13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator theHon. F. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Warrawagine, Western Australia - For postal purposes.
Taxation Acts - Sixteenth Report of the Commissioner, years 1929-30, 1930-31, 1031-32, 1932-33, and part 1933-34.
– I ask the Minister for Defence if it is correct, as was recently reported in some sections of the press in South Australia, that the Government intends to station a squadron of bombing aeroplanes at the Parafield aerodrome, in South Australia?
– No provision for that purpose is made in the budget.
Report No. 6 of the Printing Committee brought up by Senator J. B. H.AYK8, and - by leave - adopted.
FORMAL Motion for Adjournment
– I have received from Senator Dunn an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent, public importance, namely, “ The Government’s inaction in the development of the Newnes shale fields as a Commonwealth Government concern.”
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising; adjourn until 10 a.m. on the 26th instant.
The failure of the Government to take steps to develop the Newnes oil shale deposits as a Commonwealth undertaking is a national catastrophe. Recent reports iii newspapers which support the policy of this Government, and the Country party, stated that the Government had entered into negotiations with Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, an English concern, for the exploitation of this valuable Commonwealth asset. The Government has set aside a sum of not less than £4,000,000 for defence purposes, and contemplates purchasing a new cruiser in England to be the flagship of the Australian Navy. Provision is also being made for additional military aeroplanes and essential arms for the defence of this country; but absolutely nothing has been done, so far, for the development, as a national undertaking, of our oil resources, which arc essential to the effective operation of these defence units. We have at Newnes and Baerami, in New South Wales, as well as at Latrobe, in Tasmania, some of the richest shale deposits in the world. The decision of the Commonwealth Government, iu co-operation with the Government of Now South Wales, to allow Imperial Chemical Industries to exploit the Newnes deposits, instead of fulfilling its pledge to develop that asset as a national undertaking, cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged. On the 14th July., the Sydney Morning Herald stated -
It was announced to-day by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that, after a close examination of the report of the Newnes Investigation Committee, the Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales had decided that negotiations should bc entered into by representatives of the two governments with persons considered to possess the necessary technical and engineering qualifications to bring about the development of Newnes on the lines recommended by the committee. The name of Imperial Chemical Industries Limited had been mentioned as a very desirable company to undertake the work.
On the 16th July, the Melbourne Argus announced -
The Commonwealth Government is willim; to offer important concessions to persons willing to develop Newnes. The most important concession likely to be granted is freedom from excise for the spirit produced.
It is strange to find the Government willing to relinquish one of its best sources of revenue - excise duties. The great brown coal deposits of Yallourn, in Victoria, are being developed by the State, but Messrs. Lyons and Stevens arc not willing to develop the Newnes deposits as a national undertaking. In a report issued under the authority of Senator McLachlan, Minister in Charge of Development, and Mr. Vincent, Minister for Mines in the Stevens Government of New South Wales, the following appears : -
In. examining the project from a national point of view’ rather than that of the proponed company, it is necessary to weigh the advantages and disadvantages, some of which cannot be assessed monetarily. The position maybe summarized as follows: -
Advantages. - (a) The direct employment of about 350 persons in the mine and works, and the indirect employment of probably as many more. A large proportion of these men and their families arc undoubtedly at present a charge upon the unemployment relief funds of the State.
The receipt by the Commonwealth Government of excise payments after the fourth year of production estimated on the basis of the committee’s calculations to amount to £50,000 per annum.
In the face of those figures, freedom from excise duty on the spirit produced is proposed ! The Australian Manufacturer, a journal which is published in Sydney, contains the following paragraph: -
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, if thenegotiations provesuccessful. Imperial Chemical Industries Limited will be granted exemption from excise duties and substantial financial assistance is likely to be given to the company by the Government.
Honorable senators may not know that Imperial Chemical Industries Limited is one of the largest combines in the world with a capital of £95,000,000. We are told by the Sydney Morning Herald, an influential newspaper which supports the Lyons and Stevens Governments, that that wealthy and powerful company is not only to be granted relief from the payment of excise duties, but is also to be given financial assistance. Deposits of shale which should be developed as a national undertaking, in order to provide supplies of fuel for our naval and defence forces as well as for Australian factories and the Australian mercantile marine, are to be handed over to private enterprise. It is well that we should examine the activities of this company, both in Australia and in other countries. Founded by Lord Melchett it has a capital of £95,000,000. It constitutes one of the major units of the British armaments industry. Among its subsidiaries are Nobel Explosives Limited, I.C.I. Explosives Limited, and African Explosives and Industries Limited. In Australia, it operates through Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia Limited. At the annual meeting of Imperial Chemical Industries Limited on the 19th April, the present chairman, Sir Harry McGowan, said that he had visited China and Japan during the year to supervize selling organizations. Another director, Mr. Mitchell, had gone to Argentina where the company’s interests had been merged with those of the great American chemical and munitions firm, Messrs. du Pont. Yet another director, Mr. L. J. Rogers, had paid a visit to Australia. Dealing with an agreement with the International Hydrogenation Patents Company, in which the Standard Oil Company and the Royal Dutch Shell were associated, Sir Harry McGowan said -
We shall not be concerned with the distribution of petrol. Once it is made it will be handed over in bulk to nominated oil distributing companies.
If this huge combine obtains control of the Newnes shale deposits, it might give a temporary fillip to an Australian industry, but, ultimately, Australia will be the loser, for, instead of this country being independent of outside sources of petrol supplies, it will be in the hands of interests which will have much to gain by exploiting the nation. The Labour party stands solidly against handing over national resources to private trusts and combines. It believes that, in the interests of the nation, all deposits of coal and shale should be controlled by the nation. This view is expressed in the Australian Manufacturer thus -
Is it not also possible that strictly local enterprise could just as well handle the proposition, particularly if the Government would bind itself to giving the same assistance as it is so freely offering to the overseas concern?
The Government was not prepared to grant financial assistance to Messrs. Treganowan and Chambers to float an Australian company in order to explore the possibilities of the Newnes field, but it is prepared to assist this huge combine, which is one of the subsidiary companies of the Standard Oil Trust. Another remarkable feature of the campaign against a national oil industry is a leading article in the Sydney Morning Herald, of the 16th July, containing arguments based on premises that were more misleading than false. The Sydney Morning Herald put forward a plea on behalf of Imperial Chemical Industries Limited in the following paragraph: -
It is a matter for congratulation that, at their own risk, capitalists are prepared to commence treatment of our shales on a large scale.
The article then endeavoured to give the subject political significance by implying that the Labour party, in opposing the activities of Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, was actuated by unpatriotic and unworthy motives. It is worthy of note that the Sydney Morning Herald ignored the fact that the capitalists would possess assets of our people on which at least £1,500,000 had already been spent, and would be assisted by a government prepared to subsidize them further to the amount of another £300,000 of the people’s money. Imperial Chemical Industries Limited not only holds a monopoly of the production of chemicals in Britain,but also controls a number of concerns engaged in the manufacture of means for the destruction of human life in modern warfare. It has agreements or arrangements with the armament groups of Germany and the United States of America. It is a natural assumption that the ultimate dividends of the organization would be devoted more to modern warfare than to modern industry. It is this phase with which Labour is concerned. The budget provides for the expenditure of nearly £4,000,000 on defence. But no arrangements are made to ensure to the various arms of the service, a free and full supply of locally-produced fuel. It would have been better to devote the £4,000,000 to the rapid development of the oil industry upon a national basis, controlled by the people of Australia, and then to enter on the development of whatever measures were considered requisite for the defence of the nation.
The possibilities of Australian shale and coal as a source of fuel oil must be exploited with as little delay as possible. But that exploitation must be in the hands of our people. That is the policy that the Labour party advocates with respect to Newnes. It is the only policy that gives security. That view is supported by the Newnes Investigation Committee, which, in its report to the Minister for Development (Senator McLachlan), recommended that the company should be Australian, and under Australian control. Why has that committee’s recommendation been ignored? Once again the Government has placed vested interests before the welfare of the country.
Labour will develop Newnes as speedily as the people give it the opportunity to do so, and Labour will do it for the people and the welfare of the people, and not for overseas interests. I am sure that the people will have something to say on that matter on the 15th September. I have been reading the report of the investigation committee on the Newnes-Capertee shale oil project, a report which was submitted to Senator McLachlan, Minister in Control of Development for the Commonwealth, and to the Honorable R. S. Vincent, M.L.A., Minister of Mines for New South Wales, and I find on page 56 the following among the advantages expected from the project: -
First year of production, £11,000; second, third, and fourth years, £23,500 per annum; subsequently, £13,500 per annum.
The committee, on page 57, says -
Similar testimony can be adduced in respect of Latrobe, in Tasmania. The Tasmanian people have a right to demand the development of the shale deposits in their State. So too with Baerami and its shale deposits on the border of New SouthWales and Queensland. The report also states -
Yet nothing is being done. The report says further -
I have already referred to the recommendation of the committee that the company should be Australian and under Australian control. If it is the wish of the Government of the day to hand the field over to private enterprise, it should remember that there are in Australia companies prepared to jump into the breach if given the same concessions as the Government proposes to give to Imperial Chemical Industries Limited. In relation to the samples of shale, the committee, in its report, says -
Samples of crude and refined petrol prepared from Newnes shale oil in a pilot cracking plant have been received from Universal Oil Products Company. The finished spirit has been refined by acid and soda treatment, approximately to the specifications submitted by the committee. The colour and odour of the product are excellent, and the tests carried out by Universal Oil Products Company indicate satisfactory keeping qualities.
This is a report which honorable senators on this side of the chamber have carefully perused. We appeal to the Government to get on with the job, and to make the industry a national concern. I particularly appeal to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) in his capacity as Minister for Defence. A great responsibility rests upon him in the general administration of that huge department, and he should see that, if we are ever faced with another war - which God forbid - we are not cut off from essential petrol and oil supplies. We have enormous potential wealth in the shale deposits at Newnes, Capertee, Wolgan Valley, and Baerami, and also in Victoria and Tasmania. The Australian Manufacturer concluded an article on this subject in the following words : -
When a representative of this journal visited Newnes, to attend a ceremony which was supposed to inaugurate the earnest development of Newnes, the journalists present were told that the best machinery procurable was already installed, and that only the support of the Government was needed to make the venture entirely successful, from the point of view both of private enterprise and the nation. Members of both Houses of the Federal Parliament stressed the need to keep the enterprise purely Australian. What has happened in the meantime to make necessary a transfer of control to an overseas company?
That is criticism by a newspaper representing the Australian manufacturers, and not a Labour paper by any stretch of the imagination. I read the leading articles of that journal every week and can assure honorable senators that the editor is much more ready to attack the Labour party than to print eulogies of its policy in relation to the production of the nation’s mineral wealth. I feel confident that honorable senators on this side of the chamber, and, I trust, some honorable senators opposite, will support my proposal, which has been submitted in the interests of the Australian people. To-day tens of thousands of men and youths are walking the highways and byways of our cities and towns vainly seeking work. In New South Wales coal districts alone over 6,000 miners are on the cavil system. I have worked in mines in Queensland and elsewhere with many of these men, and when there is so much distress I cannot justify the attitude of the Government in this matter. Their womenfolk are also battling along against great odds, and earnestly hoping that the Government will soon make some provision for working the Newnes shale deposits, so that employment may be provided. Owing to the development of electrical machinery, steam-driven plants are not now used extensively, and thousands of coal-miners find it difficult to earn a living. This subject has been debated in this chamber on numerous occasions, and the Minister in charge of development has supplied answers to a number of questions asked by me, but nothing definite has been done. A few months ago we were informed that if we would only be patient, the shale deposits in Queens land, Tasmania, and New South Wales would soon be producing on a commercial basis. We were asked to await the report of Mr. Rogers, who inspected the hydrogenation plant erected at BillingtononTees by Imperial Chemical Industries
Limited, and were informed that action would be taken immediately that gentleman returned to Australia. Mr. Rogers has been in Australia for some time, but nothing has been done. It is deplorable that the power plant and other equipment at Newnes is idle, while so many men are out of work.
– The company will employ a large number of men.
– We have had no definite assurance from the Government that the company will get on with the job. 1 submit that, instead of the Government placing the control of operations at Newnes in the hands of a private company, it should proceed with the work. If the Commonwealth Government can control successfully the Postal department and other commercial undertakings, surely it has the capacity to conduct an industry of such importance to Australia as the production of oil fuel. If the Government will assume control of the development the Labour party will cooperate with it in an endeavour to make the Newnes shale industry the important national undertaking it should be.
– Senator Dunn has complained because the Government does not propose to operate the Newnes shale deposits as a national undertaking, and because it is negotiating with Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, with a view to that company undertaking the development of those deposits. I remind the honorable senator that the future of the production of shale oil in Australia depends upon the success achieved at Newnes. That is the focal point. The deposits have already been examined and worked, and the quantity of oil available in the shale has been definitely ascertained. The honorable senator said that it would be a national catastrophe if the Government did not act immediately, but I suggest to him that if work were to proceed on the lines he advocates, it would be a national catastrophe, not only to the industry, but also to the taxpayers who have to provide the money. This Government has done more than any other Government to develop the deposits on a commercial basis.
– I do not think that thu honorable senator should be unfair to the Scullin Government.
– When the Scullin Government decided to relieve unemployed miners in New South Wales, it opened up negotiations with the New South Wales Government. That government asked the New South Wales Government on various occasions through the Shale Oil Development Committee, which was administering the funds for the repatriation of surplus coal-miners, either to nationalize the industry or to supplement the funds provided by the Commonwealth for the development of the deposits. These pleadings fell on unsympathetic ears. In June, 1931, the committee arranged with the then Minister for Mines in New South Wales (Mr. Baddeley), to make the leases of the Newnes-Capertee shale areas available for the purpose of trial operations, and, in agreeing to that course, Mr. Baddeley replied that the request was granted on the distinct understanding that it did not involve the New South Wales Government in any expenditure: So much for the sympathy of the Lang Government with Newnes, and the desire of that government to give some practical effect to its oft-stated policy of nationalization.
The Scullin Government in a letter dated the 22nd October, 1931, placed a limit of £30,000 on expenditure by the committee at Newnes. The letter went on to say, inter alia -
I am directed to inform you that, in pursuance of the proposals which emanated from the conferences between the Miners Federation and the Governments - Commonwealth and State - certain of the amount sot aside for the repatriation of surplus mine workers was allocated for the development of the shale oil industry.
When Cabinet dealt with the report of the committee appointed for the purpose and the suggestion regarding the development of the shale’ oil industry was accepted, it was understood that the moneys appropriated by Parliament could not do more than assist private enterprise to exploit the possibilities of the industry. With this object in view, it was laid down that the fund should bc used for advances to approved companies on a £1 for £1 basis.
As you have advised, Newnes presented the most promising locality in which the possibilities of the industry might be explored; further, as you indicated that no legitimate section of private enterprise would undertake stitch exploratory work, it was recommenced to Cabinet that your committee’s proposal to spend £30,000 at Newnes should be agreed to. Cabinet concurred in this recommendation, and 1 am instructed to confirm the advice already conveyed to you that the conditions associated with the appropriation of this sum by Parliament render it imperative that private enterprise must be interested in the project, or otherwise your committee must retire from this field of activity when the maximum amount allocated for the work has been expended.
I am to ask you to make it perfectly clear to your committee that no responsibility should be accepted for continuity of employment or otherwise of the men employed in connexion with Newnes beyond the limits of funds available. The Commonwealth representatives on your committee have been informed accordingly.
The Commonwealth Government feels that, in sanctioning the expenditure of £30,000 by your committee at Newnes, there is an clement of risk, but this risk has been accepted in view nf the assurance given jointly by your committee and those interested in the parliamentary provision that justification exists for the assumption of such a risk.
You will appreciate that, in the circumstances, the earliest opportunity should be taken to place the Newnes proposition upon the basis originally agreed upon by Cabinet, namely, that the employment of mine workers would be subsidized to the extent of the amount appropriated on a £1 for £1 basis with private enterprise.
The information on Newnes in the possession of the then government was not as extensive as what we have to-day. The subsidizing of private enterprise is the policy which the present Government is supporting.
– Until the deposits are proved ; then the Government will let them get away with the loot.
– The honorable senator sees something sinister in everything this Government does. If he devoted his time to trying to assist in the development of an undertaking which, I agree, is of national importance, instead of spitting enmity at those who desire to do so, the country would be better served. I deprecate an industry of national importance being made the plaything of political attacks and used as a means of scoring off one government or another. I repeat that there is no distinction between the policy upon which we have embarked and that which was applied by the Scullin Government in this matter.
– There is a big difference.
– There is this difference - this Government has thoroughly investigated the matter through trained technicians in the oil industry. We went so far as to secure the services of an expert who had been sent overseas for training, and he has rendered valuable assistance to this industry. Without his aid I doubt verymuch whether the committee would have been able, in the report which Senator Dunn has quoted, to express such definite conclusions as it has expressed in regard to certain matters. Upwards of £3,000,000 has been expended by private enterprise at Newnes. On the site there is machinery capable of coping with a great amount of work, including a nest of about 30 retorts, that have only to be reconditioned to become effective in the production of oil. Having these facilities on the spot, the Government arranged for the proposal to re-start the works to be thoroughly investigated by a committee of experts, who could pronounce on every phase of the undertaking - financial, economic, mining, the production of crude oil, and the production of petrol from oil. This step was preceded by an unsuccessful effort by Messrs. Treganowan and Chambers to float a company to exploit this area; the reason for the failure of that flotation was that investors were not satisfied, in the light of past happenings, that Newnes was a profitable venture. We have always the contention that shale oil cannot compete with flow oil. In countries where flow oil is produced that may be so; but, in Australia, other matters have to be considered, particularly economic factors, and the committee was able to make certain recommendations after Messrs. Treganowan and Chambers’ failure. Mr. Treganowan’s bond of £5,000 still stands, and he is prepared when a proper basis has been arrived at, to invest this money in any company which might be formed for the purpose of developing Newnes. The committee made a complete survey of Newnes, and it is clear to the Government that the resources required to develop this area must be greater than were previously con- ( templated by this or the previous government. After the arrangement was made under which this Government secured options over the’ machinery and plant, an examination pointed to certain weaknesses in the shale, in the cracking process, and in various other directions. All of those points have been cleared up by the committee, which also, after careful examination, boring and checking, guarantees the existence of tremendous bodies of shale in the Newnes-Capertee area. When that was done, Mr. Rogers was sent overseas to investigate the cracking process, because the one great difficulty with which they were confronted was that the cracking of oil shale is an entirely different proposition from the cracking of flow oil. Various obstacles were encountered by Messrs. Treganowan and Chambers in connexion with the development of the deposits, one of the principal being that they could secure no guarantee from the overseas companies which carried out the cracking tests that laboratory results would be borne out when production took place on a commercial scale. It was to settle this doubt that Mr. Rogers was sent overseas to make the “necessary inquiries. Upon his return, the results of his investigations were disclosed, and his services were placed at the disposal of the committee, which subsequently forwarded its recommendation to the Government.
Under the present proposal for the development of the Newnes deposits, the Government will, in the first year, lose approximately £340,000 in customs duty and primage, and £180,000 a year if the project proves successful. I may also remind honorable senators that the company which will carry out this great work is under an obligation to examine, free of charge to the Government, the possibility of the development of shale deposits at Baerami, in New South Wales, at Latrobe in Tasmania, and at one other centre, the name of which has, for the moment, escaped my memory. It may interest honorable senators to know that shales vary so greatly in character that scientific tests, which may be applicable to shale deposits having certain characteristics, cannot be applied to shale deposits in another centre, and presenting somewhat different features, although, apparently, both deposits have the same constituent parts.
Broadly, the recommendation of the committee is that the Government should find 50 per cent, of the capital of £600,000 required to develop the Newnes deposits. That is to say that the Government should take £300,000 in ordinary shares of a company with a capital of £600,000, and that preference shares to the amount of £300,000 should be issued to the public, such preference to apply to both capital and dividend. That would mean that the Government would foe expected to wait until the preference shareholders had been paid off before it received any return on its investment.
– In other words, under such an arrangement, the Government would take second place.
– That is so. The proposal was, in effect, that the Government should enter into a partnership with a private company, and subscribe £300,000 under certain conditions. It was felt, however, by both the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments, that it would not be advisable to have public money invested in that way. We preferred to proceed along the lines adopted by the Scullin Government, namely, that the Commonwealth should subscribe a specified amount, to be treated as a loan, the payment of which should be postponed until the preference shareholders had been repaid.
We take the view that, because of its attendant risks, it is inadvisable for any government to engage in a mining enterprise of this nature. Senator Dunn has urged that we should nationalize the shale industry, because, as he put it, of its importance to the nation, and the probable effect of its development on the unemployment situation. I put it to honorable senators, however, that no mining project should he nationalized, and that those industries which have been nationalized are not only a continual source of anxiety to the governments concerned, but also mean a heavy financial loss to the community as a whole. That has been our experience.
– That is chiefly because Nationalist Governments have been in power.
– When the honorable senator’s party was in power, the Government with which he was associated took very much the same view of this matter. This Government is absolutely against nationalization of the shale industry. We are, however, prepared to assist in its development, and we have given ample evidence of our good faith in the matter, because, as I have shown, we are prepared to surrender a considerable amount of revenue, and accept substantial financial responsibility - the amount suggested is £150,000 each for the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments - in any company that might be formed. We are prepared to do all this in the interests of the community.
I have no doubt that were I to-morrow to submit to the investing public of Sydney a proposal on the lines indicated, I could float a company without great difficulty, because of the fact that the Government of the Commonwealth and New South Wales would be behind the venture to the amount of £300,000. But what would happen to the unfortunate investor in a private company which did not have available to it that technical advice and assistance which will be given to this projected company? I frankly admit that Imperial Chemical Industries may not he the concern best equipped to undertake the great task of exploiting the shale deposits at Newnes. In England, the activities of this company have been directed mainly to oil extraction by the hydrogenation process, with the assistance of the British Government.
– Is it dealing with the same class of shale in Great Britain?
– No; its investigations have been directed to the extraction of oil from coal. It is, however, investigating the possibilities of the shale oil industry in this country.
I saw Mr. Rogers, one of the directors of Imperial Chemical Industries, when he was in Australia, and I was assured that he would render every assistance possible to any concern that undertook the development of our shale deposits. Mr. Rogers told me that if, among his chemists, there was any man who could help Australia in this matter, his services would be placed at our disposal at no cost to the Government. I may add that on other occasions, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has had assistance from Mr. Rogers without fee or reward of any kind. The reason for this is, of course, understandable. The successful development of the
Newnes deposit will mean success for Imperial Chemical Industries. The suggestion that this concern is in some way controlled by one of the oil companies, is, I suggest to Senator Dunn, so much moonshine. These things may not seem out of place when said for political purposes on election platforms or from soap boxes at street corners, but when we are dealing with such an important matter as this, and have in mind definite responsibilities
– Statements made at street corners or elsewhere outside cannot be right if they are wrong in this chamber.
– Will the Minister say that Imperial Chemical Industries is not affiliated with the Standard Oil Company 1
– I have heard of no such affiliation, and I doubt that it is in any way connected with oil interests. The honorable senator suggested that Imperial Chemical Industries was subsidiary to the oil trust, and I can assure him that it would not regard that as a compliment. It does not consider itself to be. subsidiary to any other concern in the world. For the information of honorable senators, I may say that it is represented in this country by the Synthetic Coal Oil Products Limited, which is an Australian company.
– Yes; a pup of the other.
– Well, it cannot be regarded as a mongrel, because 60 per cent, of the capital is held by Australian interests. It is just as well that honorable senators should know this.
I believe that the necessary capital for the development of the Newnes deposits can be secured, provided that three factors are settled.
– The Government has been saying that for the last two and a half years.
– If the honorable gentleman will read . the report of the committee which made the investigation he will admit that, at this stage, there are three obstacles to the launching of a project to develop the Newnes deposits. I think they will be removed. One uncertain factor I har© already mentioned, namely, the application of the results of laboratory tests to production on a commercial scale. Very soon Mr. Rogers will be leaving for America and will be bringing back petrol extracted from Newnes shale for road tests. If these are successful the Commonwealth Oil Refineries, with which the Commonwealth is associated, will deal with the problem of distribution.
– Of course!
– The fact that a serious attempt is being made to surmount the many difficulties encountered in the development of Newnes shale appears to be a subject of hilarity with the honorable senator, but for his benefit, I may say that the committee recommended that a complete check of every aspect of the proposal should be made before the Commonwealth became committed to the scheme. If the road test is satisfactory, and I am assured that it will bo, the Commonwealth Oil Refineries is prepared to enter into an arrangement which should overcome the second difficulty, namely, the marketing of the surplus product after governmental requirements have been met. The third factor, and a very important one, is continuity of production. I have had assurances from the officials of the trade unions interested that they will do all in their power to implement any award or agreement that might be made to ensure continuity of operation. They have promised that there will be no interruption by strikes and other disturbances in the event of a company being formed to develop the Newnes shale, and that the project will be allowed to function in the manner visualized in the report.
If continuity of production can be guaranteed, the proposal, I venture to say, is a really good investment under the conditions laid down, because, in addition to Commonwealth financial assistance, there is provision for the am- mortization of the capital in twenty years and the return of 6 per cent. to the preference shareholders.
I invite honorable senators to examine the work which this Government and the Government of New South Wales have done for the development of the Newnes deposits. The utmost care has been taken to ensure success. Nothing has been left to chance. We realize that if success does not attend our efforts on this occasion the production of oil from shale or from any other product will be delayed for perhaps the next decade. As I have stated, an immense sum of money has been expended in previous attempts to develop this great asset. Those honorable senators who are interested should visit the Newnes field and see what has been done there. I assure them, in all sincerity, that the Government is anxious to see the deposits worked on safe and satisfactory lines. But it has no intention to nationalize the industry. That is contrary to its policy. It was contrary also to the policy of the previous Administration. This Government has, however, taken what steps it considered necessary to ensure that when the work is started it will be on right lines and be a source of satisfaction to the people of Australia. The Government is not confined to Imperial Chemical Industries Limited. That company may not have the necessary technical knowledge. Other companies associated with the production of oil from shale may be induced to come to Australia to develop the Newnes deposits.
– What about Scottish interests?
– The Government has endeavoured to make contact with them. Possibly along the line suggestedby the honorable senator lies the solution ofthis problem. In all these matters I have to consult with the Minister for Mines in the New South Wales Government. The Government is willing that Australian money shall be invested in the development of Newnes; but it does not want to be left without the advice of the best authorities regarding one of the most attractive, as well as one of the largest, propositions which have come under its notice.
– I listenedwith a great deal of interest to the Minister’s explanation of the Government’s action in relation to Newnes. I would be the last to condemn, and the first to applaud, any government which seeks to increase the capacity of Australia to carry a larger population. When I was a member of the Scullin
Government, I visualized the possibilities of shale-mining in Australia; indeed, the whole Cabinet was keenly interested in the prospect. The present Minister in charge of Development (Senator McLachlan) may seek to make political capital by saying that the Lyons Government, not the Scullin Government, first; realized the possibilities of Newnes; but documents in his own department will show that his statement is contrary to the facts. The Newnes field lay idle for years - from the time when a big oil combine closed it down after having purchased it from the man who owned it - until the Scull-in Government realized its possibilities and took action -bo develop it. To Mr. Beasley, the leader of the faction which Senator Dunn represents in this chamber, credit is due for the action taken to develop this great industry. When the Scullin Government, having failed to rehabilitate the coal-mining industry, attempted to repatriate the coal-miners, it turned to the country’s shale deposits. It was that Government which secured the first option over Newnes. Yet the Minister said that the Scullin Government did nothing to develop the field, and that it was left to the present Government to do everything that has been done. I remind him that the man who recommended Newnes, and watched over its development from the moment that the Scullin Government took it over until that Government went out of office, was Sir Herbert Gepp, the consultant of the present Government. He was appointed bv the Bruce-Page Government at a salary of £5,000 a year.
– He waa not on the committee.
– As usual, the Minister is talking without knowledge of the facts. Sir Herbert Gepp was the man who secured the first option over Newnes. He was the man who first advised me, as Minister, of the possibilities of the field, alter I had taken twelve months to convince him that it had any possibilities. During the time that I was Minister in charge of Development, Sir Herbert Gepp was my consultant in regard ;to Newnes. Nor did the Scullin Government appoint Mr. John Gunn as Director of Development; the Bruce-Page Government made that appointment. I ask the Minister whether Mr. Gunn has had anything to do with Newnes.
– Not as an oil expert.
– Mr. Gunn is the Director of Development in regard to all industries; he has been placed in charge <of wheat, wine, wool, and everything else. The Bruce-Page Government handed him over to the Scullin Government as an all-round man, in receipt of a salary of £2,500 a year. Mr. Gunn was placed in charge of a Newnes inquiry, and he is still in charge of it. It will be seen, therefore, that the men who advised the Scullin Government in these matters are now the advisers of the present Government. The Scullin Government pioneered this industry. Senator McLachlan was Minister in charge of Development before I took charge; but, only after the Scullin Government had taken steps to develop Newnes, did he see any possibilities in the field. To his credit be it said that no Minister has devoted more attention, or greater care, to this industry than he has. But it was the Scullin Government which awakened, his interest. For him to say now that another government fiddled with Newnes, and that, had that government remained in office, the industry would have remained in chaos, is moonshine. To put it colloquially, the Scullin Government placed shale oil “ on the map.” The members of that Government will be the first to applaud this, or any other government, which successfully develops that wonderful proposition. I do not like the Minister’s suggestion that the Scullin Government did not do anything to develop Newnes.
– I did not suggest that.
– The Minister was also wrong when he said that the Scullin Government, despite its policy of nationalization of industry, decided that the shale-mining industry was one which should bc an exception, believing tha>t it could best be developed by private enterprise. At this stage I do not want to debate the relative merits of nationalization, socialization, or private enterprise in regard to industry; but I remind the Minister that the Scullin Government had control of a -trust fund of only £.100,000 approved by this Parliament, for the purpose of repatriating coalminers. Does he think ‘that any government could have made a success of the Newnes field by expending only £100,000 on its development, and at the same time discharge its trust to the coal-miners? The Minister has admitted to-day that a company with a capital of at least £600,000 is necessary. The coal-miners, through Mr. Beasley, said that they were prepared to assist the Scullin Government in exploiting .the possibilities of Newnes and Baerami. That government co-operated with the coal-miners on a pound for pound basis. When a certain stage of development had been reached, the Government discovered, that under the terms of the .trust fund, it had no right to buy a mine, or even to acquire a controlling interest in a mine; the money voted by Parliament had to be expended on the repatriation of coalmiiners. Just before Senator McLachlan took over the control of this wonderful industry the Scullin Government was confronted with the possibility of a breach of the law if it undertook further developmental work at Newnes. That government recognized that it would be dishonest if it used the money in the trust fund for any other purpose than that agreed to by Parliament. The nationalization of the industry was not considered, for the reason that I have given, apart altogether from the fact that that government had not sufficient money available for the purpose. It appointed a committee, and went on with the investigation in the hope that private enterprise would take over the industry, and provide employment for the large number of idle miners in the Newcastle district. Unfortunately for themselves, the people of Australia put the Scullin Government out of office. The Lyons Government has been in office for two and a half years. I do -not know whether it favours the Kelleway style of batting, but it certainly has indulged in stone-walling. I want to see something done with the Newnes deposits.
– What does the honorable senator suggest?
– I suggest that the present Government be put off the trea sury bench, and another government, which will honestly attempt to exploit the possibilities of Newnes, put there.
– I should like a sensible answer to my inquiry.
-I know of no more sensible suggestion than that which I have made, if the Newnes deposits are to be developed. I ask the Minister to see in this motion something more than an endeavour to make political capital out of it. I commend him for all that he has done to develop these deposits; but I think that both he and the Government, of which he is a member, could have done more. I sincerely hope that he will not hand over the field to Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, or any other company, before the election, so that there will be nothing to prevent a Labour government from developing this wonderful field in a manner which will be in the best interests of Australia.
– I regret, not only that I displeased the Minister in charge of this bill with, my remarks, but also that in reply to my interjection, he was unable to be original, and could only repeat the timeworn platitude about spitting enmity and talking in this chamber in a way which, although perhaps all right on the soap box, is. of no use here. Is the Minister unaware that, tb-day, Europe is on the verge of another world war, that the cause of the ferment is the struggle for the possession of oil, and that the next war will be fought on that issue? Does he not think that the Commonwealth would be well advised to devise at least this one protective measure in the way of national defence, by refusing to allow any of the oil possibilities of the continent to he handed over to private profit-making concerns ? I am tired of hearing the apologists for the present Government continually saying that no salvation is possible except to the extent that we can assist private enterprise. On the contrary, I say that for the extent to which Australia is suffering to-day, private enterprise is entirely to blame. It has failed ignominiously everywhere throughout the ages. It has filled the world with tragedy and disaster, of both of which Australia is getting its full issue, in spite of the fact that it is a self-contained country, geographically isolated) and that there is no necessity for us to be suffering the disadvantages that other parts of the world have to face.
– State enterprises were not very successful in Queenslaud.
– I can assure the honorable senator that Statecontrolled enterprise, to the extent to which it was given its opportunity in Queensland, was an unqualified success. I do not expect him to believe that, but I am prepared to meet him at any time oh the public platform, and allow him to select his audience, and I will tell that selected audience the true story of Statecontrolled enterprise in Queensland, and convince my hearers that it was an unqualified success. The Minister assures us this afternoon that it is by no means certain that Imperial Chemical Industries Limited will get this job. During the whole of the two and a half years that I have ! beer in this chamber, Newnes has been in the picture, but nothing except certain preliminary operations has been done. We suspect those preliminary operations; we say- they are tainted at the source, and that the chances are a hundred to one that they will finish in exactly the way they are designed to finish. The Government will conclude an arrangement or contract with some company or other behind the back of Parliament, and we shall know nothing whatever about it in this chamber except what we can gather from the Governmentinspired press. Then a contract Or agreement will be thrown down before us and we shall be told that we can throw it out but not amend it, because the Government lias concluded an arrangement that awaits only ratification by Parliament. We shall be given the opportunity to do nothing except talk. The job will be done, the wrong will be committed, and unless a new government comes in with the courage to take no notice of contracts and to wipe that arrangement off the statutebook, the evil will be perpetuated. I wish to ask the Minister, in all seriousness, two questions. If he believes that this project will not be a success, if he believes .that we shall not be able to get oil in commercial quantities from the Newnes deposits, why is he endeavouring to bring private enterprise into something that is not going to (be profitable? Why does he further suggest that the Australian public shall be allowed to acquire preference shares to the amount of £300,000, and why is the Government prepared to subscribe also? In my opinion the Minister believes that it is going to he a success; if it is to be a success that is the very best reason why it should be owned and controlled by the nation, and not by private enterprise. That is the whole point. We on this side feel strongly on the matter. I think I can speak for every member of the Labour Opposition in this chamber when I say that we are tired of governments carrying undertakings on until they are proved to be paying propositions, then handing them over for the benefit of private enterprise. We object to governments taking all the initial risk and then allowing private enterprise to get away with the loot. I believe this industry can be made a success. We are on the verge of more extensive scientific knowledge regarding the possibilities of extracting oil from coal and shale. It is because I believe that the undertaking will be a success, and a wonderful help in time of national emergency, that I am urging the Government to take control. There must be millions of gallons of oil to be won. I am not concerned about any possible loss of revenue from the oil at present imported. What I desire is to see Australia take another step towards being a selfcontained nation, and towards its own effective defence in time of national emergency. There will be a great opportunity, if the project is gone on with, to relieve the serious amount of unemployment existing among the miners, particularly the coal-miners of Newcastle. Senator Daly said something about the objective of this development proposal. One part of the objective was the repatriation of coal-miners. There are tens of thousands of them in Australia to-day who know nothing of any other calling. They will never again get work at that calling in Australia unless some new development takes place. That new development could be supplied by this enterprise in the hands of the Government. It would repatriate thousands of miners, who could be employed in the developmental work, and in all the work that would naturally follow. There is another reason why we should not hand the industry over to private enterprise. It should be kept within the control of the nation, because there is no authority so well able to do the job as the nation itself, operating through those who understand the work, if the nation makes up its mind to do it. I know it will be said that when the State or the Commonwealth controls an employing industry, labour does not do its job. That is not due to any inherent evil in the individual or in the collective capacity of a number of individuals; but is usually due to the fact that we put in charge of these undertakings men who are opposed to the policy of national ownership and control. If that is not the whole explanation of inefficiency in that regard, there is the further explanation that when men who are not capable of giving efficient service get into trouble on that account, members of Parliament are immediately on the doorstep of the manager or the Minister, pleading for them to be put back again, without regard to the fact that they have already shown their inefficiency. It is the workers, including men like the miners of Newcastle, who are doing all the real work of the world good, bad, and indifferent. It is not Ministers of State or senators occupying seats in this chamber who do the work or make any useful contribution to it. This matter is not being put forward byus with the object of obtaining political kudos, because we are not likely to get anything out of it, nor is it a matter, as the Minister ungraciously said, of “ spitting enmity “. The debate arises out of a crucial difference of opinion between the Labour party and its opponents, as to how this country should be run in order to provide the greatest amount of happiness for all the people in it. So long as I have the opportunity to do so in this chamber, I shall oppose the handing over of any important undertaking to private enterprise, because in that direction lies disaster to the Australian people, both as a nation andas individuals.When war broke out in 1914, and it was essen tial to protect the people from the rapacity, the profit-making instincts, and the unscrupulous tactics of private enterprise, the Government of every country involved in the struggle had to take control at once of all national necessities. That proved the truth of our charges against private enterprise. All we are asking to-day is that in a time of comparative peace the nation shall not be lulled into a false sense of security, or allow its essential resources to be seized by private enterprise, which has no regard for the interest or the safety of the nation as a whole.
– Senator Collings said that he would never be a party to handing over to private enterprise what he regards as a national industry. In my opinion it is sentiments such as those expressed by the honorable senator that will delay the development of this industry almost for ever. Nobody should be able to speak with more authority and knowledge about the disasters that have overtaken most State enterprises than should the honorable senator himself. He has only to turn his attention to his own State of Queensland, where experiments of that kind have cost the country millions of pounds. Proof positive that these State undertakings were failures is furnished by the fact that, although a Labour government is in office in Queensland to-day, it has made no attempt to repossess those enterprises which were disposed of by a previous non-Labour administration.
– Some were never taken away.
– Some were not, but the State is strewn with the wreckage of the failures.
– There are such enterprises as the posts and telegraphs, State insurance, and workers’ compensation.
– I am not speaking of those ; I am referring to pastoral stations, fish shops and brickyards. Past governments and the present Government are to be commended for what has been done to develop the oil shale resources of the Commonwealth, but whether they have done all that should be done in that direction is open to question. It is at least a quarter of a century since tlie first attempt was made to develop the shale resources of Australia. I am nw. quite sure when the first effort was made to exploit the Newnes deposits, but it is a quarter of a century, if not more, since the first attempt was made in Tasmania. I think the Minister said that £3,000,000 of private capital had been expended at Newnes, and I believe £1,000,000 or more has been spent in Tasmania. We should take stock of the position, to see whether something cannot be done to develop Australia’s great natural resources for the supply of oil and its by-products. For years the Commonwealth Government provided on the Estimates sums of money to assist in the discovery of flow oil. It was believed, and the Government was encouraged in that belief by the reports of experts, that there were good prospects of the discovery of flow oil in Australia. I remember speaking on that matter when the Senate was meeting in Melbourne. I said then that whilst I would support the vote apearing on the Estimates to encourage boring for flow oil, I thought that an equal sum should at the same time be provided to encourage “ the development of our oil shale deposits. As the results so far achieved in Australia in obtaining flow oil in commercial quantities have been anything but encouraging, the Government should concentrate upon securing supplies from shale. For many years attempts have been made to develop these deposits, and up to the present approximately £1,000,000 of private capital has been invested in the works at Latrobe which are now practically idle. I pay tribute to those enterprising men who have invested their capital in that undertaking, in the hope, of course, of receiving some return on their outlay, but incidentally assisting a great national work. The Commonwealth Government has been generous in the assistance it has given to the industry, but more must be done before shale oil can be produced on a commercial basis. Success cannot be achieved by placing these deposits under government control as was suggested by Senator ‘Dunn and Senator Collings. The advantage of a local supply of fuel oil for defence purposes has been stressed from time to time.
From a national view-point, the Government should consider seriously the development of our great oil resources. The Commonwealth and State governments which are large users of fuel oil and motor spirit, could enter into contracts with private enterprise for the supply of their requirements at a reasonable price, and in that way stimulate production. During the past four or five years, the company now operating at Latrobe has spent over £100,000 in developing that deposit, the Tasmanian Government has made its technical officers available, and the Hydro-electric Department has supplied power at a low rate, but even with that assistance, the works are on the point of closing down because the product cannot be sold at a profitable price. I commend the Government for declining to conduct the industry as a State enterprise, but I trust that it will not concentrate too much upon. Newnes. It should devote more attention to the Latrobe deposits, which are only 8 to 10 miles from the seaboard, and can be readily worked.
– This subject has aspects other than those which have been discussed by some honorable senators. The present prospects of discovering flow oil in Australia as mentioned by Senator Herbert Hays are unfavorable, and that is one reason why attention should be devoted to the exploitation of our shale deposits, which are rich in oil. The honorable senator also complained because the same attention has not been given to- the Tasmanian deposits, as has been given to those at Newnes, hut I agree with the Minister that it is preferable to concentrate upon the most important deposit in the Commonwealth before attempting to develop others, so that any mistakes mede will not be repeated.
– The shale seams at Newnes are narrow, while those at Latrobe are 5 feet thick.
– That may be so, but the Government should concentrate on one deposit.
– Particularly when the residue of a plant which cost £2,000,000 is available.
– That is another advantage. At this juncture it is useless to debate the relative merits of governmental control and private enterprise. Those opposed to socialistic ideals are in power, and any arguments that we may adduce must be of an academic character, and cannot affect the result. All public authorities and politicians admit that some activities can be more efficiently and profitably conducted by governments than by private individuals. Would any honorable senator favour the Post and Telegraph Department being controlled by private enterprise?
– That is a public utility.
– The production of oil is of greater importance than the transport of mail matter.
– The State railways do not provide a very good example of governmental control.
– Has the Minister ever visited Newnes?
– On several occasions.
– Then the Minister must be acquainted, as I am, with the fact that the operations at Newnes provide a most glaring example of the failure of private enterprise. Millions of pounds have been spent by private interests at Newnes in endeavouring to develop the shale deposits. I remember taking a trip down the company’s famous railway at Newnes, and on the return journey I found that by walking quickly, and taking a short cut, I could get ahead of the train. Then I stepped aboard while the train was going at full speed. That train was owned and operated by an oil corporation, and this incident, I suggest, was a glaring example of the marvellous efficiency of private enterprise. The company was not a tinpot organization that failed through early financial exhaustion; it had a very large paid-up capital, it had actually treated shale and produced oil and by-products; yet, with all its experience and money, it was unable to continue operations. That is one instance of the failure of private enterprise. We are continually being told of the failure of State enterprises, but, in fairness, we must remember that the critics of such undertakings are legion. It is to the advantage of politicians to expose the failures of those who preceded them in office, and to say little of the successes; consequently, every unsuccessful State enterprise is widely advertised. I hold the opinion that some State undertakings have been deliberately sabotaged by private enterprise, in order that the latter might get them into their own hands. For instance, the State timber yards in New South Wales were ruined by sheer neglect and incompetence on the part of those entrusted with their administration. In this case, there was, undoubtedly, bribery, although not provable in court, on the part of some of those interested in timber mills, to have the State mills so badly managed as to cause their ultimate failure.
– The honorable senator is diverging from the subject of the motion.
-The Minister has pointed out that nationalization of the shale oil industry is against the policy of the Government, and he alluded to the failure of State enterprises. But practically every government in the civilized world realizes that some functions can be better controlled and operated by the State than by any other authority. That is notably true of afforestation. Who is likely to invest money in such an enterprise knowing that only his grand children or great grand children will reap any financial benefit from it?
– Afforestation undertakings offer a great refuge to the politician, as any mistakes he might make in such undertakings will never be found out in his lifetime. I can see birds coming home to roost very shortly, as a result of some such undertakings.
– The afforestation field has been open to private enterprise for generations, and the fact that private investors have not turned their attentions to it to any considerable extent is evidence that it is not profitable. There are some things that can best he controlled by the State, and even those who do not favour socialism as a policy or system are prepared to admit that, I affirm, without fear of successful contradiction, that the development of shale oil is such an undertaking, in view of the circumstances existing in Australia, and I contend that these deposits should be exploited by the Government for the simple reason that, as a French statesman recently said, “ Ownership of oil means empire “. Without oil, no nation can successfully hold its own against other powers.I do not intend to deal further with the defence aspects of the matter. The Minister rightly insists that, as far as possible, the preliminary problems relating to the
Newnes shale deposits shall be solved before the enterprise is undertaken on a commercial basis, but technical knowledge, without which this enterprise could not be successfully operated, can be obtained as readily by the Government as by Imperial Chemical Industries Limited or any other private body. The very fact that the Government has been able to obtain technical assistance in solving the problems it has already dealt with shows that such assistance would be available to the Government in further developmental operations. Technicians will be just as willing to take positions under the Government, as they would be to accept employment with any private concern. It is a lamentable argument to say that lack of technical knowledge puts the Government out of court. As the Minister has said, even the technicians employed by Imperial Chemical Industries Limited may not know much about shale oil, but we know that in Scotland shale deposits, not comparable in richness with those at Newnes, have been worked for many years. Surely all the data concerning the working of the Scottish deposits can be obtained by the Government.
– Those deposits were worked fairly extensively during the war.
– That is so, and the honorable senator will admit that the Scottish shale is of low grade when compared with that at Newnes. We also know that we can liquefy coal, and therefore are not compelled to confine our attention to shale oil. There are more ways than one of obtaining the fuel needed in warfare and for transport.
– We are confined to one process at present. The cost of hydrogenation is prohibitive.
– The fact that hydrogenation is being utilised in some coun tries shows that we can turn our attention to coal when our shale deposits are exhausted.
– I was informed that the cost of a hydrogenation plant in this country would be £12,000,000.
– If such a plant could be profitably worked, no doubt we could obtain that capital. I am not arguing that we should do it now, but I am acquainted with a man who, for six years after the war, was engaged in Germany in the successful operation of the hydrogenation process, which, undoubtedly has advanced beyond the experimental stage. I support the motion moved by my colleague, because I think it is vitally necessary to Australia that this matter should be dealt with in a way that will serve the interests of the Australian people.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I thank honorable senators who have assisted in this debate. The Minister told us that the expert, Mr. Rogers, has again gone abroad. Mr. Rogers was previously absent for nine months, and during that period, when honorable senators on this side of the chamber were urging the Government to take definite steps to develop the shale oil industry, we were told to withhold our criticism, until Mr. Rogers returned with full knowledge of the facts as a result of his investigations in England, Germany and the United States of America. Now we learn that Mr. Rogers has gone abroad on another jaunt.
– Apparently the honorable senator has not read the report. If he had, he would see. that Mr. Rogers’ trip overseas was recommended by the committee.
– I suggest that the Minister is now disclosing the fact that Mr. Rogers has not learned enough, and as a result, must make a second trip abroad. This, I submit, reveals that the Minister and those in control of this matter have slipped badly. I have been making some research into the history of this matter during the last 24 years. When moving the second reading of the Shale Oils Bounty Bill on the8th November, 1910, Senator Pearce, then Minister for Defence in the Fisher Labour Government, and now holding the same portfolio in a United , Australia party Government, said -
Fuel oil is found in a raw and natural state in very few places in the world, and the effect is to lead to its concentration in the hands of a very few owners. I suppose that the Standard Oil monopoly is the greatest in the world. It 13, therefore, important that we in Australia, having, as we are assured, great deposits of shale. should take early action to have these deposits developed, so that we may be independent of outside supplies oil for fuel. One aspect of the matter, in which we are particularly concerned, is that many of the vessels wu aru ordering -for our fleet will require oil or fuel. We have been assured that the oil wu require oan bo successfully produced from the shale of which we have enormous quantities in Australia, lt would be a calamity if, in time of war, or even in time of peace, we wore dependent on outside supplies for thu oil required for our ships, I might mention further that, in connection with the dairying industry, and many other industries, oil engines are coming into more frequent use: and this is another reason why we should do all that is possible to develop our shale deposits.
He also said - .
Further, the industry would not derive such mi immediate benefit from the imposition of a. duty, us it will from the payment of a bounty. By offering it a. bounty, we shall be able to give the industry a certain amount of encouragement direct without penalising the persons who use it.
He went on to say -
The oil manufacturers have to face the competition of one of the great monopolies of the world in the Standard Oil Company of the United States of America. When we remember the fierceness of the competition, the strength of the competitors, the capital invested, the number of men employed, and the wages conditions, we cannot reasonably expect the company to succeed in Australia unless we do render them some assistance at this stage.
That statement was made nearly twentyfour years ago, and is on record in Hansard. Senator .Pearce on that occasion also said -
When the works of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation are in full swing, 2,500 employees will be required.
I n his budget yesterday, the Prime Minister said that everything was being done io meet the unemployment situation, not only in New South “Wales, but nil over the Commonwealth. I intend .to test the sincerity of the Minister for Defence in connexion with this matter by dividing the Senate on my motion. We shall then see if his views of to-day are in line with his expression of opinion in 1910, when he held a similar portfolio in the Fisher Labour Government. He then declared his belief in tariff protection for Australian private enterprise against the overseas oil interests. We shall see if he is now willing to take the same stand, and thus help the tens of thousands of unemployed miners to obtain employment in the development of our shale deposits and subsidiary industries. Twenty-four years ago, Senator Pearce was quite out-spoken as a Labour Minister. Since then he has become respectable, and hostile to proposals which formerly he championed. As for the Minister in charge of Development (Senator McLachlan) he has been backing and filling over the development of the Newnes shale deposits for the last two and a half years. On one occasion he went to Newnes with a great flourish of trumpets to’ get first-hand information about the work being done by Messrs. Treganowan and Chambers; but when they asked for some assistance in the matter of excise, and a bounty, we soon discovered that this Government was not prepared to assist an Australian’ company. Now we have a proposal arising out of negotiations with an overseas concern, a subsidiary of the Standard Oil Trust, having £93,000,000 of reserve funds to carry out this work, and it appears that Senator Pearce, as one of the Leaders of the United Australia Country party, is willing to help international capitalism, to do the job. The whole scene has changed.
– The honorable senator has declared that the Leader of the Senate has now become respectable.
– If political respectability mean3 membership of the United Australia and Country parties, which today are fighting like wolves over preselection arrangements for the approaching elections, I want none of it. But I am interested in the political evolution of tho Leader of the Senate. At one time he was considered such a good Labour man that he was entrusted with the responsibility of moving the May Day resolutions. To-day he is one of the pillars of the Lyons Administration, and apparently disowns his former political associates. Senator McLachlan this afternoon in replying to an interjection mentioned that certain views which might be all right in speeches made at street corners or elsewhere off a soap-box, would not be acceptable in this chamber. Here is an opportunity for honorable senators, irrespective of the school of thought to which they belong, to show where they stand in relation to the problem of unemployment in Australia. They cannot have it both ways. They cannot go to the Hotel Australia, the “Millions, or Constitutional Clubs, or the luncheons staged at David Jones & Company in Sydney, and preach the doctrine of 100 per cent. Australianism, and at the same time be ready to hand over vast national resources to an overseas corporation. However, if Senator McLachlan will see eye to eye with me on this matter, and if he gets the pre-selection for the Baker division at the forthcoming election, he will win by an overwhelming majority - I don’t think.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : - 1 and 2. A statement showing all loan issues raised by the Commonwealth is included in pages 106 to 115 of the budget papers 1934-3,5. The statement shows full particulars of issue, including the purposes of the loan.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
What action, if any, has been taken by the Government to implement the report and recommendation, dated the 26th October. 1932. of the Commonwealth Wool Inquiry Committee?
– A reply will be furnished at a later date.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Have any representations been received from the Government tff Western Australia in regard to improving the lighting, for navigation purposes, of the north-west coast?
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
No representations have been received from the Government of Western Australia. Preliminary investigations are at present being made in> regard to the establishment of a light at Cape Ronsard.
asked the Ministor representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Whether it is correct, as stated in the Melbourne Age of Monday, the 23rd July, that the Minister for Commerce (Honorable F. H. Stewart) read to the Meat Conference, held at Canberra on Thursday last, the secret and confidential cablegrams which have passed between the Commonwealth Government and the British Government relative to the restriction of meat exports, although such cables have not yet been made available to members of this Parliament?
Senator Sir HARRY LAWSON.The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
Certain cables between the Commonwealth Government and the High Commissioner in london, and from the British Government to the Commonwealth Government, relative to the proposed regulation of meat imports into the United Kingdam, were read by the Minister for Commerce to the members of the Meat Advisory Committee, for their confidential information, in order to assist in the consideration of future policy in the interests of Australian meat producers.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
What action has the Government taken in regard to the deportation of Captain J. A. Macarthur Onslow, a returned soldier, from Norfolk Island, without trial, and after being submitted to a language test in German?
– A full report on the matter has been obtained from the Administrator. It is clear that the Administrator acted in conformity with the law of the Territory, and the Government is satisfied that his action was. justified by the circumstances of the case.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Senator Sir HARRY LAWSON.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the Government’s statement that the members of the committee which has been appointed to oppose the “ Case for Secession “ are being paid fees ranging from 100 to 150 guineas each, plus travelling expenses and an allowance of 25s. per day each -
Is it a fact that the members of the committee in Western Australia, which prepared “The Case of the People of Western Australia in support cif their desire to withdraw from the Federal Commonwealth and to restore Western Australia to its former status as a separate self-governing colony in the British Empire with dominion status”, acted in an entirely honorary capacity for a period of four months?
Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Government was unable to find any persons willing to act in a similar honorary capacity in replying to the “ Case for Secession “ ?
” What payments in (o) fees, (6) allowances, and (o) travelling expenses, have been made on account of each member of the Commonwealth’s committee ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions:- -
Mi nister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the increasing interest being shown both in Australia and abroad in the gold-mining industry, will the Government instruct the Tariff Board to inquire fully into the best methods of permitting the expansion of this industry by relieving it from the burden of the protective incidence of the tariff, and particularly by a reduction in the duties on mining machinery and requisites?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
The general question of the tariff duties on mining machinery has been referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Senator Sir HARRY LAWSON.The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Can the Minister intimate when the interim report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry, referred to in the reply to a previous question by Senator O’Halloran, will be available?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
It is expected that the interim report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry will be available within the next week.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Have any concessions of any kind, other than those provided for under the Ottawa agreement as agreed to by Parliament, been made, or are any such contemplated, upon bananas imported into Australia from Fiji?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
No concessions other than those provided for under the Ottawa agreement, as approved by Parliament, have been made to Fiji upon bananas imported into Australia, and none is contemplated.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Does the Sanitarium Health Food Company, of Sydney, New South Wales, pay income tax. and/or sales tax; if not, why not?
– The secrecy provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act and the Sales Tax Assessment Act preclude the Commissioner from disclosing any information relating to the affairs of taxpayers.
asked the Leader of tlie Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice. -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The Attorney-General has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Nationality Act 1920- 1930.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Bill read a third time.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
COMMOnWEALTH ELECTORAL BILL 1934.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
[5.42] . - I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Some of the amendments being made in the electoral law by this bill are immaterial. For instance, there is one to strike out sub-section 2 of section 29 of the existing act. Sub-section 2 was entirely a drafting provision, and has now no significance whatever. Its words are really surplusage, and have long ceased to have any effect. They had a meaning when they were first put into the act, but they have none now. This measure embraces a number of proposed alterations to the Commonwealth Electoral Act, designed to improve that statute in several respects, mainly in the direction of ensuring more accurate and efficient rolls and obtaining a definite and complete reflection of the wishes of the electors in the election of senators. The bill includes three separate clauses intended to advance the purity of the rolls. Firstly, clause 4 amends the principal act, making it clear beyond any doubt that an elector is entitled to enrol only in respect of the actual address at which he is living. The proposed amendment docs not involve any departure from the existing principles of the Electoral Act, but merely defines those principles with greater clearness. The amendments that are made in that respect have been included in this bill as the result of the experience of the last election and the hearing, before the court, of cases arising out of it. The defects that were then found by the court in the electoral law are being remedied by this amending legislation. Section 41 of the principal act states: “No person is entitled to have his name placed upon any roll other than the roll for the subdivision in which he lives.” The addition of the words set out in clause 4 of the bill will not alter this provision in any way, hut by expressing unequivocally that the elector must enrol in respect of the address in the subdivision at which he actually resides, the intent of the law will be made quite clear and any possibility of misunderstanding removed. The next of the three clauses relating to enrolment is clause 5. This, likewise, is not so much a new provision as an extension of the provisions already contained in the Electoral Act. Under the existing law, provision is made to remedy any incorrect enrolment as between subdivisions in the same division, and all we now propose to do is to extend such remedial action tocover incorrect enrolments as between subdivisions in separate divisions. Honorable senators will see that that involves no alteration of principle. It simply means that what can now be done within a subdivision, will be able to be done as between one division and another. Honorable senators may be assured that nothing in the provisions set out in clause 5 can possibly adversely affect the basic rights of electors. It is purely a machinery clause, providing a ready means whereby the electoral officers will he able at any time immediately to transferto the proper roll the names of any electors who, it is discovered, havebv mischance or otherwise become enrolled on the roll for a subdivision in which they did not at the date of their claim actually reside. That is one of the reasons why it is necessary to pass this bill at an early date; details of the new arrangement will have to go out, so that people may be put into their proper subdivisions before the rolls are closed. It may be pointed out that cases have occurred where electors resident in close proximity to a boundary between two divisions have been erroneously enrolled for the division adjoining that in which they are actually living. Under the present law the electoral officers are unable to remedy such incorrect enrolments between the issue of the writs and polling day, but with the amending provisions of this bill embodied in the law, such very desirable action will bc permissible. A case actually arose in which a considerable number of electors who were near the border had been put into the wrong subdivision, but they were on the roll, and when the election came they had to be permitted to vote, although they really belonged to another division.
Under this machinery provision, it would be possible for them to vote in their correct division, because, if electors arc discovered to be on the wrong roll, they can bc transferred after the issue of the writ. The third clause in the bill designed to purify the rolls is one empowering the electoral officials to effect the removal from the roll of any enrolment secured by a person not entitled to such enrolment, where that enrolment has been obtained by making a false statement iri the claim. It is considered that no honorable senator can have any objection to this provision, or to those previously referred to. It is again emphasized that these proposals are designed with the sole object of advancing the purity and correctness of the rolls so as to ensure, so far as is humanly possible, that the senators and members elected to this Parliament shall be truly representative of the majority of their constituents.
Two important provisions are included in the bill regarding the election of senators. The first provides that the elector must, vote for all of the candidates, indicating the order of his preference for them, and the other is designed effectively to provide for any case in which a Senate candidate dies between c-im date of nomination and polling day. With regard to the first matter, at present the elector must, at a Senate election, vote for all the candidates where the number thereof does not exceed twice the number to be elected plus one; but, where there are more candidates than twice the number to be elected plus one, he may please himself whether or not he continues to indicate his preferences beyond tlie prescribed number.
In the case of an election for the House of Representatives the act requires that, where there are more than two candidates, the elector must indicate his preferences for the whole of the candidates, and it is considered that the law should be consistent and apply the same requirement to elections for the Senate That is also necessary to prevent informal voting. If .there is one law for elections for the House of Representatives and another for elections for the Senate, the likelihood of informal votes being cast is increased.
– Has the Government no consideration for the intelligence of the electors ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The electors of Australia are intelligent and know the candidates for whom they wish to vote. The electors arc able to exercise their preferences.
The amendment proposed would remove the existing lack of uniformity a3 between elections for the Senate and elections foi’ the House of Representatives, and as it would enable the directions to voters to be issued in more concise ‘and simple terms than at present, there is reason to believe it would tend to red un the number of informal votes recorded. The existing peculiarity in connexion with the Senate elections has always been difficult for party representatives to explain, and has resulted in informal votes being cast.
Hitherto the directions relating to the manner in which a Senate ballot-paper must be marked have necessarily, where there were more candidates than twice the number to be elected plus one, been rather involved and somewhat at variance with those relating to the ballotpapers for elections for the House of Representatives. This, it is contended, lias led to confusion and misunderstanding and the casting of an abnormal number of informal votes. Another reason for this amending provision is that the principle of preferential voting demands for its full and complete application a preference indication in respect of ‘every candidate; “otherwise there is always the possibility of a result not in accord with the* real wishes of the elec’tors. It is not considered that any appreciable hardship would be imposed upon electors by requiring them to indicate a preference for all the candidates at Senate elections. I. understand that at elections for the Senate in Tasmania there is always a long list of candidates, but the electors in that State are so well trained that the new requirement will not present an obstacle to them. Every ballot-paper issued, whether postal, absent or ordinary, has the names of the candidates in the order of their groups written or printed thereon, and as the great majority of voters mark their votes as directed on the “How to vote” cards issued by the different political organizations, all that is required in most cases is for the voter to copy the numbers appearing on such cards.
In regard to the provisions relating to the death of a Senate candidate between the date of nomination and polling day, honorable senators will recollect that in connexion with the 192S Senate election in Victoria, one of the candidates, Mr. J. K. Forsyth, died on the 12th November - four days before the poll was taken. Ballot-papers containing the name of the deceased candidate had already been distributed throughout the State, and although it was possible to substitute at most polling booths fresh ballot-papers with the name of the deceased candidate omitted, it was impracticable to do that at some of the more remote polling places. At such places tha original ballot-papers had to be used, and although the name “ Forsyth “ was ruled out by the presiding officers, on many ballot-papers preferences were indicated opposite the name ruled out, or a break occurred in the numerical sequence of the preferences, in either of which events the vote was rendered informal. Owing to the brief period at their disposal political organizations were unable to withdraw from circulation all the “How to vote” cards including Forsyth’s name. Electors possessing those cards apparently were in a quandary when, on attending the polling booth, they found that the “ How to vote “ card contained the name of one more candidates that appeared on the ballot-paper, and, as a consequence, many failed to mark their preferences in strict numerical sequence. It would be impossible, in the event of a Senate candidate dying immediately prior to polling day to issue fresh ballot-papers to all polling places, and in order to avoid the great difficulty that would arise in such a case under the present law, the adoption of theamending provision included in the bill is highly desirable in the interests of all concerned. In effect, the amendment proposed will validate the use of Senateballotpapers containing the name of a candidate whose death occurred between nomination day and polling day, and its adoption would not only relieve theelectoral administration and the political organizations of grave difficulty and anxiety in such unfortunate circumstances; but would also save from invalidation ballot-papers which, under thepresent act, must be rejected as informal.
Another proposal in the bill relatesto disorderly behaviour at election meetings. Under the existing provisions of the law it is impracticable to deal effectively with persons who in a hall persist in disorderly and objectionable interruption. Honorable senators will, I am sure, welcome the amendment to enable the chairman of a “ meeting to direct a police officer to remove any person preventing the transaction of tha business for which the meeting is held.
The bill also contains a proposed amendment of the law in relation to postal voting, making it an offence punishable by a substantial penalty for an authorized witness to influence or attempt to influence the vote of any elector voting by post before him. Cases have come under the notice of the electoral officers where an authorized witness has endeavoured to influence an elector voting before him. Such a practice, I suggest, should be regarded as a serious offence, and justifies the inclusion in the act of the provision proposed.
The only other matter covered by the bill, apart from merely formal and consequential clauses, is a provision bringing up to date the existing section in the Electoral Act relating to the transmission of telegrams.
– What amendment is necessary in that respect?
– I understand that it is, to bring the electoral law into line with an amendment of the Post and Telegraph Rates Act. I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of honorable senators.
.- As I understand it is the desire of the Government to pass this measure as rapidly as possible so that the electors may become conversant with its provisions, I do not propose to detain the Senate by discussing it at any length. The only objectionable feature of the bill appears to be in clause 11, which gives autocratic powers to the chairman of an election meeting. I believe that all political meetings should be conducted in an orderly manner, and that every candidate should have the right to express his views clearly to the electors. An elector may attend a meeting with the intention of conducting himself properly, but a candidate may be so deliberately provocative and inaccurate in his statements that some one feels impelled to correct him. At one political meeting at which I was not present, I was grossly misrepresented by a gentleman who is at present a member of the Senate, and a friend of mine who was in the audience was able to produce a copy of Hansard and refute the charge of the speaker who was compelled to apologize. As some unscrupulous candidate may be responsible for disturbances which occur at such meetings the authority given to the chairman under clause 11 is too great. That clause reads - (3.) The chairman of any meeting to which this section applies may direct any member of the police force of a State or territory, or of the Commonwealth, to remove from the room or building in which the meeting is being held any person who, in the opinion of the chairman, is preventing the transaction of the business for which the meeting is held, and thereupon the member may take such steps as are neccessary for the removal of the person from the room or building. (4.) Any person -
Penalty: Ten pounds or imprisonment for one month.
A person after having been ordered to leave a political meeting may realize that he was wrong and be anxious to return, but unless he has the. authority of the chairman to do so he may be immediately seizedbya policeman and be fined £10 or imprisoned for one month. At a meeting which I addressed during the conscription campaign I acted on the assumption that at election meetings candidates have the power to instruct a policeman to remove from the meeting a person causing a disturbance. Some person should have the power to preserve order.
– The provision in the existing law is too general.
– Clause 11 is the only objectionable feature of the bill, and when it is in committee, I shall move to amend it.
.- In supporting the bill, I should like to reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) who is opposed to clause 11, which gives the chairman of an election meeting the power to order the removal of a disorderly person. I have closely studied the clause, which I consider lenient. Although a person may attend a political meeting with the deliberate intention of causing a disturbance, the only penalty to which he has to submit is that of being removed from the hall or room in which the meeting is being held. In some States the law provides not only for the removal of an interjector, but also for his prosecution. In this bill the only penalty is for returning to the hall after removal.
– Under section 177 of the main act, he is already liable to a fine of £5 or imprisonment for one month. The bill provides for a second penalty.
– That imposes on a candidate the task of putting the law into motion.
– A similar law is in operation in the States and in Tasmania it has been fairly effective. I know of no instance of a chairman unduly interfering with a person who has made a reasonable interjection, but I have known of people coming to a meeting for the one purpose of preventing the speaker from receiving a hearing. At a meeting I addressed in Tasmania a person sat in front of the hall, and persistently interjected ; he was supported by some hundreds of interrupters at the rear of the hall. The interruptions were so frequent that it became impossible for me to be heard, and the chairman called on the police to remove the principal disturber. As he went out, however, he cried, “ One out all out,” and he was accompanied by his band of supporters. But all of then! came back. This time the ringleader sat with his supporters at the rear of the hall where they resumed their interruptions, until eventually some of them were removed. Any reasonable candidate welcomes interjections if they arc intelligent and made in an orderly way; and I think this provision will be enforced only where deliberate interruptions an* made to prevent a speaker from being heard.
– Mr. Scullin had an experience of that in Sydney recently.
– I have had some most annoying experiences in this respect. On one occasion when the interrupters found that they could not prevent my being hoard, they brought into the hall a woman who was under the influence of drink, and practically threw her at me. I am very glad to he able to say that on the west coast of Tasmania, where this incident occurred, electors arc better behaved to-day.
I think that the provision making it compulsory for electors to record their preference in respect of all candidates foithe Senate is justified. I am confident that in the past a great deal of confusion was caused among people who, though not illiterate, do not follow politics very carefully, and I believe that under this provision much informal voting will be avoided. In Tasmania for some time we have never had less than twelve candidates standing for the three vacancies in tho Senate. The Senate is highly esteemed by Tasmanians, and the ambition of any reasonable man who takes an interest in the future welfare of his country is to nominate for this chamber, because he knows that the fate of his country has often depended on the Senate, which always has stood up to its obligations. I do not know whether the electoral department or the Minister has given any consideration to the need for providing a ballot-paper different in form from that in use to-day. The present form leads to an enormous vote being recorded foi a candidate whose name is first on the ballot-paper and who may not be known to many of the electors who vote for him. I am sorry to say that such electors comply with the law by marking 1 agains^ the first name on the ballot-paper, 2 against the second name, and so on to the end of the list. These electors may be called politically illiterate. I have good reason to believe that this practice results in some States in thousands of votes being given haphazard to a candidate. This difficulty has caused electoral officers much thought. After the last elections, I suggested to the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth that steps should be taken to invent a ballot-paper different in form from the one now iu use. “We do not want men in Parliament who do not represent the considered choice of the electors.
– What about a circular ballot-paper?
– I think a ballot.papeer in circular form could be evolved, which would tend to a distribution of these votes fairly among the whole of the candidates, lt might not be attractive in appearance, hut if it served the purpose which T am suggesting, it would be wort experimenting with. With a circular ballot-paper, probably not two of the politically illiterate electors would start to mark his paper at the same point. Thus the votes of the politically illiterate would be distributed more equally than with the present form. Something will have to be done in that direction/ The increase of the number of papers marked automatically from top to bottom has become more or less of a scandal.
– What is the proportion of illiterate voters to the total number of voters in Tasmania?
– *That would be difficult to ascertain. The evil I am condemning obtains in every State, but possibly it has been accentuated in Tasmania because of the comparatively large number of candidates..
– Are not “ How to Vote “ cards distributed in Tasmania?
– Yes; but those cards only show the names of candidates without any order of preference. This bill will certainly remove several anomalies, and, therefore, I support it.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8.10 p.m.
– One could be excused for finding some difficulty in understanding all the provisions in this hill, becausewe are nearing the end of the session, and the Government is rushing legislation through without giving proper time for its consideration. The right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) misunderstood an interjection of mine with regard to the provision requiring electors to vote for all Senate candidates. My interjection was to the effect that the provision would increase the difficulty which some electors experienced in casting an intelligent vote, and the right honorable gentleman at once proceeded to laud the intelligence of electors generally. I have no quarrel with him on that score. But he entirely missed the point of my complaint, which was that where there was a large number of candidates, many of whom might be unknown to most of the electors, it would be impossible for a man to cast an intelligent vote if he had to indicate his order of preference in respect of them all. That has been my own experience on more than one occasion. Many years ago, when the proportional system of voting was in force in New South Wales, there were at one election no fewer than 25 candidates for the district for which I was enrolled. I never heard of the great majority of them, and almost all of them were unknown to me personally. How couldI, at that election, vote intelligently on their relative merits? Many of them had had no previous career in public life, and, consequently, they were merely names to me. Many other people to whom I have spoken on this subject have mentioned the same difficulty. I therefore repeat that if electors are required to vote for a large number of candidates they might easily give primary votes to the least desirable instead of the best.
Ever since federation, there have been many alterations of the electoral law, and while I am not one to object, if alterations are necessary, it is, I think, wholly unjustified to. alter the electoral law merely at the whim of some person in authority, particularly if the alterations are made just as electors have become accustomed to the existing system. That hasbeen done time after time, and it is being done now. This amending bill has been brought in on the eve of a general election, and the amendments contained in it will, I feel sure, result in an increase instead of a decrease of the number of informal votes cast. For some considerable time, electors have been accustomed to voting for seven candidates instead of for the whole list.
– They could vote for the full number of candidates under the present law.
SenatorRAE. - I am aware of that, but many electors limited their votes to seven, if they did not have some knowledge of the remaining candidates. They might not even know the whole of the seven, but they would he more likely to know that number than the complete list. The Leader of the Senate must agree that it is regrettable that people should, under the preferential system, be asked to vote for candidates concerning whose merits they are entirely ignorant. In such circumstances they cannot possibly cast an intelligent vote; they might just as well enter the polling booth blindfolded, and mark the list at random. My complaint is that, just as electors are getting used to the system of voting for seven candidates, under this bill they will be required to vote for all candidates offering at an election. I cannot see how there can be finality in an electoral law that perpetuates and increases that evil.
As to the provision for the punishment of persons who interrupt at election meetings, my views are quite definite. I believe that every person should have full liberty to express his view on any subject of public importance, irrespective of whether or not his opinion is in agreement with my own, and my experience is that relevant interjections at election meetings very often enliven proceedings that otherwise would he dull and uninteresting. Nothing , is so depressing to a candidate seeking the suffrages of the people as to face an audience that lacks animation, and is, in the main, silent ; he does not know if his views are appealing to his hearers. Therefore, ‘we should ‘be very careful not to penalize persons who make pertinent, or possibly informative, interjections at election meetings’.
– Such as “ Give us your policy “ ?
– Exactly. A candidate might be indulging in personalities that have nothing to do with his case. To bc told to give his policy instead of sidestepping and skirmishing around his subject would certainly be to the point. Under this bill any person who chose to be vindictive might cause an interjector al; an election meeting to bc ejected, and, if the offender dared again to enter the building, he might subsequently be fined heavily or imprisoned.
It seems to me that this Government believes that the cause of. progress and culture is to be furthered by increasing the number of offences for which persons may be liable to fine or imprisonment. The Crimes Act provides penalties for many new offences, and this bill creates still another. I admit that, if au interjector at an election meeting persists in irrelevancies, and prevents a candidate from stating his views, he should he removed and penalized in whatever way may be thought reasonable; but I strongly object to penalties being enforced against persons who make pertinent interjections. I realize, however, that the Government has its majority, and that, whatever may be said against the bill, it will be passed.
There is, however, another point which I should like to mention. In former years, when the second reading of a measure was assented to, it was customary for the details to be left to the good sense of the committee, party lines heini* eliminated for the time being. Now. when a government introduces a bill and takes it to the committee stage, it appears to be the custom to insist on the whole of the details, even to the dotting of the “ i’s “ mid the crossing of the “ fs “, being passed in the form in which they were presented’ by the Minister in charge of it.
– What about the tariff? The honorable senator supported the Government in divisions on many items.
– I voted for the Government only when I approved of its policy in respect of particular items, and I am inclined to think that, with all their during, Ministers would not count me amongst their camp followers. It will, I hope, be admitted by honorable senators generally that the combined wisdom of this chamber is not to be found only among Government supporters, and that, when considering the details of bills, honorable senators, whatever their party allegiance may bc, should have every opportunity to offer suggestions for the improvement of a measure. It is entirely wrong for a government to use its iron fist and force the acceptance of every detail of its proposals at the committee stage of a bill.
One of the greatest difficulties associated with our electoral law is the chang-‘ ing of the method of voting almost as soon as the electors become accustomed to it, and the consequent increase of the number of informal votes. I predict that that difficulty will be increased, rather than decreased, by this legislation.
Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (South Australia) [S.21j. - I am not in agreement with Senator Rae on the subject of voting for all the candidates. In my opinion, the alteration proposed in this measure is a wise one. In South Australia there were eight candidates for the Senate at one election, and under the law then existing, and indeed, as it now stands, it was necessary for each elector to vote for double the number of candidates required, plus one That is to say, a number had to be placed against seven of the eight candidates; the elector could, if he wished, refrain from voting for the eighth candidate. That system tends to confuse -the elector. I cannot understand the desire of some people to leave n number of blanks on the ballotpaper. It gives me some degree of satisfaction to place last in my order of choice the candidate that I admire least, just as it gives me a feeling of satisfaction to place the figure 1 against the name of the candidate whom I like best. I cannot see why any confusion should arise in voting for every candidate. That system at least has the merit that electors know that a number must be placed alongside the name of each candidate, and under it. there is less likelihood of confusion than if, say, seven candidates out of eight or more must be voted for.
I do not view with any great satisfaction the’ clause providing for the removal from the room in which a meeting is being held a person who causes a disturbance, but 1 point out to Senator Rae that this power is merely permissive. The chairman of a meeting may- direct any member of the police force of a State or territory or of the Commonwealth, to remove from the room any person who, in his opinion, is preventing the transaction of the business for which the meeting is held. Any one who has had experience of public meetings knows that most speakers welcome interjections. Generally a candidate for Parliament, is the last person in the room who would wish to prevent reasonable interjections. The object of this clause is not to prevent such interjections, but to deal with persons who attend a meeting deliberately to prevent others from hearing the views of the speakers.
– Could not such persons be removed from the room under existing legislation?
– The principal act provides that any person who, at any public meeting, acts in a disorderly manner for the purpose of proventing the transaction of the business for which the meeting is held, shall be guilty of a.n offence’, and shall be liable to a penalty of £:>, or imprisonment for one month. I can conceive of a person thinking it worth while to make a nuisance of himself at a meeting by preventing a candidate from being heard, and the chairman being powerless to eject him. I willingly concede that, in some instances, it may not bc possible to eject offenders. During the last State election campaign in New South Wales I attended a stormy meeting at which a noisy section of the audience prevented me from being heard. I do not recollect having seen a policeman at that meeting; if a policeman was there, he did not take active steps to remove the offenders. Although I have no great enthusiasm for restrictive enactments, I imagine that these powers would be exercised by most chairmen in a reasonable manner. No chairman would attempt to have ejected from a meeting a man who, by his interjections, really helped the speaker. All. honorable senators know that the sympathies of an audience are nearly always with the speaker, rather than with the interjector.
The Minister, in his second-reading, speech, referred to the election of 1928 at which Senator Barnes was elected to the Senate owing to the death of a Nationalist candidate between nomination day and polling day. A similar happening occurred in South Australia in 1914, when a candidate died between nomination day and polling day, with the result that a Liberal candidate, Mr. J. W. Shannon, received the votes of the supporters of two opposing parties. On that occasion a double dissolution had taken place, and there remained six Liberal candidates and five representingthe Labour party. Under our present law it is possible for a candidate who does not represent the views of the majority of electors to be returned to Parliament. That is a great mistake, and some effort should be made to prevent it. In the early days of this Parliament, when the party system was not so strongly developed as now, candidates stood as individuals rather than as representatives of political parties. We must, however, admit that those days have passed, at least, for the present; that there are, in fact, two or more political parties whose candidates are grouped together on the ballot-paper; that it is almost inevitable that the voting will be in groups; and that the result of the poll will be the return of the candidates of one party or the other. That it should be possible for a -political party to lose a seat owing to the death of a candidate between certain days is evidence of a real flaw in our electoral law. Let me suggest to the Senate an extreme case. It may be that the three candidates supporting one political party are killed in a motor accident between nomination day and polling day. The effect of such an accident would be that, although the feeling of the State was strongly in favour of the views those candidates represented, their side would have no representation in Parliament so far as that election was concerned. We should make some attempt to meet a contingency of that kind. It
Las been suggested to nae by one of my colleagues that one way would be for each of the groups of three to have one reserve or substitute candidate who would come into the picture only when one of the three nominated candidates dropped out owing to death. That is a suggestion which the Government might very well consider. I am leaving individual candidates out of account because, if the individual falls, he falls as an individual and there is no need for a substitute for him. This is a matter of some importance, seeing that a senator, if elected, is elected for six years, and circumstances might arise in which three senators who did not represent the feeling of their State would be elected for that term. The reserve candidate should be nominated on the same date as the group candidates, and on a death occurring he should forthwith automatically be substituted for the deceased, whether there was time to substitute his name in the actual voting paper or not. I suppose that in 49 cases out of 50 there would be time. Each group would then have its own substitute. Obviously this suggestion has no tinge of party bias about it. It cuts equally both ways. It might bo a matter of extreme importance to either side in politics, because it might make tho difference between a minority and- a majority in the Senate. Personally I do not think that ought to be left to chance. Neither party should, by the mere accident of a death occurring between nomination day and polling day. lose the representation which it would otherwise have. Of course, if the whole three candidates dropped out together, this suggestion would not completely meet the difficulty, but such a contingency has never yet occurred. I do not think there has ever been a case where more than one Senate candidate has died at election time. Probably what I have put forward represents all that would be necessary to meet any practical difficulty. I put it to the Senate that this matter goes to the foundations of the Senate itself, and the method by which it i3 elected. Whilst clause 11 makes some sort of provision, it really does not face the major difficulty at all. I do not think that such a provision as I have suggested would take long to draft, but if the Government thinks that there is no time to include it in the bill, it should at least be given careful consideration with a view to a future amendment. I repeat that the suggestion is not mine, but as soon as I heard it I thought that there was a great deal to be said for it.
– Senator Duncan-Hughes, in his customary fair-minded manner, has put forward a means of overcoming the difficulty caused by the death of a candidate after nomination day. His suggestion has much to recommend it. I know that the Labour party found extreme difficulty when the late Senator McGregor, who was one of the six candidates passed away. We were forced to support another candidate who was absolutely opposed to us politically, .but that was our only alternative. We, therefore, directed Labour supporters to give their sixth vote to Mr. Shannon. We made sure that those who voted the Labour ticket voted for the five remaining Labour candidates first, and gave Mr. Shannon their sixth preference, in order that the Labour vote should not be split in such a way as to elect other mcn. I do not. know whether the substitute candidate suggested by Senator Duncan-Hughes would be expected to pay his £25 deposit.
– Yes. On the fourth candidate coming into the field the deposit paid by the deceased candidate would be refunded to his estate.
– The Government might, well consider the advisability of accepting an amendment on the lines the honorable senator has put forward. I think, it is a good idea to make electors vote for the whole of the candidates on the ballot-paper. In South Australia, if ari elector asked us whether he had to vote for the whole of the candidates, our answer depended entirely on his intelligence.
– He might not know half of them.
– That does not matter. Already we have to vote for seven candidates whether we know all of them or not. If we thought we were safe in telling the elector to -vote for seven, we gave him that advice, hut if we were doubtful we told him to vote for the whole of the candidates on the ballot-paper, because in that way he could not make any mistake. If this bill becomes law, we shall be able to tell the electors that they must vote for the whole of the candidates on the ballot-paper, if they do not wish their votes to be invalid. I do not think that knowing all the candidates personally makes any difference. We vote for our own ticket, and then indicate our preferences for the rest of the list. I remember when Senator McLachlan, the late Senator Sir John Newland, and the late Senator Chapman were candidates. Senator McLachlan’s name appeared between the other two, hut he was No. 1 on the ticket, and it did not make any difference to the electors who voted that ticket. They voted No. 1 for Mr. McLachlan, as ho then was, and made no error. The electors know how to vote, and they did their job well for Senator McLachlan’s side of politics. The intelligence that the electors exercise shows that they know how to do the work. Each side knows who its candidates are, and follows its ticket whether the voters know the candidates personally or not. Our party has taken the opposite view, telling the electors to take the candidates in order from the top, thinking that in that way a more intelligent vote would be obtained, but I do not accept that view at all. In the election to which I have referred, the electors followed the advice of their party leaders, and put Senator McLachlan in, because the swing on that occasion was towards his party. Whichever party has the benefit of the swing of public opinion will win.
On a casual glance at the bill, I was inclined to accept the proposal to give the chairman of a meeting discretionary power to direct a member of the police force to eject disorderly persons, but I have since come to the conclusion that that is a matter which should still bo left to the discretion of the police. If I were chairman, I should not like the job of naming a person to be ejected by the police. We have had in force in South Australia for a number of years an act which leaves the discretion to the police, and I cannot recall one instance of a man being ejected unless he abso- lately deserved it. In that State, a great deal of latitude and privilege is allowed to the public at election meetings. I have been so constantly interrupted at times that I have been almost unable to proceed with my speech, because the police in attendance gave the electors the privilege of interjecting as much as they liked. Queensland and South Australia have legislation which does all that is necessary. Although the measure was introduced in South Australia by a conservative government, and when it was first put into force we regarded it as a curse, which would be -used for one particular purpose only, the result has not justified our fears. In fact, we have found the act fair to. both sides. A man has to make a very great row before he is interfered with by the police. I do not like the idea of leaving the discretion to the chairman. It places him in an unenviable position. He may not like to name somebody.
– Then he need not act.
– If he does not act, the police will not be able to put an unruly elector outside. When a person has been put out and again enters the meeting, then the police are given power to turn him out again. Why not give them the power in the first place, and savo the chairman an unpleasant duty, which he may not want to discharge for fear of offending some one? It is not a fair position in which to place any chairman. I think we should alter that clause, and leave the discretion with the police. In many instances it would be unfortunate if the chairman of a political meeting were compelled to enlist tho services of a policeman to remove from a building a person said to be causing a disturbance. I trust that an amendment will be made in the direction suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), and that Senator DuncanHughes will submit a definite proposal to overcome the disability imposed on a party when one of its candidates for the Senate dies between the dato of nomination and polling day.
– I am glad that the Government has provided for compulsory preferential voting for the Senate, as under that system the opinion of the electors can be more clearly obtained. I am, however, opposed to the authority proposed to be conferred upon the chairman of a political meeting to order the ejection of persons alleged to be causing a disturbance. During the 23 years in which I have been associated with politics, I cannot recall an occasion when the interests of the candidate would be served by “ sooling” a policeman on to an interjector or those said to be causing disorder; but if the Minister can show, as he has not yet done, in what circumstances such power is necessary, I may alter my opinion. Prior to an election feeling runs high, and Senator Pearce will recall the instance in which a gentleman who representedWestern Australia in the Federal Parliament many years ago became closely associated with racing interests in Melbourne, and did not return toWestern Australia for a considerable time. Had he returned and addressed a public meeting before his term of office expired, the gathering would have been rowdy. In a State where the tariff is a burning question, if a strong advocate of tariff reduction were elected to the Federal Parliament, and after his election supported a high tariff policy, his first appearance at a meeting of electors would naturally be noisy. Electors would be present to protest against the member’s disregard of his election pledges. In such circumstances, the chairman should not have power to order the removal of those who attended to express their opinions, or to receive some explanation of the candidate’s attitude. It is strange that on the eve of an election, when there is important legislative work to do, we should be asked to consider this unimportant measure. For some time I have been asking the Government to introduce legislation in the interests of the primary producers, but so far I have been unable to ascertain whether such legislation is to be brought forward. This bill could he left until after the general election, when we should have a better idea than we have to-day as to whether such a provision is necessary. In most instances a dis-service would be rendered to a candidate by invoking the aid of the police to remove an interrupter. I have seen it done, but only when the sympathies of the audience were entirely with the chairman.
– As suggested by Senator Johnston, this measure is not of sufficient importance to occupy the attention of the Senate when there arc more pressing matters to be considered. I am disappointed at the omission from the bill of two matters which I mentioned whena Supply bill was under consideration. I then suggested that the different parties should be allowed to arrange the order of their own candidates within the party groups on the Senate ballot-paper instead of the names within the groups having to appear in alphabetical order. Further, I suggested that instead of the groups appearing on the ballot-paper on the arbitrary principle that the group with the lowest arithmetical total, based on the numbering of the letters of the alphabet as indicated by the initial letter of the candidates’ surnames, the order should be by lot as decided under the supervision of the Chief Returning Officer. Having given some attention to this matter for twelve years, I regard it as of sufficient importance to warrant an instruction to the electoral officers to submit a scheme to place the voting for the Senate candidates on abetter basis. It is a non-party matter and one which should have the support of honorable senators - it would wipe out the existing idea that it is important that candidates with names beginning with A,B or C should be selected in order to obtain an advantage over other groups by being on top of the ballot paper. I support the proposal that electors must vote for the full number of candidates on the ballot-paper instead of for the number to be returned plus one as at present.
– If it is compulsory to vote for the full number, some electors will he voting for candidates of whom they know nothing.
-That may be so; but generally speaking it is preferable to the present system. I have no objection to the chairman of a political meeting being empowered to call upon a policeman to remove a member of the audience who is causing a disturbance. It is unfortunate for a; candidate when an inefficient chairman is in charge, and the candidate has to appeal to him to order the removal of the persons causing disorder. I have no objection to interjectors, because they frequently assist a speaker, but those who persist in interjecting with the sole object of preventing a speaker from being heard should be removed. The chairman of a meeting should have the power to order the removal of such persons and the public should know that he is legally entitled to exercise that authority. All meetings, however, are not held in halls or rooms and sometimes candidates speak from a motor lorry or some other vehicle. I can recall instances where persons under the influence of liquor have attended meetings after the closing of the hotels and have caused a great deal of disturbance. On one occasion when a big chap came along and attempted to upset the chairman on his precarious rostrum, a policeman was not available, and I had to undertake the job of removing the intruder from the lorry. As there are always some who persist in mounting the platform and causing a disturbance the chairman should have the power to order their removal from the building. The power proposed to be conferred on the chairman is not. mandatory; it is discretionary and may conduce to political meetings being conducted in an orderly manner.
– The proposal to confer the extensive powers provided in the bill upon the chairman of a political meetingas a reflection upon the Australian people. The federal system in Australia has been in operation since 1901, and I cannot recall an instance in which a political meeting has got really out of hand.
– What of the secession meetings in Western Australia?
– Those are subject to State control. If the conduct at public meetings held in that State is so disorderly as to lead the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to consider this provision necessary, the same state of affairs does not obtain in South Australia. I think this provision will expose this Parliament to the ridicule of the people against whom it is aimed. It gives power to a chairman to instruct the police to remove an interrupter. That interrupter does not commit an offence until he returns to the meeting without the authority of the chairman. If a man who has been removed desires to return to the meeting, is he, in a spirit of repentance to stand at the door, and sing the Moody and Sankey hymn, “May I come in?” Implicit in the power of the chairman to allow him to return, is the right of the offender to ask for the permission of the chairman to return. He might interfere with the remainder of the proceedings by standing at the door and reiterating his request, or he might continue walking to the platform, asking the chairman for permission, leaving the hall, and returning on the same mission. I can understand the Communists particularly exploiting this provision in order to bring ridicule on this Parliament. For instance, if they wanted to interrupt a meeting being held by Senator Hoare, they could cause themselves to be put out, and then from the door keep the chairman occupied in giving rulings on their requests to be allowed to return. This procedure could be kept up for the duration of the meeting. I would like to see this clause eliminated. It is an indictment of those people who attend public meetings, and could be capriciously used by a partisan chairman or by any other person who desired to ridicule this Parliament.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [9.4]. - SenatorRae spoke of the possibility that in case of a multiplicity of candidates, electors would not know some of the persons for whom they were required to give a preferential vote. There is not much likelihood of that difficulty arising in Australia to-day. By the time the approaching election is held he will be a very dull person who does not know something about all the candidates. In New South Wales, for instance, there will be a combined United Australia party and United Country party team, and teams representing the Federal Labour, State Labour, and Communist parties, and possibly a Douglas Credit candidate. All of the parties have their enthusiastic followers, who will take good care to let the people know through the press, the cinema, and the broadcasting system, who the candidates are and the principles they advocate.
I was very much impressed by the point raised by Senator Duncan-Hughes regarding the difficulty that arises when a candidate dies between nomination day and polling day. That contingency was inquired into - by a royal commission, if I am not mistaken - more particularly in reference to the House of Representatives, and a change was made in the law to provide that where a candidate died under such circumstances, a fresh election should be held. That course would be too complicated and costly to adopt in Senate elections. I have never heard the solution suggested by Senator Duncan-Hughes, mentioned before, and I am sure that he does not expect us to accept it without full inquiry into all its implications.I have asked the Commonwealth electoral officer to look intotheproposal, and to see what consequent ialalterations to the act would be involved. A proposal may seem simple at first sight, but the providing of machinery for its operation might not be so simple. The suggestion will be carefully investigated.
Regarding disturbances at public meetings, this measure aims not at ordinary interjections, but at tactics which are becoming increasingly common in all democracies. A small minority seeks, by organized disorder, to prevent a candidate from putting his view before the electors. No member of any party condones such methods. It is not right that a small number, and it is generally a small number, should prevent the majority at a meeting from hearing the views of a candidate. In some States the law in regard to public meetings is similar to the amendment now proposed. The Victorian Police Offences Act of 1928, section 32, provides -
Every person who in or near any hall, room or building, in which a public meeting is being held -
Where, in the opinion of the chairman presiding at any public meeting, any person in or near the hall, room or building, in which such meeting is, being held -
In some States the law is not so complete as this. In Western Australia, and in some otherStates, the law provides that those who organize a meeting may appoint stewards and may authorize those stewards to remove any person who tries unduly to interrupt the proceedings. There is no authority for the police to intervene until the person being removed from the meeting assaults the steward; then the police can arrest the person who commits the assault. That is the law in Western Australia and some of the other States ; but the conduct of political meetings in federal elections is a matter on which the Federal Parliament itself should legislate. Section 177 of the Electoral Act reads- (1.) Any person who, at any public meeting to which this section applies, acts in a disorderly manner for the purpose of preventing the transaction of the business for which the meeting is held, shall be guilty of an offence against this act.
Penalty: Five pounds, or imprisonment for one month. (2.) This section applies to any lawful public political meeting held in relation to any election of the Parliament between the date of the issue of the writ for the election and the date of the return of the writ.
Honorable senators will notice that in that section no direction is given as to who is to enforce this power; it has been suggested that the way in which the section can be operated is by the chairman or the candidate himself lodging an information; but to do that, either has to ascertain the name of the person disturbing the meeting. Consequently, this section is inoperative. Clause 11 of this bill is complementary to this provision, as it gives power to somebody to operate it; that person is the chairman of the meeting, who, I suggest, is the proper person. Usually, the chairman of the meeting is somebody in an official position, such as the mayor of the town, or the chairman of a roods’ board or district council, and may be regarded as impartial. That is the class of man to whom this bill gives power to call upon tho police to remove from a meeting any person who misbehaves himself. Obviously, no candidate with any sense will invoke this power unless it is absolutely necessary to do so, as he will run tho risk of making an enemy of any person ejected from a meeting, and candidates naturally arc nervous of doing that. No sensible candidate would ask the chairman to operate this clause unless a deliberate attempt was being made to break up the meeting. Nobody who believes in democracy should object to this provision. I myself have seen some peculiar incidents arising from disorderliness at meetings. At a meeting at Cottesloe, Western Australia, I and another candidate for the Senate were the speakers. The steps leading up to the front entrance to the hall were about 6 feet or 8 feet high. My colleague was continually interrupted by a man ; the chairman seemed to be impotent, and no policeman was present. ‘ My fellow candidate went down into the hall, and, taking the interrupter by the scruff of the neck, carried him to the front door and dropped him from the top of the steps to tho ground. There I thought was a man who knew how to conduct a public meeting, and that judgment has been confirmed by the fact that he baa ‘been placed in the presidential chair of this Senate.
Another case which comes to my mind at the moment is that of a meeting which we had to convene with the aid of a bellman, who waa equipped with a bell secured from the local hotel. He got together quite a good meeting, and was paid his 5s. for hia services. The meeting was progressing very well when the bellman re-appeared, having obviously invested his 5s. not wisely but too well. He took a seat in a front portion of the hall, and quickly made himself a nuisance. Although the law did not permit it, the chairman called upon the police to remove the interrupter. Our bellman had placed the bell inside his shirt, and, when the policeman grabbed him, the bell rolled out, clanging loudly. The irony of the situation was that the man who had ‘brought the meeting together was the first to be ejected from it. All honorable senators must have had experience of disorderly meetings, and we know that it has become a practice for some people to go to meetings, not for the purpose of learning the views of the candidate by asking questions-, or by intelligent interjections designed to place him in difficulties or to require him to answer for past delinquencies, but solely for the purpose of preventing him from being heard. For such cases only, and to maintain order and discipline at public meetings, is this provision designed.
– Could the bellman come back to the meeting?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Ho could not. Obviously a person who wants to remain at a meeting may do so by behaving himself.
– Under this provision he could return with the consent of the chairman. How could he get such consent?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Such consent could be obtained, for instance, by the person who has been ejected sending a message into the chairman. Before a man has been ordered to be put out, he must have tried to break up the meeting, and any attempt on his part to get back would be looked upon with suspicion. If the honorable senator himself were the speaker he would not look with friendly eyes upon a man who tried to get back to a meeting which be had tried to break up.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 10 agreed to.
Section one hundred and seventy-seven of the Principal Act is amended by adding at tlie end thereof the following sub-sections: -
Penalty: Ten pounds or imprisonment for one month.
.- I move -
That the words “ if he again disturbs the meeting “ be added to proposed now subsection 4.
The position was well explained by Senator Daly on the motion for the second reading of the bill. If a person is ejected for causing a disturbance at a public meeting, and if he regrets his action and desires to return, he will be debarred unless he obtains the permission of the chairman. If the amendment is accepted the efficiency of the clause will not be impaired in any way. All that it does is to enable a penitent to return to a meeting, without having to go through all the circumlocution of getting the chairman’s permission. In its present form the clause provides that, if an interjector is thrown out of a public meeting by a policeman, it will be impossible for him to return, even if he makes up his mind to behave himself. If he returns without the permission of the chairman he will be liable to a fine of £10 or imprisonment for a month. A man should be allowed to return to a public meeting if he promises to behave himself, without suffering this penalty.
– He may not be in a penitent mood.
– If he is not then he will, of course, he subject to the penalty provided in this clause.
[9.21]. - I remind Senator Barnes and other honorable senators opposite that under the clause as it stands, there is nothing to prevent a person ejected from a public meeting from returning to it, with the consent of the chairman. I am quite sure that Senator Barnes has on many occasions seen notes, making certain requests, passed up to a chairman at an election meeting. That course would be open to any person who, after having been ejected from a public meeting, desired to return on the condition that he did not again cause a disturbance.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) has submitted a very reasonable proposal which should not be treated with levity by the Leader of the Senate. As the clause stands the right is given to any person ejected from a public meeting, to seek the authority of the chairman to re-enter. I advise honorable senators to read the clause carefully. It provides that a person ejected from a public meeting “who, without the authority of the chairman (proof whereof shall lie upon that person), returns to that room or building, while the meeting is in progress, shall be guilty of an offence “. It is an elementary principle of law that if a right is created in a person, that person has a right to enforce it. It follows, therefore, that if a person has the right to seek authority of the chairman to return to a meeting, he is entitled to take all reasonable means’ to enforce his right. If, for example, the chairman decided that a disorderly interjector should be ejected, the person concerned, if he desired to re-enter the hall, could come in through a side door to ask the chairman for permission to return to the body of the hall.
– He could ask a policeman at the door.
-The honorable senator’s interjection shows that he has not given very much consideration to this clause. If the person ejected asked the permission of the policeman at the door, and the policeman went to the chairman to obtain his authority for the man to re-enter the hall, the conditions contained in this clause would not be met, because it throws upon the individual concerned the responsibility, either by himself, or through his agent, to get authority to re-enter a. public meeting from which he has been ejected. Senator Barnes has suggested a very good way out of the difficulty, namely, that if the person ejected is repentant and promises not to disturb a meeting further, he should be allowed to return to it. It is obvious that the principle enunciated in clause 11 will then be complied with.
– If a person ejected from a meeting which I was addressing came through the stage door to see the chairman, I would probably “ dong “ him before he “ donged “ me.
– I suppose the honorable senator will not deny that the man “ donged “ would be able to plead his right to enter by the stage door to seek the chairman’s permission to return to the meeting, and that if interfered with by the candidate addressing the meeting, he would have right of action for assault. If Senator Sampson happened to be the candidate he would probably find himself convicted under a State law for assault. I realize that nothing that we on this side may say will affect the result. The Government and its supporters must accept the stigma attaching to this foolish provision, which, if placed on the statutebook, will entitle a man who has been ejected from a room in which a meeting is being held to re-enter it time after time to ask the chairman’s permission to remain, thereby creating further disturbances.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [9.32]. - This clause does not confer on a person who has been ejected from a meeting the right to return, but only the right to seek the authority of the chairman to return.
– How can he get that authority without re-entering the room?
– He could send a message to the chairman.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 and 13 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Duncan-Hughes) agreed to -
That clause 8 be reconsidered.
Clause 8 -
Section one hundred and twenty-three of the principal act is amended -
by omitting paragraph (a) of subsection (1.) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: - (2.) Where a candidate dies between the date of nomination and polling day, and the number of candidates remaining is greater than the number of candidates to be elected, a ballot-paper shall not he informal by reason only -
of the inclusion on the ballot-paper of the name of the deceased candidate ;
of the marking of any consecutive number opposite that name; or
of the omission to place any number opposite that name, or of any resultant failure to indicate in consecutive order the voter’s preferences.
– In order to place on record my views regarding the filling of a vacancy caused by the death of a candidate between nomination day and polling day, I move -
That proposed new sub-section (2.) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following new sub-section: - “ (1a.) Any three candidates who shall nominate for a Senate election as a group shall have the right of nominating at the same time a reserve or substitute candidate, who shall not otherwise be contesting the election, and upon the death after nominations have been declared and before polling day of any one of such group, the reserve or substitute candidate shall forthwith automatically be substituted for the candidateso dying and his name shall be substituted in the ballot-paper, and ho shall be liable to pay the required deposit forthwith:
Provided that if such death shall take place too late for a change to be made in the ballot-paper, the votes cast for the original candidate so dying shall be counted and attributed as if they had been cast for the reserve or substitute candidate.”.
Honorable senators may ask why I have Limited the concession to a group of three candidates, and why a group of two candidates should not have the same right. As the normal number in a group is three candidates, I see no reason to exend the concession to a group containing fewer candidates.When Senator Hoare inquired about the deposit to be paid. I suggested that it should he paid over by the substituted candidate to the estate of the candidate who died; but as the deposit of the deceased candidate would probably revert automatically to his estate, I now think that the best plan would be for the deposit to be paid to the Government by the substituted candidate. I have moved this amendment, not in any hostile spirit, but in order to place on record the way in which I think an admitted disability should be dealt with.
[9.45]. - I have already given Senator Duncan-Hughes the assurance that his proposal will be closely scrutinized, and that it seems to me to be a practical proposal to overcome an obvious difficulty, but I am sure he does not expect the committee to accept it without further examination. I fear that, if it were adopted now, a large number of consequential amendments would be rendered necessary, not only in this bill, but in the Electoral Act itself.For instance, certain qualifications are requisite for the original candidate, and it would be necessary to proride that those qualifications should apply to the substitute candidate. A candidate must, for example, be an elector, and he must be nominated in. proper form. I understand that the honorable senator’s object is to have on record a form of amendment, so that it can be looked at in substance and considered from every aspect. I give the honorable senator the undertaking that the Government will look into the proposal to see if it can be accepted as the basis for an amendment of the law. I trust, however, that he does not intend to ask the committee to put it into the bill to-night. Such a course might mean redrafting the whole bill, and I am sure that amendments of the act itself would be rendered imperative. This is the first time the proposal has been put forward, and I feel that all honorable senators desire an opportunity to think it over before they are asked to accept it. I therefore urge the honorable senator not to press the amendment to a division to-night.
Clause agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; re- port adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) proposed -
That the billbe now read a third time.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 2.
In committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 2 (Proof of Statistics).
– Last night, while this measure was under discussion, I promised to give consideration to certain criticism advanced by Senator Daly, and to obtain the views thereon of the Crown Law officers. This has been done, and I am satisfied that the proposed new section 10a simply provides a convenient method of proof of statistics compiled by the Statistician in pursuance of the Census and Statistics Act 1905-1930. It does not purport to make them conclusive as to the facts to which they relate. That is to say, except where the Statistician’s figures are made the legal basis of a calculation or an adjustment, it is still open, for instance, in proceedings in the Arbitration Court, to produce other evidence with a view to disproving the conclusions to be drawn from the Statistician’s figures. Where, however, iu awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Com t, the Statistician’s figures are specifically prescribed as- the basis for the determination or adjustment of rates of pay, those figures must, by virtue of the terms of the award, be accepted, and for the purpose of facilitating proof of those figures, the new section is proposed for enactment. In the absence of the proposed provision, it is necessary for the Statistician or an officer thereto authorized by him, to attend at the court and give evidence of the figures, and this evidence may have to be given in any part of Australia. The production of a document in pursuance of the proposed new section would certainly be evidence that the figures contained therein were those compiled by the Statistician, but it would be competent for any party to dispute the correctness of the Statistician’s compilation. Thc onus of proving their incorrectness would, of course, be on the party challenging them. The document would not, however, except in cases such as those mentioned above, bo conclusive evidence of any conditions existing as at the date to which the figures relate. The proposed new section embodies, in relation to the proof of the Statistician’s figures, the same principle as is observed in tho Evidence Act in relation to the proof of other matters such as proclamations, orders, or regulations. Although it is quite clear that the proposed new section as it stands does not, in itself, give any greater weight to statistics compiled by the Statistician than is given to statistics compiled by other persons or bodies, I propose to submit an amendment recasting sub-section 1 of the proposed new section. I suggest that, as proposed to be amended, the section will be quite acceptable to ail concerned. In order that there may be no suspicion or doubt left in tho minds of honorable senators with regard to this matter, I move -
That sub-section ( I ) of proposed new section 10a be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: - “ ( 1 ) The mere production of a document purporting to be published by the Statistician and to contain statistics or abstracts thereof compiled and tabulated by the Statistician pursuant to the Census and Statistics Act 1905- 1930 shall in all courts be evidence that those statistics or abstracts were compiled and tabulated by the Statistician pursuant to that act.”
That provision make3 it perfectly clear that none of those untoward events which Senator Daly visualized, can come about.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
[9.58]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a simple measure of two clauses designed to amend the Wheat Growers Relief Act 1933, so as to provide for an additional payment to the State of Tasmania. As Tasmania produced very little wheat, provision was made in the original act for the payment of a special rebate to that State to offset the effect of the flour tax. During the time the tax has been in operation, a sum of £45,000 has been paid by the Commonwealth Government to Tasmania by way of rebate. It has been estimated, however, that the total receipts from the flour tax in Tasmania amounted, approximately, to £53,000. Under the terms of an act passed by the Tasmanian Parliament, the Government of Tasmania has become liable for refunding to the millers an additional £3,000. That Government has so advised the Commonwealth, and tho present bill is designed to empower tho Commonwealth to pay this sum of £8,000 to Tasmania. There is nothing contentious in the measure. It is in accordance with the design and plan of the original act passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, and I ask honorable senators to agree to its immediate passage.
– This measure, which is to provide for the payment of an additional £8,000 to the State of Tasmania in connexion with the assistance given to the wheat-growers last year, should he passed without much discussion. The £3,000,000 provided from revenue last year for the assistance of the wheat-growers was distributed in the following manner: - New South Wales, £911,094; Victoria, £603,586; Queensland, £76,455; South Australia, £764,543; Western Australia, £639,493; Tasmania, £4,024; and Federal Capital Territory, £805. As those amounts were provided under legislation passed last year, I ask the Assistant Minister if the Government proposes to renew that legislation this year. It should certainly do so. For the past three weeks I have taken every opportunity to ascertain from the Leader of the Government the intention of the Government in respect of the forthcoming wheat harvest. - To-day the prices of this staple export commodity are somewhat higher than they have been for some time, but unfortunately, there is no certainty of the present rates being maintained. As the Minister knows, those engaged in the industry arc overloaded with debt, their machinery is worn out, and they have lost hope.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that prices will fall again?
– I hope not. At the existing price wheat production is still unprofitable and the industry needs assistance. It is amazing to find that the shortest paragraph in the budget speech is that dealing with the wheat industry, and is to the effect that the Government is awaiting the interim report of the royal commission on the wheat industry before making a statement of policy.
– The wheat industry was not mentioned at all in last year’s budget.
– No ; and £3,000,000 was made available as a result of pressure on the Government. This year there is a brief reference to the industry but we have not yet received any information as to the Government’s intention to stabilize the industry by a home consumption price for wheat or by a grant. I am perturbed concerning the delay in the presentation of the interim report of the royal commission. A day or two after Parliament re-assembled this year the Leader of the Government said that the report would be made available to honorable senators, and that it would be considered during the present sitting of
Parliament, but the session is now drawing to a close, and we have no information as to the date on which it will be made available. I trust that the Minister will expedite its presentation, and see that the promised statement of policy is made. During the short period the Senate has been in session this year I have reminded the Government of the promise of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) to the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation in November last that marketing legislation would be introduced before the coming harvest. The representatives of that federation and also of other wheat-growers from all over the Commonwealth visited Canberra in November and urged the introduction of marketing legislation and the fixing of a home consumption price for wheat; but the Government said there was insufficient time to pass the necessary legislation before the harvest, and that it would be introduced before the next harvest. The farmers are relying upon that promise being honoured. If legislation is not placed on the statute-book before Parliament adjourns within a week or two, I am convinced that when the new Parliament reassembles we shall again be informed that there is insufficient time. The matter is urgent, and in view pf the fact that no mention is made in the budget of a renewal of the assistance given last year a definite announcement of policy should be made. If direct assistance is not to be given it is essential that legislation providing for a fixed price for home consumption should be passed at the earliest possible moment. The wheat industry has been in a desperate position for the last four years. The present improved prices do not relieve the Government of its responsibility.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I remind the honorable senator that this measure is to amend one section of the principal act, and that he is not entitled to discuss the wheat industry generally.
– Am I entitled to ask whether it is the intention of the Government to renew the principal act for the coming year? If it is competent for me to move that the principal act ibo re-enacted for another year, I intend to do so. This would renew the £3,000,000 grant for the coming harvest. Although I have asked a number of questions on this subject, I have not received a definite reply.
– The honorable senator is not entitled to discuss the marketing of wheat on this bill.
– Unless the Government passes legislation similar to the principal act which this bill is to amend before the coming harvest or carries out the promise made by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) the position of the wheat-growers will be worse than it has ever been. I suggest that the Government withdraw the bill, and introduce in its place a more comprehensive measure to provide for the payment of at least £3,000,000 to the Australian wheat-growers for the coming harvest.
Senator Sir HARRY LAWSON (Victoria - Assistant Minister) [10.10]. - I do not intend to risk your displeasure, sir, by attempting to reply to Senator Johnston, or to make a statement of government policy. As an act of courtesy, I repeat the assurance given by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) this afternoon that a statement on the subject will be made before the termination of the present session.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 24th July (vide page 575) on motion by Senator McLac hlan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I do not propose to offer any objection to the bill, but I understand that the Minister has a statement to make concerning the amendment suggested yesterday by Senator Daly.
Senator McLACHLAN (South Australia - Vice-President of the Executive
Senator Daly with reference to the amendment he suggested, and gave him an assurance that what he was endeavouring to secure can already be done. I am exercising my prerogative in that direction every day, by permitting payments by instalments. Discretionary power rests with the Attorney-General, and acting in that capacity I can give an assurance that, at present, instalments are being accepted, and will be accepted in future in deserving cases.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
” Hansard “ : Publication of Diagrams - Order of Business.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) Minister for Defence) [10.18].- I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
This is the first time in my 30 years of parliamentary life thatI have seen in Hansard a table that has had to be set up differently from the rest of the contents. I think such action, if it is allowed to become a practice, is liable to be abused. If we allow the inclusion of diagrams or graphs, honorable senators may seek the insertion of a caricature or cartoon which has caught their fancy, and it will be most difficult to know where to draw the line.
– I have listened with considerable interest to the remarks of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce). Unfortunately, I was not present when Senator Sampson launched his inquiries on this matter a few days ago. To-day I asked Senator Sampson for a copy of his questions, and the answers to them, but he replied that they were not available. I particularly wished to send them to the gentleman whose interests Senator Sampson was so jealously conserving - Mr. Grondona, of London, who is a close friend of mine, and has often discussed with me his matter before publication.
– The honorable senator said they were his own.
- Senator Sampson was concerned also about the copyright in these diagrams.; Mr. Grondona is an Australian, resident in London, and he is doing a great work for Empire trade - work which involves much study and self-sacrifice. Undoubtedly he will appreciate very much the interest Senator Sampson has taken in this matter. Afew days ago, I advised him that three pages of statistics based upon his chart had appeared in Hansard, and also mentioned that some senators appeared to be greatly concerned about the matter. I received the following reply from Mr. Grondona : - “ Most gratified, would like copy and press writing. Regards both.”
That covers the point which seems to have caused so much concern to Senator Sampson. I am delighted to think that he has given such close attention to this matter, and I am certain that after studying closely the graphs which I have had published, he will better appreciate the opportunities for the expansion of Commonwealth trade with the Mother Country. In reply to the remarks made by the Leader of the Senate, I may say that the blocks were not prepared in the GovernmentPrinting Office at Canberra. I had them made from big sheets which I use in my public addresses. They are well known throughout Tasmania because recently I made a number of speeches in the island State on the subject of Empire trade, and I know that much interest was aroused by my remarks on these sheets. I submitted the blocks to the President and to the Principal Parliamentary Reporter before seeking their insertion in Hansard, so I do not think there could have been any misunderstanding of my purpose.
– What would be the position if other honorable senators obtained permission to include blocks in Hansard?
– I am afraid I cannot tell the right honorable gentleman, but I appreciate his point. All I say is thatI am delighted that the publication of the blocks in Hansard has brought home to honorable senators the great opportunities before Australia in connexion with an Empire trade policy, which is inevitable.
– All I wish to say is that as soon as I saw the blocks published in Hansard, I recognized the graphs as similar to those which appeared in a pamphlet that was sent to all honorable senators last year by Mr. Grondona, and when I examined them more closely, I found that, with the exception of the colour, they were identical. But I do not take exception to them on that ground. My complaint is that Senator Elliott led honorable senators to believe that he had prepared them himself, and that the figures were his. Actually, they were not. They were simply taken by Senator Elliott holus bolus from Mr. Grondona’s publication. I consider that the precedent established is a dangerous one, because no one can say to what it may lead. The honorable senator could quite easily have presented his case in Hansard in the ordinary way. I still await an explanation of his reason for saying -
In order to convey to honorable senators a graphic survey of the position of the British markets, I have prepared several diagrams. . . .
We know now that the diagrams were not his own; they were prepared by Mr. Grondona, in London. This is not a personal matter with me. It is quite possible that, at some future time, I shall be tempted to present to the Senate a set of graphs, and also ask for their inclusion in Hansard, because during the war wo were continually preparing graphs of all descriptions - casualtygraphs, ration graphs, and other sets of figures - and were studying them daily. This practice, if continued, may make Hansard a little more attractive, but I am inclined to think that the precedent is a dangerous one.
– If Senator Sampson will provide me with a copy of all his remarks in connexion with this subject, I shall have them framed and sent to Mr. Grondona, in London.
.- I shall beglad if the Leader of the Senate will indicate the legislation which the Government intends to bring forward before the close of : lv! session, and also, if he can, say when Parliament will adjourn. We have just had two weeks’ respite, whichwas necessary to enable the Government to prepare the budget, but it was inconvenient for Senators from Western Australia, because they alone of the members of this Parliament were unable to return to their homes and come back in time for the re-assembling of this chamber. The general election is near at hand and we are anxious to make our arrangements.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J Lynch). - Referring to the publication in Hansard of the graphs accompanying Senator Elliott’s speech on the 5th July, I may inform honorable senators that I was asked by Senator Elliott if I would permit the insertion of the statistics referred to. He said that he had blocks prepared. He is under a misapprehension if he believes that he showed the blocks to me. I saw them for the first time when they appeared in Hansard.I readily agreed that certain tables of figures which he showed me should be published. But when I did see the diagrams in Hansard, I thought then, as always, that they convey more effectively and impressively the arguments used by an honorable senator. But I realize, as the Leader of the Senate has pointed out, that this innovation is liable to abuse. Therefore, I suggest that the matter be left in my hands andI shall consult with the Printing Committee for the purpose of determining whether, in future, blocks of this description should appear in Hansard.
[10.34]. - I can only say, in answer to Senator Johnston, that I am not in a position to-night to indicate what legislation shall be brought forward, or when Parliament will be adjourned. Towards the end of the week, I may be able to say how long the session is likely to last. As soon as the Government decides what legislation has to be dealt with before the, session closes, I shall inform the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 July 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1934/19340725_senate_13_144/>.