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Thursday, 2 November 1905

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) (Honorary Minister) . - Senator Millen has pointed out that there were two courses which the Government might have taken, and that in his opinion the course which they did take was the less preferable of the two. It would appear from his remarks that the Governments of the Commonwealth - in his strictures he did not confine himself to the present Government - have been neglectful of their duty in regard to the provision of legislation for census and statistics to this extent - that before bringing down a measure to Parliament they have not apparently consulted the several States. Last night, when moving the second reading of the Bill, I wished to show the necessity for the establishment of a Commonwealth Bureau of Statistics, and in doing that I pointed to the fact that consideration had been given to that question by. a conference of Statisticians which was held in Hobart in 1902.

Senator Millen - Not according to the report from which the Minister read last night.

Senator KEATING - Then the honorable senator cannot have seen a copy of the report from which I read?

Senator Millen - It was handed to me by one of the Minister's officers to-day.

Senator KEATING - The very extracts I read last night related to a proposal for the establishment of « a Commonwealth bureau. Those gentlemen who were engaged in the conference considered what would be the best course thereafter to follow in connexion with the compilation of the States statistics, and what should be the method of organization and inter-relation between the States Departments of Statistics and the contemplated Commonwealth bureau. Senator Millen would have us believe that the Governments of the Commonwealth have not been in communication with' the States in regard' to this matter. The contrary is the case.

Senator Millen - I said that, so far as the papers showed, we were in ignorance of any communication.

Senator KEATING - There has been a large quantity of correspondence, which \\s referred to during the discussion in another place, with the result that it was laid on the Library table. I have here a precis of the correspondence, showing that replies were received from the different States Premiers as far back as June and July last. From New South Wales the reply was to the effect that the acting State Government Statistician was of opinion that there was no portion of the work now being performed by the staff in New South Wales which' could be more efficiently or more economically performed by the Commonwealth Statistical Officers. The New South Wales Government, of course, accepted that opinion of their chief officer.

Senator Millen - And the Common.wealth Government accepted it.

Senator KEATING - The Commonwealth Government accepted the reply of the New South Wales Government.

Senator Millen - But the Commonwealth Government never put their own view forward.

Senator KEATING - Undoubtedly they did. In June last acknowledgments of the receipt of the Commonwealth Government communication were received? from Victoria, Queensland, and Western. Australia.

Senator Millen - Were these not replies to an inquiry by the Commonwealth. Government for an expression of opinion?'

Senator KEATING - The States Governments were asked whether they were prepared to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government to the extent of establishing a system for compilation of statistics, which would result in the Stateshaving the benefit of the Commonwealth, organization, rather than the Commonwealth having the benefit of the existing; States organizations. From South Australia, on the 15th July, a reply was received' that the State Government was of opinion' that there was no portion of the work then being done by the States Departments which could be more efficiently or more economically performed by 'a Common- wealth Statistical Bureau

Senator Playford - That appears tobe the general opinion.

Senator KEATING - This correspondence was instituted by the late Government, as honorable senators will see from' the fact that in nearly every instance the acknowledgment, if not the reply, was received in June. On the 7 th? of July a commuication was received from Queensland, to the effect that their State Statistician considered two schemes practicable - either the establishment of a central bureau, having a branch office in each State, or provision for the supply of data by the existing States Statistical Departments. The reply also stated that until it was determined what form the bureau would take, and the range of subjects it would embrace, it would be difficult to say what portion of the Queensland wor)k could1 he more efficiently or economically performed at the Commonwealth Statistical Bureau. According to promise, a reply was received from Western Australia on the 10th July, to the effect that the only portion of the work which might be performed by the Commonwealth office would be the compilationand publication of details of trade, shipping, and postal returns suitable for local requirements. In the case of Victoria, evidently a good deal of consideration was given to the subject, because the reply from the Premier of that State was received only on the 18th of last month. The effect of that reply was that the State Government considered that the statistical officers of the various States should remain under the control of the States for purposes of the collection., tabulation, and publication of State statistics, the collection and tabulation to be carried out in a manner approved by, the Commonwealth bureau. Captain Evans, the Premier of Tasmania, takes practically the same view, as shown by his letter received on the 25th of last month.

Senator Millen - I do not dispute the views of the States Departments ; I merely say that the Commonwealth view has never been put forward.

Senator KEATING - Captain Evans' letter stated that, in the opinion of the Government Statist of Tasmania, the value of a central bureau would be rather that of direction and guidance in the collection of all matters common to State and Commonwealth statistics, so as to avoid, as far as possible, confusion and the expense of unnecessarily duplicating machinery. The Statist of Tasmania, according to the letter, was not aware of any part of the collection or compilation of necessary State statistics where aid could possibly be afforded by the officers of the central bureau. The letter pointed out that the local State bureau, being under the guidance of the Commonwealth bureau, could, as is now the case, prepare all abstracts of State statistics suitable and necessary for the more general form of statistics to be published from time to time by, the Commonwealth Statistician. As a rule, this correspondence, which was marked by that diplomacy that should! characterize such negotiations, reveals that the disposition of the States at present, at any rate, is not to surrender their Statistical Department. Under the circumstances, if the Government had brought down a Bill which clearly implied that they were going to ignore the existing States Departments, they would have been very badly advised. It was more politic to do what the Government have done, namely, introduce a Bill which has for its object the appointment of a Chief Statistical Officer, and the conferring on him certain powers in the collection and compilation of statistics for Commonwealth purposes. The Government recognise the existence of the States Departments, and desire to take advantage of the existence of those Departments. We feel that we ought not to add to the expense of the taxpayer, but rather ought to take advantage of existing institutions as far as possible; and the Bill makes provision in that direction. For that reason we provide that the Governor-General may come to arrangements with the Governor of such States as may be prepared to co-operate with us, to carry out the objects of the measure,and for the utilization of the services of that State Department to that end. I think every honorablesenatorwilladmit the manifest advantagesof such a bureau as that which is proposed,and that the Bill will secure the desiredresults with accuracy and economy. I ask honorable senators to pass the second reading, and take the Bill into Committee. The amendments foreshadowedby Senator Pulsford I can more appropriately deal with at a later stage ; but I think the honorable senator will find his intentions have already been carried out, if not in this Bill, atany rate in some other Commonwealth legislation with which this Bill is necessarily linked.

Amendment negatived.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee :

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 postponed.

Clauses 4 to 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 -

1.   The census shall be taken in the year one thousand nine hundred and eleven and in every tenth year thereafter.

2.   The census day shall be a day appointed for that purpose by proclamation.

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