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Friday, 29 November 1935

The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator has no right to refer to this chamber as a rubber stamp.

Senator BROWN - In the way that the Senate is constituted, with 33 members representing the Government parties and only three representing the Opposition, despite the fact that 46 per cent, of the people voted against the Government, I contend that it is merely a " say-so " house to the other chamber. Legislation put before us by the Government is readily agreed to by the majority of honorable senators, because, forsooth, they represent the same parties as are in the majority in the House of Representatives.

The PRESIDENT - But the electors have made it so.

Senator BROWN - No. It is the electoral system that has made it so. Under the existing system, 49 per cent, of the voters of Australia may support the Labour party at the poll, but not one Labour supporter may be returned to this chamber.

Senator Foll - Would the honorable senator support proportional representation?

Senator BROWN - At this juncture I do not propose to enter into a disquisition on electoral methods. I am stating plain facts. As a result of the methods adopted by the tory party, hundreds of thousands of electors are not represented as they should be in the Senate. Of course, I make haste to add that they are ably represented by three of us, but it is hardly fair to place the whole burden of the Opposition on three pairs of shoulders. Nevertheless, we have accepted our responsibilities, and will discharge them to the best of our ability. Under a system of proportional representation, the Labour party might have had fourteen or sixteen 'representatives in this chamber.

Senator Dein - But the present members of the Opposition would not be present to represent Queensland.

Senator BROWN - I advocate a system of voting which will make it possible for the people to be better represented than under the present stupid method.

Senator Dein - What does the honorable senator propose?

Senator BROWN - The honorable senator is utterly stupid in making such interjections. I have explained my attitude clearly-

Senator Foll - On a point of order, Mr. President, I desire to know whether Senator Brown is in order in referring to Senator Dein as being utterly stupid.

The PRESIDENT - The expression is not parliamentary; so I ask the honorable senator not to use those words again.

Senator BROWN - In deference to you, Mr. President, I shall not use them again. Those honorable senators who have been giving me their attention will know that I am not advocating the adoption of proportional representation. I am merely directing attention to the fact that, whilst 46 per cent, of the people recorded their votes against the Government candidates at the last election, 33 of the 36 members of this chamber are Government supporters. If that is not plain enough for the honorable senator I shall be forced to ignore him. 'Senator Allan MacDonald appears to have a " set " on the Melbourne Age.


Senator BROWN - He does not regard that journal with very kindly feelings. Apparently he has the impression that its policy is too close to that of the Labour party. I cannot say whether that is so, because I rarely read it. But I do read the Brisbane Telegraph, which, as honorable senators know, strongly supports this Government, and I find that it also believes that the action of the Ministry in rushing legislation through in order to close the Parliament is not in the best interests of the legislature. This is what that journal says -

Many of the best friends of the Federal Government are among the numerous critics of the manner in which the work of the present session is being handled. Particularly, there is disapproval of the proposal to rush a number of important measures through the Parliament in order that it may rise by December 0 for the " Christmas Vacation ", which will be extended to long after Christmas. Only by the application of the guillotine, which is correctly described as " the gag " can the Government hope to complete the programme in the time stated, and this accompanied by exhaustive sittings. This is not the way in which the important work of the legislature should be performed.

As I have observed, the Telegraph is opposed to Labour's policy. For that I do not blame it, because I do not deny the right of any person or newspaper to oppose Labour. The Telegraph goes on to say -

It is very difficult to understand why there should be a particular wish to wind up the Hession by December 6, or by any date that involves haste. The " gag " at all times should be used sparingly. It is intended not to facilitate the operation of the Government nf the day so much as to terminate absolute obstruction, and only in such conditions should it be applied. We make a protest on behalf of the small Labour Opposition at Canberra, just as we have spoken for the small Nationalist Opposition in Queensland; but we take also the broader view that the work of any parliament is of such vital consequence that it should be performed with the greatestcare, in a leisurely manner rather than a rapid one; and that time and opportunity should be afforded to all the members, not only to thoroughly understand the measures before them, but also to freely discuss them from all angles.

Most honorable senators will agree with that statement. It cannot be denied that members of the House of Representatives have been deprived of the opportunity to speak about matters of vital importance to their constituents, owing to the action of the Government in limiting the time allowed for the consideration of the Estimates. Mr. Riordan, the honorable member for Kennedy, has placed in my hand a pile of letters from constituents complaining of the unsatisfactory postal facilities in various parts of his division. He informed me that the time allowed for the consideration of the Estimates of the Postmaster-General's Department was so limited that he was unable to bring the matters complained of under the notice of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Accordingly, he handed the letters to me with the request that I should do so when the Appropriation Bill was being discussed in this chamber.

The action of the department in curtailing country postal services is grossly unfair to rural interests. In some districts mail services which were conducted twice a week have been reduced to once weekly ; in others where there was a mail once a fortnight, there is now a mail only once a month.

Senator McLeay - Why does not the honorable senator deal with some of the complaints instead of reading long newspaper reports?

Senator BROWN - If Senator McLeay had been listening to me he would have known that I have been directing the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to these matters, and I have been complaining that, because of the use of the guillotine in the House of

Representatives, Mr. Riordan and other representatives of country electorates were denied the opportunity to air grievances which had been brought to their notice by their constituents. In this chamber, also, we are becoming accustomed to the application of the gag, but apparently Senator McLeay and his friends are satisfied; they do not object if honorable senators on this side are prevented from speaking. 1 warn him, however, that before many years have passed, the people of this country will have something to say about the manner' in which this Government is conducting the business in this Parliament. They are watching the passage of legislation, and because of propaganda that is being disseminated here and in other countries, there is increasing dissatisfaction with existing parliamentary institutions and governments which ignore the rights of the people. Unless I misread the signs of the times, the day of reckoning is not far distant.

Senator Sir George PEARCE - The attitude of the Opposition in this Parliament was responsible for the action taken by the Government a week ago.

Senator BROWN - The Opposition acted in the only way open to it in order to let the people know what was being done by this Government.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The Opposition has wasted time.

Senator BROWN - If honorable senators on this side spoke for ten hours on this bill we 4 could not be accused of wasting time, because of the importance of the proposals contained in it. We should have full opportunity to deal with the Estimates of the various government departments. Only the other day the Government applied the gag in this chamber.

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - It was about time, too.

Senator BROWN - I have always been willing to listen to what government supporters have had to say, and on only one occasion - the incident concerning Senator Johnston - did I offer objection to an honorable senator's request for leave to speak. On that occasion, I acted in a spirit of levity, for which I tendered my apology to Senator Johnston, because I frankly admit that he has at all times done his best to uphold the rights of the Senate. Whether or not we agree with all that he says we must, I think, "hand" it to him, as we were accustomed to applaud Sir Hal Colebatch, for his efforts to maintain the rights of the Senate in the interests of the smaller States.

Senator Sir George Pearce - Apparently the door is being opened for Senator Johnston to walk in.

Senator E B Johnston - The Leader of the Senate would probably accept such an invitation if there were a portfolio on the premises.

Senator BROWN - The Labour party would not have the honorable senator. The motion for the first reading of this bill ' gives every honorable senator the right to speak for one hour and a half, and to discuss a wide range of subjects.

SenatorFoll. - But the honorable gentleman should stop flirting with Senator Johnston.

Senator BROWN - I am merely expressing my appreciation of his efforts at all times, despite opposition from any section in this chamber not excepting members of the Country party, to speak on behalf of Western Australia.

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - We all do that; Senator Johnston is not singular in that respect.

Senator BROWN - I freely admit that, but Senator Allan MacDonald is in a somewhat different position; he speaks with friends all around him, whereas Senator Johnston is practically alone. Having foresworn allegiance to the Country party leader in this chamber he, like the late Lord Roseberry, ploughs his lonely furrow, and I must say that he is making a very good job of it.

Senator Leckie - It is to be hoped that he does not sow his wild oats in that furrow !

Senator BROWN - Apparently government supporters think that everything which it does is perfectly in order. I have criticized it for its undue haste in passing the Estimates through the House of Representatives, and I have urged the need for the Senate to give more adequate consideration to the Government's proposals in order to disarm criticism of this chamber.

The third matter to which I direct attention is in relation to the decision of the Government to provide further accommodation for the GovernorGeneral elect. We are led to believe that it contemplates building two residences for Sir Alexander Hore-Ruthven - one in Melbourne and another in Sydney.

Senator Brennan - " Led to believe " ; that commits the honorable senator to nothing.

Senator BROWN - Being something of a bush lawyer I was, naturally, careful to use that phrase. Members of the House of Representatives have informed me that they have endeavoured to obtain information from Ministers in that chamber as to whether the Government intends to erect or acquire official residences for the Governor-General in Melbourne and in Sydney. As that question has not yet been answered, I should like a definite reply from the Leader of the Senate. We have nothing to say against the GovernorGeneral designate, but it would appear that because there is a desire on the part of certain ladies and gentlemen who love to hang around the collarbone of such dignatories from other parts of the world, official residences for the GovernorGeneral are to be acquired in the two capital cities mentioned. The present Governor-General, who is a good Australian, appears to be satisfied with the official residence in Canberra and we should be informed if additional expenditure is to be incurred for his successor. This subject is of particular interest to honorable senators on this side of the chamber, because, on several occasions, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) and I have directed the attention of the Government to the slums which exist in this beautiful city. If the Government has money available, it should eliminate these eyesores in Canberra. If it is proposed to acquire palatial residences in Sydney and Melbourne, why should not similar residences be acquired in Brisbane and Perth?

Senator Duncan-Hughes - Admiralty House, Sydney, which has been mentioned, was used for many years as the Sydney residence of the GovernorGeneral.

Senator BROWN - Is it proposed to reopen that establishment? Many years ago, there was a strong agitation against the acquisition of residences for the

Governor-General in certain capital cities, and it was thought that, when the Seat of Government was transferred to Canberra, one would be sufficient. According to Hansard of the 30th December, 1904, page 8301, ex-Senator Keating said -

Why should the Commonwealth provide him with a house at an expense of £3,000 a year for the rare occasions when he. visites New South Wales? Wo should take a general stand against this expenditure, and determine that there shall be only one Governor-General's establishment, known as the Government House of the Commonwealth, and situated where the Seat of Government is. While -the Scat of Government remains temporarily in Victoria, the Commonwealth Government House should be. in Melbourne, and when a Federal Territory is chosen in New South Wales, and the Seat of Government is fixed there, .the Commonwealth Government House should be there, and there only.

On the 25th November, 1905, Hansard, page 5825, Senator Givens moved -

That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item " Sydney Government House" £2,585 by £2,000.

In support of that motion, the honorable senator said -

The proper place- of the official residence of the- Governor-General is. Melbourne, because, for the time being, it is the Seat of Government. Ultimately, of course, his official residence will be at the Federal Capital. When it is established, shall we be expected to maintain a separate establishment for His Excellency in Melbourne and Sydney, while we ignore other States capitals? It would be ridiculous to single out two States to be favoured in that way.

Speaking on the same subject, the late Sir Josiah Symon is reported in Hansard of the 28th November, 1905, page 5815, as having said -

I think, however,, that he ought to move a request to leave out the whole of the vote. . . .

I wish, without elaborately arguing the matter, to give one reason why I think we ought not to continue this extravagance. . . .

I do say, nevertheless, that it is extravagant to continue a second Government House at the public expense when - I will not say whether justly or not - the country is exclaiming against heavy Commonwealth expenditure. There is no necessity whatever for it. There is no more reason why we should have a second vice-regal palace constantly maintained than that we should have other official residences for His Excellency in Brisbane or in Adelaide. I should be sorry in a way to curtail expenditure that was requisite for maintaining official dignity; but I do not think that this expenditure is necessary. What is it for ? It is a mere piece of arrant humbug.

In many parts of Australia, the workers are compelled to live in shacks, and if money is available for additional viceregal residences, a definite attempt should be made by the Government to provide houses for those who at present are living under deplorable conditions.- In travelling from Sydney to Brisbane, one cannot help noticing a number of shacks made of bags and scraps of tin in the vicinity of Casino.

Senator Foll - They are a disgrace to any country.

Senator BROWN - They are, and should be removed as speedily as possible. Such eyesores on the landscape are a disgrace to Australia.

Dealing with the. subject of finance, I have said that the remission of taxes does not necessarily mean that additional employment will be provided. Earlier in this week I explained that if taxes remitted were paid into a bank and the money were not re-issued there would not necessarily be more employment than at present. I have also contended that the banks have certain power to issue credits which, after all,, are as good as money. I read an article in the August circular published by the Bank of New South Wales, dealing, with credit and economic recovery.. One. passage read -

At the present time bank deposits in Australia are tending to. increase slowly, because trading banks' advances are expanding slowly from the low level to which the lack of willing borrowers had driven them during the depression. As advances expand, most of the money comes back to the bank in the form' of new deposits, although a little additional cas] is required for pocket money by the public,, for till money by the shops, &c. Such expansion of advances as we have had in Australia since 1932 represents a movement towards recovery, and is generally recognized as evidence of our progress. But we have not yet reached normal employment. The latest trade union returns still show some 18 per cent, unemployed-

Senator Gibson,who is keenly interested in finance and dilates on the trials of mortgagees and mortgagors should study the contents of this interesting circular, which does not say that the remission of taxes has any bearing upon th© subject of employment. The article states that as recovery continues bank advances increase. It shows that whether the Government does or- does not remit property taxes, the hanks -will meet economic development with an expansion of credit. The articles continued - whereas in the nine years preceding 1929 the average was 8 per cent. This suggests that recovery, if not interrupted, has still a considerable distance to go. As recovery continues, so will the expansion of bank advances, and as bank advances expand, deposits, too, will rise. The banks can only allow deposits to expand without hindrance, so long as they hold sufficient liquid assets (cash and treasurybills) . . .

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