have gone further and have said that they are not permitted to keep fowls in their back yards unless they agree to keep the level of the fowl house roofs below the height of the fences. This Government was not responsible for the act which is at present in operation, and cannot amend it until Parliament is prepared to devote the necessary time to a general discussion on the control of the Federal Capital. What was the position with respect to the Federal Territory which confronted us when we came into power ? The Federal Capital had already been established and millions of pounds of the taxpayers’ money had been spent on it. General depression and ‘financial stringency were facing the country to a greater extent than had ever been experienced in the history of the Commonwealth, and in order to avoid unnecessary expenditure we decided to abolish the Federal Capital Commission, which Senator Lynch has described as a most expensive luxury.
– This Government did not abolish the Commission.
– Not as originally constituted, but it is attempting to save £50,000 a year in the administration of the Territory, and it will achieve its purpose if the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues are prepared to support the Government. This motion, if carried, will prevent the Ministry from obtaining the very best advice possible for the future administration of the Federal Capital Territory. It has been alleged that under this proposal the people of Canberra will be denied some system of local government and we are told that provision should be made for the appointment of a municipal council. I invite honorable senators to consider the position in which the Government found itself when it took office. Huge expenditure had been incurred in the establishment of the Capital City. The Federal Capital Commission, in its original form, had gone and action had to be taken to insure continuity of developmental activities on a satisfactory financial basis ; hut there was not sufficient time to prepare the necessary legislative measures to guard against the mistakes made by the previous Administration. This ordinance does not mean the establishment of a body to govern Canberra at all.
– We all agree on that point, and we are asking the Government to establish an effective system of local government.
– The honorable senator was a member of the previous Administration for three years, during which time nothing wa3 done.
– There was an efficient system of control when this Government took office.
– And this Government is seeking economy without sacrificing efficiency. The system of control in operation when we took office was responsible for the many evils in administration to which Senator Lynch referred just now - such matters as restrictions with regard to the planting of rose trees, and the erection of fowl houses. This Government, I repeat, was not responsible for that state of affairs. This ordinance is not intended to be the last word in the government of Canberra. All it purports to do is to make possible the appointment of an advisory council.
– For what term will that body function?
– During the continuance of this ordinance.
– How long will that be?
– That will depend on a number of factors, including the measure of support given to the Government, which stands for the principle of government of the people by the people.
– This ordinance is a queer way of showing it.
– It is apparent that Senator Ogden has not taken the trouble to study the document. The Government proposes to establish, not an administrative council, but. an advisory body. One would infer from the remarks of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable senators opposite that the Government is seeking the appointment of an administrative body, to consist of the civic administrator, three departmental heads, and three elected representatives of the people. That is not intended. The ordinance does not purport to give to the people of Canberra any measure of purely local government.
– Why not?
– The honorable senator, who was a member of the previous Government, knows as well as I do that the time is not ripe for the appointment of a municipal council in Canberra. This afternoon my colleague, Senator Barnes, pointed out that the residents of Canberra contributed only 6.8 .per cent, of the total revenue required to carry out developmental works here, and honorable senators opposite suggested that consideration had not been given to the revenue from rents. But rents have nothing to do with rates. The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition also sought to compare Canberra and other towns similar in size, and the municipality of Albury was mentioned. But that comparison is not a fair one. The Albury Municipal Council raises all the revenue which it expends, whereas the people of Canberra contribute only 6.S per cent, of the total revenue required, the balance being found by the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. This Government is determined, in the interests of the nation, to maintain control over all avenues of expenditure, and this ordinance is a step in that direction.
– Does the Minister suggest that the advisory council to be established will advise the Government of the ultimate form of control for Canberra ?
– That is one of the objectives of this proposal.
– Is it not a fact that there are in the Public Service already four distinguished men who are capable of advising the Government without being appointed to this advisory council ?
– I suppose there are more than four distinguished members of the Public Service who could advise the Government in this matter. The Government is determined to give the people of Canberra the very best form of selfgovernment it is possible to evolve, and, with that object in view, it has brought down this ordinance to establish an advisory council. The Government does not wish to take any action which may jeopardize the rights of any person living in Canberra, and I submit that this ordinance does not take away from citizens rights which they have previously enjoyed.
– This ordinance will make the ground landlord the king of Canberra.
– We acknowledge allegiance to one king only. It is not proposed to establish another in Canberra. This ordinance should not bc disallowed from m,ere caprice. Honorable senators opposite must show good reason for their support of this’ motion. I invite them to say in- what respect the ordinance offends against any principle which Parliament intended should be observed in the government of Canberra. Senator H. E. Elliott said just now he intended to vote for the motion because he did not believe in government by ordinance.
– Government by commission is far worse.
– The act provides that we must either introduce legislation for the establishment of a system of local government or bring down an ordinance. I also heard one honorable senator charge this Government with not acting according to the principles of law and order. When we do what the law requires us to do he is not pleased. I do not know what general principle governs the actions of certain honorable senators opposite. If this ordinance is disallowed it will go forth that it is because Senator H. E. Elliott is opposed to government by ordinance, and other honorable senators are opposed to the introduction of any ordinance under the Seat of Government Administration Act, until a bill is brought forward for the self-government of Canberra by its residents. If some honorable senators can reconcile their speeches and votes to-daywith their speeches and votes on previous ordinances framed under the same act, their consciences are more elastic than I imagine them to be. It is all very well for the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition to tell us that he does not propose to be bound by anything he did as a pledged member of a cabinet ; but I ask him seriously whether, in the case of the advisory councils, forwhich provision is made in the Northern Australia Act, he was expressing hisown opinion or that of the Cabinet ofwhich hewas a member when he made use ofwordswhich I am now about to quote. I invite him to peruse the speeches made by other members of the Bruce-Page Cabinet to see if any of them went as far as he did when he said -
I do not saythatthese advisory councils will be of great practical use at the outset, but wo are endeavouring to blend into this billthe germ of future local self-government. Our Australian systems of local selfgovernment all commenced in a small way and on the same lines. First of all, the local body was wholly nominee; later on it was partly nominee and partly elective. The partly- nominated and partly elected councils had very limited powers inthe early days of the colonies. There were quite a number of subjects over which the Colonial Office in London had complete control, and on which the local councils were not able even to give advice. Nevertheless, these local bodies were the germ of local self-government in Australia, a germ which has grown until to-day we have, full power of self-government in all the States and in the federation. The people in the
Northern Territory are British, and whether we agree or disagree with their views, they surely have a right to express them on the conditions under which they are living. We are anxious to give them some opportunity to make their voices heard, and give advice which may or may not be acted on.
– But the representa- tives of the residents of Canberra cannot give advice if they are in a minority.
– The Seat of Government Administration Act is almost a replica of the Northern Australia Bill, the provisions of which the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) was then discussing.
– But the residents of the Northern Territory have representation in this Parliament.
– I shall dealwith that bogy if the right honorable gentleman wants to raise it. I shall show exactly what that representation amounts to. The right honorable gentleman said on the occasion in question -
We are anxious to give them some opportunity to make their voices heard.
The opportunity he proposed to give had no connexion with the representation the people had in this Parliament, but related solely to representation on an advisory council proposed to be set up by the Bruce-Page Government, just as the present Government proposes to set up an advisory council for Canberra, and for the same reason as that given by Senator Sir George Pearcewhen he was the Leader of the Government in the Senate - as the first germ of self-government. The right honorable gentleman said -
The people in the Northern Territory are British, and whether we agree or disagree with their views, they surely have a right to express them on the conditions under which they are living. We are anxious to give them some opportunity to make their voices heard, and give advice which may or may not he acted on.
– Surely the honorable senator does not compare the scattered settlement in the Northern Territory with Canberra ?
– I am comparing the measure which was under consideration when Senator Sir George Pearce made these remarkswith the act underwhich theordinance now under consideration has been framed. I should say that the community in Canberra is British and I suppose there are some people here to whom the right to express their views would be conceded by the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) was not referring to aborigines; he was speaking of British people who had the right to express their views and have their voices heard. He was speaking of the people who ought to be given an opportunity to give advice which could be acted upon if the Government thought fit to do so. He went on to say -
It is desirable in all communities to train men in the art of government -
Senator Lynch will agree that the people of Canberra are a community - which is not easily acquired and is mainly achieved through a long course of training. It brings some sense of responsibility to men if they arc placed in positions where they have a voice in the making of laws.
Let us give the people of Canberra opportunity to say what they think should be done. We are aiming at that in this ordinance. The four experts sitting with the representatives of the people on the Advisory Council can advise the Minister. The ultimate object of the Government is to give the people of Canberra the right to govern themselves.
– When the right time arrives. The honorable senator was a member of a government which tried various forms of government, under which millions of pounds were spent, and the present Government is now engaged in the task of trying to clean the matter up. The Senate should not turn down the Government’s proposal simply because itdoes not contain provisions for selfgovernment by the people of Canberra. The Senate has really to decide whether it believes the Government can get any advice concerning the administration of the Territory, because the ordinance is an expression of the Government’s intention to get right down among the people to discover what is wrong and see whether it can be righted. If the Opposition uses its numbers to disallow the ordinance, the Government will be obliged to consider its position.
– And resign, I “sup-; pose.
– The honorable senator would not be prepared to fight a dissolution on the government of Canberra. With all his qualifications he does not possess a poker face, and it is quite obvious that he has no intention of challenging the Government to bring about a dissolution on this issue. Unless better grounds are given for disallowing the ordinance than have already been given, the Government will have to regard the action of this chamber as a challenge to itself. It is all very well for the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition to shrug his shoulders, which in effect means that he disbelieves my statement, but in an endeavour to hit upon the right type of administration for the Federal Capital Territory, the Government has promulgated this ordinance under which it will be able to inquire into the whole system of government of Canberra, to get the best advice obtainable, and to come back to Parliament with further proposals.
– In twelve months?
– The job ought to be completed within twelve months.
– Under the ordinance the period is limited to twelve months.
– Yes; and honorable senators will see that the Government has not entered into any long term of agreement with the Civic Commissioner.
– What provision in the ordinance limits it to twelve months?
– The ordinance’ limits the period of office of the. elected representatives of the citizens to twelve months. The Government i% not prepared to say that it can clean up the job in that period. The Bruce-Page Government was experimenting with Canberra for nearly- seven years.
– For five years the Territory was controlled by the Commission.
– That was an experiment. The Government has already performed tasks regarded as almost superhuman, but I candidly confess that it will take us the whole of twelve months to right the position in Canberra. We are asking for an opportunity to do it. We have already shown that so far we have not mismanaged the affairs of the Seat of
Government. In any case I challenge the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition to indicate any provision of the ordinance which deprives the people of Canberra of any of the rights previously enjoyed by them, or prevents them from reaching the goal he would have them reach. It is quite within the bounds of possibility that the objective at which the right honorable senator is aiming will be reached by the appointment of an advisory council, which can give the Minister advice he is open to receive. If the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition does not know of it, I can show him that the Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs, the Director-General of Health and the Secretary to the Department of Works and Railways, together with the Civic Administrator, come within the class of person lauded by Senator Colebatch as typical civil servants and not within the class of those described by himself as being little more than rubber stamps.
– But even so, can they be expected to run counter to the wishes of the Minister?
– The heads of these departments have had experience in the administration of Canberra under previous governments and under this government, and they will not be expected to carry out the wishes of the Minister for Home Affairs, who for example has no jurisdiction over the secretary to the Department of Works and Railways. I can assure honorable senators that the Minister for Home Affairs has given the matter of the administration of Canberra his most serious thought. It has engaged the attention of Cabinet for many sittings, and the ordinance represents an honest attempt on the part of the Minister to submit a proposal that will meet with the wishes of the residents, and at the same time safeguard the interests of the taxpayers. Does the ordinance contain . anything in conflict with the assurance that I have given, and will not the appointment of the advisory council facilitate the carrying into effect of the Minister’s wishes? I submit to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) that it. would be advisable for him to withdraw his opposition to the ordinance, leaving it to the Government to do its best for the residents of Canberra and the people of Australia as a whole.
– I take it that we are all deeply interested in the welfare of the residents of this Capital city. Speaking for myself, I have constantly endeavoured, by consultation with the residents at every opportunity, to ascertain their wishes, and form an opinion as to the best system of local administration to adopt. In the first place we had control by a commission, and, when it was decided that the third Commissioner should be elected by the residents they were merely offered a sop. When the first election was held, the third Commissioner was assured of a chilly, if not a hostile, reception from the other Commissioners. To my mind it does not matter very much whether the ordinance is disallowed or left alone. But, if we disallowed it, what would the alternative be? I submit that the proposed advisory council represents a step in the direction of giving the residents of Canberra a voice in their local affairs. This is not as easy a problem as it appears to be at first glance. My desire is that the residents of Canberra should also have a voice in the government of Australia, but the granting of that privilege is a long way off yet. I see no objection to the appointment of the advisory council. It possibly would not take us any further towards the goal of local self-government ; but I submit that it would prove of some value. In running my battalion, I need all the advice that I can obtain, and so I consult my adjutant, my company commanders and my bombing officers. I can get it only from my trusted subordinates. Therefore, I submit that the advisory council, as proposed to be constituted, must prove useful. The three Government nominees are residents of the Territory, and they are naturally intensely interested in the government of Canberra. Though they must be loyal to their Ministers, and probably would have to give way to some extent, their advice would be of value. It may be claimed that the three elected members would have practically no power, but, being in close touch with the residents their contributions to discussions in the council as to how certain things should be done would be useful. The Leader of the Government nearly lost my vote on this matter owing to some of his bombastic threats, which I certainly resented.
– Who will govern Canberra in the meantime?
– The Minister. If the honorable senator will cast his memory back three years or so, he will recall that certain members, mostly on the Opposition side, regularly bombarded the Government with questions, some of which related to quite trivial matters, with regard to Canberra. If we do not allow steam, to be blown off at the meetings of a body such as the advisory council, that experience will be repeated.
– Did not those questions nearly all relate to matters of municipal government?
– Undoubtedly. There is, nevertheless, some meat on the bone that is offered, and, since the proposal is of some, value, I shall not oppose the ‘ordinance.
Debate (on motion by Senator Ogden) adjourned.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In submitting this measure I propose to draw the attention of the Senate to certain historical facts. The dangers that attend the existence in a remote part of the world of a group of separate colonies became apparent as soon as the first of those colonies obtained the most rudimentary form of self-government. The/langers increased with the increase in the number of the colonies, and the problem of how to overcome the difficulties had to be faced. In our early history many schemes were propounded. These schemes, however, instead of ripening into action, merely raised plentiful crops of objections. Jealousies prevented even the setting up of general executive and legislative authority to superintend the initiation and foster the completion of such measures as the communities themselves might deem calculated to promote their common welfare and prosperity.
This state of affairs continued until public men began to realize that in this continent people were grouped in colonies bounded by mere conventional lines, but singularly marked out by nature for political union. The common highway for external and internal trade was the sea. There was less diversity of nationality than was to be found in most European countries. Sectarian strife affected or interested but few. They were a people who, in the solution of the same problems, brought to bear the same political ideas, and in matters of law had the same common law and the same institutions. With such realization came the desire to place the ideal of single control on a much higher, a much nobler pinnacle than that of mere material trade. The efforts of that noble band of statesmen led up to the memorable conventions of 1891 and 1897, with which we are all familiar. The conventions and the discussions thereat are prized among the greatest events in our history. With what pride do we not reflect on that day when the ideal of “ Australia a Nation “ was removed from mere sentimental airiness and was brought within the region of practical politics. Within that region the ideal has remained, and this proposal which honorable senators are now called upon to consider has been submitted to them in the hope that after mature consideration they will assist to perfect a scheme by which the pioneers hoped that ideal would be ultimately realized.
What was the scheme by which the pioneers hoped to realize that ideal? It is crystallized in the preamble to the resolutions of the 1.S91 Convention -
That in order to establish and secure an enduring foundation for the structure of u “Federal Government,” the principles embodied in the resolutions following be agreed to.
The foundation stone. was laid and the structure was built, but it was never intended that that, structure should remain unaltered. It was appreciated that the ideal of nationhood had not yet been realized, and consequently we find dotted throughout the building evidences of the appreciation of the possibility of necessity for subsequent action. Before, however preceding to deal with that aspect of the
Constitution, I invite consideration as to whether time has not established that the structure is inconsistent with the foundation. That involves a consideration of what was meant by “ Federal Government.” I can find no better description than that contained in the despatch from the Secretary of State in 1903 (vide Parliamentary Papers. 1903, p. 1164). It was to be a merger of the six States in one united federal State or Commonwealth, furnished with powers essential to its existence as such -
Be fore the act came into force each of the separate States, subject, of course, to the ultimate authority of the Imperial Parliament, enjoyed practically all the powers and all the responsibilities of separate nations. By the act a new State or nation was created, aimed’ with paramount power not only to settle the more important internal affairs relating to the common interests of the united peoples, but also to deal with alt political matters arising between them and any other part of the Empire, or, through His Majesty’s Government, with any foreign power. That appears to be the obvious meaning of section 3 of the act, which declares that on and after a day appointed by proclamation, the people of New South Wales, ‘Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, and also if Her Majesty is satisfied that the people of Western Australia have agreed thereto, of Western Australia, shall he united in a Federal Commonwealth under the name of the Commonwealth of Australia. On that day Australia became one single entity, and no longer six separate States in the family of nations under the British Crown : and the external responsibility of Australia, except in regard to matters in respect to which a later date was fixed by the Constitution, vested immediately in the Commonwealth, which was armed with the paramount power necessary to discharge it.
In practice it has been found that it has not been endowed with powers essential to its exercise as a federal body even in a restricted sense. There cannot be said in its defence what has been said of the American Constitution -
A constitution to contain an accurate detail of all the subdivisions of which its great powers will admit and of all the means by which they may be carried into execution would partake of the prolixity of a legal code, and could scarcely be embraced by the human mind. It would probably never be understood by the public. Its nature requires, therefore, that only its great outlines should be marked, its more important objects designated, and the minor ingredients which compose those objects, be deduced from the nature of the objects themselves.
In the Australian Constitution much greater and far wider difficulties are encountered. There are wide differences in the nature of the enumerated powers. Some, like “ taxation “, are expressed in the broadest terms and obviously extend over a wide and very indefinite field. There are great substantive and independent powers which point to an end and leave to the legislative discretion that unlimited choice of appropriate means which is the first great rule of constitutional interpretation. On the other hand, there are powers over subjects of a limited nature. “ Trade and commerce “ and “industrial disputes” are among such subjects. In theory the Federal Parliament; can choose its own means, but in practice it cannot do so. “ Industrial disputes “ may be attacked through “conciliation and arbitration.” Within such limits we can, in theory, legislate, but in practice can we do so? In practice we may discover the necessity for certain definitions relating to “industrial disputes,” “conciliation “ or “ arbitration “ ; but unless such definitions are within what the High Court considers to be the limits of the words as they appear in the Constitution, Parliament is powerless even to avert a national calamity. This limitation of the powers of Parliament becomes more apparent when one considers the safe rule of interpretation laid down by the judiciary -
To look at the nature and objects of the particular powers, duties and rights with all the aids of contemporary history and togive to the words of each, just such operation and force consistent with their legitimate meaning as may fully secure and attain the ends proposed.
In dealing with trade marks, for example, Parliament contended that the subject was one of a varying nature, as indicated by the several definitions of it from time to time, and while it was admitted that Parliament could not, by its own interpretation, enlarge its own power, still, as the legislative power undoubtedly covered restrictive definition, some latitude of extensive interpretation should also be conceded in accordance with the fluctuating needs of the community. The court which declared Part VII. of the Trades Marks Act 1905 invalid, held that the meaning of the term “ Trade Mark “ must be ascertained by its signification in 1900, and, after a careful examination of the legal history of the term from 1862, came to the conclusion that, regard being had to legislation, international conventions and judicial decisions, the term did not include certain marks which presented some of the features of the mark in question, and did imply other elements which were not found in the mark.
With such limitations on the power to legislate how can it he said that there exist powers essential to the existence of a complete merger? There may have been a merger as regards trade marks, for example, at the time of the passingof the Constitution, but only in so far as the term “ trade mark “ then signified. The fluctuating needs of the community did not merge.. Such needs can be dealt with by a State, even though dealing with them may result in consequent harassment to the Commonwealth, and undermine the very existence of the merger intended to be created. They may remain unprovided for either by State or Commonwealth, thereby completely destroying the effect of the legislation passed by the Federal Parliament.
With greater emphasis, I mention that the fluctuating needs of the community did not merge with the grant of power to attack industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State by conciliation and arbitration.- Whatever meanings the words, each and every one of them in the grant, had in 1900, those words bear the same meanings to-day. Within the limits of those meanings there has been a merger, but outside such limits the power is still with the States; and even though in practice there may be a conflict between State and Federal laws on the subject, in law there will not be.
– The States did not resign their full autonomous powers.
– I invite Senator Thompson to read what the Secretary of State said in his letter to the dominions when the Imperial Act was passed.
– Have not the States the residuary powers?
– Certainly they have; but even in a restricted sense certain powers that we were supposed to have were found to be non-existent. The residue referred to by the honorable senator is considerably greater than the parties to the compact imagined in 1901.
– The honorable senator wants to burn down the house to roast a pig.
– I desire to do nothing of the kind. Senator Sir George Pearce aptly described the position in 1914 in words which are equally applicable today
The position we find ourselves in is that we are governed by the dead hand of the past.
Sir William Irvine, speaking on the Constitution Bill on 19th October, 1910. stated : -
I think that accounts very largely for the fact that when the convention was in doubt, the form of the American Constitution was in most cases followed. But the result, rightly or wrongly, was that in Australia we live under one of the weakest federal unions in the world.
Sir William Irvine went on to say
It is remarkable that in the year 1901 when other unions were rather tending in the direction of close and stronger federations, we should have gone back to adopt a system more than a century old.
Again let us consider the violent conflict of opinion which exists between the individual members of our judiciary as to what, in law, our powers really are. It is a conflict which in the early days of federation was summed up by one learned constitutional jurist in an example which he quoted -
In determining the extent of power conferred by the power to make laws with respect to “ taxation “, and the exclusive power to impose duties of excise, the court has taken notice of the fact that a constitution which expressly enumerates a number of matters relating to the internal affairs of the States, and which in dealing with trade and commerce expressly limits that subject to trade and commerce with foreign countries, and amongst the States, forbids to the Commonwealth Parliament any control over the internal affairs of the States except so far as thus granted, and that, therefore, the power of taxation does not extend, to any direct interference with those affairs; and the States are not precluded from regulating industries, &c, by the customary mode of licensing, though those licences may be commonly known as “ excises “. In the Union Label Case, the court again refers to the fact that as to trade and commerce, the power of the Commonwealth is expressly limited to that which is with - foreign countries and among the States, thereby implying a prohibition to impinge upon internal trade and commerce - the sphere of the State - except as a necessary means to carry out some other power expressly granted. The Chief Justice sums up the position thus: - “In my opinion, it should be regarded as a fundamental rule in the construction of the Constitution, that, when the intention to reserve any matter to the States to the exclusion of the Commonwealth clearly appears, no exception from that reservation can be admitted which is not expressed in clear and unequivocal words. Otherwise, the Constitution will be made to contradict itself, which upon a proper construction must be impossible “. More emphatically, inHuddart Parker v. Moorhead, Griffith, O.J., (Barton and O’Connor, J. J., concurring), declares that the Constitution is “ to be construed as if it contained an express declaration that power to make laws with respect to trade and commerce within the limits of a State, and not relating to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States, is reserved to the States, except so far as the exercise of that power by the Commonwealth is necessary for or incidental tothe execution of some other power conferred on the Parliament.”
This declaration was vigorously assailed by Isaacs and Higgins, concerning which the same learned writer said : -
Admitting that the Constitution is to be read as a whole so that its parts shall be consistent with each other the learned justices contend that the proper course is to give to the several terms defining the grants of power their natural andproper meaning, unaffected by any implications of restraint based upon the supposed powers of the States; and in the rejection of implied restraints upon powers, there is claimed the support of the Privy Council, and (in the case of the taxing power) the Supreme Court of the United States. The powers of the States reserved by the Constitution are merely what is left to them after the Commonwealth power has received its full interpretation; to construe the special grant by the residuary disposition is a clear inversion of the position, and is rather a judicial limitation upon than an interpretation of the grant of powers.
That conflict of opinion exists to-day. What one judge considers to be a judicial limitation upon a power another regards as an interpretation of such power. The condition of affairs which renders possible that conflict has oft-times been the subject of bitter complaint within the walls of this legislature.
In 1914 Sir George Pearce said -
We have unfortunately a cast-iron Constitution which the High Court has not seen fit to extend and to bring up to date in the same way as the Supreme Court of the United States did in regard to the Constitution of that country. I venture to say that if the Supreme Court in the United States of America had taken up the same attitude in interpretation of the Constitution as the High Court has seen fit to take, there would have been several revolutions before this time in that country.
I am not subscribing to such reasoning, but the quotation is relevant as the expression of opinion of one who at that time led the Government in this Chamber, and may be taken to have stated the considered opinion of his colleagues in the Cabinet. Is it possible, in the face of such legal conflict, and in view of the circumstances to which I have made reference, to contend that the structure is in harmony with the foundation? It is not. Then, how, under its present form, can we realize an ideal which must appeal to all, and in the expression of which I can give utterance to no better words than those used by that distinguished lawyer and statesman, Lord Haldane, when as a member of the House of Commons he spoke on the motion for leave to introduce the’ bill for the act we are now considering -
On this occasion we establish a Constitution modelled on our own model, pregnant with the same spirit, and permeated with the principle of responsible government.
Or to apply words that were given utterance to in this chamber by Senator Pearce,who said -
Those who framed the Constitution intended that all questions, whore it was desirable that there shouldbe uniformity of legislation, administration and action, should be dealt with by the Federal Parliament.
If we are anxious that the ideal of “ Australia a Nation “ should be realized, the question is whether or not the proposal we are now considering will make the “way easier for such realization. I submit that it will do so.
Again I invite the attention of the Senate to the speculative nature of our powers as evidenced by the various ultimate decisions of the High Court which go to form the new jurisprudence. A striking example of the chaos from a. practical legislative stand-point, which can be created, and actually was created, is furnished in the legal wrangle about section 92 of the Constitution.
In an informative and highly instructive speech on the Dried Fruits InterState Trade Bill in another place the exAttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) dealt exhaustively with this aspect of the case, and I adopt for my purposes the exposition of the law which he then gave. Honorable senators are aware that one of the objects of federation was to remove customs barriers between the Slates, and thus ensure free trade within the Commonwealth. It was thought that section 92 effectively achieved that object. The section reads -
Onthe imposition of uniform duties of customs, trade commerce and intercourse among the States, whetherby means of internal carriage or ocean navigation shallbe absolutely free.
This provision of the Constitution has been before the High Court on several occasions, and its history is rather chequered. In or about the year 1915, there was the wheat acquisition case, which arose under a. New South Wales statute that empowered the State authorities to acquire property in wheat, whetherit was or was not the subject of an interstate contract. This legislation was part of a concerted set of war measures designed to secure the complete control of our wheat in the interests of the Australian, the British, and other allied forces, and populations. Attempts to evade that legislation were made by persons who had made interstate contracts. They contended that their interstate dealings were exempt from any legislative interference. The High Court held that the New South Wales legislation was legislation with respect to property, was not legislation with respect to trade, and that there was nothing in the Constitution preventing a State from acquiring, under legislative authority, the property in any commodity, whether it was or was not the subject-matter of interstate trade.
Then came the case of Foggitt Jones and Company versus the State of New South Wales. A New South Wales act declared that all stock and meat in New South Wales should become and remain subject to the act, and be “held for the purposes of, and kept for the disposal of His Majesty’s Imperial Government in aid of the supplies for His Majesty’s armies in the present war.” It further provided that “forthwith upon the making of any order in writing under the hand of the Minister, all stock and meat mentioned in such order shall cease to be the property of the then owner or owners thereof, and shall become and remain the absolute property of His Majesty.” There were also consequential provisions. It was held by four justices of the High Court - a fifth justice expressing a doubt - that this act, in so far as it purported to authorize the Government of New South Wales to prevent the interstate carriage of meat and stock, was an interference with interstate trade and commerce, and was invalid as being an infringement of section 92 of the Constitution.
– How is it suggested that the Government can prevent judges from differing on legal questions?
– Judges will always differ; the Government is attempting to remove the ground of difference.
The next case arose under a Queensland act, and in almost identical circumstances. That was the case of Duncan versus the State of Queensland and another. The Queensland act was substantially in the same terms as the New South Wales act, which, as I have said, was held to be invalid. The Queensland act was held by five justices to be valid, though two justices were of opinion that it was invalid, and the decision in the Foggitt, Jones case was therefore overruled. It was held that, although the Queensland act undoubtedly interfered with and prevented the interstate transport of meat and stock, yet the act was not invalid, because the Government had the power to deal with the incidents attaching to property in goods. One of the incidents of property was the power to send or sell interstate, and it was able, by aptly framed legislation, to denude the owner of this attribute of property, and authorize the acquisition by and vesting in the State of the right to prevent the owner from sending his goods across the border.
In 1920, the case of W. and A. McArthur, Limited, vermis the State of Queensland and others was decided. This case arose under a Queensland price-fixing act which made it an offence to sell any commodity for a price other than that fixed in pursuance of that legislation. McArthur and Company, a wellknown Sydney company, curried on business in Queensland through travellers, who sold at prices in excess of those fixed by the Queensland legislation. Some of the contracts were made between Sydney and Brisbane, and some involved the transport of goods from Sydney to Brisbane in satisfaction of contracts. Accordingly, the question of interference with interstate trade was raised. In this case, four justices, two others dissenting, held that the Foggitt, Jones case had been wrongly over-ruled, and had been rightly decided. Certain of the justices also held that the last case to which I have referred - Duncan versus the State of Queensland - which had over-ruled the Foggitt, Jones case, had been wrongly decided.
The position is that by majorities varying in degree and extent, the Foggitt, Jones case was first decided and then over-ruled by the Duncan case. Then Duncan’s case was over-ruled and the Foggitt. “Jones case was reinstated. Honorable senators will, accordingly, appreciate the fact that there is a considerable degree of uncertainty about the legal position. So long as the last decision is maintained as being the law, the law may be taken to be as expressed in the McArthur case. In that case it was held, to put it shortly, that a State had no power to fix the price of interstate sales. Dealing with the words “ absolutely free,” in section 92, the majority justices said -
Thu primary moaning of these words used as they are with reference to governmental control, is that the subject matter of which they are predicated is to be “absolutely free” from all governmental control by every governmental authority to whom the command contained in the section is addressed.
– Will an amended constitution dispense with that?
– I shall show before I have completed my remarks that there is only one way to overcome the difficulty, and that is by adopting proposals which are now being placed before the Senate.
– And dispense with the High Court.
– There is no necessity to do that.
– It means the same thing.
– It does not. There is. therefore, to be no governmental authority exercised over interstate trade and commerce, by any governmental authority to whom section 92 is addressed
It is necessary in order to follow the reasons upon which the decision is based to consider another provision of the Constitution. The Constitution not only provides that interstate, trade shall be absolutely free, but it also provides under section 51 that this Parliament shall have power to legislate with respect to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States. Honorable senators will, therefore, at once see what the problem was that presented itself to the High Court. Summarizing the legal position, Mr. Latham said -
How can interstate trade and commerce at once ‘lie absolutely free, and at the same time a subject for legislation by the Commonwealth Parliament? Most legislation imposes some form of restriction. It is conceivable, however, that legislation may not impose any form of restriction or restraint. Legislation may be entirely empowering and permissive; but even such legislation generally imposes a restraint upon acts outside the power and beyond the permission contemplated by the legislation. It is therefore very difficult to formulate in one’s mind a coherent system of ideas that will leave acts of trade and commerce at once absolutely free, and also as full a subject for legislation by the Commonwealth as ure the other subjects mentioned in section 51 of the Constitution. .4 solution of the difficulty was discovered by the High Court in the. McArthur case, and it is upon the principle enunciated by the High Court in that decision that the bill now presented to thu House relies. The High Court decided that section 92 was a prohibition addressed not to the Commonwealth or the Commonwealth Parliament, but to the States and to State activities. At page 55(1 of the report, in the majority judgment, the inquiry ‘ Is the Commonwealth bound by section 92?’ is answered in the following way: - “ The present case has involved a closer examination of this question than any previous occasion upon which the court has considered it. The result has been to convince us, notwithstanding dieta in previous cases, that the true office of section 92 is to protect interstate trade against State interference and not to affect the legislative power of the Commonwealth.”
That is the latest and the ruling decision upon this matter. At the time when it was given it occasioned very great surprise to many persons who were interested in the subject. If honorable members are sufficiently interested in the conflict of opinions they will find them expressed in the arguments used by counsel before the court, which include some highly admirable arguments of my own.”
In the same speech the honorable gentleman later said -
It is difficult to see in what way this Parliament could legislate with respect to interstate trade if that trade were to be absolutely free in the sense that it was free from interference, control or regulation by this Parliament. The law so expounded entitles this Parliament to legislate upon the subject of interstate trade. In order to illustrate the position, I may say that under the decision to which I have just referred, it is, apparently, within the power of this Parliament again to impose border duties in Australia, provided there is no discrimination against, and no preference to, any State or part of a State,
Mr Stewart Provided all the duties were uniform.
Mr LATHAM Distinctions have been drawn between “ uniformity “ and “no preference,” though possibly they amount substantially to the same thing. I hope that honorable members will not misunderstand my motive in giving this example, and will not represent me as having said that border duties ought to be imposed. Before the decision in the McArthur case I venture to think that this legislation would not have been suggested; but after that decision had been given the position was entirely changed from what it had been understood to be, not only among legislators and the public generally, but also among members of the legal profession who were particularly interested in this subject.
In reply to Mr. Mann, as to whether discrimination would not still apply, Mr. Latham said -
Section 90 of the Constitution reads - “ The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce, or revenue, give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or any part thereof.”
That is a very difficult provision to interpret. It has been examined in the High Court, I think, on only two occasions. They were in connexion with differentiating awards made by the Arbitration Court, and in the Cameron case, under the income tax law. In the case that arose under the Arbitration Act a distinction was drawn between conditions which were imposed by the law itself and those which arose out of the different circumstances to which the law was applied. I do not feel able to give with respect to that section information along the lines that I have endeavoured to follow in relation to section 92. In the case of the latter I have sought to place before the House a connected and coherent account of the development of judicial opinion, and to show that we have reached a stage at which the law is clear.
The law may he, as is alleged by the honorable member, clear ; but, just as the Foggitt Jones case was over-ruled and then restored, so also can Duncan’s case be over-ruled. We have the dissenting judgments and the judgments in which doubts are expressed. The dissenting judges or the judges in whose minds doubts exist may be joined by others who entertain the same views and incline towards the same opinions. As there is uncertainty of such a serious nature under the existing Constitution, I appeal to the Senate to remove such uncertainty by passing this bill.
What is the proposal? The form of it may be dealt with in committee. In substance it is to give to the Federal Parliament the right to legislate along such national lines as it thinks fit. It is a proposal to convert what is at present a federation in name only into a real federation. We may take referendum after referendum for grants of specific powers. We may be successful in obtaining such powers, but immediately we do so we find that our powers on such subjects depend upon the view which the High Court, or the majority of it, considers to be the scope of such powers. This possibility cannot be avoided; it cannot be safeguarded against. The needs of the community are ever changing, and such needs do not merge with any specific grant of power. To meet such a position under existing circumstances, referendum must follow on referendum. This cumbersome method of progress we are seeking to abolish, and we propose to ask the people to give to Parliament the right to supersede it with a more scientific plan of action.
The proposal is to transfer to Parliament a right at present vested in the people, namely, the right to alter the Constitution. Parliament will possess no greater right than the people at present possess. The majority of the people could not by a referendum destroy the federation; consequently, a majority in Parliament could not do so. The Constitution Act will remain, embodying the compact entered into between the six Australian colonies which formed the Commonwealth. The alteration, if made, must be read as part of the federal scheme. Those who allege that with the additional power Parliament could destroy the Constitution should remember that the Constitution could not be so construed as to contemplate its own destruction, or what amounts to the same thing, to cripple by checks and balances the ultimate power which is created for the undeniable purpose of preserving at all hazards and by all available means the inviolability of the Commonwealth and of the several States.
– That is not what Sir Robert Garran said.
– I am in a position to quote High Court authorities if necessary in support of my contention that this proposed amendment of the Constitution cannot alter the character of the federal scheme.
This proposal does not ask of the people something new; something novel. It asks of them something which every State Parliament possesses to-day. The people have no power under the Constitution to initiate legislation. They have a general power of delegation which they may exercise either wholly or in part in favour of the Federal Parliament. Hitherto they have been asked to exercise this power in specific instances. We ask of them that they should exercise their general power and authorize the Federal Parliament to legislate in respect of matters in which they themselves cannot legislate, but in respect of which any State Parliament may do so.
– “ When things are different they are not the same.”
– The honorable senator and others are attempting to show that the Government is seeking to take away from the people certain privileges which they enjoy under our present democratic system of government. But under the Constitution the people have not the power to initiate legislation.
– At present they have the right to veto, which will be taken from them..
– What power of veto has the right honorable gentleman in mind?
– The right to veto proposed amendments of the Federal Constitution.
– There is in the people a general power of delegation which can be used in specific instances.
– If this proposal is accepted, Parliament itself will have the authority to alter the Constitution as it pleases.
– The honorable senator may be able to convince himself of the truth of that assertion, but he cannot convince me.
– We may convince r.he people of Australia.
– If the people of Australia believe what the opponents of these proposed alterations alleged, they may be convinced. An honorable senator suggested that they are equivalent to the destruction of a building by fire for the purpose of roasting a pig.
– What is meant by the words “ Parliament shall have full power to alter the Constitution.”
– They mean what they say.
– Then Senator Lynch is right.
– Senator Lynch is not right if he implies that these amendments will change the character of the Constitution. It will still be a federal compact.
– Not if these amendments are accepted by the people.
– I remind the honorable senator that the Commonwealth Constitution is an Imperial act which cannot be destroyed except by a legislative measure passed through the Imperial Parliament. ‘
– These proposed amendments will take from the States powers which they at present possess.
– That is not so. If they are accepted by the people this Parliament may then legislate in respect of national matters within the legislative jurisdiction of the States and the effect of such federal legislation may. be 10 destroy the efficacy of State legislation. I speak particularly of national issues. It was intended that this Parliament should have authority over such subjects.
– Where is the danger ? Does the honorable senator suggest that this Parliament would legislate to destroy the rights enjoyed by his State?
– Ti these amendments are accepted it will be competent for the Federal Parliament to legislate in respect of railways, education and certain other public services at present controlled by State governments.
– Will this proposal alter the concluding paragraph of Section 128 of the Constitution?
-In my opinion it will not. This particular amendment will not enable the Commonwealth Parliament to do anything outside the federal compact. I do not deny that legal opinion to the contrary may be obtained, but I remind the Senate that one of the most recent decisions is that amendments cannot destroy the federal nature of the compact.
– Would it be possible for the Government to abolish the Senate?
– That is a matter which might more conveniently be discussed in committee.
– It is too horrible a possibility to contemplate.
– Would not the words “Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding section “ apply to the last paragraph of section . 128?
– I do not think they would.
– Then what do the words mean ?
– Any lawyer will tell the honorable senator that words imported into a contract, no matter what they are, cannot enlarge the jurisdiction created by the document itself. The Government’s proposal is that Parliament shall exercise the right to legislate as it thinks fit in respect of national matters.
– On any question ?
– On any question of sufficient national importance.
– If this amendment is accepted there will be nothing to prevent the Commonwealth Parliament from legislating in respect of any matter?
– Any matter of a federal character. I am not prepared to say offhand that the Commonwealth Parliament could exercise every legislative power that is now exercised by a State legislature, but I do say that it could exercise whatever power should be exercised by a federal legislature.
I agree with what Senator Pearce said in 1914, that whenever it is proposed that the power of this Parliament shall be extended, all sorts of bogys fire trotted out.I read a statement in the Adelaide press, by an honorable senator, to the effect that the power proposed to be given would be too dangerous in the hands of a Labour Government. What power shall we have over the affairs of South Australia which the Labour Government in that State does not possess to-day? What power shall we have over the affairs of Western Australia which the Collier Government did not possess for upwards of six years? The answer to these questions exposes the empty nature of the arguments of those who would attempt to maintain the present confusion by putting forward such ridiculous suggestions.
– There was an Upper House to resist the Collier Government.
– What is there about a State Parliament which does not exist in a Federal Parliament, but renders the State Parliament more unlikely to abuse its powers? Both legislatures are elected by the people, and their term is the same. Is it the restricted franchise of the Upper Houses? Surely that is not the contention of those who are the self-appointed guardians of the people’s rights! Senator E. B. Johnston cannot be expressing the considered opinion of the Opposition, because the criticism in the press, and the stand taken hitherto by honorable senators of the Opposition, is that they, and not the Upper Houses of the States, are the self-appointed guardians of the people’s rights.
– There is also the matter of the equal representation of the smaller States in the Senate.
– The honorable senator ought not to jump about like that.I was dealing with the question of what power we, as a Labour Government, would possess which is not possessed by the Labour Government of South Australia to-day, and querying whether honorable senators rested their case on the ground that there were, in the States, Upper Houses with restricted franchises.
I said that surely they, as guardians of the rights of the people, would not rely upon the existence of State Upper Houses.
The people, under this proposal, can, if they have a mind to, have a stronger voice on national questions than they have to-day. Until they exercise their right and delegate power to the Federal Parliament, what voice have they on national questions? Certainly they have the same voice in the Lower Houses in States where the bicameral system operates, but have they in the Upper Houses, in which property is the qualification? What chance has the South Australian elector, For example, of wresting from the Legislative Council measures uecessary to make effective a national insurance scheme for . unemployment? What chance has he of improving industrial arbitration? What chance has he of influencing these elect of vested interests to give sympathetic consideration to any residuary trade and commerce question? No chance whatever.
Therefore, as the effect of this proposal is to liven into action the dormant rights of the one people who comprise this one nation to be heard in a Parliament where they have full audience, surely it is more and not less democratic - more andnot less national - than the proposal to leave matters where they are to Parliaments in which the people have, by reason of the existence of Legislative Councils, a limited audience; their right to be heard depending upon property and not upon citizenship.
Labour was elected upon a certain definite policy. It placed before the people a definite legislative programme. That policy and that programme alone will it attempt to put into operation during the life of this Parliament. Therefore, to him who would ask, “ If this proposal is carried, what is the next step?” my answer is that the mandate from the people will be obeyed and Labour’s legislative programme will be proceeded with. The constitutional difficulties having disappeared we shall be in a position to give that full measure of relief which we pledged ourselves to the electors we would attempt to administer.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.22 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 April 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19300430_senate_12_123/>.