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Thursday, 2 November 1905

The PRESIDENT - Would not that be setting up an alternative scheme?

Senator PULSFORD - I do not think so. Apart from that matter of administration to which I have referred, a number of changes are .required in the Bill, in order to make its provisions perfect. The New South Wales and other Acts provide in a schedule the form of the oath to be taken by the officers to observe secrecy. It is desirable that this Parliament should draw up a schedule for this purpose, and not allow this important matter to be dealt with by regulation. There are some matters which we are obliged to leave to be dealt with in that way, but where we can act, surely we ought to do so. In my opinion, several definitions should be inserted. For instance, we ought to define what we mean by the word "Census." Clause S provides that " the census " shall be taken in 191 1, and in every tenth year thereafter. But it is usual I think to begin a Census Act with a definition that " Census " means an account of the population. It is a very simple thing to put in a definition. I suppose there will be no objection to saying that " the Minister " means the Minister of Home Affairs.

Senator Keating - That is all provided for in the Acts Interpretation Act.

Senator PULSFORD - I am altogether against leaving things which should be obvious, to be defined by the Acts Interpretation Act, because I believe that we can carry the process of shortening Acts to too great an extreme. The word " plant " should also be inserted and defined, because it deals with an important matter. The Statistician's work in regard to the population will be the most important portion of his duties. Therefore, it will be prudent to put in a clause to the effect that he shall, as soon as possible after a census or other enumeration day; publish a statement showing the total population of each State, and the aggregate population of the Commonwealth on such census day.

Senator Playford - That will be done as a matter of course.

Senator PULSFORD - It might be said that the whole thing will be done as a matter of course. The ordinary duty of the Statistician will be to collect statistics and prepare them for publication, but everybody knows that the full figures of a census are not ready for many months, sometimes for a year or two after it was taken. What I want to compel the Statistician to do is by a special effort to prepare statistics showing the aggregate of the population in as few days as possible from the taking of the census. Surely, that is desirable ! We do not wish the Minister to interfere and direct that the matter may be delayed. It may be delayed for political purposes, because the Statistician is put under the thumb of the Minister. We do not want him to be in that position more than we can help. It would also be well to define the day when the census shall be taken, and I suggest that sub-clauses 2 of clause 8 should be altered so as to read as follows : -

The census day shall be the Sunday nearest to or occurring on March 31st.

I do not see any reason for the small number of subjects which appear in clause 16, under the heading of " Statistics." Certainly it ends up with the phrase, " and any other prescribed matters." But as we are defining about ten different heads of subjects, I do not see why we should omit others. I have pointed out that the most important of all - population - has been omitted. It may be said that population figures are provided for under the head of census. That is quite true as regards once in ten years, but we want to keep a running account of the population. That is required by the Constitution, because, apart from the representation of the States depending upon the population, the charging of expenditure by the Act depends upon the statistics of the Commonwealth.

Senator Millen - And the Representation Bill requires it to.

Senator PULSFORD - Yes. This account of the population must be kept up, not merely at census-time, but quarter by quarter. Therefore, the list of subjects to be dealt with by the Statisticians should begin with the word " population. " Strange to say, the subject, " Postal and telegraphic " is omitted. There is no reference in the list to property, income, education, religion, or employment. Are all these matters to be left to be prescribed bv the Minister?

Senator Dobson - But education is a subject within the jurisdiction of the State.

Senator PULSFORD - Yes ; but if the Commonwealth is preparing statistical returns for all the States, it should make its books complete, so that they shall contain, not only the statistics representing the Departments absolutely controlled by the Commonwealth, but also the statistics representing the life, the property, and all the interests of the Commonwealth. I notice that clause 27 requires that all letters and packets containing statistical matter shall be carried free. When Senator Drake was conducting the Post and Telegraph Bill through the Senate, he was very emphatic in declaring, that the policy of the Commonwealth was that no work should be done by the Post and Telegraph Department unless it was paid for. I am aware that already in one or two other Departments there has been some departure from that policy. But "the departure proposed in clause 27 of this Bill is an immense one, and therefore I am anxious to hear what Senator Drake thinks on the subject.

Senator Stewart - Does the honorable senator approve of it?

Senator PULSFORD - I do not think that I am going to oppose it. If the States are permitted to use the telegraph freely for this purpose, it may throw a good deal of extra work upon the Telegraph Department. Therefore, it is a matter which I think ought to be watched. The next clause deals with the question of making regulations. Clearly, no regulations could be of more importance than those relating to the census and statistics. There is an Act which requires all regulations made pursuant to any Act to be laid before both Houses of the Parliament. But I think that we ought not only to make that express provision in this Bill, but to provide that the regulations and the schedules shall be approved bv Parliament.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - It ought to be provided that the regulations shall not' come into operation until the' lapse of a certain period from their submission to Parliament.

Senator PULSFORD - Yes, I consider that the drawing up of such an important paper as a census schedule , by the Statistician, with or without the control and consent of the Minister, is not satisfactory, and that we, as the representatives of the people, 'Should insist upon having a say in regard to its form. We should insert a clause to the effect that the schedules shall receive the approval of Parliament before they are distributed. These are some of the chief points which have occurred to me. There are others with which I may deal in Committee.

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