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Wednesday, 1 November 1905

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) (Honorary Minister) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Honorable senators have had the Bill in their possession since the 5th October, and doubtless, even before it came here they were) in many instances' very familiar with its most important details. It will not be necessary for me to occupy their attention at any very great length, because it is a machinery Bill in the truest sense of the word. So far back as 1902, a Conference of Statisticians was held at Hobart, at the instance of the then Premier of Tasmania, the Honorable N. E. Lewis, and it addressed to him a communication on the 15th February of that year. At that particular time, if I remember rightly, there was also a session of the Australasian Science Congress in Hobart. The Statisticians had a Conference quite apart from the Congress, with regard to their own work, more particularly in view of the fact that since the advent of Federation, it would be to some extent modified. I propose to quote the following passages from the beginning of their report : -

We, the representative statisticians of the Australian States and New Zealand, having attended the conference convened by you to consider matters bearing upon uniformity of statistics of the Australian States and New Zealand, have the honour to submit to you the following report : -

The advent of Federation has introduced another factor into the statistics of the Australian States. Before Federation, the statistics of commerce and shipping of each State were taken independently, and, as far as trade relations were concerned, the various States were, to all intents and purposes, as foreign countries. With the introduction of a uniform Customs law, trade between the States became free, and it was consequently no longer necessary for Customs purposes, to ascertain the quantities and values of goods of local productions sent from one State to another. Nor was it requisite to follow a ship from port to port, registering its tonnage at each place, as if it were a fresh ship. Again, in regard to finance, the Commonwealth, from its inception, took from the States their largest source of revenue, as the right to levy duties of Customs' and excise ceased to be a function of the State ; and when, subsequently, the Postal administration was also transferred to the Government of the Commonwealth, the States became second in importance to the Commonwealth as collectors of revenue. It is obvious, therefore, that these radical changes would affect the statistics of the States in a material way, and, to meet the altered conditions, concerted action was necessary. As a consequence of such considerations, correspondence took place between the several statistical offices, resulting in an invitation being issued to the Premiers of the Federated States and New Zealand by you, as Premier of Tasmania, to hold a conference of statisticians, at Hobart, for the purpose of securing uniform presentation of statistics, and to make suggestions to meet the altered condition of affairs which has arisen since the establishment of the Commonwealth. For the correspondence .leading to the convening of the conference, see appendix III.

Then they set out the proceedings, and submit a report as to the best methods to be thereafter adopted for carrying out the work of the States Statistical Departments. On page 7 of the report, under the head of organization, and . inter-relationship between the Commonwealth and the State bureaux of statistics, they make the following reference to the establishment of a Federal system of statistics: -

Having devoted some considerable thought to this important matter of the harmonious relationship between the central statistical bureau of the Commonwealth, soon to be established by special legislation, and the several independent State bureaux of statistics, it is the general opinion among the members of the conference that the whole work of collection of the materials of statistics, whether for State or Commonwealth, had better be deputed to the officers of the several State bureaux of statistics. This would avoid confusion and extra expense such as would surely arise ii double machinery were employed upon the same statistics within the same region; that is, the local State officers would be charged with dual functions. As officers of the State, they would be under the direction and discharge the functions which they 'now carry out for the State. In addition they, co-operating with the central bureau of the Commonwealth, could prepare all statistics required in a more concentrated form for the publications of the Commonwealth, of course, under a definite agreement between the respective Governments of State and Commonwealth'.

Reference °is also made to the expense of maintaining the dual functions of the State and Commonwealth bureaux. The report says -

The importance of securing uniformity in the preparation of the various State statistics becomes more apparent, however, when the necessities of central and local bureaux of statistics are taken into closer consideration. In the meantime, and until a Commonwealth law has been enacted in connexion with statistics, -the adoption generally among all the Australian States of the provisions for securing uniformity, recommended in this report, will be oi very great value, and will smooth the way to their future relationship with the central Commonwealth bureau to be established.

Honorable senators will therefore see that at that Conference, convened by the Premier of Tasmania, as the result of correspondence which is set out in an appendix, the Statisticians had in mind the establishment of a Commonwealth bureau of statistics, necessitated by the alteration which had arisen from the assignment of certain "State functions to the Commonwealth. As the Statisticians point out, the whole system of our Customs, so far as concerns Inter-State transactions, has been radically altered. The system of appropriating, so to speak, the revenue arising from the post and telegraph service has also been radically altered. Then, in regard to our trade relations generally, other factors have arisen, consequent upon, our Federal status. All these are circumstances which combine to give rise to certain necessities in connexion with the statistics of the Commonwealth.

Senator Dobson - Have not most accurate statistics as to Inter-State trade to be kept now? By whom is that work done - by the Statisticians or the Customs officers?

Senator KEATING - Partly by the Customs officers and partly by the Statisticians. In some instances I think that Customs officers do the work, and for the Statisticians.

Senator Dobson - There have not been such radical alterations in trade and commerce that they do not want the whole of the statistics usually supplied.

Senator KEATING - There are statistics of an Inter-State character which are not really necessary for Commonwealth purposes. There are other statistics of the Commonwealth which it is desirable should be taken on a uniform basis, and be supplied to one central .authority, so that they may be marshalled in proper order and form. On the 22nd September, 1904, the Central Council of Employers of Australia held their annual conference at Adelaide, and communicated to the late Prime Minister a copy of a resolution, in which they affirmed the desirableness of a Federal system of statistics being established as soon as possible, in order that accurate and reliable data with regard to the Commonwealth should be readily and easily available. The States Statistical Departments cost about £[17,000 ,a year. Throughout the various States the Customs officers do a large amount of statistical work, which, however, has only relation, I understand, to Customs work, to trade and commerce, and interchange of commodities, over which, of course, the Department has an opportunity of keeping some surveil- lance, and the cost of that work is about £11,500 a year.

Senator Millen - It takes £[11,500 a year for the Commonwealth to run one or two Statistical Departments, while the States run their Statistical Departments at an annual cost of ,£17,000 !

Senator KEATING - Yes ; but it must be remembered that the States are getting the benefit of this expenditure of ,£11,500 by the Commonwealth.

Senator Millen - There is an enormous discrepancy.

Senator KEATING - Prior to Federation this work was done by the States officers. It' may be that in many instances States officers, who are primarily engaged for other purposes, and paid a salary therefor, also do statistical work, and its cost does not appear as a charge against the Statistical Department. For instance, take the Customs officers who are now engaged in doing the statistical work for the Department of Trade and Customs. I am not quite certain whether .any portion of their salaries prior to Federation was charged against the Statistical Departments of the States. . From what we know of the general allocation of expenditure, in many of the States it was not usual to take out of one Department a particular expense incurred for the purpose of furnishing information to another Department. It is quite possible that if the States were carrying out their present statistical work without the aid of the Commonwealth officers in the Trade and1 Customs Department, they would find that the expense they would have to incur would be consi'derably over £[28,500. Under section 51 of the Constitution the Parliament has power to legislate with respect to census and statistics. In most of the States provision has been -made, by some legislation or other, for statistical work to be carried out regularly and permanently. On the other hand, in some States provision has been made for a census to be carried out on a particular date. Of course, the operation of such a Census Act was exhausted with the carrying out of the census, and ten years after - wards another Act. had1 to be placed on the statute-book for a similar purpose. In Queensland, I think in about 1875 or 1876, what was called a Quinquennial Census Act was passed. Under the operation of this Act a census was held every five years, and every alternate census - that is, the census taken in the year ending with " 1," like 1 88 1 and 1891 - synchronized with the census held in the other States. Quite recently, however, they have dropped the quinquennial census, and now take a census in just the same manner as other . countries do, namely, on the last day. of, March or the first day of April in the year ending with "1." Quite recently a Bill was introduced in the United States Congress with the object of a concentration of statistical inquiry' and information. These words were used by one of the senators: -

The reason we do not want to leave the gathering of these statistics scattered in these several Departments is that we want accurate statistics. We want them speedily gathered, because stale statistics are worthless, and I conceive that we would advance the interests of the business world, the industrial world, the scientific world, if we would keep the Census bureau here in this Department (Commerce) and bring all these other statistical bureaux under the same organizing head that we propose to put in charge of this new Department. Then, without friction, without jealousy, simply with a view to the ascertainment of reliable results, organize one bureau that will do all the work and give us complete satisfaction with its results.

Senator Millen - There is one central authority there which is not proposed here.

Senator KEATING - Yes. As far as Commonwealth statistics are concerned, we intend to use the State machinery as far as we can, and I think we shall find, in doing so, that the officers connected with the Statistical Departments of the several States are men conversant with the work of compiling statistics of the States. Under this Bill they will be asked in every instance to furnish the central bureau with statistical information having reference to their own immediate regions. They are, in my opinion, the most competent men to do that. By a system of dual control we shall be able, to get our work done quite as efficiently, if not more efficiently, than by the organization of a new Federal staff, and shall also be able to get it done far more economically than we could otherwise do.

Senator Dobson - Will it cost less on the whole?

Senator KEATING - I think considerably less, because we shall be able to US: the clerks who are already engaged in the

Customs Department for the purpose of compiling statistics, more particularly relating to trade and Customs, to do other statistical work in their owns localities that is not now done in connexion with their position of Customs officers, but which is within their own purview.

Senator Dobson - There will have to be a Federal Department, with all its paraphernalia.

Senator KEATING - We are only providing for a chief statistical officers and the expense will not be anything like as great as the honorable senator seems to apprehend. The Commonwealth experts will furnish information concerning InterState transactions, navigation statistics, shipping statistics, postal and telegraphic statistics, and defence statistics. All these matters would naturally come within the domain of the Commonwealth Statistical Department.

Senator Millen - Still, the statistics will be collected bv States officers.

Senator KEATING - Collected on uniform lines.

Senator Millen - But by States officers.

Senator KEATING - As far as possible.

Senator Dobson - They could not be turned into Federal officers.

Senator KEATING - They will be acting as Federal officers when doing work for the Commonwealth, just as a State court invested with Commonwealth jurisdiction becomes for the time and purpose a Commonwealth court.

Senator Millen - The Commonwealth will have no control over them when they are doing its work.

Senator KEATING - Undoubtedly; but that is a matter entirely for arrangement between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Governments of the States.

Senator Millen - This Bill does not give the Commonwealth Government that power.

Senator KEATING - The Bill provides that the Governor-General shall have power to arrange with the Governments of the States. That will mean - in every instance that an arrangement will have to be made, so as to get the services of States officers for the work that we want them to do.

Senator Dobson - As most of the statistics will be Federal, does not the Minister think that the Commonwealth ought to have control of the officers, and let them do State work when required?

Senator KEATING - I think it will be undesirable to take that course at this juncture. The States have their own Statistical Departments, each of which works on its own particular lines. Recently the Statisticians of the States have met in conference, and in their report to their Governments they expressed the opinion that it is desirable that the statistics of the States shall be compiled as recommended in respect of those matters which are peculiarly within the province of the States.

Senator Dobson - That does not touch the question of- control.

Senator KEATING - It does, to this extent : That these gentlemen were the highest authorities in the Commonwealth upon these subjects, and that they have unanimously recommended that the States should continue to carry on their own Statistical Departments.

Senator Millen - That is to say, the heads of States Departments voted for the continuation of their Departments.

Senator KEATING - The honorable senator may put that construction upon it if he pleases, but the fact remains that, whatever their motives were, these men did make the recommendation I have mentioned after a lengthy conference. They stated that", in their opinion, a Commonwealth bureau should be established, and should be so arranged that advantage could be taken of the officers in the different States organizations. If, of course, we determined to disregard the recommendations of these Statisticians, and to have a Commonwealth Statistical Department of our own it would be a more costly matter. We think that the best thing to do in all the circumstances is to take advantage of the States' officers, and to have a Commonwealth Statistical Office for the purpose of collecting and arranging their statistics on a uniform system. We can obtain the best results that we can desire by the adoption of that system, and shall avoid laying ourselves open to the charge of unwarrantable extravagance by the establishment of another separately organized Commonmonwealth Department. We, therefore, propose, in clause 4 of the Bill, that a Commonwealth Statistician shall be appointed. We empower that Statistician to delegate his powers to any person for a limited time, or within a limited area. We make that delegation of authority revocable in writing. In clause 6 we provide, as I intimated in response to an interjection by Senator Millen, that the Governor-General may - enter into an arrangement with the Governor of any State providing for any matter necessary or convenient for the purpose of carrying out oigiving effect to this Act, and in particular for all or any of the following matters; which are enumerated in paragraphs a, b, and c. There comes the answer to the criticism of Senator Millen. We provide that the Governor-General may secure the services of officers of a State for Commonwealth purposes, and in making that arrangement it would undoubtedly be the duty of the Government to see that the arrangement was such that the Commonwealth could command the services of the officers in such" a way as to secure the results required.

Senator Millen - If one State refuses to make an arrangement what happens ?

Senator KEATING - Then I suppose the Commonwealth would have to adopt the alternative of appointing its own officers, and could point out that the expense incurred was not due to the Commonwealth but to the State.

Senator Dobson - Sir William Lyne's great argument for creating a Public Works Department was that he declined to work through State officers, because they were not under his own control.

Senator Playford - He is working under State officers, to a great extent, now.

Senator KEATING - I am not concerned with Sir William Lyne's difficulties with certain States' Departments. So far as this Bill is concerned, we are prepared to make use of States' officers, and we therefore leave it to the Governor-General to arrange with the States Governments for the performance by States' officers of duties that may be imposed upon them under this measure for the collection and compiling of statistics, and the supplying of statistical information that will be wanted by the Commonwealth. We provide in the same clause, in paragraph 2, that all State officers, when executing any duties under this measure shall be for the purpose of the execution of those duties deemed to be officers under the Bill.

Senator Dobson - Still they would be under State control.

Senator KEATING - They would be.

Senator Walker - I presume they' would be entitled to some remuneration.

Senator KEATING - Undoubtedly; the Commonwealth would not make use of their services, for nothing ; but by utilizing their services in this way we shall expect . to get the work done much more cheaply than if we had a complete staff of our own. We provide that the officers shall take the oath of secrecy. That is a usual provision in Bills of this character. As to the census, we provide the necessary machinery in part 3. We provide, in accordance' with the principle that regulates the taking of the census in "nearly all civilized countries, that it shall be decennial, and shall be taken in the year 191 1, and thereafter every tenth year, on a day to be proclaimed. In some countries it is taken on the 31st March in that year; in others on the 1st April. The reason for proclaiming that it shall be on a day to be fixed is that in case the greater number of the States fix upon a particular day we shall make our census synchronize with their day, but shall be able to secure the convenience of a possible census that might be taken by a State for its own purposes. On the other hand, if we pass this Bill, one or two States may say, "We will not have a census at a1 but will rely upon the Commonwealth census, which will show the population of the State, the characteristics of the population, and so on." They may rely upon this. On the other hand, one or more of the States may decide to take their own census apart from the Commonwealth.

Senator Lt Col Gould - Surely there would be no reason in that?

Senator KEATING - No; but I am simply referring to the possibilities. In the event of some of the States taking a census of their own, we shall be able, by virtue of the provision that makes the census day a day to be proclaimed, to synchronize it with the particular day decided upon by the State, and it is possible that in that way we should save a considerable, amount of expense.

Senator Walker - A State like Western Australia might decide to take a census every five years, when it is going ahead so fast."

Senator KEATING - That is quite possible. The duty of making the census is cast upon the Statisticians by clause q. A householder's schedule is provided for in clause 10, which is to set out the matters upon which inquiry shall be made.

Senator Lt Col Gould - They are substantially the same as those which are now provided for.

Senator KEATING - That is so. It will be found that a household is defined and where several sets of persons or families are living in one building, provision is made that they may each be regarded as occupiers, so that the fullest information can be obtained. Then in clause 12, provision is made with respect to the particulars to be specified in the householder's! schedule, and they are to include -

(a)   the name sex age condition as to and dura tion of marriage relation to head of the household profession or occupation, and so on.

Senator Dobson - Must the religion be stated.

Senator KEATING - Yes, but there is a provision in the Bill under which any one who objects to do so is not bound to state his religion. Then, an obligation is thrown upon the collector. Where any person supplied with a householder's schedule desires him to assist in filling it in, the collector is bound to do so, according to the information supplied. On the other hand, if a collector requires any information to complete a return, the obligation is thrown upon persons to whom he applies to supply the information correctly under a penalty, on summary conviction. Then, with regard to persons who are not residing in what are deemed to be dwellings under the Bill, provision is made for the collection of particulars in regard to them. One very important part of the Bill is clause 16, at the beginning of Part 4. It sets out that-

The statisticians shall, subject to the regulations and the directions with the Minister, collect annually statistics in relation to all or any of the following matters -

(a)   Vital social and industrial statistics.

(b)   Imports and exports.

(c)   Inter-State trade.

(d)   Factories, mines, and productive industries generally.

(e)   Agricultural horticultural viticultural dairying and pastoral industries. (f) Banking insurance and finance.

(g)   Railways tramways shipping and transport.

(h)   Land tenure and occupancy ; and

(i)   Any other prescribed matters.

There may, of course, be matters from time to time not comprised under the headings here stated, about which it will be neces sary to secure statistics, and these matters, as occasion arises, will be prescribed.

Senator Pulsford - Why is population, omitted ?

Senator KEATING - That will be provided for in connexion with the census.

Senator Pulsford - We might require particulars of population at other times.

Senator KEATING - I do not know whether that would not' be covered by paragraph a - " Vital, social, and industrial statistics." The matter is one which can be appropriately dealt with in Committee, and, at all events, there is no desire to exclude population statistics. Then there are other clauses, under which persons receiving householders' forms must fill them up, or be liable to a penalty, and the same thing applies with respect to the duties of persons to answer questions put to them. There is the ordinary power conferred upon those charged with the compilation of statistics to enter factories, mines, and other such places, in the discharge of their duty,to secure the information required. Provision is made in clause 20 for the publication of statistics. This is a very important matter. Honorable senators are aware that we had in New South Wales a very excellent handbook, brought out by Mr. Coghlan. We had a book - The Seven Colonies, as it was called prior to Federation, and now is called The Commonwealth and New Zealand - by the same author. Then, so far as Victoria is concerned, we have The Victorian Year Book, and honorable senators have from time to time received a publication from Western Australia, issued by the Statistician or RegistrarGeneral for that State. In all these publications the statistics are prepared by the States Departments, and are published as such. Although the information- they give in connexion with the States in which they are published may be very complete, exhaustive, and interesting, still, to the outsider, they convey very little Australian information of practical value, unless he desires information in respect to a particular State. We have no publication dealing with the Commonwealth generally that will stand comparison, in the matter of completeness, with The Victorian Year Book in relation to Victoria, or with the Western Australian publication in relation to that State. We require that some publication and documents shall from time to time be issued dealing peculiarly and particularly with the Commonwealth- as a commonwealth.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Col. Gould. - Coghlan's book gives a very great deal of that information.

Senator KEATING - It does, and it is a very excellent book. But it does not give the same amount of detail in connexion with the Commonwealth as a New South "Wales publication would, in connexion with New South Wales, or as, for instance, the official year-Book of New Zealand gives with regard to that Colony. . We provide, therefore, in clause 20 for the publication of Commonwealth statistics.

Senator Dobson - Why limit the publication to statistics collected ' pursuant to the Bill, when a publication might include by-State and Commonwealth statistics?

Senator KEATING - The publication of a State's statistics would be peculiarly a. matter for the State itself.

Senator Dobson - A joint publication might save expense.

Senator KEATING - That might be so. We provide here for the' publication only of Commonwealth statistics, but possibly an' arrangement could be made with a State for the joint publication of the Commonwealth and the- State statistics, separately distinguished. Clause 21 makes the provision with respect to information concerning a person's religion, to which I have already referred.- Then follow provisions dealing with the duties of officers, desertion of duty, the making of untrue returns, and failure to observe secrecy in accordance with their declarations. Penalties are also provided for in the case of forgeries of forms, or the making of false returns. ' There is also, in clause 27, provision made for a matter dealt with in the Statistician's report, and it is provided that statistical information shall be transmitted through the post free of charge. The final clause makes the usual provision for regulations, which it may be necessary from time to time to' make in order to properly give effect to the provisions of the Bill. < Honorable senators will see that the object of the Bill is to at once set about compiling Commonwealth statistics, and in order that they may be obtained as accurately, expeditiously, and as economically as possible, it is proposed to take advantage df the existing Statistical Departments of the several States. When advantage is taken of them, statistics collected, and the census taken from time to time, opportunity will be afforded to publish to the world as apart from, and distinct from, the several handbooks and yearbooks of the States, such information as will be of the greatest interest in connexion with the Commonwealth itself. The Commonwealth will be able to present to the world the most important statistics relating to itself as one community. It is desirable that we should be placed in that position as early as possible, and I believe that honorable senators will agree with me that this Bill will afford us the means_ to achieve that end with the greatest possible despatch and accuracy.

Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.

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