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Wednesday, 5 October 1910
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Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - In introducing this temporary Supply Bill I endeavoured to set as good an example as I possibly could. Honor.orable senators are all aware of the programme that has been announced by the Prime Minister and of the work that will be entailed in carrying out that programme. The longer we take over such incidental matters as Supply Bills the longer the session is bound to be. I was under the impression that honorable senators read the newspapers, and were fully informed of the programme which has been put forward by the Prime Minister. But, as it has become almost a habit for legislative bodies, such as the Senate, to require an independent statement to be made in that connexion, I am prepared to conform to that requirement, although I was willing to forego the pleasure of doing so when I moved the second reading of this Bill. It is the intention of the Government to carry two measures connected with land taxation. Although I do not intend to discuss those measures at the present juncture, it is necessary for me to state why there are two. One is an assessment Bill, and the other a taxing Bill. In addition, two Bills will be introduced dealing with amendments of the Constitution. One of these is intended to vest in the Commonwealth Parliament the power which is possessed by every State Parliament to legislate in respect of industrial matters, and the other deals with the very much discussed and vexed question of the nationalization of monopolies. These measures must be dealt with. There are also two Bills relating to the Sugar Bounty and Excise. They are necessary, because existing legislation in that connexion is about to expire. Then there are two measures relating to the question of defence. One of these has already been approved by this Chamber, and the other is the Naval Defence Bill. The Northern Territory Acceptance Bill has already passed through the Senate, and will have to be dealt with by the other branch of the Legislature. It will also be necessary to introduce a Bill dealing with the administration of. the Federal Territory. A great many persons - including even Senator Walker - have complained of delay in the issue of the proclamation under which the Federal Territory will be taken over by the Commonwealth. But every honorable senator ought to know that before that proclamation can be issued legislation must be enacted for the administration of the Territory.

Senator Fraser - Could not that legislation be enacted after the issue of the proclamation ?

Senator McGREGOR - If we issued the proclamation first, what law would be operative within the Federal Territory ? We should have the people of one township stealing from those of another the goats of which some honorable senators have spoken, and there would be no law to prevent them doing so. In other words, a state of anarchy would exist. Now, the Government do not believe in anarchy. Although we are a Socialistic Government, we wish to preserve law and order, and as soon as the maintenance of law and order has been insured throughout the Federal Territory, the Government will' issue the necessary proclamation. Then we shall have to pass a Bill dealing with Tariff anomalies. A number of these anomalies exist, and the Government hope to secure the assistance of both Houses in remedying them as soon as possible. A very necessary measure in connexion with oil bounties will also be introduced. I am sure that the representatives of New South Wales and Tasmania, where shale abounds, will be very gratified to learn that the Government take such an interest in the welfare of their States as to impel them to introduce this legislation. A Bill will also be introduced dealing with penny postage, and it is intended that it shall be brought into force during the last two months of the financial year. The longer the introduction of this reform is delayed the more expensive will it become. We further intend to introduce a small Bill to amend the Judiciary Act. It is also proposed to bring forward an amending Electoral Bill. Of course, we are all familiar with the Navigation Bill, which has been occupying the attention of the Senate for some time. The Government do not intend to force that measure through both Houses of Parliament during the current session, but we think it is desirable that it should be transmitted to another place, so that its consideration may be entered upon there next year. A Bill dealing with lighthouses, lightships, beacons, and buoys, has already passed the Senate, and will require to be dealt with by the other branch of the Legislature. There are one or two other small measures with which itmay be necessary to deal. But I would point out to honorable senators that a number of these Bills are so short that it ought to be possible to deal with two or three of them in a day. They are Bills of only one or two clauses. It is not the length of the list that should alarm honorable senators. The question which they have to consider is the importance of the proposed legislation. Out of the entire list, there are only a few debatable measures which ought to occupy much time, either in this Chamber or the House of Representatives. I hope that we shall astonish even ourselves by the amount of business which we shall transact.

Senator St Ledger - What about the Estimates and the Budget?

Senator McGREGOR - Something ought always to be left to the imagination, and every honorable senator knows that we must pass the Appropriation Bill before Parliament can be prorogued. If honorable senators are prepared to occupy as much time as has been occupied this afternoon in discussing matters which are entirely beyond the scope of the question under consideration, we shall not dispose of the business which I have outlined until after Christmas. When we have such St. Ledgerdemainian Chataways discussing a trifling Bill of this description, I do not know what we may expect when we come to debate such measures as the Land Tax Assessment Bill.

Senator Chataway - Does the VicePresident of the Executive Council recollect the occasion upon which he divided the Senate upon the question of the desirableness of imposing a duty on dried herbs ?

Senator McGREGOR - I do. I am very glad that I was able to obtain that duty, because the industry has been a great success. I do not suggest that Senators Gould, Chataway, and St. Ledger have occupied one minute more than they were entitled to occupy. They were really moderate in their criticism. I come now to the sixty-fifth section of the Labour party - Senator Stewart. It would have been much better if he had reserved his wellthoughtout and really eloquent discourse to a more appropriate occasion. Everybody recognises that the Labour part)' is a Labour party, and not a fiscal party. Labour interests, and the interests of Australia must be placed before any sectional interests, so far as the fiscal policy of the country is concerned. I quite agree with the statement of the Minister of Trade and Customs that the manufacturers of Australia, by reason of their past conduct, have a right to wait for that measure of protection which we are prepared to extend to them, until the Commonwealth Parliament has obtained power to deal with industrial matters. When the Government introduce a Bill dealing with the fiscal policy of the country, I hope that it will be in such a form as will satisfy every honorable senator.

Senator Chataway - Will the Government introduce such a measure if the referendum in regard to Commonwealth control of industrial matters be not carried?

Senator McGREGOR - I would like the honorable senator to give notice of such a serious question. If the Government are in power at the time of which he speaks, they will be guided by the circumstances which then exist. Before concluding my remarks, I would like to say a. word or two to Senator Sayers, who was at great trouble to quote from a document which has been issued by the Commonwealth Government, and by every word of which I am prepared to stand. I would like honorable senators to read the whole of that pamphlet, and not to arrive at conclusions founded upon piecemeal extracts from it. We hope that, as the result of the policy of the Government, greater areas of land will be available for closer settlement purposes in the near future. It is in anticipation of that result that the publication in question has been issued. Senator Sayers also spoke of the enormous rentals which are being paid for Commonwealth offices in Victoria and the other States. One notable instance which he quoted was the payment of £1,100 annually for office accommodation in the Railway Buildings. Melbourne. The impression which he conveyed was that a certain amount of responsibility rested upon the Government in connexion with that transaction.

Senator Sayers - I said that I hoped such was not the case.

Senator McGREGOR - It is not the case. I may tell the honorable senator that, in October of last year, the Honorable George Fuller, a member of the Fusion Government - despite the fact that he visited the Federal Capital site and told the people that in the near future the Seat of Government would be established there - entered into a contract with the Victorian Government to lease the accommodation in question for five years, at an annual rental of£1,100. I would ask the honorable senator, who is always standing up for the fulfilment of existing contracts, and who is never tired of talking about repudiation and confiscation, whether he wishes the Government to repudiate this agreement, which was entered into by a previous Ministry, of which he was a loyal supporter? I hope that, in the solitude of his own chamber, he will reflect seriously upon the statements which he has made, and that in future he will not be so voluble until he is sure of his ground.

Senator Sayers - Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council tell me what notice must be given to terminate the lease ?

Senator McGREGOR - I can assure the honorable senator that the present Government are in earnest in everything that they have intimated to the public their intention to carry out ; and as soon as they have an opportunity of remedying the evils of which they are the heirs from previous Governments they will do so. Senator Vardon had a few words to say about some irregularities in the salaries of Commonwealth officers. I do not think that the honorable senator intended to convey the impression that the present Government were responsible for what he complained about.

Senator Vardon - I did not say a word about the present Government.

Senator McGREGOR - An Act was some years ago passed by the Legislature, under which a Public Service Commissioner was appointed to value the services of all our officers. The Commissioner is furnished with the services of inspectors, and he is responsible for the irregularities, if such they can be called, existing in the different States.

Senator Vardon - I simply said that there were inequalities.

Senator McGREGOR - If there are inequalities they arise out of the judgment of the Public Service Commissioner and his inspectors. Every one will admit that these gentlemen know the value of the services rendered in the different offices that they have examined better than an ordinary member of Parliament can ; and if they see fit to pay£20 more to an officer in Western Australia than to one in South Australia, or£40 more to one in South Australia than to one in Queensland, they have done so because the work of the office, or of the officer, is of such a character as to justify the difference. As far as concerns political influence, I wish Senator Vardon would go down to the Public Service Commissioner's office and try to work that influence upon him. He would soon realize the impossibility of doing anything of the kind. As far as I am concerned, I did not support the appointment of a Public Service Commissioner. I was always in favour of Parliamentary and Ministerial responsibility. But the officer has been appointed. He has done his duty faithfully and well ; and I, as a member of this Government, intend to support his decisions. I think I have now dealt with all that requires to be said in answer to criticisms, and I hope that, in view of the programme of work that we have to accomplish, the Government will receive help both from the Opposition and their own supporters to enable the legislation to be passed within a reasonable time.

Question resolved in the affirmative.=

Bill read a first time.

Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent this Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee :

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 postponed.

Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.


Literary Fund - Electoral Offices, Brisbane - Census Questions - Commonwealth Elections - Administration of Electoral Act - Federal Capital Site - Printing of Parliamentary Papers - The Trawler " Endeavour " - Automobile Corps - Court-martial of Naval Officer - Explosion at Thursday Island - Aeroplanes and Dirigible Balloons - Vancouver Mail Service - Wireless Telegraph Station, King Island - Telephone Rates - Mail Steamers : Agreements with Passengers.

Divisions . 1 to 10 (Parliament), £5,201, agreed to.

Divisions 11 to 16 (Department of External Affairs),£2,502.

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