1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Last Thursday I referred to the fact that repairs needed in connexion with several buildings used by the Postal department are not being carried on, but the Minister for Home Affairs assured me, and afterwards proved to my satisfaction, that they had been sanctioned, and that he knew of no cause for delay. I have since ascertained, however, that although the works have been approved of, no money is available for carrying them out. I wish now to ask the Minister if he will see that the money is forthcoming.
– The honorable member spoke to me the other day about this matter, and gave me a list of some works in South Australia which had not been carried out. Next day I showed him a letter which had been written on the 2nd December, addressed to the Works department of South Australia, approving of the carrying out of these works, and asking that they be put in hand. The money is available, and if the department will carry out the works it will be paid the moment the amounts are due. Previously, the money spent upon such works was paid only at the head office of the Treasury in Melbourne, but under the new arrangement it will be paid in SouthAustralia by the officers who are appointed for that purpose undernewregulations which have been issued. It is nonsense to say that there is no money. I should not approve of the carrying out of the work, and send a letter to the department asking them to carry it out, unless I was prepared at the time to obtain the money from the Treasury.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral if money is available for connecting certain persons in the country with the telephone system. I have received communications from persons desiring to be so connected, stating that they had been informed from head-quarters that the connexions cannot be made because no funds are available.
– I have, where persons have paid for the accommodation the honorable member speaks of, authorized the necessary expenditure to be made out of the Treasurer’s advance vote, pending the passing of the Estimates. Without knowing the particulars of the cases to which the honorable member refers, I cannot give him any further information at the present time, but if he will furnish me with such particulars I will look into the matter. Will he give notice of the question for Tuesday next?
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the right honorable gentleman privately.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Defence if he can make arrangements, such as have been previously made by the Victorian Government, to allow men wishing to volunteer for service in South Africa to be examined and provisionally passed at certain centres in the country, and thus save them the expense of coming to Melbourne. At the present time all applicants for enrolment are notified that they must attend at the Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, and as most of the volunteers come from the country, this arrangement is frequently a source of great hardship, because men come to town, and may then be rejected.
– The Government might provide railway fares for them.
– The view expressed by the honorable member is much in accord with that which I hold myself. I think that in an enrolment such as is going on throughout Australia at the present time, every facility should be given to those who desire to present themselves for examination to do so at the least possible expense, and I gave instructions to that effect long ago. In Victoria, however, owing to its circumscribed area, or for some other reason, the system of centralization seems to have found great favour. I shall take care- that the wish expressed by the honorable member is given effect to. My opinion is that the best way to obtain the class of men we require for South Africa is to give every facility to persons living in the country districts to enrol without expense to themselves.
– I should like to know if the attention of the Prime Minister has been drawn to a report that five coloured men deserted from the steam-ship
Rome on or about the 14th inst., and that two coloured men deserted from the steamshipClitus on or about the 18th inst. If not, will the right honorable member take steps to ascertain whether the report is true or not?
– I have no information on the subject, but I shall make inquiries, and if the honorable member will ask me a question again at some future date, I shall be prepared to give him all the information I have obtained on the subject.
Troops at a Public Meeting.
– I desire to move the adjournment of the House to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the reported action of the Minister for Defence in authorizing the parading and attendance of troops at a political meeting to be held in Adelaide to-night.”
Five honorable members having risenin their places,
– I take this action without having given due notice to the right honorable gentleman at the head of the Defence department, because I saw the notice of the meeting to which I am about to refer only in this morning’s newspapers. Having seen an account in the Age, I took the opportunity to look up the Adelaide newspaper which arrived this morning, and I found out by referring to it what class of meeting it is at which the Minister has authorized and directed the parade of the troops. The resolutions to be proposed at that meeting are these : - 1st. “ That in the opinion of this meeting the policy of the British Government in their conduct of the war in South Africa meets with the approval of all loyal South Australians.” 2nd. “ That this meeting desires to express to the Right Honorable Joseph Chamberlain its admiration and appreciation of the ability displayed by him in his administration of the Government policy in South Africa.”
The Age of this morning contains the following report : -
It was proposed that the military forces should take part in the great patriotic meeting to be heldin the Adelaide Town-hall to-morrow evening. Afterwards, however, it was thought by the military authorities and the Mayor of Adelaide. Mr. Cohen, that it would not, perhaps, be proper for such proceedings to take place. Accordingly, the Minister for Defence was telegraphed to for instructions. Colonel Stuart, chief staff officer, has received the following telegram from Sir John Forrest : -
Re meeting convened by mayor, approve of contingent, officers, and men of local forces parading and marching to Townhall, take part demonstration. Please inform mayor.
At the present moment I do not know how far that telegram is authentic and conveys the exact directions of the Minister. Whatever our feelings may be in regard to the conductof the war in South Africa, or as to the attitude taken up by Mr. Chamberlain on behalf of the British Government, we must admit that it is in the highest degree reprehensible that members of the military forces as such should be directed by the Minister for Defence to attend a public meeting of the character of that to be held in Adelaide to-night. I think that the right honorable gentleman has allowed his feelings in this matter to outrun his discretion. It is reminiscent of the time of Cromwell and the Long Parliament to hear of the military being marched into a meeting to give tone and colour to its proceedings. Whether it be popular or unpopular, I emphatically protest against the authority of the Government being invoked for the attendance of the military at political meetings, except for the purpose of preserving order. No one would urge the slightest objection to the members of the military forces attending the meeting as individual members of the community, but that the Minister should use his power to direct their attendance in force, and to a certain extent give a colour to the proceedings which they might not otherwise have, is, to my mind, altogether improper.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ giving colour to the proceedings which they may not otherwise have “?
– For one thing, this meeting may assist to whitewash the Government. The Ministry know that some action is likely to be taken in this Chamber when a vote is given in regard to the despatch of the contingent.
– The House has approved of that.
– The House has not approved of the action of the Government. What the House did was something quite different. Although I have no fault to find with the action of the Government in that regard, we have a right to allow the utmost freedom in the expression of opinions concerning that action, and concerning the conduct of the war iti South Africa. It ill becomes us, who claim liberty in the fullest degree, and who affirm that we have regard for the honestly-held opinions of others, to attempt to force our own views down their throats. What reason can be urged for the action of the Minister except that he wishes to give colour to the proceedings of this political meeting t If this were a meeting to raise f funds for widows and orphans left destitute by the war, I should not raise my voice against the authorization of the attendance of troops at it, and I think that every honorable member would say that anything that would add eclat to the proceedings of such a meeting would be justifiable. But it is not that; it is a mere political meeting, and the resolutions themselves profess to give utterance to the opinion of a portion of the people of South Australia.
– Of the whole of them.
– How is the right honorable gentleman to judge of that 1 I suppose to-morrow the right honorable gentleman, because of the attendance of several hundreds of nien whom he has ordered to be present at the meeting tonight, will claim that the meeting represents the feeling of the people of South Australia. The right honorable gentleman knows nothing more about the opinion of the people of South Australia than I do. Doubtless he will pretend to know gonething about it after his inexcusable action in sending these men to the meeting tonight, but at present he knows nothing about it.
– I know a good deal about it.
– I do not wish to be misunderstood in this matter. I do not care if the people of South Australia are unanimous to a man - that does not affect the principle I am protesting against to-day. I desire to keep clear of all controversy as far as the war itself is concerned, and even as to the duty of the Government in respect of the despatch of the contingent. All that I consider is beside the question at issue, which really amounts to this : whether the Government of the day, or any Government, 27 a z have a right to interfere with the proceedings of the military, from a political standpoint; whether they are to compel thenattendance at meetings the proceedings of which are, to say the least of them, always a matter of opinion. Any one mast admit that it is a matter of opinion whether Mr. Chamberlain has conducted the war in the best possible way. It is a matter of opinion whether the people of Australia, as a whole, approve of the attitude of the present Ministry in that regard. That has to be argued out in the ordinary course of political affairs. But I contend that the Ministerfor Defence, or any other gentleman occupying his position, is false to the trust reposed in him if he uses that position to prejudicethe feeling of the people of South Australia. I trust that if the House cannot prevent these men from attending the meetingtonight, the protest now made will prove sufficient to restrain amy future Minister for Defence from taking part in political matters in this way, and using the machinery of his department for furthering political movements.
– The honorable member for Bland has worked himself into a state of considerable agitation upon assumptions which I think, after I have said what I desire to say, will prove groundless. The honorable member seems to think that I have of my own initiative gone out of my way to order the military forces of South Australia to attend some demonstration. As a matter of fact that is very far away from the mark. ThePremier of South Australia, and the Mayor of Adelaide, have both been in communication with the Government with regard to the loyal demonstration which they propose to make to-night; and they desired that the members of the contingent who are in camp at the present time, and who havevolunteered to go to the war in South Africa - who have, in fact, pledged their lives to the service of their country - should be permitted to take part in the demonstration. After giving the matter consideration, the Government thought there was no reason why we should not permit them to do so.
– Did the matter come before the Government 1
– Then it was a Govern- . ment matt sr, and not the Minister’s ?
– That makes it all the worse.
– Or better.
– The Government thought that there was no reason why the members of the contingent who were in camp, and who had volunteered to serve their King and country in South Africa, should not be permitted to take part in the demonstration. That is the whole matter.
– Then the telegram is not correct ?
– I know nothing about the telegram.
– Are these the terms of the telegram that the Minister sent? -
Approve of contingent officers and men of local forces parading and marching to Town-hall to take part in demonstration.
– I did not see the telegram which was sent, but I gave instructions that the request of the Mayor of Adelaide and the Premier of South Australia should be complied with. It was not a question of the local forces at all. A parade of the local forces would mean a gathering of the whole country side. I understood that it was desired that the contingent who were going to the war should take part in the demonstration, and it seemed to us a very good thing to allow them to do so, as it would give a certain eclat to the meeting.
– It would be a poor meeting if it required the military to give eclat to it.
– This was not an ordinary military business, but one concerning only those men who had volunteered to go to the war. There was no compulsion about it, as men belonging to the contingent volunteered to go to the war. It seems to me that the resolutions, which I have heard for the first time to-day, arein ageneral sense clearly in keeping with the terras of the resolutions recently approved of by this House. For my own part I shall rejoice if any emphasis can be given, by the presence of these volunteers at this demonstration, to the feeling of the people of this continent that we sympathize with the endeavours of the Imperial Government to promote the integrity of the Empire, and that we are determined by every means in our power to assist them in maintaining that integrity. I regret that the honorable member occupying the responsible place he does should have spoken upon such insufficient information.
– The right honorable gentleman has admitted the information.
– I regret that the honorable member, without any inquiry whatever, should rush in for the purpose, no doubt, of making himself notorious.
– Mr. Speaker, I think that expression is hardly in order.
– The Minister must withdraw the expression.
– We shall make the Minister notorious before we are done with him.
– I did not use the expression offensively, but I regret that the honorable member should have rushed in and made the statements he has. I withdraw.
– I think the Minister, before he has finished, will make himself notorious.
– Order ! The statement by the Minister that the honorable member for Bland was making himself notorious was withdrawn just now, and I must ask the honorable member to also withdraw.
– I do not think that I am out of order in using the expression, but as it seems to be offensive to the House, I shall withdraw it.
– The honorable member must.
– I need not, unless I like; and I may tell the Minister that neither he, nor any one else in this House, can compel me to do what I do not wish to do.
– We do not want any of the honorable member’s pro-Boer sentiments.
– The honorable member has not given us any of his pro-Boer sentiments yet.
– If I am going to be tallied to like this, I shall claim theright to defend myself against a crawling Jingo like the Minister.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I think that the Minister ought to withdraw his statement. The Minister said that he objected to any pro-Boer sentiments from me, but he was not called to order.
– Order ! I have asked the honorable member to withdraw the statement he has made. I did not hear the
Minister say that the honorable member was a pro-Boer. If I had heard the statement I should have asked the Minister to withdraw it.
– I withdraw, Mr. Speaker.
– I shall withdraw my statement under the circumstances. But when any persons attack me in a similar manner I shall not be docile, and shall give it to them back as well as I can. The action of the Minister in this case has done a good deal to damage the Government in the estimation of all right-thinking men. The men who form the contingent which it is intended to despatch to South Africa, now that they are enrolled, belong to the Imperial forces, and one of the strongest points of discipline in the army is, that those belonging to it shall abstain from taking part in political meetings. The Minister for Defence ought to know that what I say is correct, and if he had allowed his mature judgment instead of his personal feeling to rule in this matter, and had realized the position in which these men were placed, and his duty, I make bold to say that he would not have allowed them to take part in the political meeting to-night. Whatever the right honorable gentleman may think, or whatever other people may think, has nothing to do with the matter. We know that over a third of the members of the House of Commons were returned as opponents of the policy of the British Government in connexion with the conduct of the war. We know, further, that a large number of people in Australia are also opposed to the conduct of the war, and these facts in themselves should have been sufficient to deter any Government from allowing the military forces to take part in a political meeting. At one time it was not safe for any man who held an opinion adverse to the carrying on of the war to walk down the street ; and here we have the Government practically urging certain soldiers to take part in a meeting where any one who had sufficient courage to speak against the terms of the motions would probably meet with violent treatment, and the soldiers would probably assist in the riot that would ensue. That is practically the position of the Government in the matter. If there should be any trouble at this meeting, the soldiers would be just as much at liberty as any one else to take part in any riot, and any unfortunate victims whom they might happen to fall foul of would have no redress whatever. Have we not seen many instances of that during the war, when feeling has run most high ? If we are to have a military force at all, it should be kept entirely free from party politics. As I have said before, I have no feeling against any one who differs in opinion from me, because that is his business. I hold my own opinion, and no one has any right to coerce me into saying or doing what I do not regard as right. A number of those who are opposed to us, unfortunately, do not take up the same attitude ; but they are trying to secure the attendance of the soldiers at this meeting, and thus to give it a colour which would otherwise not attach to it. Is it not the fact that several of the men who are to take part in this meeting will be seeking parliamentary honours in the course of a month or two, and that the whole meeting has been organized to assist certain people to secure a place in political life? I am informedon very good authority that it is a well-known fact.
– What foundation has the honorable member for making that statement ?
– I am not going to tell the honorable member. It is sufficient for me to assure him that I have the information upon very good authority. There are certain men who are using this meeting in order to further their own political ends.
– The honorable member might say the same thing in regard to a strike.
– I do not care what may be the opinion of the honorable member for Dalley in reference to this question.
– Surely the honorable member does not suppose that the Government are a party to anything of that kind?
– I do not say that their action has been prompted by a desire to assist these people, but the fact remains that a stupid blunder has been committed by the Cabinet. Had it been merely a blunder on the part of the Minister for Defence honorable members could have excused it. But the right honorable gentleman has distinctly told the House that before taking action he submitted the matter to Cabinet for consideration. Therefore he has involved in this stupid blunder not only himself, but the whole of the Ministry. Even the authorities in South Australia exhibited more “ nous” in this connexion than did the Minister for Defence, because they distinctly took up the position that it was possibly not right for the military to take part in the demonstration. The mayor and others, who were the promoters of the meeting, doubted whether the military had any right to be present.
– They urged it very strongly.
– As there was a doubt about the matter, they wired to the Minister for Defence, who immediately consented to the contingent attending the gathering. Henow tells us that he had not a mind of his own in this connexion, because he declares that the people of Adelaide urged it for all they were worth. Because they urged it, the Minister consented to their proposal. How many persons wired to the right honorable gentleman?
– The Mayor of Adelaide and the Premier of South Australia.
– Only two persons wired to the Minister, and, upon the strength of two telegrams, the right honorable gentleman consented to the military being present.
– The honorable member must recollect that the telegrams were from representative people.
– I admit that, to a certain extent, they emanated from representative persons ; but I have seen Premiers who thought that they represented the country find themselves in a hopeless minority immediately the electors were given the opportunity of expressing their opinions through the constitutional medium of the ballot-box. Probably the Minister for Defence may find similar instances in his political career before it closes.
– I have not found them up to the present time.
– I admit that the right honorable gentleman has fooled the electors of Western Australia fairly well. I believe that in this case the Government have committed a grave blunder, and that upon more mature consideration they would not have allowed the military to take part in the demonstration which is to be held to-night. I hope that the action which has been taken in this House will prove a warning to the Government in the future.
– I suppose there is no honorable member who more thoroughly approves of the policy of the Imperial Government in South Africa than I do. There is no one who desires more loyally than I do to see the war brought to a successful conclusion. But in dealing with the affairs of this Commonwealth we must deal with matters by themselves. The honorable member for Bland has brought a very serious question before the House. We may establish a new order of things in this Commonwealth, but before we do so it is wise that we should think the matter over. In the old country, as we all know, the army was looked upon by the people of England for many centuries with the gravest suspicion. It was regarded as a sort of engine of oppression to be used by the ruling power, and it was under such circumstances that the life of the military power was practically limited from year to year. This fact evidences how keen was the feeling and how greatwas the dread of any interference by the military in the free expression of public opinion. We all know that in Australia at this time of day there can be none of these substantial fears. But although we need not be so frightened, nervous, or jealous as the people in England were, and perhaps still are, I think the traditional rule which has kept the enrolled military of Great Britain severely away from public meetings of all kinds is a salutary one which should not be broken, and which should be established without any doubt in this Commonwealth. As the honorable member for Bland has said, there can be no possible objection to members of the military force attending public meetings as private citizens. But I may say that I know of no previous case-
– It has been done in New South Wales,. I think.
– I think the leader of the Opposition spoke at a similar meeting in Sydney ; and so did I.
– We spoke at a public meeting in the Town-hall.
– If this were a meeting of citizens to bid farewell to the contingent going to South Africa, the whole of the complaint which has been made would fall to the ground absolutely, because that would not be a political gathering. Surely some difference exists between a meeting which is called to do honour to the soldiers of the country on their return from a war, or prior to their proceeding to a war, and a demonstration at which men are to be adlowed to say “Yes” or “No” to declarations of public confidence in a certain policy. Surely we are not going to fall so low in dealing with these matters as not to draw a distinction between the two things. A meeting convened to do honour to volunteer soldiers before they depart for South Africa is one which, in my opinion, is absolutely devoid of any political significance. I do not care how many patriotic meetings are held similar to that which I am glad to see is about to be held in Adelaide. But I have too just a sense of the value of an expression of opinion by a public meeting in a British community to think that the parading of an armed force to attend that meeting will add to the weight of the decisions at which it arrives. The more we keep a body which marches at the word of command away from the free ventilation of public opinion the better will it be for all parties. We all know that in the case of elections the authorities are so keenly anxious to keep the military element out of sight that they are always confined to barracks upon an election day. At least that has been the practice followed in every town of which I have any knowledge. These -are wise rules which promote the security, comfort, and stability of our great British communities. . We honour our soldiers ; we are ready to attend any number of meetings to. admire them and wish them God-speed ; but if those gatherings are to partake of a political character, and if a test of the opinion of the community is to be taken by means of resolutions, I say that a parade of soldiers at such gatherings is a grave mistake - a gross blunder. We all know that the Minister for Defence is incapable of making any mistake save one of judgment. But it now appears that the action which has been sanctioned has risen to the importance of a Cabinet decision upon the subject, and I feel some difficulty in dealing with it in the absence of precise information. Still I do not suppose that a military officer has fabricated a telegram to the authorities in Adelaide.
– The substance of it is admitted to be true.
– The Minister for Defence practically admits what the honorable member for Bland has said, namely, that the contingent is to be inarched to the meeting as a military body.
– The Minister did not say that.
– I understood him to say so. I quite appreciate in matters of this sort the inconvenience of dealing with them upon mere ex parte statements or communications which we have no fair chance of weighing or testing. Under the circumstances I do not at present propose to say anything more than that if it is proved after investigation that the statements made are accurate, I shall consider that a serious error has been committed, and it will be necessary in some way or other to provide against its repetition. I think it is of vital importance that our public meetings shall always be free from the colour of military force in any shape or form.
– The views’ which I expressed in this House a little while ago with regard to the war in South Africa will, I dare say, acquit me of any lack of patriotism in connexion with this matter. I am well aware that the party to’ which I belong is usually accused of a lack of patriotism. But that is altogether apart from the question. We have no business at the present time to consider whether the war is right or wrong. It does not concern, us whether the majority of the people of Adelaide, or the whole of the people of that city, are in favour of the suggestion ‘ which has been acted upon, by the Minister for Defence. What we have to consider is whether the Government are justified in permitting an organized military force to attend a political meeting. I think the Government would look in vain to the old country for any precedent in this connexion. In spite of the very pronounced feeling of the people of the mother-land in regard to the present war, I feel sure that no such attempt as that which is under discussion would ever have been seriously considered. I am convinced that Mr. Chamberlain himself would be- the very last man to tolerate a departure from what has always been recognised as a necessary condition of political freedom. I hope the Government, even at this late moment, will realize that they have committed an error of judgment. I hope that they will realize that this is an unfortunate precedent for them to establish, and that they will send a telegram, giving the promoters of this meeting to understand that the decision has been reconsidered, and that the Government now see that it would be inadvisable to have the military at this particular meeting.
– I read with some considerable interest the telegrams from the military authorities in Adelaide, and the replies of the Minister for Defence. Although I do not think I can be accused of any pro-Boer utterances in the past, or of anything else than a thoroughly patriotic attitude throughout my political career, I am of opinion that a grave error of judgment has been committed by the Minister for Defence in sanctioning the parade of the contingent, or of military forces, in South Australia on such an occasion. An expression of opinion by the citizens of Adelaide, or those who lead them, in reference to the slanders on the British troops, and those matters which have been so ably alluded to in the House by the Prime Minister with the hearty approval of honorable members, requires no military pageant. Those who suggested such an exhibition in South Australia were very ill advised, as was shown by the fact that the military authorities there deemed it necessary, to appeal to the Minister for Defence for his approval or disapproval.That showed there was a grave doubt, and very rightly so, in the minds of the military authorities.
– The Mayor also was doubtful.
– No doubt the Mayor was doubtful.
– The Mayor lid not say so ; he was very anxious that the troops should attend.
– No doubt all those concerned were somewhat troubled as to whether it was proper to introduce the military contingent on an occasion when a mere expression of opinion was to be given by the citizens. The expression of opinion follows on the sentiments which were expressed so ably in the resolutions submitted to this House and afterwards transmitted by cable to England, conveying our disapproval of the slanders of the continental press, and our absolute approval of what had been done by all branches of the British army. It is quite sufficient for the people in Adelaide, Melbourne, or any other city of the States, totake action similar to that of this House. We did not want the troops to parade here before we passed the resolutions, and I do not see why such a parade is necessary in South Australia. The members of the contingent are picked and sworn as soldiers of the Empire, and are not supposed to take part in any party politics or have any opinion on questions of this kind, which are for the consideration of others.
– Does the honorable member call these party political resolutions?
– They are resolutions of such a character that no branch of the British army in England would be paraded to assist in passing them at a public meeting.
– Does the honorable member call them party political resolutions?
– What does the honorable member mean by “ party political resolutions? “
– What does the honorable mean?
– These are undoubtedly political resolutions, inasmuch as public opinion is not absolutely unanimous in Australia on this question. Much as some of us may pride ourselves on our patriotic feeling, there are sections of the community throughout the length and breadth of Australia who have gauged all these questions raised by the South African war, and who are not so absolutely patriotic and unanimous as we are. Their opinions are entitled to a certain amount of respect.
– To what party does the honorable member belong?
– I shall not introduce the question of parties, or be led astray by the honorable member into such a controversy. What I say is that even in Australia there are sections of the community who consider that there are two sides to the question of the South African war, while other sections consider there is only one, namely, the patriotic side. I belong to the latter section ; but, at the same time, I do not desire to belittle those on the other side. The further we keep military demonstrations of this kind away from expressions of opinion by the citizens of any State, or city in any State of the Commonwealth, the better it will be for us.
– It is too late.
– It is not too late to stop this demonstration, which ought to be stopped, because a mistake has been made. The Government know that on all questions of patriotic sentiment I am as absolutely with them as is any honorable member who sits behind the Ministry. I do not wish this to be made in any way a party question, but with all humility and sincerity I suggest to the Government that a mistake has been made, and that it is expedient and wise that these men, who have been sworn in as soldiers of the Empire to serve their King and country, should not be allowed to enter into political affairs, for, after all, this is a political expression of opinion, if a patriotic expression, whatever the honorable member for Laanecoorie may say. We do not want our soldiers, whether belonging to the volunteers or to the contingents, to be mixed up in questions of this kind.
Mr.Watson. - Not as soldiers.
– Not as soldiers. We do not want our contingents marched up to give eclat to a demonstration, although those concerned in the latter may be as perfectly sincere as we were in this House when dealing with the same question.
– The honorable member would object to the parade on Mafeking day?
– Does the honorable member for Melbourne wish to drag such a question into this debate? All I have done has been to suggest that the Ministry have made a mistake, but a mistake which can be rectified. The demonstration is to take place to-night, and within half-an-hour the reconsidered opinion of the Cabinet might, as already suggested, be sent to Adelaide, indicating that it is inadvisable that the contingent, which, under such peculiar circumstances, has been dragged into the matter, should take any part in it. I think the bulk of honorable members on both sides, utterly irrespective of whether they are Opposition or Government supporters, agree that we do not want to make this a party question. A mistake has been made which we are perfectly willing to treat as a mere error of judgment, and if the Government act wisely as their friends on both sides of the House would wish, they will rectify the mistake by cancelling their approval, and thus prevent any friction in the future in regard to such questions.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I have hitherto been a Government supporter, and I should be very sorry if any political capital were made by the Opposition out of any blunder of Ministers in connexion with this question.
– We do not want to make political capital out of this ; we would rather do it some other way.
– I say this, having regard to the fact that the leader of the Opposition has seemed to many anxious to pose before the country as even more eager than are the Government to press on the policy of extermination or submission, against the Boers. To my mind, it is interesting to observe the dispute amongst the advocates of the war as to which of them should get the kudos for interfering. As regards the motion that has been introduced by the honorable member for Bland, his contention is absolutely correct. I have before me the King’s Regulations for 1893, section 6, clause 11, and I have also before me the Victorian regulations, clause 9 of part 9, which I suppose are pretty much the same as in the other States. In the King’s Regulations the words are these -
Officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, and private soldiers are forbidden to institute or take part in any meetings, demonstrations, or processions for party or political purposes in barracks, quarters, or camps, or their vicinity. Under no circumstances, whatever, will they attend any such meeting, wherever held, in uniform.
That is perfectly explicit. Fortunately the people in Australia have no experience of the dangers which attend military demonstrations and military appearances.
Mr.O’ M alley. - They have in America.
– We are confining ourselves to Australia, which is quite enough at this time. Suppose, for instance, there were a meeting held in Adelaide of the scandalous nature of the meeting in Birmingham a few weeks ago, when a man was killed, and a Member of Parliament was attacked physical. If, at that meeting, there were certain troops present under the orders of the Minister of Defence, how could these troops, brought there with a view to help the demonstration on one side, be expected to act properly and fairly in keeping the peace afterwards? The Victorian regulation is as follows : -
Members of the force are not individually or collectively to attend politicalmeetings or join in public political discussions or demonstrations in uniform. Bands are not to appear in uniform except at parade or drill without the consent of the commanding officer.
AVe are creating for ourselves a precedent. “We, in Australia, happily, do not know what militarism is, and I take it that we ought at least to see that we surround our troops with precautions equal to those which surround the troops in the old country, where the experience of centuries has taught what should be done. If there is anything this House should be careful to guard against, it is that no party, no clique, no body of men, shall use our soldiers for their own purposes and advancement. We must keep the .military absolutely above and beyond all party political purposes. I heard this afternoon, for the first time, that there is political capital sought to be made by some men prominent in connexion with this meeting.
– I never heard of it.
– I am sure that the right honorable gentleman would not have lent himself to the movement if he had thought so. I do not believe that he would have lent himself in the slightest degree to help the career of any party, or even of any political supporter, in this way, if he had known that he was doing so. But the mere fact that it has been suggested that he did shows the danger which arises out of such action. There is nothing about which we should be more careful than the avoidance of even the appearance of evil in these matters. The right honorable gentleman has his honest and genuine opinions upon the war, and would like to do all in his power to promote it. But, on the other hand, there are many people - and he would be surprised if he knew how many - who, rightly or wrongly, are against the war. I appeal to him not to allow his high power in connexion with the military forces of Australia to be made use of in this way. As I understand the matter, he has been asked to allow the South Australian members of the contingent which has volunteered for service in South Africa, and also members of the permanent forces, to parade at a public meeting in Adelaide. His instructions that they may do so practically amount to the coercion of every man in the force who does not wish to be present. None of them can stand out, because we know how great would be the moral pressure that would be put upon them if they tried to absent themselves. I should like a specific statement from the Prime Minister that there has been an inadvertent inattention to the King’s Regulations, and to the duties of the military forces, and’ that this thing, is not to happen. I think it would not be too much to ask that a telegram be sent at once intimating that the permission for the troops to attend has been recalled. This is a meeting for a political purpose, because it is a party question whether the conservatives or the liberals in the old country are right, and whether it is or is not advisable to persist in killing the Boers who refuse to surrender.
– It would be a political question, even if the whole Empire were unanimous.
– The honorable member is quite right ; but in that case it would be a political question merely in a theoretical sense, whereas now it is a practical political question. I suggest that the Ministry should assure their followers and others that this action has been taken through inadvertence, and has been due to the best intentions on the part of a Minister who thinks he is more loyal than those of us who object to the war.
– I think that the meanest thing the Government could do would be to say that they have taken this action through inadvertence, and I do not mean to say anything of the kind. They did what they have done upon consideration, and are ready to accept any consequences that may attach to their action.
– So are we.
– I have no objection to that, so long as I have an opportunity to state my own views on the subject. Every one is entitled to his own opinion; but, when it is suggested to us that we should say that we have done a thing, by inadvertence which we have done upon consideration, I decline to take such a course.
– That makes it seem all the worse.
– It may seem all the worse to my honorable and learned friend, but that again is a matter of opinion. The question for us here is, not whether there is a certain number of persons in England - a very small minority - who withstand the policy of the Empire in regard to this war, but what is the complexion of the situation as it exists in Australia, and as we have to. deal with it.
– Would they send a regiment of soldiers to a meeting in England 1
– That is not the question now. In the first place, we cannot admit that we have acted by inadvertence without telling a lie, and I am not going to do that. The position was this : The Premier of South Australia, representing that State so far as the Commonwealth isconcerned for the purpose of any such negotiation or suggestion as tins, told us - to use his own words - that -
On Wednesday next it is proposed to hold public meeting support British Government policy in South Africa.
And he asked us whether we would -
Kindly instruct the Commandant here to ( permit) all officers of military who desire to parade streets and attend, also members of Commonwealth contingent, as we propose taking that opportunity to bid them farewell.
So that this is a meeting to declare adhesion to the British Government policy in South Africa, and to bid farewell to the members of the contingent who are going to South Africa, and to whom farewell could not be bidden unless they were present.
– Is not the supporting of the British Government policy a political matter ?
– Honorable members can make all they like out of that fact. The meeting has been called for the two purposes which I have stated. As to the question whether it is to be in a true sense a political meeting, we must look at the matter from the practical side. How much politics is there left in this question in Australia ? There is not one of the States which has not declared in a voice which there can be no mistaking that it is in accord with the British Government policy in South Africa. The States have declared that opinion by majorities to which no exception can be taken, and in most cases unanimously. Further than that, the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed resolutions resenting the aspersions cast upon our troops in South Africa, and offering whatever aid may be requisite to finish the wai’. The first resolution was passed unanimously in both Houses, and the second was passed unanimously in the Senate, and was passed in the House of Representatives against the opposition of members who numbered only one-fifteenth of the membership of the House.
– One -ninth of those present voted against the resolution.
– Those resolutions were a precise confirmation of the ‘policy in favour of which a pronouncement had been made by every State in Australia. To support the British policy in South Africa is the policy of Australia, and that fact appears upon official records. The present case has nothing whatever in common with the case put by the leader of the Opposition in regard to a pending election which would decide the issues of the country. The policy of the country in this matter has been decided, not by the ascendancy of one party or another after a general election, but there has been a practically unanimous pronouncement in each of the States, capped by a pronouncement by this Legislature respecting the people of the States. Honorable members may talk of this matter as being a matter of politics, but it is no longer a matter of- practical politics, because we are positively agreed upon it. When we come to a stage such as tins, it is almost idle to talk of there being any principle involved in allowing soldiers who are to be taken leave of to attend’ a meeting to support resolutions, in which if they did not believe they would not have volunteered to serve the King. There can be no coercion of these men, since they would not have put their names down for enrolment unless they believed in this policy. Surely it is beside the question to talk of the action of the Government in this matter as coercion, or to speak of the question at issue as a political matter.
– The men are to be marched to the meeting as troops.
– The honorable member has- referred to the matter as one of opinion. There is nothing in the world that is not a matter of opinion ; but if his opinion is accepted, no question ceases to be a question of party politics so long as you can find one man to object. That is not politics, and it is not common sense. We have been told that these men belong now to the Imperial forces. They are going to serve the Empire, as every man who may hereafter fight in Australia will serve the Empire ; but does it not occur to the honorable and learned member who raised that point that, until they land in South Africa, or at any rate until they embark for South Africa, they are under local control 1 They are not under Imperial control at the present moment, because no Imperial control has been provided for them, and there can be no other control except local control. It may be argued that they are under no control whatever, and are merely a rabble, but I do not think that even a pro-Boer could be found outside who would uphold that position. Therefore they are under local control, which means the control of the Commonwealth. Although this question may in England be of the dimensions of a political question, because of there being a substantial division of parties there - although there is a majority of three to one in favour of the war - it has ceased to be one here, because both the States and the Commonwealth have decided over and over again in favour of the British Government policy. The matter could go no further than that, unless we passed an Act of Parliament to declare what are our opinions, and that is not necessary. If we decide by resolution of both Houses that certain things are as they are, and give indorsement to the British policy, surely the question whether we are to go on and finish the war and contribute towards that end in men and money is a question which has been settled without the possibility of reversal. Therefore it is not in the category of those questions in regard to which there could be an attempt to influence opinion by the presence of a few soldiers. The men have been asked to attend the meeting so that farewell may be said to them.
– There is not a word of farewell in the resolutions, and- nothing is said about it in the advertisement.
– It is mentioned in the telegram which 1 have read. We submit that this is a storm in a tea-cup, and the Government feel that they must stand by the action which they have taken.
– I am not at all surprised, after the statement of the Prime Minister, that the Government have blundered in this matter, because he seems wholly incapable of distinguishing between the dutyof people who wish to manifest their loyalty by passing resolutions at a public meeting, and the dutv 01 the Government, which, so far as the military are concerned, is to maintain an absolutely impartial attitude in regard to all political questions. It is nonsense for the right honorable gentleman to argue that, because a very considerable majority of the people of this country are in favour of the policy of the British Government, and have so expressed themselves, therefore that is not within the category of political questions. Any question that touches the policy of a Government, whether it be the Government of the Commonwealth or the Imperial Government, is a political question, and the military should be prevented from taking any part in the decision of such a question. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that another resolution were added to those already suggested for submission to the meeting in Adelaide - a resolution commending the right honorable gentleman and his Government very highly for their great loyalty in despatching troops. I suppose this would introduce the political element, and that the right honorable gentleman would admit that the meeting was of a political character. Can it be argued seriously that a meeting which is to have submitted to it resolutions declaring that it approves of the policy of the British Government in regard to the. South African war, or any other matter, is not a political meeting 1 It seems to me that there was one little difficulty in the way of the Government. The promoters of the meeting were clever enough to bracket together two objects, namely, that of expressing approval of the action of the British Government, and the farewelling of the soldiers. I have a recollection of a large number of patriotic meetings in my own native city during the last fifteen or twenty years, and I can call to mind no instance where any attempt at military display was made at a meeting where resolutions of a political character were submitted. We have had great patriotic meetings to organize funds for the relief of the widows and orphans of soldiers and to provide for those who were wounded on the field or for the dependents of those who were killed, and such occasions have been availed of to arrange for something like a military display, but I have no recollection of any gathering at which political resolutions were submitted, being attended by the military. I regret very much that there has been the slightest element of discussion introduced in regard to the merits of the war or in regard to the . policy of the British Government. It is a thousand pities that these matters should be brought in, even as side issues. If I disapproved of the policy of the British Government, which
I do not, there would be nothing whatever to prevent rae from voting in favour of sending troops abroad. And the two matters are not associated or in any way bound together. I can understand a man disapproving of Mr. Chamberlain’s policy, and at the same time as a Briton and as a citizen of the Empire being prepared to do his share either as a soldier or in assisting to send soldiers to uphold the Empire. Once the war is entered upon, I can understand the position of the man who says he is prepared to fight for the flag of the Empire, utterly regardless of whether the policy of the Government is right or wrong. That is the position we should all take up in these matters. The soldier knows no policy. It does not matter whether he is a volunteer offering his services from Australia, or an enlisted soldier in the United Kingdom. He knows nothing about the policy of the Government. If he has any political opinions - and most soldiers have them, I suppose - he may possibly differ from the Government for the time being, but as an enlisted soldier he is bound to serve the Empire under all conditions, and that is why the King’s Regulations wisely provide that soldiers are not to participate in political movements of any kind. The Government would have acted wisely, on seeing that political resolutions were to be submitted to the meeting in Adelaide, if they had pointed out that whilst the Government and the Parliament were largely in sympathy with the object of the meeting it would be against all precedent and contrary to the’ traditions of the British Army to allow soldiers to participate. I do not think the right honorable gentleman has risen to the occasion. We give the Government the utmost credit for their patriotism and the way they have acted in this matter, but that does not now enter into the discussion of the .question raised by the honorable member for Bland. The people of Australia can give expression to their feelings in public meetings without calling ii? the military. I remember a most important patriotic meeting that was held in Sydney, after there had been some attempt to revive a latent republican feeling, and, if I remember rightly, even the honour of the late Queen was at stake. The citizens themselves were able then to vindicate the loyalty and honour of the city of Sydney without calling upon the military to assist them, and the loyalty of the people of the British Empire can find its truest expression in old-fashioned public meetings, where resolutions are carried on the voices, and with applause, without the assistance of either military uniforms or arms. I am afraid we are embarking on a wrong careel1, as the precedent established in this case may be followed, unless some very strong and vigorous protest is entered against the action of the Government. The Minister for Defence takes the full responsibility of his action, and states that it was not due to any want of knowledge of the character of the meeting. If the meeting had been organized for the purpose of farewelling the soldiers, no honorable member would have objected to the presence of the soldiers, or if it had been called with a view to establish a patriotic fund for the assistance of the widows and orphans or dependents of soldiers, not one honorable member would have raised his voice against the suggestion that the military should be allowed to attend. But, apart from that aspect of the question, if the meeting had been a purely political gathering, with a- view to passing the resolutions which have been quoted by the honorable member for Bland, I do not think that the Minister for Defence would have countenanced the attendance of the soldiers. The Government themselves have been rather led into a trap by the cleverness of those who organized the meeting in bracketing the two objects together.
– The two objects were not mentioned in the advertisement.
– Probably not, but I think the Government have taken as their guide the communication made to them, and one of the objects of the meeting was stated to be to farewell the soldiers. I think that under any circumstances the fact that resolutions of a political character were to be submitted afforded sufficient reason for not sanctioning the attendance of any military forces. I do not agree with the Prime Minister that, because only a small minority in this community or in Great Britain are opposed to the war, it has therefore ceased to be what may be called a political question. Any question that touches the policy of the Government, and which can be argued by citizens, is apolitical question, and comes within the four corners of the King’s Regulations, and if it is good for soldiers in the King’s service here and at home to be bound down by these regulations, they
ShOuld not be compelled by any orders from head-quarters to attend and give something like dignity or tone to a purely political gathering. I make no objection to what has been done from any want of sympathy with the patriotic objects of the people who are organizing the meeting in Adelaide, but the object of that meeting would be better served, and the patriotric instincts of the people of South Australia and of the whole of Australia would be more forcibly and emphatically expressed, if there were no military display.
– I was very much surprised to hear the Prime Minister state that the object of the meeting in Adelaide was not political, because we were all agreed upon it. About six weeks ago the Prime Minister certainly thought that it was an important political question, because he at that time promised the honorable member for Kennedy that he would not permit the sending away of another Australian contingent to South Africa without first obtaining the consent of Parliament. Because he has changed his opinion since that time, he can hardly expect everybody else to follow immediately and change their views with him. Possibly we know the reason of his sudden change - perhaps it was because the Opposition happened to side with him in offering the last contingent. How can the Prime Minister contend that the position has changed in six. weeks to such an extent as to remove the South African war from the category of political questions? There is not the slightest doubt that it is a political question. I can quite imagine ^ the Mayor of Adelaide taking strong exception to the military being present at a meeting of .this sort. Supposing that an opponent of the movement were to send away a report, he would have a fair opportunity for representing that the military had to be called in, and appeared in great force at the meeting, in order to insure the passing of the resolutions desired. What a false position the citizens of Adelaide would be placed in with regard to the passing of resolutions with which we may assume the majority of them agree.
– The Mayor of Adelaide desired the troops, and it was at his request that they were sent.
– The Minister for Defence practically says - “ I will take very good care to see that this meeting passes the resolutions,” and correspondents might consider themselves justified in saying that a large number of soldiers had to be sent to the meeting in order to guard against the carrying of am adverse resolution. What a humiliating position the citizens of Adelaide would be placed in under such circumstances ! The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has very clearly pointed out that the King’s Regulations distinctly forbid the attendance of soldiers at political meetings. The Victorian regulations contain a similar provision, and, doubtless, the regulations of the other States are framed in the same way. In view of this, what right have the Ministry to break the regulations governing the military forces in the various States % I have mot the faintest doubt that when this Parliament is called upon to deal with the military regulations, it will make provision that the military are never to be seen at political meetings. If there is to be the slightest appearance of coercion at political meetings, or meetings of the kind now about to be held, the effect will be to limit discussion, and to lessen the value to be attached to any resolutions passed. I was astonished to find that the Prime Minister was unable to distinguish between resolutions passed at a meeting of this kind with the military forces present, and a resolution passed at an assemblage of citizens in the ordinary way. I regret the position taken up by the Government. Prom the first telegram sent by the Premier of South Australia we can understand how a mistake occurred, but now that we have fuller information before us, the Minister himself must see that the position and circumstances are entirely changed, and I trust that he will see that the meeting is not subjected to even the appearance of intimidation, but that the resolutions will be passed by the citizens in the exercise of their own free will, and after that discussion which alone lends value to the resolutions of any deliberative body.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).Although I am one who, if present at the public meeting to be held in Adelaide this evening, would indorse the resolutions to be submitted to that gathering, I feel impelled to join in the condemnation of the action of the Government in allowing any part of the military force, as an organized body, to take part in that demonstration. I think the Ministry have made a very great blunder. Of course, it is too late to ask them to admit their error ; but, at the same time, I hope they will regard the action which has been taken this afternoon as a friendly warning that they must be very careful indeed in approving of the attendance of the military at public meetings within the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister has stated that one of the objects of to-night’s meeting is to bid farewell to the contingent. I have looked up the advertisement, and find that it contains not a word about bidding farewell to the contingent. It merely gives the two resolutions to be submitted and the names of their proposers and seconders. The resolutions are strong - the first one particularly so. It reads -
That in the opinion of this meeting the policy of the British Government is approved, of by all loyal South Australians.
This is a very strong statement to make. I believe that a representative of South Australia in tins Parliament has expressed disapproval of some of the actions of the British Government in connexion with the present wai-, and are we to call in the aid of the military to declare that he is a disloyal subject? That, however, is what we are doing. The Minister for Defence could not have looked at the resolutions very carefully, or he would not have been prepared to sanction the attendance of the military to induce such an expression of opinion from a public meeting. The next resolution affirms the high appreciation of the ability displayed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in his administration of the Imperial policy in South Africa. Surely that is a question upon which there can be a difference of opinion without there being any warrant for an accusation of disloyalty. Certainly it is a political question. The Prime Minister stated that there is no political question involved, and that the resolutions practically express the universal opinion in Australia. But it cannot be denied that, in Great Britain at any rate, a very considerable minority think that Mr. Chamberlain has made a great many blunders in connexion with the conduct of the war. It is inconceivable that if a meeting were held in the old country at which such resolutions were to be proposed the military would be allowed to attend. For example, the idea is not to bc entertained that the attendance of the 2,000 yeomanry, who are at present being raised for service in South Africa, would be tolerated at a political meeting. Their presence would undoubtedly be interpreted as an attempt to overawe the people, and to prevent the free expression of public opinion.. The value of such resolutions entirely depend upon their being perfectly spontaneous. They are of no value’ if they have to be worked up by any kind of military enthusiasm. I am certain that the Ministry, in allowing the military to attend the gathering which is to take place in Adelaide, have detracted from the value of any decision at which it may arrive. They have injured the cause which they were asked to assist. I need say no more, because I believe that the Ministry will not be likely to err again in this direction. I have “no wish to inflict any injury upon the Government, but I do think that in these matters they ought to be exceedingly careful. They have certainly shown a lack of care, at which I am somewhat surprised, in not looking closely into this question. At least the Minister for Defence, in his reply to the telegrams from Adelaide, might have notified that if the object «>f the meeting was to say farewell to the departing contingent, undoubtedly its members and the military forces could be present as a body. But the advertisement clearly shows-
– I never saw the advertisement.
– The Minister should have made the farewelling of the contingent a condition of the attendance of the troops.
– We had absolutely no suspicion that anything else was intended. We were perfectly innocent.
– When the Minister discovers that bidding farewell to the contingent is no part of the proceedings of the meeting, what is Ins duty ? The authors of the gathering have tricked him, and obviously it is his duty to say, “ As you are not carrying out the object, for the furtherance of which you asked my consent to the presence of the military, I cannot permit of their attendance for quite another purpose.” That is the position in which the Minister has placed himself.
– How can I go behind the telegram of the Premier ?
– The right honorable gentleman can see the advertisement in the papers for himself. When he ascertains that the meeting is called for a purpose other than that -which he was led to suppose, and is probably intended to damage the reputation of one of the members of this Parliament–
– I think that the honorable member is mistaken. I do not believe , there is the smallest desire to injure any one.
– Perhaps I am mistaken. But the honorable and learned member will admit that the wording of the resolutions leads one to assume that the object aimed at is to hammer those who have expressed themselves as adverse to the war. If the resolutions have been carelessly worded as a result of inadvertence, it is an inadvertence with which .1 should not have credited the promoters of the meeting. I again ask the Minister for Defence if, under the changed circumstances which have arisen, he does not think he could, without
Any loss of dignity, declare that the troops shall not attend the meeting in question as a military body.
– I am, and have ever been, in thorough accord with the view that the military forces which usually constitute the standing army of a country should be kept as free from politics as possible. In England that view is emphasized by the withholding of the franchise* from the army. But I would point out that there is a considerable difference between the position of men belonging to the British Army and of troops who have not volunteered to enlist as permanent soldiers but have volunteered for the express purpose of serving in South Africa for the duration of the present campaign, in order to endeavour by every means in their power to bring it to a close. Many of these men, at very considerable personal sacrifice, have severed themselves from avocations in which they were engaged, in order to show their sympathy with the Empire in the present struggle, and their earnest desire for its speedy termination. All these men enjoy the franchise, and I do not believe that any considerable number of them - if any - intend to follow the life of a soldier at the conclusion of the campaign.
– If they are enrolled, the King’s Regulations make it improper for them to attend .this public meeting.
– They are enrolled for a year, or for the duration of the war, if that be a shorter period. The leader of the Opposition will see that there is a considerable difference between the two positions. We all know that every man amongst them is a patriot, and is in sympathy with the cause in which he is engaged. Otherwise he would not have enlisted.
– This meeting is to be attended by the permanent forces, as well as by the volunteers for South Africa.
– There is no one who admires the ability, courage, consistency, and honesty of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne more than I do, although upon this question we are as widely separated as are the Poles. I was very sorry indeed to hear the honorable and learned member lecture the leader of the Opposition, because the latter endeavoured to go further than the Government in his desire to carry on the war to the extremity of extermination or submission. I would ask my honorable friend what is the alternative to either of these courses? Would the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne ask for submission on the part of the Imperial troops ? Would he ask the British to submit to the few Boers who are carrying on the present guerilla, warfare ? Is there any other possible alternative ? I can see none. It is a matter for profound regret that the Maudlin sympathy of well-meaning, good-natured people in high places throughout the Empire has found such frequent expression, because I believe that that expression of opinion, to a greater extent than anything else, has been responsible for the prolongation of this unfortunate war. If there had been one “feeling only exhibited from the commencement of the struggle I believe that the war would have terminated long ago. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne went a great deal further, in speaking upon this matter, than he will be prepared upon calmer consideration to support. He said that it was a question between the conservatives and liberals of England.
– I said that it is a political question, and no one can deny it.
– But the honorable and learned member said it was a question as to whether the conservatives or liberals were right. I am sure my honorable friend will not argue for one moment that any considerable section of the great liberal party of England are out of sympathy with the policy of the Empire in the prosecution of the present war.
– I said they are out of sympathy with the policy of the Government in this instance.
– I believe Lord Rosebery expressed the true sentiments of the great liberal party of England, with very few exceptions. We know that there are a few who hold opposite opinions, and, of course, they are entitled to their views, although I think the latter are very unfortunate. The leader of the Opposition made a remark that arrested my attention when he said that the army in Great Britain was looked upon with very great suspicion, or words to that effect.
– I said that was so in years gone by.
– I admit that in times of profound peace, when the army is a burden of the taxpayers of the country, that feeling does prevail. But how different is the feeling in time of war, when it is known by the people that their lives, their liberties, their hearths and homes are in the keeping of the army. That different feeling is very well expressed by Kipling, when he says -
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “ Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “ Saviour ofis country,” when the guns begin to shoot ;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please ;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool - you bet that Tommy sees !
Mr. RONALD (Southern Melbourne).The eyes of the Government having been opened to thefactthat they have been tricked into giving authority for the contingent to parade, I hope they will have the courage to retrace their steps. It is granting a great deal and putting a most charitable construction on an egregious blunder to say that the Government have been tricked, because in the very front of the message occurs the word” policy,” which at once suggests politics, and places it beyond all doubt that a public meeting called to support the British policy in South Africa must be a party political meeting. The honorable member for Gippsland has said that there is practically no difference of opinion in Great Britain upon this question. Has that honorable member read Lord Rosebery’s speech?
– I spoke of a considerable minority.
– Is Lord Rosebery in a considerable minority? No man has a larger following in the old country than has Lord Rosebery at the present time, and what does he say? He does not condemn the war, but he does condemn the methods by which the war is being carried on. He blames the British Government for the Anglophobia which exists on the continent, contending that it is the unpopularity of the Government which has given rise to that feeling. There is a difference of opinion even in the old country on this question, and if any part of the British Empire calls a public meeting to approve of the policy and the modus operandi of the war, and allows the military to attend, that is a breach of British liberty, and an attempt to intimidate people into saying what the majority are saying. It is opposed to the liberty of public meeting. That is why I am a Quaker, and ever will be. In time of war public opinion is crushed and freedom of speech is put down. If a man dares to express an opinion adverse to the war, even though he may be in a place where he is required of conscience to do so, he is greeted by opprobrious terms. In this instance such persons are termed “ pro-Boers.” I am not a pro-Boer ; but I am against war, and from the beginning was against this war, holding as I do that all Christianity and all right-thinking humanity must for ever be against it. Surely this is the time to protest against the introduction into our publicmeetings of the military in order to intimidate and carry by force that which needs no force. The honorable member for Gippsland has fallen into an error in confining his remarks to the Commonwealth contingent. I want to call attention to the fact that the whole of the military forces are involved.
– The Minister does not say so.
– The telegram says so. It says - “ Instructions to all the officers and military.”
– But there are the words “who desire.”
– These words, of course, bring in the voluntary element. But still the orders are to the permanent forces as well as to the contingent. The telegram reads -
Kindly instruct the Commandant to permit all officers of military who desire to parade the streets and attend , also members of the Commonwealth contingent, as we are proposing taking that opportunity to bid them farewell.
A clear distinction is there drawn between the two. There could be no necessity for a farewell to the permanent forces of Adelaide. If it were desired to’ farewell only the members of the contingent, the permission of the Government was not necessary, because the commanding officers can and always have given permission to the soldiers to go to these farewell meetings. That suggestion about farewell was put forward only as a cover.
– There is not a word about a farewell in the advertisement.
– But there is in the telegram, and in this respect the Minister for Defence has been gulled and tricked into putting his imprimatur on a military display at a public political meeting. Now that the right honorable gentleman’s eyes are opened, I sincerely hope that he will have courage to step down, and that the Government will say as gracefully as they can - “We have been deceived in this matter, and we insist on the Mayor of Adelaide and the Premier of South Australia carrying out our intention and not theirs ; our intention being to hold a meeting to farewell the Commonwealth contingent, and not a public meeting at which the military are to be present to support resolutions on what are debatable questions throughout the length and breadth of the Empire.” It will be a bad day when the matter of peace or war is not a debatable question in this and every country. I am very sorry that the Ministry have been led into this trap, because I have no hesitation in saying that it is a trap. I am glad the honorable member for Bland has raised the question, and I hope the Government will have the courage to say - “ Humanum est errare. We were wrong, and we will cancel what has been done.” It will be a bad precedent if militarism is introduced into our political and social life, and I enter my protest, and will certainly do what I can to prevent the attendance of the military at such meeting3.
– I wish it distinctly understood that I look on this proposed gathering as a political meeting, organized for the purpose of advancing the interests of certain gentlemen at the coming State elections, which will take place either in March or April.
– Rubbish !
-The other night, having been unwell for some time, I went home, and the next day I was challenged in the newspapers with being a pro-Boer. But I am prepared now to say that during; the time men were being sent to South Africa I put my hand into my pocket deeper than the majority of those who now cry out “ pro-Boer.” I can give statistics to support that statement, obtained from the American Consul, in connexion with the Lady Randolph Churchill Fund and other funds. I do not, however, wish to deal with this question from a pro-Boer or pro-British aspect. On one occasion an English lord invited his shopkeeper to dinner, and the latter was soover awed in the presence of so mighty a man, that he acquiesced in everything that was said by the host. At length, his lordship said - “ For heaven’s sake, sa3’ ‘no,’ so that there may be two of us here ! “ It is not fair, because some men do not believe in war, to call them pro-Boers. I do not believe in war at all ; I have seen too much of it in America. There are only the honorable member for Maranoaand myself in this House who have had. any actual fighting on the battle-field, and. we oppose war because we know what it means. Perhaps I ought not to say that the honorable member for Maranoa opposes war, but at any rate, I do. The position I take is that if any number of men, as a nation or a State, collectively have the right and power to shoot men down, I have the same right individually. There is no rightin a collective nation that the individual does not possess, and the great founder of Christianity did not declare that war wasjust. I am opposed to wai-, because it is a relic of savagery. Reasoning men ought to come together and discuss questions, and not be forced into war by popular clamour, or by extraordinary leading articles in the newspapers, when the public are excited. Statesmen meet and discuss matters, and settle them by reason,, investigation, and observation. But if it comes to a question of pro-Boer or proBritish, I am pro-British and not pro-Boer, and any man who says the contrary is a falsifier, and the truth is not in him. 1 am prepared to meet all who say to the contrary outside this House. I am not here as a coward or a cringing crawler, but hereto say what I think and why I think it. The elections will take place very shortly iu South Australia, and I am satisfied thatthe Government never acquiesced knowingly in the arrangement which it is sought to carry out. The military forces of the
Commonwealth have no right to be used for the purpose of advancing one particular party over another. Long before there was revolution in America, the British officers were allowed to do as they liked in the colonial days, and one officer in Boston told a citizen that he would force the Stamp Act down his throat with the sword’s point. Wherever the military have power they exercise it. Are we to allow the military to rule the Commonwealth of Australia? If anybody does not agree with me on this point, let him come to the west coast of Tasmania and face me at the general election. Let us put the loyalty of these people to the test. I remember a man in Western America who was always telling his wife - “I love you, I love you, I love you.” I said to him - “ For Heaven’s sake, why are you always telling your wife that you love her? ” and he replied - “ I do not love her, but if I do notkeep on telling her that I do she will find me out.” It is a bad sign to hear people always declaring their loyalty ; they can be loyal without continually stamping it on their faces. I cannot expect the Government to withdraw their sanction in this case. But they can telegraph that if the conditions are as they understood them to be - that it is to be a farewell meeting - the military may go in uniform ; but that if it is to be a political meeting they must not break the King’sRegulations. I do not believe in military mania, and that is what the country is coming to. The man on horseback with a Winchester rifle, or a Mauser, is the principal personage nowadays. But what we want is not an army of soldiers, but an army of workers. We do not want to let the military power be used for the purpose of deciding opinions on public questions. ‘ God pity this country when it comes about that we have only one set of opinions here. If we want to make ours a grand people we must allow a diversity of ideas and opinions toflourish. If there were a deplorable sameness of opinions it would not be worth while having a Parliament, because there would be nothing for members to do, and the Ministry could very well pass the laws themselves. I want this democracy to travel straight towards the temple of justice, as the children of Israel journeyed across the desert from the Red Sea to the Promised Land.
Mr.E. SOLOMON (Fremantle). - I do not think that any one will accuse me of being disloyal to the British Empire, and I feel that I have as much loyalty in my composition as has any other subject of the Empire. I have before me the advertisement of the public meeting to which reference has been made. It invites all citizens of South Australia to be present to express their opinion upon the policy which is now being carried out by the British Government in respect to the war in South Africa. That, to my mind, is a political question. The expediency of that policy is one upon which every citizen has a right to express his opinion. Consequently, I think that if the Government had looked upon this meeting as they should have done, as a public meeting, and not as a farewell meeting to the South Australian members of the Commonwealth contingent, they would have acted accordingly, and would not have coerced the military into attending. It would be a bad precedent if at the commencement of our history we allowed a meeting of public citizens to be attended by soldiers in uniform. Although these men are volunteers, yet, having enlisted for active service in South Africa, they must be looked upon as soldiers of the Empire. Public servants are not allowed to take part in public meetings of this character, and is it not still more opposed to the public interests that those who wear His Majesty’s uniform should be coerced to attend, and by their appearance, though they may not have been sent there with that object, perhaps affect the resolutions that are come to. It seems to me that the Government have been misled through not having had sufficient time to consider this matter. It is not usual for the Minister for Defence to give himself away as he has done in this instance.
-If part of the programme of the meeting was not to say farewell to the contingent, we have been misled.
– I venture to think that the Government have been tricked into giving their approval to the attendance of the military by the words in the telegram referring to a farewell to the contingent. I speak in no spirit of ill-feeling towards the Government, but I hope that they will reconsider their action. It is not too late to do so, because within an hour a message could be sent revoking the approval which has been given. If that were done it would satisfy honorable members, and meet with the approval of the whole community.
– I can understand the deep concern of honorable members to protect the right of public meetings and the exercise of the privilege of freedom of speech. I can understand the members of the labour party fighting to uphold those rights. The honorablemember for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, who is a member of the labour party in this House, says that the Government were wrong in allowing the military to attend this meeting, because the advertisement of the meeting says that it is to be held for what is really a party purpose. If that is so, the Government have been misled, and placed in an unfortunate position by the wording of a telegram which they received from the Premier of South Australia. Both the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, and his colleague, Mr. V. L. Solomon, must be considered as well seized of the state of politics in South Australia, and as they agree that this meeting has been called for a political object, the Commonwealth Government should gracefully recede from the position which they have taken up. If the meeting is to be a meeting to secure support to a party at a coming election, the Government are wrong in allowing the military to attend it. We are accustomed to’ the exercise of the privilege of freedom of speech in Australia, probably more than Others elsewhere are accustomed to it, and although we may dislike those who differ from us, we are not willing to take from them the right of public utterance of their opinions. I believe, however, that too much has been made of the action of the Government in this matter. The telegram received from the Premier of South Australia shows that they have been led astray. It is as follows : -
On Wednesday next it is proposed to hold public meeting support British policy in South Africa. Will you kindly instruct the Commandant here to allow all officers of military who desire to parade streets and attend, also members of Commonwealth Contingent, as we propose taking that opportunity to bid them farewell.
To that telegram the following reply was sent, addressed to the Military Commandant at Adelaide - w
Jla public meeting Wednesday next, support ing South African policy British Government, Minister directs that you should Confer with Premier South Australia and co-operate with him in every way so as to assist the object in view.
If there has been any error, I take it that it has been caused by the Government, understanding the reference to the British, policy in South Africa to mean the passing of the ordinary patriotic resolutions, such as the members of the labour party supported a fortnight ago. when they were proposed in this House.
– What has that to do with the right of public meeting ?
– The military have simply been allowed to attend this meeting if they desire to do so. They have not been compelled or directed to attend,
– The Minister made a mistake in saying that he sent a telegram directing them to attend.
– The honorable member, like other honorable gentlemen, was misled by the statement of the Minister for Defence ; but the telegram itself shows that he made a mistake.
– But the Minister authorized the attendance of the military in a body.
– Apparently the Government thought that the intention was merely to carry the ordinary patriotic resolutions, and if they had asked for a copy of them to be sent, they would have been on safer ground. If the resolutions had merely wished success to the arms of the Empire, without referring to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the meeting would have had no political character, and I should like the members of the labour party to consider that view of the matter. Another question I should like them to consider is this : Upon the departure of t’he various contingents from the States the military and volunteer forces have been on each occasion paraded at the expense of the taxpayer to bid them a farewell. We heard no objection taken to that action on the part of the Governments, although the expense had to be shared bv those who do not believe in the war as well as by those who do. If it be wrong to command the volunteers to attend a public meeting, why should it not be wrong to command them to attend at a send-off of troops ? To my mind, the fact that in one case the demonstration is in a building and in the other it was out of doors makes very little difference. If, however, instead of being a send-off -to the contingents, the South Australian meeting is to be a meeting for political purposes, the Ministry have no other course open to them than to withdraw the instructions which they have given.
If it is clear to the Government that the meeting has a local political significance, anil that it is intended to operate to the prejudice of any representative man, they should countermand the order.
– There is no proof of that. The honorable member who stated that would not bring forward his authority.
– If the object of the meeting is to simply bid farewell to the troops and to pass patriotic resolutions similar to those which have been passed by this Chamber, I do not see any harm in permitting the troops to be present, but the Ministry should certainly ask for some assurance upon, that point before allowing their permission to be acted upon. I do not see any special danger such as the honorable member for Bland thinks is likely to arise from the presence of troops at this meeting. The appearance of men in uniform at such a meeting will be no menace to our right of free speech.
– Is not the honorable member aware that the British regulations forbid that sort of thing?
– I am aware that the attendance of troops at political meetings is forbidden, except with the permission of the. Commandant. The Commandant obtains his authority from the Minister for Defence, and in this case the necessary permission has been obtained, and the local Commandant is carrying out the instructions of the Minister. The Government are now called upon to weigh the information they have received. If they think that the meeting is being held for local political purposes, or for the purpose of bolstering up Mr. Chamberlain as Mr. Chamberlain, they should reconsider the position, and if necessary cancel the order which has gone forth. But if they can secure an undertaking from the Premier of South Australia that the intention is to pass resolutions of a strictly patriotic character, I think they will be justified in allowing the troops to attend. This is not an occasion on which the rights of public meeting and of free speech, which were won hundreds of years ago, are likely to be submerged or lost. This is a special occasion, and I hope I shall not be accused of ultra jingoistic sentiments if I express my approval of the heartiestdemonstration being made in support of the Empire, and of the troops being sent away in the way they deserve. If any political bias has been introduced into this matter it has not been through any fault of the Commonwealth Parliament or of the Commonwealth Government. I do not think that the Premier or his party required a meeting of this character to support them in the position which they have taken up in connexion with the South African war, or that any section of this House would take advantage of a demonstration of this kind. I do not foresee any of the dangers which have appeared to some other honorable members, and I think that with the safeguards I have suggested the meeting might very well be allowed to proceed as arranged.
– What has been already said with reference to the political character of this meeting should not require to be emphasized. This is not a deliberate attempt, of course, but it is an attempt, however unfortunate or inadvertent, to interfere with the right of public meeting, and it is likely to afford a precedent for further action of a similar character. In spite of what has been stated by the honorable member for Dalley, there is a clear distinction between allowing volunteers or regular troops to parade in the streets in order to make a farewell demonstration in connexion with the departure of troops for South Africa, and permitting them to parade at a public meeting - attendance at which is a privilege which has been reserved from time immemorial for private citizens alone. I never remember an instance where soldiers were permitted to attend public meetings. Although it may be true, as the honorable member for Dalley says, that soldiers may be permitted by their commandant to attend public meetings, there never was a Minister in England - even during the frenzy of patriotism aroused in connexion with the war against Napoleon - who dared to give such permission. The Minister for Defence has given permission to our troops to do certain things which he would never have countenanced if he had been fully seized of the circumstances. I have taken up an attitude in regard to this war different in some respects from that assumed by some of my colleagues. I did not believe in the war at the start, but since then I have been rather too enthusiastically in favour of the country to which I belong. That is a matter, however, entirely apart from the question now before us, which simply resolves itself into this. The Premier has said this is not a question of politics, but it is not a question of politics only because practically we are all of the one opinion. How often will people ever dare to be other than of one opinion, when a military force stands behind as a -dominant power ? If a day should come when it suits some party in power to crush down a dangerous minority, they could draft their troops into every public meeting in order to do so, but they would quickly arouse the people to a sense of their danger We have hitherto conducted all our meetings and all our public proceedings free from any such terrorism, and we are not now going to allow the military forces to dominate us.
– We did not allow our civil servants to take part in political meetings for some time.
– Yes : and for precisely the same reason - lest the Government, having the power, should wield it for purposes other than those which would operate for the good of the Empire. It appears to me quite clear that the men who have volunteered for South Africa have a perfect right to go there, and I thoroughly believe that they take with them the very good wishes of a large proportion of the people of this Commonwealth. At the same time, they have no more right than have a regiment of Prussian dragoons to go into one of our meetings, and by their mere, presence crush down any person and prevent him from expressing an opinion contrary to theirs. Therefore, whilst I agree that the political side of the matter does not obtrude itself very much in this particular case, it has been admitted that Mr. Chamberlain, in the height of his power, would never have dared to do that which the Minister for Defence has now done. It is very proper that Englishmen should never allow the great sentiment which underlies the freedom of speech, and the right of public meeting, to slumber ; and I defy any man to show me an instance, from the time of Charles I. down to the present day, where the military have not been under the complete dominance of the civil power as represented by Parliament. There is nothing in the action of the Ministry in this particular matter that exposes us to imminent danger ; but it may set up a bad precedent. As to the local aspects of the case, I do not know anything. I know nothing of any intention to influence local elections, but the principle involved in the presence of soldiers at a political meeting is a very important one, and if actions such as those for which the Minister for Defence is responsible are allowed to pass unchallenged they will end in the crushing down of our civil supremacy and in the power of the ballot-box being overwhelmed.
– The Prime Minister has very properly described this discussion as a “ storm in a tea cup.” Queensland was the first to send soldiers to South Africa, and before we sent our first contingent away, we invited the men into the largest hall in Brisbane and banqueted them. We also passed the most loyal resolutions in the presence of the soldiers. The last speaker indicated, forsooth, that these soldiers are practically political banditti, who intend forcing themselves into the hall against the will of those who wish to carry these resolutions.
– What about Ricardo’s speech ?
– Nobody here knows anything about Ricardo, and I do not think that the honorable member for Maranoa should interrupt with these paltry parochial side-issues which do not affect the Commonwealth policy of sending contingents to South Africa. It did not harm Queensland to send soldiers there. Indeed, it did a great deal of good to the community. I was surprised to hear such an erudite scholar as the last speaker referring to Charles I. What have we to do with that monarch or his times? To my mind, every honorable member ought to be glad that the departing soldiers are to be accorded a loyal, farewell at the meeting which is to be held in Adelaide tonight. In the old country the authorities are altogether too strict where the British soldier is concerned. That is why he is not such a good soldier as he would be if he enjoyed the liberties, rights, and courtesies of life which are extended to the Australian soldier.
Mr. WATSON (Bland), in reply.- I regret that the Minister for Defence has thought fit to accuse me of having been prompted to submit this motion by a mere desire for notoriety. I should be sorry to believe that the right honorable gentleman, who bears every appearance of good nature, would be the first to attribute to any honorable member anything beyond a desire to do his duty in what he conceives to be the proper way.
The honorable and learned member for Brisbane seems to think that this protest is levelled against a send-off to the departing troops for South Africa. It is nothing of the sort. In introducing the matter, I distinctly stated that if the meeting was convened for the purpose of according a farewell to those troops, or of raising funds to assist the widows and orphans of men who had fallen in the war, no possible exception could be taken to the presence of the military. But what I do object to is that soldiers as such should be present at a public meeting under the orders of their chief. It is not a question of patriotism that is involved. It is not a question of whether we agree or disagree with the conduct of the war. The Prime Minister has said that the war has ceased to be a political question. I deny that, and in this connexion I would point out that even in England it has not ceased to be a political question. For example, even Lord Rosebery, who is at one with the Government so far as the end to be achieved is concerned, and who because of his desire is supporting them very strongly, would not subscribe to the resolutions which are to be submitted at the meeting in Adelaide to-night. He could not do so, because those resolutions ask for an expression of confidence in the whole of the administration of Mr. Chamberlain in connexion with the war in South Africa. I say distinctly that the Prime Minister is wrong in stating that the war has ceased to be a political question. As soon as the struggle is over, and the British have established their supremacy in South Africa, he will see whether it is or is not a political question. He will then witness a repetition of what occurred at the conclusion of the Crimean war. The idea that the people of England are afraid to express an opinion upon the conduct of the war is a delusion. I agree, however, that we should not debate that matter in the meantime. We should present a solid front to the outside nations. Further, I would like to point out that the inference to be drawn from the Prime Minister’s argument is one which cannot fail to be viewed with alarm. He implied that because the war had ceased to be a political question the Government were justified in sending troops to a public meeting. It seems to me, however, that so long as the question involved is one affecting the Government of a county, we should take care that no military force, as such, is present at a meeting to consider that question. I merely wish to reiterate what has been clearly expressed by one or two honorable members, that though a portion of the ground for the request made to the Government in the telegram of 23rd inst., was a proposal to give the departing troops for South Africa a send-off, no such suggestion is contained in the advertisement which appears in the Adelaide papers of the 27th inst. The advertisement merely states that the following resolutions will be submitted : -
In any case the proposal to give the men a send-off was not sufficient to warrant the Government in agreeing to the presence of a military force at a public meeting, called for the purpose of considering and approving of the Imperial policy in South Africa. That is distinctly a debatable question, and one which the Ministry should see is kept free from any intimidation which the presence of troops might involve. The honorable member for .Dalley said that because a great majority of the members of the labour party voted for the patriotic resolutions, which were carried only a week ago, they should make no complaint against the action of the Government in sending troops to back up a similar resolution in South Australia. Surely the honorable member ought to understand that a man may be thoroughly in agreement with what is proposed to be done at a public meeting, whilst entertaining very strong objections as to the manner in which it is proposed to be done. The real question at issue in the present instance is - whether we .should allow the populace to be coerced in a certain direction, irrespective of whether it be in the direction which we favour or not. That principle should be dearer to us, as liberty-loving citizens of Britain, than any temporary advantage which the carrying of resolutions might insure. I do not think there is any necessity to go to a division upon this matter. I feel that the Government can sufficiently gauge the feelings of honorable members by the tone of the debate, and the remarkable silence of those behind the Ministerial benches should be sufficient to convince them that, in this instance, they have made an error. Even the one or two speakers who have endeavoured to defend their action have been hard pressed to find a reasonable excuse upon which to hang their arguments. The object which I had in view has been well served by the ventilation of the subject, and it is not likely that the action of the Government will be repeated.
Question resolved in the negative.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether it is his intention to supply the several Custom-houses throughout the Commonwealth with the various forms necessary for the passing of entries, <fcc, which forms shall be issued to the public free of cost, so bringing the Customs department into line with other Federal and State departments.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Government are not satisfied that there is any necessity or general desire for the course suggested. It has not been the practice in New South Wales, Victoria, or South Australia. The cost would be very considerable. Further, importers often prefer to supply their own forms. If upon further investigation I find any reason to modify the opinion which I have now expressed I will not fail to acquaint the House with the fact.
In Committee of Ways and Means :
Consideration resumed from 28th January (vide page 9321) -
Division VI. - Metals and machinery. Special Exemptions.
– The item with which we now propose to deal is one of considerable importance, and has already occasioned a long discussion. It has reference to the question of exemptions in connexion with mining machinery. We asked honorable members to be good enough to furnish us with suggestions as to the articles which, in their opinion, should be exempted, in order that we might make inquiries and ascertain how far we could meet their wishes. A number of suggestions have been made to us, but we are accepting only a small number. We desire to propose the exemptions to which we are able to agree ; and then honorable members, who have further suggestions, can bring forward arguments in favour of their proposals. We shall be glad to listen to those arguments and see whether there is such further information as to induce us to change the opinions we have formed up to the present time, and whether we can advise the committee to agree to further exemptions.
– Is it quite fair that honorable members should be asked to make suggestions, and that the Government should move that they be embo’died in the schedule of exemptions ?
– I have no desire to submit the amendment if it is thought that such a course is not fair to honorable members. I am perfectly prepared to allow honorable members to submit their own amendments, but I thought it wise to lay before the committee the exemptions to which we agree. I have no desire to take away from honorable members the credit of moving exemptions.
– Have the Government issued a list 1
– No. The only articles which, on our present information, we can consent to add to the exemptions, are automatic stokers, briquetting machinery; roll shells, manganese steel parts, and blowers for smelting. The suggestions are made principally by the honorable member for Kooyong, and these I have mentioned we are satisfied are not made here, and are not likely to be made here. In regard to the other articles which it is suggested should be placed on the free list in connexion with mining machinery, we find that either they are being made here, or that they come very strongly into competition with other articleswhich are regarded as being as good foi- the particular purpose. It appears to the Government that there is one great fallacy underlying many of the proposals which the honorable member for Kooyong has brought forward, and I mention it now in order that he may have an opportunity of discussing the matter. It would be very unwise to pick out any particular piece of machinery, and say that that article is to come in free. Suggestions are made in regard to Blanton’s patent cam fastenings, and Brown’s roasting furnaces and drills of a particular pattern, and various articles- of that kind. Wo feel that we cannot admit such a principle as the picking out of particular articles of a particular maker. That would be competing unfairly with other makers who might be manufacturing as good a machine, under some other patent or under some other name. If a particular piece of machinery is to be exempted, the whole class ought to be exempted in fairness to all parties. It would be very unfair if one importer were able to import free the patent for which he is agent while other importers had to pay 20 per cent, on articles which come into competition, and which may be as good, better, or perhaps not as good. It would be unfair from an importer’s point of view, and, to a considerable extent, unfair from a manufacturer’s point of view. That is one reason why we ask the committee not to pick out particular patents for the free list. If the article itself is thought of such importance that it ought to be made free, and it is shown that it is not in unfair competition with articles which are being made here, and do the same class of work, then it is for the committee to consider whether it should be placed amongst the exemptions. I shall not submit any .amendment now as there seems to be an objection to the Government taking that course, but the items I have mentioned are the only items to which the Government can agree.
– 1 at once acknowledge that the Treasurer very frankly told me yesterday the position he intended to take in regard to these suggestions, and indicated specifically the particular importations which he was prepared to agree should be placed on the free list. I have already indicated to the committee my perfect concurrence with the view expressed by the Treasurer to-day that there will be interminable difficulty in ascertaining how justice is to be done iu excluding some patents from, and placing others on, the free list. For that reason I urge that beyond those special classes of machinery used for special purposes, there ought to be some contributing rate all round which would prevent a lot of difficulty, and to which the importers, so far as they understand the question, have no particular objection, provided the impost is not excessive. In asking the committee to place the articles I have suggested on the exempt list, I am not departing from my conviction that it would be better if all these importations bore a moderate duty, instead of the high duty which is forced on the acceptance of the committee. After the action of the Treasurer yesterday in stating what particular patents he intended to admit, I have taken the opportunity,, which he courteously gave me, of getting information in regard to one or two of my suggestions. I am very anxious that itshould be distinctly understood by the committee that the list is submitted at the invitation of the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Treasurer, and not from any desire of my own. I have given the Treasurer the names of various patents, butthat is solely due to the fact that I can speak with knowledge in regard to them, expecting that honorable members, who alsohave to do with mining machinery, would themselves submit other lists. I entirely concur with the view which the Treasurer has stated,, that it is an inconvenient, unworkable, and undesirable method to give special exemptions to special patents byname. The idea, and object of the exemption list is simply, that inasmuch as the committee havedecided - although I hope they will subsequently reverse thatdecision - -thatthereshall be the large impost of 20 per cent, on themachinery necessary to this great primary industry, we are compelled to ask theGovernment to give us a complete free list. I have only suggested those articles which of my own knowledge I know cannot be made in this country as satisfactorily and as effectively as to results as they can beabroad ; and I shall endeavour to give an explanation of individual items when they are before the committee. I understood theTreasurer to say yesterday that we were toconsider each one of these items, and, if that be so, I shall give my reasons for believing that the mining industry will be advantaged and benefited by puttingthese articles on the free list. I am strongly of opinion that that course should be taken,, and at the proper moment will move accordingly, if preferred.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).Before an amendment is submitted, I should like to suggest that we take a testvote on the question whether mining and agricultural machinery shall not be treated in the same way as the machinery used by manufacturers, and placed on the free list, whether it can or cannot be made within the Commonwealth. There has not been a test vote on that point yet, and I intend to submit an amendment in that direction.
– The principle we have gone upon is that any article which can reasonably be made here should be dutiable. There has been no decision by the committee that all machinery of a certain kind, whether it can or cannot reasonably be made here, should be placed upon the free list.
– Machinery for scouring, washing, carding, spinning, weaving, and finishing the manufactures of fibrous material is upon the free list, but it would be very difficult for the right honorable member to say that some part of that machinery could not be made here.
– It would be possible to make any machinery here ; but it may be that that machinery could not reasonably be made here.
– I hope to give the committee a few reasons for dealing with the matter in the way I propose.
– Have we not; already come to a determination in regard to it?
– The question was debated when we were dealing with machinery generally, in item 74, but there has been no straight-out vote upon the question of admitting mining and agricultural machinery free. I wish to give the committee an opportunity to record such a vote
– What the honorable member for Macquarie proposes is in accordance with my desires, but I wish to see the committee make progress. However, if the proposal which the honorable member is about to make will assist our arriving at a definite decision I am ready to give way.
– I thank the honorable member for his courtesy. The Treasurer has admitted that machinery for scouring, washing, carding, spinning, weaving, and finishing the manufactures of fibrous material comprises all machinery used in the conversion of wool, cotton, jute, and other materials into cloth. Such machinery includes, I believe, machines used for the manufacture of paper, and all machinery used in the hat trade and in many other trades. But the manufacturers, for whose advantage this machinery has been placed upon the free list, are in a much better position than are the miners and agriculturists. Not only have the manufacturers of the Commonwealth a natural protection in the cost of freight from London and foreign parts to the various ports of the Commonwealth, but, in addition, there are import duties, amounting, in many cases, to 20 and 25 per cent., upon articles of the kind which they manufacture. We do not object to the concession of free machinery, but we ask that the miners and agriculturists shall be similarly treated. While the manufacturers sell their productions in the local market, and are protected from outside competition by heavy protective duties, the miners and agriculturists have to depend for the success of their callings upon the prices their productions obtain in the markets of the world.
– And while the freight is a protection to the manufacturer it is a disadvantage to the miners and agriculturists.
– Yes. What is a natural protection, to the manufacturer is a disadvantage to the miners and agriculturists. They have to send their gold, silver, tin, lead, dairy produce, wheat, and other productions to England in order to sell them, because the local demand for such things is not sufficiently large to keep them from insolvency. Therefore, it behoves us to give them every reasonable facility for placing their productions upon the markets of the world as cheaply as possible, and for this reason I ask that the machinery required by them shall be placed upon the free list. The committee has imposed a duty of 15 per cent, upon agricultural machinery and a duty of 20 per cent, upon mining machinery, and we feel that those, duties are a heavy tax upon the industries concerned. At the same time, however, honorable members have decided to place sheep-shearing machines upon the free list. We hope that when the committee has fully considered the position of the great primary industries to which I allude, they will see the justice of placing them in the same position as the manufacturers are placed in with respect to the machinery they require. During the past few days the various State Governments have taken prompt action to secure part of the trade of the old country, and I am in sympathy with what has been done. But what is even more necessary is to enable our producers to compete on good terms in the home market with foreign competitors. At the present time the little country of Denmark exports something like 45 per cent, of all the butter used by the British people.
Now, however, we have commenced to export butter and wheat, and we are large exporters of wool and of frozen meat. Why, then, should we handicap those who are engaged in the exporting industries’! I feel that these industries should be placed upon the same footing, at any rate in regard to the machinery they use, as the manufacturing industry, arid therefore I move -
That the following exemptions be added : - “Mining and agricultural machinery.”
– As the committee has already decided what rate of duty shall be placed upon agricultural implements and machinery, I ask if the honorable member for Macquarie is in order in attempting to reopen the subject. If we are to be allowed to go back upon our determination with regard to this matter, there are some other items in the Tariff which I should like to see reconsidered.
– There has been no determination upon the question of mining machinery.
– I think that there has. The committee arrived at a determination with regard to mining machinery when they dealt with item 74 -
Manufactures of metal n.e.i., including engines, boilers, pumps, machines, and machinery.
– With reference to rnining machinery, I should like to point out that the committee determined to place a certain duty upon all machinery n.e.i., including engines, boilers, pumps, machines, and machinery.” The advisability of taxing mining machinery was exhaustively discussed upon that item, and a division was not taken until the discussion had extended over several days. It is a waste of time to go over the whole of the ground again. The honorable member for Macquarie does not represent a mining constituency.
– I represent more miners than does the honorable and learned member.
– I do not know why the honorable member should be always prating about the miners.
– I rise to a point of
Order. The honorable and learned member is not confining himself to the point that lias been submitted to the Chair.
– I arn not speaking to the point of order, but I am directing attention to the fact that we have already decided to place a duty on agricultural machinery, and that it is not fair to waste time in going over the same ground again.
– I submit, Mr. Chairman, that there is a point of order before the Chair, and the honorable and learned member cannot address himself to the general question.
– There may be some difficulty with reference to agricultural machinery. My recollection is that that was distinctly disposed of, and if so, it would be out of order to test the feeling of the committee upon precisely the same question again. The honorable member for Macquarie can put himself in order by confining himself to mining machinery. We had a very prolonged debate in connexion with mining machinery on the item, engines and boilers n.e.i., which embraces all engines and machinery, and it will be quite competent for the honorable member for Macquarie to now propose that we should exempt some particular kind of machinery. It would not be in order for the honorable member to propose to make all engines free, but he is now proposing to make the machinery used in one particular industry free of duty, and is really pursuing the same course as was followed by Ministers yesterday in exempting tools of trade used in a great variety of industries. If the Government could add these tools to the list of exemptions there is nothing to prevent my honorable friend from placing mining tools on the free list. I quite agree that this is not a matter that should be discussed at any great length, because we have already thoroughly thrashed it out. I do not think my honorable friend has any idea of abusing the patience of the committee.
– On the point of order it seems to me that the honorable member for Macquarie is within his rights so far as mining machinery is concerned, but as regards agricultural machinery we have decided that it shall be subject to a duty. We went very close to a definite decision on the subject of mining machinery in connexion with the item to which the leader of the Opposition has referred ; but the proposal now made is not quite the same as that previously submitted. The Government do not wish to take up a position that would have the effect of restricting discussion, as they believe that both sides of the House are determined to come to a decision as soon as possible.
– On the point of order raised by the honorable member for Moira, I find that as far as agricultural, horticultural, and viticultural machinery and implements, including mould-boards, &c., are concerned, a division was taken on the 12thDecember, on the motion of the honorable member for Wentworth, that the whole of these articles should be placed on the free list. The committee rejected the proposal, and affirmed that they should remain on the dutiable list. I find no mention of any decision with regard to mining machinery, and therefore I rule that the amendment of the honorable member for Macquarie is in order in respect to mining machinery only.
– I would ask the honorable member for Macquarie to include in his amendment the machinery used in the preparation of foods.
– Would it not be better to keep that class of machinery distinct from mining machinery ?
Mr.G.B. EDWARDS. - I am quite prepared to do that, but I desire to point out that the importance of this class of machinery is hardly understood. We have heard a great deal about the importance of agricultural machinery, but the best machinery we can bring to bear upon our agricultural and pastoral products is thatwhich is used for converting them into food. These operations entail the employment of more costly machinery than that used in the primary industries, and we are rather apt to belittle the importance of the operations which are connected with the preparation of foods throughout the whole of the Commonwealth in contrast with those of mining or agriculture.
– When the duty on mining machinery was being considered, several honorable members voted in favour of it, on the understanding that a list of exemptions would afterwards be submitted to the committee. This list has not been forthcoming, and honorable members find themselves in a somewhat difficult position in consequence. Several honorable members are prepared to vote for a duty upon mining machinery, which can be satisfactorily made within the Commonwealth, but they would like to have exempted such machinery as cannot be made here. I have seen the list which has just been submitted by the Government, but that includesonly three or four small items which do not touch the operations of mining in the real sense. I question whether the machines referred to are used underground.
– That means that all mining machinery can be made here.
– Certainly not, it does not mean anything of the kind. I am prepared to place a duty upon any machinery that can be made here, but not to harass the mining industry by requiring that duty should be paid on machinery that is not manufactured locally.
– I mentioned, when we resumed the discussion of the Tariff, that we had made the fullest inquiries with reference to the articles that could not be made here, and that out of the lists which had been submitted to us we could consent to only some five or six articles being placed on the free list. It was well within the province of the committee, however, after the other items had been discussed, to say whether they would put any of the individual lines- on the free list. That was a matter absolutely within the judgment and discretion of the committee. I said also that perhaps further information that might be given us by honorable members might induce us to agree to other item being placed on the free list. That was a fair position to take, and in accordance with the attitude we have invariably assumed. We asked honorable members to supply us with a list of the articles which they considered should be placed on the free list.
– The Ministry did not say that with regard to the machinery used in cotton and woollen mills.
– We have placed those classes of machinery on the free list because they are not being made here.
– Lucky woollen mills.
– There are not many woollen mills within our boundaries, and, therefore, there is not such a demand for woollen mill machinery as to induce manufacturers to put down the necessary plant for making it. In the case of mining machinery, however, there is a large demand, and that machinery is being made here largely and well ; and to ask us, after all we have done, to exempt mining machinery, whether it can be made here or not, is to suggest something that I am certain the committee will not agree to. We are not going to reverse the decisions we have come to in regard to machinery after having discussed the item, particularly with regard to mining machinery. All we can do now is to determine that certain specific articles which the committee think ought to be exempt shall be exempted. We have already decided that with regard to machinery which can be made here, fair and reasonable protection, which has been fixed at 20 per cent., shall be given. Now we can deal with only certain specific exemptions on their merits. I feel certain that the committee is not going to reverse, at one fell swoop, everything which has been done during the last few weeks, and place all mining machinery, whether it can be made in the Commonwealth or not, on the free list.
– It is all very well for the Treasurer to talk about placing mining machinery on the free list “at one fell swoop.” He has put the tools of. trade of twenty industries on the free list at “one fell swoop,” and the Government are malting “ one fell swoop “ on the mirier and the farmer.
– That is an old “ gag”
Mr.REID. - I do not wish it to be thought 1 say that because I desire to impute any, particular ill-will to the Ministry.
– I would not say that was the reason.
– That reason has not influenced the Ministry. If the farmers and the miners were numerically small they would not be worth robbing, but because there are tens of thousands of miners, and tens of thousands of farmers, they are worth robbing, and, therefore, they have to pay. That is the whole thing in a nutshell, from our point of view. I must admit that this matter has been thrashed out, but we have not had an opportunity of taking a straight-out division on this point. I think we have a right to take a fair straight-out vote upon this matter, because while the Government of to-day can say that certain things shall not be done, there will come a time when an appeal will bemade to a higher authority to determine whether their action in differentiating between the agriculturist and the miner is a wise one. We simply wish to place the matter upon record so that the people may be able to judge for themselves.
– If the honorable member for Macquarie has made any mistake in submitting his amendment, it is in proposing that mining machinery shall be exempt from duty. I think, however, that we ought to have another vote upon the question whether that machinery shall or shall not be subjected to a duty of 15 per cent.
-At this stage we can only deal with the question of whether it shall be exempt.
– I think that we ought to have a reconsideration of the matter.
– We cannot have it at the present stage.
– The Government have announced their intention of agreeing to five articles which have been proposed by the honorable member for Kooyong being placed upon the list of exemptions. Those articles comprise automatic stokers, briquetting machinery, roll shells, manganese steel parts and blowers for smelters. The resolution which the committee carried last night is, to my mind, an utterly worthless one, because no Government will bring it into operation. Honorable members will recollect that when we were discussing the item of machinery under n.e.i., the Government promised, prior . to the division being taken, to include certain articles in the free list. I am perfectly satisfied that if the division had been taken upon the, proposal to impose a 15 per cent, duty upon mining machinery, after the committee had the details of the Government’s promised concessions, it would have been carried by the committee. If honorable members only realize the worthlessness, from a mining point of view, of the concessions which have been, made by the Government, they will undoubtedly reverse their former decision with regard to the imposition of a 15 per cent, rate upon mining machinery.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong). - I am sure that the Government must recognise that they are not carrying out their expressed intention of giving us a liberal free list, and are not acting in a bond fide manner. They are forcing honorable members into a very awkward position. I have constantly supported the imposition of moderate duties, and 1 have repeatedly stated that a 1 5 per cent, rate upon mining machinery is one which will give the manufacturer a reasonable incidental protection without placing undue burdens upon the consumer. If we come to a division upon the amendment I shall have to vote in such a way as will indicate my feeling that the Government have not kept faith with those who are here to support a moderate policy.
– I think that some honorable members are treating the Government most unfairly. I could have wished not to have said a single word upon this subject, but to have remained satisfied with the debates we have had on previous occasions upon practically the same question. If, however, any argument is to be raised upon this matter, it should he the fair argument of principle. I must deprecate the tone adopted by the leader of the Opposition in telling the Government that they propose to rob the miners and the farmers. I also regret the declaration of the honorable member for Kooyong, who says that he-is bound to vote for something in which he does not believe, because the Government have broken faith with him. The amendment under consideration asks for the introduction of all mining machinery into Australia free of duty, irrespective of whether it can be locally manufactured or not. Unless my honorable friends opposite can prove that no mining machinery can bo made in the Commonwealth, that simply means that regardless of the present capabilities of Australia and of its great potentialities, ignoring the splendid resources of New South Wales in coal and iron, disregarding the men who are working in factories, and forgetful of the fact that mining machinery is being made cheaper here than it was ever made before, some honorable members are prepared to vote for something which they know they cannot carry, and which they ought not to carry if they could. When I hear the leader of the Opposition say that the Government are attempting to rob tens of thousands of farmers and miners, what does his statement mean? It means that the Government are trying to alienate the votes of tens of thousands of men, and who would be so foolish as to do that?
– The honorable and learned member would upon a matter of principle.
– I take it that no one should be robbed, and certainly the Government ought not to be improperly robbed of its character. It is a false argument to use. If we were to say to the leader of the Opposition - “Because you know that there are tens of thousands of miners and farmers, you are endeavouring to cajole them with that argument, in the hope of securing their votes,” he would reply - “ You are unjust,” and he would be right. But he is still more unjust when he charges those who are endeavouring to secure not to the manufacturers, but to the workers in factories throughout Australia, a proper wage, and to lift them to the high state of civilization which their position demands, with robbing the farmer and the miner. I deny that the Government have broken faith with the committee. I say that the Government are meeting the position fairly and fully, and if they had not done this I should have spoken very warmly against them. They have proposed as special exemptions -
Any mining machine or part thereof which shall be prescribed to be free by regulation under the Customs Act, because it is certified by the Minister that it cannot reasonably be made within the Commonwealth, and that it ought, in the opinion of the Minister, be prescribed to be free.
– That was dealt with last night.
– I had the misfortune to be .absent last night, but I gather that a resolution exactly similar in effect, though slightly different in verbiage, has been carried.
– Does the honorable and learned member consider a regulation by the Minister under an Act, the same as a resolution by the two Houses of Parliament ?
– I am not considering the question of political, machinery, but discussing the principle by whatever mode it is reached. If Parliament decides that machinery, which cannot reasonably be made in the Commonwealth, shall be free, that is all, in substance, I contend for. But the honorable member for Kooyong must see that he is doing a wrong and an injustice to the Ministry, and not only to the Ministry but to members who vote with them. If the Ministry have done wrong in not bringing down a list, it must be taken that it is easy enough to frame a list. But if it is easy enough to frame a list, I want the honorable member to propose one.’ If the honorable member satisfies me that the list he proposes is a fair and proper one, and if honorable members here can satisfy me as to additional elements which ought to be contained therein, they will findme voting with them. If the Ministry do not accept such a list, I shall, if necessary, exercise my undoubted right to support the insertion amongst these exemptions of any class of machinery, or part of machinery, which will fall within the category. But it is highly illogical, and, in my opinion, unjust to tax the Ministry with not bringing down a list, when honorable members, by their own silence, confess they are unable to do anything of the sort.
– What nonsense ! There are dozens of lists on the table.
– If it is so easy to form a list, or if lists already exist, what possible excuse is there for honorable members who desire to encourage manufacturers, as the honorable member for Kooyong says he does, voting that all machinery shall be free. It seems to me that the two arguments are mutually destructive. If a list is not only capable of being formed, but is actually in existence, there is no reason for going to the extreme that the honorable member for Macquarie invites us to go. Unless we are prepared to admit that Australian resources are unable to make any kind of mining machinery - that Australian invention is so absolutely sterile that no one can invent anything here - that Australian men arc so absolutely incapable that they cannot meet ordinary mining requirements, I cannot see how honorable members can, with any patriotism, or with any desire to meet the growing wants of the country, vote for the amendment.
Mr. REID (East Sydney). - I wish in a very few words to reply to the exalted address which we have just heard from the impassioned and learned member for Indi. The honorable and learned member has put an honest test from the protectionist point of view, but, unfortunately, that test has not been acted on. The honorable and learned member says, in his grandiloquent style - “ Are we going to say that Australia cannot produce this or that ?” May I tell the honorable and learned member that the Government have absolutely proposed to place on the free list every tool used by bookbinders, bootmakers, coopers, glaziers, masons, painters, plasterers, saddlers, tanners, tinsmiths, and watchmakers? I am quoting from a list which was carried last night.
– Painters’ tools are not all exempt.
– I see that what are exempt under that head are “ painters’ metal tools, including knives.”
– The word “ metal” makes the difference.
– That is a wonderful protectionist answer ! I name about twelve different industries, and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports questions one. In order to make sure I refer again to the list, and I find that the painters’ tools, which are exempt, are “ metal tools, including knives.” Does the honorable and learned member for Indi not know, that on this appeal of his, the exemption of these tools is a piece of organized hypocrisy ? We hear the honorable and learned member talkingin this heroic way about doing everything which Australia can do, and about protecting Australia by means of taxing Australia. That is the method of protection. The honorable and learned member has, staring him in the face, a hundred lines in which the Government have done for the protective industries of the overgrown city of Melbourne, what they will not do for a single miner in Australia. These heroics sit rather absurdly on honorable members who occupy the Government corner like sheep, and only meddle when the interests of some constituent are involved about a washer, a rivet, or something of that sort.
– The tools mentioned are not made in the Commonwealth.
– Of course, Australia is not equal to making all the tools to which I have referred ; they are not tools used in scientific trades, but in a dozen ordinary trades.
– I say that these tools are not made here.
– Then why should we not plant these grand industries in Australia ? I differentiate between the somewhat craven policy of the Minister and the attitude of the honorable and learned member for Indi. The Ministry now have drawn another line; but the honorable and learned member strikes a higher note. The Ministry take the attitude - “ Oh, if these tools cannot be made here now, we will abandon the prospect of applying our glorious policy of encouragement in making them ; if they cannot reasonably be made here - at present, that is - on the free list they go.” That is the standard of the Ministry, but the standard of the honorable and learned member for
Indi is much higher and more logical, only the latter is not being adhered to, and the honorable and learned member is keen enough to have observed that. That is all I wish to say.
– The leader of the Opposition has indulged in a rhapsody about hypocrisy.
– Organized hypocrisy.
– But the specimen of hypocrisy and humbug in which the right honorable gentleman has indulged is one which I hope we shall not see indulged in again for a long time to come. The leader of the Opposition has talked simple trash. He got up in a state of sublime fury, all simulated, for the purpose of attacking the honorable and learned member for Indi. What is this trash ? What the Government say is that so far as mining machinery is concerned, the)’ believe that it can be made here as well and as cheaply as in any part of the world. What we have said right through is, “If you challenge our statement, just produce a single instance in which you can establish the contrary.” What are the sort of special instances produced ? The only list which has been attempted is by the honorable member for Kooyong - the only miner’s friend. We have looked down the honorable member’s list, and have agreed to three or four items. We notice with great interest that it has been admitted that it is highly objectionable to specify by name any particular brand or types of machinery, but we notice, also with interest, that the honorable member has been a little bit oblivious of that objection, and has specified three or four particular types or brands.
Mr.V.L. Solomon. - Which are patented. The Minister ought to be just.
– I shall be just. If a special exemption be given in favour of a particular maker, an advantage is conferred on that maker, for which he ought to be thankful to his agent.
– That is not fair.
– In a number of the items the honorable member for Kooyong has proposed exemptions in favour of firms for which he is the agent.
– That is not fair.
– I say it isa fact to which special attention ought to be called.
– The Government asked the honorable member to specify certain kinds of machinery.
– That is the honorable member who charges us with want of bona fides. Do honorable members believe that we have not done our best to secure the fullest information as to machinery which cannot properly be manufactured here? We have not pointed that out to only one member, but to all honorable members ; and the result is this list.
– Then the Minister attacks the man who gave the information.
– I must insist on these interjections ceasing ; every honorable member has a right to be heard in silence.
– Time and again we have said to these slanderers of Australian skill and industry - “ Trot out your cases, if you have them ; let them be investigated in the full light of day.” Where are those cases ? The accumulated industry and intelligence of the other side have given us one list which is open to the exceptions I have mentioned. Do honorable members think that we want to embarrass trade and industry by imposing duties on things which cannot be manufactured here ? The leader of the Opposition indulges in preposterous statements. He says that because we exempt certain tools, which are manufactured of metal, that is an admission of our incapacity to undertake larger manufactures. Nothing of the sort. Let him apply the smallest intelligence to the question, and he cannot fail to recognise the true position. As regards the smaller tools which are manufactured of metal, they are produced in other parts of the world in such quantities, on account of the greater demand, that it is impossible for our manufacturers, with our more limited demand, to compete with the imported goods. I think that the committee, when they come to look closely into the matter, will agree with the view that the Government have tried to put forth. We have done our best to discharge the obligation which we undertook when the committee voted for the duty as proposed. We promised then to make every inquiry we could to ascertain what machinery could, and what could not, be reasonably made within the Commonwealth, and we have spared no pains to that end. We have sent to the other States, and we have consulted persons engaged in mining and persons engaged in manufacturing.
– Will the Minister mention the names of those connected with mining whom he consulted?
– I think that it is not desirable to introduce names into this discussion. Our officers in the various States have reported upon the matter, and their recommendations are embodied in the proposals which we have submitted to honorable members. We find - and it is to the great credit of Australian industry and skill - that as regards mining machinery generally, fully 80 or 90 per cent, of the local wants are supplied by local industry. I was speaking to a gentleman to-day who is very largely interested in matters of thissort, and he assured me that in using those figures I should not be overstating the case. Honorable members will recollect that the matter was under discussion some time back, and that we invited specifications of the machinery which it was suggested could not be made here. We welcome such specifications. Our officers have been instructed to investigate every suggestion and specification submitted for our consideration, and as a result, we propose to place four or five additional items upon the free list. As regards machinery likely to be introduced in the future, we made a proposal which was even more liberal to the free-trade idea than that which the committee in its wisdom saw fit to accept.
– But it was objected to upon other grounds.
– I do not say that it was not. Under these circumstances, instead of having exposed ourselves to the charge of want of faith, we have left no stone unturned to discharge our responsibility, and, therefore, I strongly resent, and I have a right to complain of, the use of words imputing want of good faith to us in connexion with this matter. I hope that I have said sufficient to induce honorable members to believe that such a charge is in no way deserved.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong). - I regret, more than I can express, the necessity of having at this period in my political career to resent the implication conveyed in the statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs that I have allowed myself to be influenced directly or indirectly as to the manner in which I have voted, by the pecuniary interests which he assumes I possess in regard to certain manufactures. I rebut the right honorable gentleman’s charge, and I appeal to honorable members on both sides of the Chamber, many of whom have known me for years, if ever, in my political life, I have considered my personal interests in any vote which I have cast. There are honorable members who are aware that I have, on the contrary, cast three votes distinctly against my personal interests, and I invite the closest scrutiny and criticism of every vote I have given. If the circumstances were otherwise, I should have no light to occupy the honorable position which I hold in this Chamber, and I repel, with the utmost indignation, the insinuation of the Minister that, because I am nominally the agent for the great corporation of Allis, Chalmers, and Co., of New York and Chicago, I would ask honorable members to vote to place upon the free list certain articles which they manufacture.
– The honorable member has not asked the committee to put these articles upon the free list.
– Nothing has been further from my thoughts. I have persistently said, that there should be no free list - that there should be a uniform charge. I have stated that I felt the difficulty and inconsistencyinvolved in moving that any item be placed upon the free list, -because I believe that a uniform duty should be placed upon allthese items. Technically, and legally, I am in a position to state that I have at present no pecuniary interest in the firm of which the company I am a member of is the agent. I do not wish to shelter myself behind a legal technicality, for it is sufficient forme to say that the gentleman who is my partner in other undertakings controls that undertaking and I accept equal responsibility. I call upon any honorablemember to instance one case in which my vote has been influenced by personal considerations, apart from my duty to my constituents, to the people of the Commonwealth, and to that great industry for which I have done much in each of the States, by opening up some of the largest undertakings,, employing at this time very large numbers of men, and expending, as I have recently shown to the committee, enormous sums of money upon-machinery. Were there any justification for what the Minister has stated, the limited interest which I hold is as nothing compared with the other interests which I possess, and the desire I have to see a fair and legitimate duty placed upon mining machinery generally. The interests I possess in other States are so much greater than the infinitesimal interest which the Minister has so basely suggested I possess in certain machinery, that upon that ground alone I am able to completely repel the charge which he has made against me. Both the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Treasurer know that I have tried in every way in my power to assist the Government in placing fair and reasonable duties upon all machinery used in the great industry of mining, and in other industries. To me the galling reflection is that the Treasurer, whose frankness I readily acknowledge, spoke to me on this subject yesterday evening. He was then aware, as every honorable’ member of this committee is aware, that the firm of Knox, Schlapp and Co. represents the firm of Allis Chalmers and Co., of the United States of America.
– I knew nothing about the matter until- 1 saw this advertisement, about half-past two o’clock this afternoon.
– Then the right honorable gentleman did not listen to the speech which I made in this Chamber, and in which I informed the committee that I was in a position to speak with authority, because of the information I obtained through my connexion with that great manufacturing undertaking. The Minister for Trade and Customs challenged honorable members to come forward and furnish him with lists. If he had waited my opinion in regard to the individual items upon the list which I submitted, I should have informed him that some of the articles included could serviceably be manufactured here. It is singular that I happen to be the only member who has given him a list. I believed that many other honorable members would come here with lists. I pointed out to the committee that when I gave a list I should give it because I was in a position to speak with knowledge in regard to the special manufactures contained in it.
– A course of the kind’ adopted by the honorable member was repudiated by the leader of the Opposition long ago, and that repudiation was joined in by the Government.
– I am not responsible for what the leader of the Opposition may have said on the subject. I repel the iniquitous charge that I was not honest in my vote, because the firm of Knox, Schlapp and Co. is agent for the various .articles about which, in deference to his expressed wish, I have given the Minister all the information at my command. It is not my custom to speak at large in this chamber upon any subject of which I have not close knowledge, and upon which I am not able to impart information to other honorable members. Notwithstanding the charge that has been levelled at me, I am perfectly sure that honorable members, on both sides, and in both corners of the chamber, are not prepared to believe that I was influenced by any personal motive in affording informal tion to the Minister.
– If the Minister for Trade and Customs had adopted before the adjournment the same tone as he did afterwords, there would have been no occasion for the continuance of this debate. The Minister- made a most unwarranted attack upon the honour and motives of an honorable member whose only fault in the Minister’s eye is that he has changed from the Ministerial side to the opposition side of the chamber.
– Order ! I cannot allow the honorable member to pursue that subject. The honorable member reflected upon has made his explanation.
– Could not the Chairman allow the honorable member the privilege of making a few remarks on the subject t
– I do not desire that.
– I am not prepared to allow the honorable member for North Sydney any privilege that would not be extended to any other honorable member. I have been asked by the members of the committee to keep members to the point under discussion. The Minister for Trade, and Customs made some statement, -which I did not hear at the time, reflecting on the honorable member for Kooyong, and the honorable member affected has had the fullest opportunity of replying. The discussion upon that particular point must now close.
– I am not going to defend the honorable member for Kooyong, for I think he has sufficiently defended himself- ; but I desire to refer to the method which the Ministry have adopted in framing their policy, and to their want of consistency when they abuse honorable members forfallingin with that method. The circumstances out of which the accusation against the honorable member for Kooyong has arisen, have been brought about by the method which the Government have themselves adopted. We are now being asked to give our decision upon information which has been improperly obtained bythe Government. The honorable member for Kooyong has defended his own honour, but the system adopted by the Ministry of seeking information from honorable members has led to what is complained of. I heard the Treasurer ask honorable members to furnish him with lists of specially patented machinery which could not be made in Australia. If a member has to furnish a list of patented machinery, he can supply it only from the facts within his own knowledge, and if he knew that certain machinery - for which he might be the agent, or in which he might be interested - was patented, and could not be made here, he was bound, by the terms of the Treasurer’s request, to furnish information regarding that machinery, which ought tobeonthe listof exemptions. In connexion with this division the Government have sent round to the manufacturers, and where manufacturers have stated that they could make any particular article the Government have at once refused to put it on the list of exemptions. I know of these inquiries and I know of the replies that have been received, and I am aware that the Ministry have gone to the parties directly interested for information regarding the machinery which can be made in the Commonwealth. They have practically asked these men if they wanted a duty, and have allowed the answers given to influence them in deciding their policy. If it was not wrong for the Ministry to do this it was not wrong for the honorable member for Kooyong, who knew that certain machines were patented, to furnish that information to the Government. These accusations are not to the credit of this Chamber, and I am sure that the Minister must regret the unworthy insinuations he made at an earlier hour. I would ask whether there are no honorable members interested in manufactures on the Government side of the chamber?
– There the honorable member goes ; that is what honorable members on the opposition side started originally.
– I do not know what the right honorable gentleman is referring to.
– The honorable member talked about the member for “ Starch.”
– I did nothing of the sort.
– The honorable member’s leader did.
– I hope the Minister will cease his interjections. The honorable member for North Sydney is not discussing the matter before the Chair, and I do not feel inclined to allow him to digress any further. The motion before the Chair is that mining machinery should be placed on the list of special exemptions in division VI., and I again ask that the discussion be confined to the question whether those articles shall be placed on the list of exemptions.
– I submit that the honorable member for North Sydney is perfectly in order, and that your ruling is wrong.
– The honorable and learned member must place in my hands his dissent in writing.
– I am perfectly in order in stating the grounds upon which I think that your ruling is wrong.
– I again call the honorable and learned member’s attention to the standing order directing him, if he dissents from my ruling, to immediately place in my hands his dissent in writing.
– I can do that, but at the same time I am at perfect liberty to express my reasons for dissent.
– The honorable and learned member has handed me his dissent in writing, which reads as follows : -
That the Chairman’s ruling that the honorable member for North Sydney was not in order is not in accordance with the rules and standing orders of this House.
I submit that there is no statement made as to my ruling.
Mr.F. E. McLean. - If you will be good enough, Mr. Chairman, to state your ruling it will assist the honorable member for Werriwa. I understood you to say that the honorable member for North Sydney was out of order, but there has been no statement as to what standing order was infringed.
– It is well known that the standing orders provide that no honorable members shall digress from the question before the Chair, and that when an amendment is proposed the discussion shall be confined entirely to the amendment. The motion is that certain machinery, indicated as mining machinery, shall be placed in the list of exemptions, and any reasons for or against that proposal will be entirely in order. Any reference to the sources from which the Government have derived their information, or to how they occupy their time with manufacturers is entirely beside the question. I indicated to the honorable member for North Sydney that he would be expected to confine himself to the reasons why mining machinery should be placed on the list of exemptions. I did not rule the honorable member out of order, but I directed his attention to the fact that he was digressing from the question before the Chair, and asked him to confine himself to it.
– I would ask, Mr. Chairman, if the Minister in charge of the Tariff is to be permitted to attribute wrong motives to any member of this committee, and to enlarge upon the subject whilst no one on this side of the committee is to be permitted to answer him 1
– The honorable member has asked me for a ruling without stating a definite point. The honorable member knows that the standing orders provide that no honorable member is in order in making any reflection of an unworthy character upon any other honorable member. I did not hear the Minister for Trade and Customs myself, but I believe, from the discussion which has taken place, that he cast some imputation upon the honorable me’r.ber for Kooyong.
– And upon every other member on this side of the Chamber.
– Order ! I would direct the honorable member foi’ Parramatta’s attention to another standing order which requires that honorable members shall permit the Chairman to give his ruling in silence. I allowed the honorable member for Kooyong the very fullest opportunity of making a personal explanation in refutation of a statement alleged to have been made by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and having done that, I think I have held the scales of justice impartially. I will not permit any other honorable member to traverse the same ground.
– I rise to a point of order. The point submitted by the h honorable member for South Australia was as to whether a Minister is in order in making accusations across the table without there being any right of reply to them. I wanted to point out- but you, sir, would not permit me- that the Minister for Trade and Customs made those accusations against every honorable member sitting upon this side of the chamber.
– Did the Minister accept a brief from the manufacturers, and then place their articles upon the free list 1
– In reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta, I wish to say that when my attention was called to the matter, I immediately ruled that neither the Minister for Trade and Customs, nor any member of the committee, has any right to make reflections of an unworthy character upon another honorable member. I added that although I followed the debate as closely as possible, I did not at the time hear the Minister for Trade and Customs make any reflections upon honorable members on the opposite side of the chamber.
– I rise for the purpose of directing attention to another serious charge which has been made by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa against the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– What charge was that ?
– The honorable and learned member asked the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he had accepted a brief from the manufacturers and had afterwards placed the articles in which they were interested upon the free list1!
– I did not hear the honorable and learned member for Werriwa make the statement, but if he did so, I ask him to withdraw it.
– I cannot withdraw it, because the statement is true. I say that after a duty was imposed upon a certain article, interested manufacturers went over with members of this House to the White Hart Hotel and had champagne.
– I now name the honorable and learned member for Werriwa for disregarding the authority of the Chair.
– Before you take that extreme step, sir, I may, perhaps, be permitted to say a few words. We have of late been getting on very well with the Tariff discussion. Of course, we have our little differences, but I do hope that, despite those differences, the honorable and learned member for Werriwa will, when the Chairman takes up a certain position, either obey his ruling or dissent from it. We all recognise that the Chairman has a very difficult task to perform in listening to everything that is going on, and endeavouring to hold the scales of justice evenly between the contending parties. No ,one will say that he does not succeed
– I do not think he treats me right at all.
– The honorable and learned member for Werriwa has made a statement which will be admitted by all parliamentarians to be unparliamentary. Attention having been called to it, I think that the statement should be withdrawn. I hope that the honorable and learned member will bow to the decision of the Chair, and not cause the first Federal Parliament to have to resort to the extreme step of having one of its members named.
– I am sure that there is no desire on the part of the honorable and learned member for Werriwa to create tiny disturbance. But honorable members must recollect that the charge emanated from the other side of the House.
M.r. McDonald. - I rise to a point of order. I wish to know if it is in order to allow a discussion to take place after an honorable member has been named 1
– I asked the honorable and learned member for Werriwa to withdraw statements which were certainly offensive and disorderly. He refused to do so. Had he done so, I should not have taken the course which I did. Even at this moment, if the honorable and learned member is prepared to withdraw, I have no desire to take the extreme step indicated.
– As I understand I have not been named, I withdraw the statement. At the same time I do hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs will admit that he made a mistake previously. I was absent from the Chamber at the time he made the accusation, but I am sure that there would have been a very serious discussion had I been present. I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs will express regret for the imputation which he cast upon honorable members of the Opposition.
– I think that very good evidence has been given of the inadvisability of bandying charges of dishonour across the table. The Minister for Trade and Customs stated that charges had emanated from this side of the Chamber of votes having been influenced by the businesses in which persons were engaged. I admit that charges of which I do not approve have been made by members occupying seats upon this side of the Chamber. It is not wise that any such imputations should be cast upon the integrity of honorable members. There is a proper course to pursue if any one is prepared to substantiate such charges. When the interruption occurred I was pointing out that the Ministry are asking us to accept certain exemptions under the heading of manufactures of metals. They give as their reason for inviting us to accept those exemptions that, upon inquiry, they find that all other articles can be manufactured within the Commonwealth. They have not, however, adopted any reasonable means for obtaining this information, and in many instances have been satisfied with the mere assurance of interested parties that they were making, or could make, any particular article. When the vote was taken upon the proposal to tax mining machinery at 15 per cent. - a proposal which was defeated by only one vote - honorable members understood that a very complete exemption list would subsequently be brought forward by the Government. But the exemption list which is now submitted is a very small one indeed, consisting of only five items. Seeing that that list is unsatisfactory, I think Ministers might very well agree to re-commit the item, so as to enable honorable members to record their votes in the full light of after events in accordance with their own consciences. I very much regret the delay which has occurred, but the responsibility for it must rest with the opposite side of the House.
– Did not the leader of the Opposition start with a flaring speech ?
– No; it was the honorable and learned member for Indi, and the leader of the Opposition replied to him. The former accused honorable members upon this side of the Chamber with not having sufficient patriotism and manliness to support protected industries for the good of the workers of the Commonwealth.
– If the honorable member understood me to say that, he misunderstood me.
– The honorable and learned member asked us if we had not the manliness and patriotism to support a proposal to assist those workers, and to enable their wages to be kept up. I say that we do not under-estimate the mining machinery industry of Australia. I quite admit that our local manufacturers turn out some excellent machinery. We desire that they shall continue to do so. But when we have to give consideration to the question of imposing duties we must consider not one class alone, but the whole of the industrial classes of the community. Surely we may claim some reason for our views if we say that local manufacturers can make mining machinery, and have made it. They have made it in competition with the rest of the world. They have been able to pay duties upon their goods when those goods were entering the different States of the Commonwealth in competition with the world. And in an enlarged Australia I have sufficient confidence in the firms and in the men engaged in the industry to believe that they will take the fullest advantage of the wider market which is now offered to them, and that they will be able, without the aid of any duty, to do better than they have done in the past. Honorable members now talk of putting a protective tax on such portions of machinery as are made in Australia, and of levying a heavy tax on an immense quantity of machinery that is not made in Australia. The latter is largely very expensive machinery, costing thousands of pounds, and is used in special processes necessary to enable certain mines to be worked. If these mines are not worked, what is to become of the workmen? In the past machine-makers have been able to take advantage of the opportunity even to the extent of paying duties, and competing in other States against the world ; and we now say that it is time to consider the mining industry, to which we cannot give one penny of protection, and which, as the honorable member for Macquarie has said, has no natural protection such as is enjoyed by manufacturers. Under these circumstances the proposal of the honorable member for Macquarie is perfectly justifiable. Even if the amendment be defeated, I hope the Ministry will give the committee the opportunity, of which I know several honorable members think they may be deprived, of giving a straight-out vote, without any contingencies such as arose in the last vote, on the rate of duty to be charged on mining machinery.
– I shall support the amendment of the honorable member for Macquarie, as I am strongly in favour of all machinery being admitted free. But it is only fair to say that as regards my personal relations with theMinistry on this question, they have acted towards me in a perfectly bona fide way. I have seen the Minister for Trade and Customs on several occasions, and once I met him at his own office and had a very long conversation, the outcome of which was that the .Minister offered practically to accept a duty of 20 per cent, all round, and to place on the exemption list certain machinery of which we know at present.
– And which could not be manufactured in the Commonwealth.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs was also prepared to frame some clause in order to meet the importation of machinery, of which we do not know to-day, but which may be invented at any time. I then pleaded for a duty of 15 percent, all round, coupled with the other two conditions, and we joined issue on the question of whether the duty should be 15 per cent, or 20 per cent. Whilst the action of the Ministry in that respect has been perfectly bona fide, I contend that their policy treats mining machinery unfairly. I do not speak of agricultural machinery now, my knowledge being more particulary of mining machinery j but when honorable members who represent agricultural districts said that protection makes agricultural machinery cheaper, I listened to them with a certain amount of interest.
– The honorable member is still doubtful.
– I have no doubt at all as to what the effect of protection is on the cost of mining machinery, and I find fault with the Government because they are not treating the mining industry in the same way as they are treating the machinery required in the boot-making, hat-making, and similar trades.
– The honorable member is not right in saying that.
– The boot industry is having its tools of trade admitted free.
– Not all tools.
– Practically all. Some little time ago I read an article in the
Leather Journal boasting, if I may use the word, of there having been spent £340 in fighting the Victorian Government, in order to obtain for the bootmaking industry the tools of trade free. In those industries they are extremely anxious, and rightly so, to have their tools of trade admitted free ; and the Minister has told us the reason. It is impossible, at the present time, with our foundries and appliances, to compete successfully with the larger manufactories of the world, which turn out these articles in tremendous numbers. It is not unfair to ask that the tools of trade of the mining industry should be admitted on exactly the same terms as are the tools of the other industries I have mentioned. We are running no particular tilt against colonial industries. ‘ We are very glad when mining companies can see their way clear, in the open markets of the world, to buy from colonial manufacturers. I have here a statement, sent to me, at my request, by Mr. Dickenson, the secretary of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, who says, in reference to machinery, that for the last four or five years his company have spent in construction approximately £100,000 per annum. Mr. Dickenson goes on to say that, although he has not the exact figures before him as to how much of this machinery was imported, it may be safely stated that £25,000 per annum was spent on machinery from abroad.
An Honorable Member. - I should like to see the items.
– I think the amalgamating plants alone cost £100,000.
– And proved useless a little while later.
– I think that was £100,000 thrown away. It would seem that some people in Victoria, where there is a barbed-wire industry to deal with, have no conception of a decent sized industry. The figures of Mr. Dickenson, which may be regarded as reliable, show that out of every £100,000 worth of machinery constructed, £75,000 represented colonial manufacture. That is highly creditable to the colonial industry, because in New South Wales the manufacturers had to compete against the world. And these facts afford very clear evidence thatcolonial machinery in many respects is equal to imported machinery. I do not think that the Broken Hill Proprietary would use machinery simply because it was colonial manufacture, seeing that the mine is conducted in order to make profits. What we say is that, whenever machinery is required, the mining companies ought to be free to go into the open markets of the world and get the best. Machinery is the tools of trade of the mining industry, and up-to-date machinery is absolutely necessary. The honorable member for Kooyong agrees with me that, if the Broken Hill companies had not been able to get the most up-to-date machinery, not a single man would be employed there now.
– And the same at Mount Lyell.
– That is so ; if it had not been possible to import the latest machinery there would have been no Mount Lyell.
– Will the companies increase the men’s wages if the duties are taken off?
– I am afraid not; but if. an import duty has to be paid on machinery, who pays it ? Any added cost in the working of the mines at Broken Hill falls on the miner. There was a time when every man there, who went underground, got a standard wage of 10s. a day, or 8s. 4d. if he were a trucker. Under these conditions, any loss or added expense no doubt fell on the shareholders ; but, unfortunately, those conditions do not apply at Broken Hill at the present time. The men do not havea standard wage, but are all practically working on contract. Some men earn perhaps 10s. or lis. a day, and in a few exceptional cases 12s. and 13s. a day, but others only earn 3s. or 4s. Under the present system, if there is any added cost in the carrying on of the mines, the managers can so arrangeas to take it out of the pockets of the men.
– They keep up the dividends, and take it out of the wages.
– If large dividends were being paid, I have no doubt the added cost would be made up from that source ; but most of the mines at Broken Hill are paving no dividends.
– How many companies are paying dividends ?
– Only two, I believe.
– How much has been paid in dividends in the past ?
– Millions have been paid in the past, but those times are gone. Today I believe there is only the Proprietary Company which is paying dividends. The
Sulphide Corporation have not paid a dividend, though I believe they have placed £60,000 or £70,000 profit to reserve fund.
– Do I understand that the men at Broken Hill do not work for wages, and that some of them earn only 3s. and 4s. ( a day 1
– That is so.
– What is the average wage ?
– I do not exactly know, but I should say about 7s. per da)7. Miners want their tools of trade as cheaply as possible, in order that they may be able to produce ore and carry on the mines. Why should the mining industry be treated differently from other industries whose tools of trade arc admitted free 1 Although the Minister for Trade and Customs has asked honorable members to suggest the . placing of certain machinery upon the free list, I have refused to do so ; in the first, place, because-! am not competent. I do not know enough about mining machinery to make any suggestions of that kind in regard to it. As in other machinery, improvements in mining machinery are being’ made by leaps and bounds, and unless one is right in the middle of affairs in regard to it, one is not competent to make such suggestions as the Minister asks for. Why should we who represent the mining industry be treated differently from those who represent other industries ? Were those who represent the manufacturing industries of Melbourne asked to submit a list of tools of trade and machinery 1 I do not think so. The Ministry ‘themselves placed the machinery used in those industries on the free list. Before the Tariff discussion took place, and within a day or two of the Tariff being laid upon the table, I asked the Minister if he would appoint a committee or commission to visit Broken Hill and other mining centres, and publicly inquire as to- the probable effect of the duties upon mining machinery. The Minister then said that he would be prepared, in committee, to receive any information we might give him. He tells us now, however, that he has on two or three occasions sent out officials to make inquiries. The reports of those officials have not been placed before honorable members, and we have not been told who gave them information. I asked the right honorable gentleman just now if he would state what mining managers and other persons connected with mining have stated, that they do not want a remission of the duties upon mining machinery, and the Minister replied that it was not well to mention names. But when inquiries of - this kind are being made by officials, and statements based upon their reports are made by Ministers, we should know how their inquiries have been conducted, and from whom evidence has been obtained. We have been asked to specify the mining machinery which we think cannot reasonably be made within the Commonwealth. I suppose almost everything can be made in Australia if enough money is spent upon the process. Years ago, when in England, I visited a place where pine-apples were being grown, and the gardener in charge told me that they cost a guinea each to produce. At the same time, if one visited a seaport when ships had just come . in from foreign parts, pine-apples could often be obtained for 6d. each. Similarly, it’ is possible to manufacture all kinds of machinery here if we do not mind the expense ; but it is much cheaper to import a great deal of it. What we want to see introduced into the mines are all sorts of electrical contrivances. Some time ago a letter was read in this Chamber, signed by five or six electrical firms doing business in .Victoria, in which the statement was made that those firms were able to supply the electrical requirements of the Commonwealth. The total number of persons employed by those six firms, however, is only 50, and as one of them employs between 30 and 40 men the other five employ only ten between them. In the case of one firm there was only one man employed, though there were two names in the title of the firm, and another firm employs two men iri making watches and a third upon electrical work. What we ask is that the tools of trade and machinery used by the mining community shall be treated in the same way as the tools of trade and machinery used in other industries. The miners get no protection from the Tariff, and when the mines in which they are employed cease to pay they are shut down. Some time ago, when T was speaking upon this question, the Minister for Trade and Customs stated that in South Australia the Government have done .a great deal for the miner, and he instanced the fact that a smelter was being run at Port Augusta in the interests of the miners. I saw it reported in the newspaper, however, a few days ago, that this smelter has been shut down, and the 23 men employed in connexion with it have been thrown out of work because there is not so much copper ore now coming to Port Augusta, and because without a larger plant they cannot profitably compete with the private companies.
– That smelter has been shut down because of the fall in the price of copper.
– Not one of those undertakings, including the batteries, lias ever paid.
– Had a Melbourne manufacturing industry employing 23 men been concerned, the Government would have tried to protect them by a duty of 10 per cent., and if that was not sufficient, they would have increased it to 15 or 20 per cent., in accordance with protectionist principles. I shall vote for the amendment, and I hope that we shall be successful in obtaining free machinery for the miners.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).I think that the miners should not be differently treated, under the Tariff, from other producers. The tools of trade and machinery used by manufacturers of all classes are admitted duty free, but every article that the miner uses, including his lamp, is taxed. If the committee decide to exempt from taxation the machinery used in mining, they will confer a great boon upon the mining industry. In certain parts of New South Wales rnining is languishing at the present time, and a few days ago the people at Hill End asked that the operation of the Municipalities Act might be suspended for a time, because of the present condition of mining there. Thousands of miners throughout the Commonwealth are not only taxed upon every article that they consume, but their earnings are reduced by the duties upon the implements and machinery used in the industry. The Minister has pointed out that from SO to 90 per cent, of the implements and mining machinery used throughout the Commonwealth is locally made. In New South Wales 75 per cent, of such machinery used is made in Australia, and a large proportion of the mining machinery in use in Western Australia has been imported from the eastern States, notwithstanding the competition of foreign manufacturers, and despite the fact that there was a duty ranging from 5 to 15 per cent, upon such machinery. The mining machinery imported into the Commonwealth is very largely patented machinery, which cannot be manufactured here, because no local firm possesses the right to make it. The local manufacturers practically have command of the market, and we shall give them an opportunity to charge higher prices for their machinery than they have hitherto charged if we impose heavy protective duties. This question has already been debated on several occasions, and I hope that the Minister will now yield to the argument which has repeatedly been advanced, and allow mining machinery to be placed on the free list.
– I do not wish to raise another storm by imputing motives to the Ministry with regard to their action in connexion with this item, but I venture to say that the Government have, in a very peculiar manner, whittled down to microscopic proportions the original proposition by which they obtained a vote in favour of a 20 per cent. duty. There is no doubt that the narrow majority which secured that duty was obtained for reasons quite different from those given in connexion with this free list. In makin;; the important stipulation that nothing shall be placed upon the free list to which a specific name attaches, the Government are depriving the concession which they offer of its most valuable qualities. Every one must realize that whatever is likely to be of any particular value in the shape of newly invented machinery will have given to it as distinct a name as possible, and to preclude articles of that kind from coming in free of duty would be to deprive the concession made by the Government of any value which might otherwise attach to it. I indicated last night that very great difficulties would be experienced by the Government in differentiating between machinery which ought to be admitted free and that which ought to be dutiable, and I contend that the Government have introduced an even more vicious principle in . bringing forward their present proposition. If they intend to consider the interests of the mining industry, I do not see how they can shut out articles simply because they are named. In view of all the difficulties which the Ministry must now see for themselves, I suggest that they should recommit the item of machinery with a view to discovering whether the committee, after all the discussion on this question, are not willing to place the mining industry on the same footing as the agricultural industry, by imposing a uniform duty of 15 per cent. That course should commend itself to even the protectionist members of the committee, and I think I can answer for my colleagues from Western Australia when I say that 15 per cent duty all round would be preferable to what the Government now propose.
– I desire to emphasize the importance of giving every possible encouragement to an industry which is becoming of greater importance to the whole of the community every day. The gold-producing capabilities of Western Australia are being more largely developed daily in spite of all the difficulties with which it has had to contend. At least one-fourth of the mining machinery used in Western Australia is patented machinery from Germany or America, which is used in the treatment of refractory ores, and which cannot be manufactured in Australia owing to its being hedged round with patent rights. Then the Broken Hill mines which- have a great effect upon the prosperity of South Australia, as well as upon the State in which they are situated, are now undergoing a great struggle against adverse conditions. Fresh experiments are being made every day in the treatment of sulphide or lead ores, and in spite of the falling market for lead and silver the mines on the Barrier have so far been able to make both ends meet. They have not been able to pay any dividends, but they have at least been able to meet their wages sheet every month up to the present. For several years past only two or three of the mines have paid any dividends.
– That is the luck of the thing always.
– I admit that, but it is the luck of the thing that we should have lead down to a little over £10 per ton, whereas it formerly ranged at about £14 per ton, and that silver should now be worth 25 per cent, less than it was three years ago. The result of all this is that every additional burden placed upon the back of the mining industry will reduce the chances of the mines keeping open, and of avoiding what would amount to almost a national disaster. I am heartily at one with the honorable member for Barrier in desiring that mining machinery should be placed on the free list. The honorable member has put his case very ably and very clearly, and I would ask the committee not to increase the burdens upon the mining industry, which is of such vital importance, not only to the residents of the mining districts, but to the whole of the Commonwealth. What are we to gain by imposing a duty on mining machinery ? It has already been shown that the local foundries can produce machinery in competition with the world, and supply three-fourths of that which is required in the mining industry. Threefourths of the machinery used on the Barrier has been manufactured at such works as the Otis Engineering Works, Melbourne, Martin and Co.’s at Gawler, Thompson’s at Castlemaine, and others.
– Then where is the burden? On the one-fourth?
– Undoubtedly ; and that burden is no inconsiderable one /when it is remembered that hundreds of thousands of pounds are spent every year upon the Kalgoorlie gold-fields alone in machinery of the very latest up-to-date character, which is necessary for the treatment of ores which would otherwise be unprofitable. I should be satisfied if the present proposal were limited to the removal of all duties on mining machinery which, by reason of patent rights, could not be produced in Australia. So far as we can produce mining machinery, I am satisfied that the Australasian foundries should have the work. I have seen some of their work, and if they want any protection I am quite ready to give it them ; but I do not think they do require it. We have enough hard luck to contend with in South Australia, owing to the low prices of copper, lead, and silver, and to the serious effect which the restriction of mining operations upon the Barrier is having upon our railway revenue. The loss to the South Australian railways for the current year, owing to the falling off in the Barrier traffic, is estimated at £100,000, and the low price of copper is resulting in the stoppage of the Moonta mines, which have worked uninterruptedly for the last quarter of a century. In view of these facts, we do not want to see the mining industry still further hampered. Throughout the whole of this Tariff discussion honorable members on this side of the chamber have endeavoured to protect the primary industries, whilst honorable members on the other side have given a little desultory assistance whenever it has happened that the districts represented by certain honorable members were affected. I came here not as a rabid free-trader, but as a revenue tariffist, and I am not prepared to impose taxes on the agriculturists, the pastoralists, and the miners.
– Why not ?
– Because I recognize that the primary industries are those which we ought to fight for - not the little industries employing three men and a boy in the suburbs of Melbourne. The agriculturist, the pastoralist, and the miner are the very backbone of Australia, and these are the men whose industries I am pledged to support by every means in my power. What do we find upon the other side of the House 1 We know that honorable members occupying seats there indulge in an)7 amount of sentiment, and talk a great deal of what they are going to do, and what they have promised. But when big industries like the mining industry are concerned, we get very little support from them upon a division. In this connexion, I would point out that this industry yields 23 per cent, of the total wealth derived by Australia from primary productions. We cannot get away from that. Last year it produced wealth amounting to £20,000,000 odd, whilst Western Australia alone produced £7,000,000 worth. Is this the industry which, in their blind support of the Government proposals, honorable members opposite are going to tax 1
– If people are making millions out of it, they ought surely to pay some taxation.
– I suppose the honorable member does not know that the production of minerals throughout Australia provides more employment proportionately to the amountthatisgained from the earth than does any other industry. Does he not know that every man who has invested in pastoral pursuits during the last decade has had the hardest row to hoe of any individual in Australia, because of the low price of wool and the difficulties he has had to contend with on account of the vermin ? Yet the honorable member voted for the duty upon wire netting and barbed wire..
– That was in order to get them more cheaply.
– That is the same old farcical yarn that we always hear from protectionists. We have before us one of the greatest problems which has ever confronted any Parliament in Australia - the problem of how to encourage the primary industries of the Commonwealth - agricultural, pastoral, .and mining. I trust that the committee will agree to the proposal to place mining machinery upon the free list.
– My freetrade friends, when discussing the question of the duty upon mining machinery, forcibly remind me of the condition of a bullock which has jumped half-way over a fence. He is attacked in the front and in the rear by dogs, and he can neither kick nor go. If the free-traders had voted for a 1 5 per cent, duty upon mining machinery the proposal would have been carried. But the Government supported a 20 per cent, rate, and the free-traders went for nothing. When my free trade friends talk about various industries in the States being able to compete with certain industries abroad, they forget that the local manufacturers, prior to the advent of federation, enjoyed protection in their own States. As a result they were able to send their surplus products into the free-trade State of New South Wales, just as the sewing machine firms in America sent their surplus stock to England, and sold machines there for half the price at which they could be purchased in the home market. But if we now exempt mining machinery from taxation the local manufacturers will not enjoy protection in any State. I have heard a lot about Australian patriotism, and I want to see it carried out to the fullest extent. I hope that honorable members will refrain from making personal accusations. We ought to realize that the strength of a chain is its weakest link, and that the honour of this House is represented by the least honorable man in it. If we brand a few members as dishonorable we shall reduce all the others to the same level. I do not believe that there is an honorable member in this House whose vote would be influenced by ulterior motives. Having said so much I wish to come to the question before the committee. Let us suppose that Australia was surrounded by a fleet representing the nations which it is said will invade this continent. Would the Barrier mines close down because they were unable to import their machinery ? Would it not be far better for them to be. able to obtain crude machinery than no machinery at all, in a case of national emergency? What does history teach us ? The history of the world is the light by which we should be guided, and every nation that has failed to found industrial institutions of its own has failed before those which have founded such institutions. Before Maximilian entered Mexico in 1864, Mexico was a free-trade country. Europe supplied her with everything. But when the French fleet surrounded Mexico and prevented her from importing anything, the whole of her army fell like barley before a scythe. Why? Because the people of Mexico had not a factory in which they could manufacture anything. They depended upon foreign nations for their supplies. Let us turn again to North America. Why did North America whip South America ? Because the latter possessed primary industries only. It had the nigger and the cotton, and when the war broke out the Southern States were incapable of manufacturing .because they had not the genius required to produce. They had not the secondaryknowledge - they were primary producers. I am afraid that my friends have forgotten that if they close up the industries within the Commonwealth which produce mining machinery the men who will be thus displaced will carry their swags to Broken Hill in order to compete with those who are employed there. I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs will recommit this item and allow honorable members an opportunity of voting for 15 per cent.
Mr. REID (East Sydney).- It is quite refreshing to hear the statesmanlike speech which has just been delivered by the honorable member for Tasmania. He has managed to deal with the history of a number of important communities, and has entirely misrepresented it in the pleasantest possible manner so that no one has the slightest grudge against him. I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs who is in charge of this Tariff to a modified extent, will imitate the courteous manner which was exhibited towards him by the last speaker. Next to the sensation of horror which we felt when we heard that the lion had escaped from “Fitzgerald’s menagerie at Broken Hill was the emotion of fright we experienced when the Minister for Trade and Customs got upon his hind legs before the dinner hour. I am glad that he is now somewhat restored to his mental balance, and I wish to remind him that the imputations of personal motives which he levelled against one of the most honorable members of this committee arc deeply to be regretted. The Government invited the honorable member for Kooyong, who has a wide knowledge of mining in Australia, with other honorable members, to submit’ suggestions to assist them in the framing of a wise exemption list under the heading of mining machinery. Honorable members responded to that invitation only to be practically insulted and outraged by imputations that they were influenced by mercenary motives.
– I trust that the right honorable member will not proceed further in that strain. I gave the honorable member for Kooyong the fullest opportunity of making an explanation, and with that the episode ended.
– The episode may have ended, but the imputation remains upon the records of the House. I think that it should not appear upon our records. If the Minister for Trade and Customs will withdraw the imputation which he levelled against the honorable member for Kooyong, it would be a generous and honorable way of closing the incident. I know that we often make statements in the heat of debate, which in our calmer moments we would not attempt to justify. The Minister for Trade and Customs must know that in the discharge of his duties he is frequently brought into contact with a number of people who are personally interested in the duties imposed by this Tariff, and who try to influence him in a multitude of ways for their own benefit. But enjoying, as he does, the generous confidence of the whole of the committee, in regard to his perfect integrity, I think that he might treat other honorable members as they wish to treat him. It is one of the gratifying features of the Tariff all through, that although we sometimes think manufacturers have a great deal to say in what is being done, we think it is only right that their interests should be ventilated in this Chamber. No one wishes to impute, in cold blood, any sort of improper motive on the part of an honorable member who happens for the moment to seem to be the advocate of a manufacturing industry. The imputation under consideration, which, I think, stands alone on our Hansard, affects a man’s personal reputation ; and I hope the Minister will close the incident in the generous and proper way that no man knows better than himself to apply. I shall not say any more to aggravate matters. It will not do for the Minister, when he becomes excited, to avoid the plain issues which we put before him. The honorable gentleman, in his speech, said the reason why these tools of trade were put on the exemption list was that. they were not made in such numbers as to warrant the establishment of the industries in Australia. No one expects or supposes that there would be a special foundry to make each particular kind of tool ; because these are tools which can be manufactured in afoundry where a hundred different articles are made. It is a shock to .our common-sense and intelligence to place the whole of the tools of trade of all the trades, which have been mentioned, on the free list without any reservation - inventions, past, present, and future - and say that they cannot be manufactured in Australia. It is practically saying that not one of the tools of the whole of these industries can be manufactured here. If any of these articles can be manufactured here, then according to the principle on which the Government have acted, they should be put on the protected list. It is high time- that the acts of the Government should be pointed out in support of the amendment, which is to treat the miner precisely in the same way as the bootmaker and all other artisans. The honorable member for Macquarie uttered a very pregnant truth when he said that miners had to look to a distant market for the sale of their products, while artisans were protected at their own doors. Such a policy makes a very considerable difficulty in the way of a primary industry. The honorable member for Indi struck the true protectionist note when he said that the Government would be justified in putting under the benefit of a protective policy all things which could possibly be made in the future in Australia. That policy would never have had a beginning at all unless applied in that spirit.
– It would never have had a beginning if everything had been taxed indiscriminately.
– I quite agree with the honorable member, and I think the Victorian Tariff was in some respects very sensible.
– All these things were free under that Tariff.
– Well, we want to add miners’ machinery to the broad current of intelligence.
– Let us get a vote. We have been on this subject all day.
– It ought to be remembered that the Opposition have many difficulties in the way of agitating their views, whereas Ministers can sit snugly, with an obedient majority behind them. The Opposition have to apply the force of reason and intelligence - very successfully up to the present time, I admit- in removing some of the crudities and absurdities of the Tariff. I ask the Ministry to concede to the miners of Australia the benefits of the free list. If a free list is good for the plasterer, the mason, and the tanner, why is it not a good thing for the miner ? I pass away to the matter which so enraged Ministers, namely, the alleged imputation of bad faith. No one will impute to the
Ministers any deliberate desire–
– We have been deliberately accused of want of bona fides.
– That is in Latin, and does not matter. In any case, I think the expression was intended only to express the opinion that Ministers have not fully acted up to the promises which they made to the committee.
– It went a long way further than that.
– Heavens ! After all I have suffered, to see men in a fume over a statement like that ! I admit we do not want to encourage violent expressions in this House, but in the ordinary politics of Australia a public man has to stand a number of ill-conceived expressions. It is very much better to ask, in a good-natured, courteous way, an honorable member to withdraw an imputation, than to take him by the throat and shake the life out of him. If the honorable member for Kooyong has inadvertently put his remarks in an offensive way, he is, from what I know of him, the first man to withdraw.
– The honorable member did not do any such thing as is stated by the Ministers.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Kooyong went beyond ordinary bounds, but I know that Ministers are sensitive after sitting here so long not doing very much.
– It is a fact that we have not done very much.
– A little more tact and management might have advanced the work of the committee much faster. We admit the general fairness of the Ministry ; it is only their capacity we do not quite appreciate. I do not believe that Ministers would be guilty of a breach of good faith ; but there is ground for irritation on the part of men interested in mining. J think it will be within the recollection of honorable members that, when we were dealing with tins matter in a less direct form, Ministers were profuse in their statement to the committee - “ Only mention any machine that is patented and cannot be produced in the country, and we will put it on the free list.”
– That was the statement made a dozen times.
– That statement was never made.
– When my right honorable friend contradicts me I immediately doubt my own recollection ; I do not apply an ugly term to him.
– We simply asked for full information in order that we might give full consideration to suggestions that were made.
– I have not had time to look up Hansard, and it is rather inconvenient that we have two Ministers dealing with this Tariff. One Minister makes the promises and the other eats them. The Treasurer is the Minister I remember as making these generous offers. Do we not remember that the Opposition were taunted by honorable members opposite with not naming patent machines? Do we not remember that we were taunted by the offer of the Government - “You have only to name the patented machine we cannot make, and you shall have it on the free list “? Members were goaded and ridiculed because they did not name such machinery. One honorable member highly qualified to do what the Government begged complied with the request, with a result that he is never likely to forget. This angers honorable members of the committee who were led to believe that they would be received in a handsome way when they offered these suggestions to the Government. The Treasurer himself said that he had considered the matter of patent machinery, and found that the suggestion would not work out fairly. If the Ministry frankly say to the committee - “ True, we offered this thing, but we have had the advantage of time to consider and inquire, and we find it will not work out well “ - no man will try to hold them to any promise under such circumstances.
– I said that very thing days ago.
– I think my memory is correct, and I am quite sure the Treasurer, to the best of his recollection, is telling exactly what has occurred. I shall take the trouble to look at Hansard, and if I’ do not find what I have stated, I shall make proper amends. But I have such strong belief that in the earlier stages these assurances were given, that I cannot withdraw my recollection, but simply doubt it, after thestatement of the Treasurer. I flunk that under the circumstances this debate has excited sufficiently the notice of the public of Australia to this very important item. The matter has been pretty fully ventilated, and unless one of the Ministers would like to make some more observations, we might now go to a division.
– The committee have a right to complain of the way in which Ministers have made up the free list. Last night a free list was submitted and passed. How was that list made up ? Ministers invited us, whenever we had a proposal, to put it on the contingent notice-paper, which accordingly became very large. What Ministers have done is to plagiarize that notice-paper, and bring down as their own proposals the suggestions there made. I had a notice in regard to the exemption of tanners’ tools, and another as to miners’ tools, such as forks, and both these were incorporated in the .Ministers’ list. They have picked out just what they thought would suit them, and, without making any recognition, have submitted all as their own original proposals. If anything of that kind were done in the literary world there would be very great trouble, because it is a piece of gross plagiarism. Not content with that; the Government applied to a man who has special knowledge of the mining industry, and he supplied some suggestions, which they adopted.
The return which this honorable member got for responding to the invitation of the Government was that the Minister for Trade and Customs insulted him in the grossest way. Is that the way in which the Government expect to get their Tariff through this House? Whatever else the Minister for Trade and Customs may do about the Tariff, he cannot bully it through this Chamber. The sooner he realizes that simple fact the better it will be for the Tariff, and for his own comfort and health. The Minister prolongs debate each sitting. He should never have been appointed to take charge of the Tariff, because he is utterly unsuited for the work. He would have been much better suited with another portfolio.
– As Minister for War, perhaps !
– As anything but Minister for Trade and Customs. If he had allowed the Treasurer or some other colleague to take charge of the Tariff from time to time, it would have passed through committee by now. The right honorable member causes trouble and delay by the abusive remarks which he constantly addresses to honorable members opposite. He taunted us to-night with being, the so-called friends of the mining industry. He, at any rate, can be called a friend of the manufacturing industry.
– And of the salt industry.
– Of the salt industry in particular. He looked after that industry very carefully and well. For the first time in the history of responsible Government we have had a Minister taking suggestions from his officers in regard to matters of policy. Ministers have always been in the habit of consulting their officers in order to obtain information, but I never before knew a Minister to ask his officers for suggestions as to matters of policy. Reports are obtained from officers as to whether a duty can be modified or manipulated to establish an industry, and one of the pernicious results of the Victorian system is that some officers now deem it to be their duty to advise the Minister from time to time that certain articles can be manufactured within the Commonwealth if protective duties are placed upon them. These are the sources of information upon which the right honorable gentleman has based his free list If he knew a little more about the industrial life of the Commonwealth, he would not be so abusive of honorable members who have devoted their whole energies to its expansion.
The ACTING-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Salmon). - I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair. The conduct of the Minister is not now under discussion.
– We have cause for complaint in the tone and attitude adopted by the Minister in connexion with the free list. If he had a spark of that manliness which he sometimes affects he would have withdrawn the remarks he made about the honorable member for Kooyong, and apologized for having made them. We are asking to-night for fair and square dealing in regard to the industrial enterprises of the continent. We say that the manufacturing industry should not be singled out for specially favorable treatment. If the tools of trade used in manufacturing are to be exempt, so should the tools of trade used by the primary producers be exempt. But instead of being willing to exempt the miners’ tools of trade, Ministers seem to go about seeking little items upon which they can increase the taxation of the miners. The safety lamps, which are used in only a few mines, are placed upon the free list, but all other miners’ lamps are taxed. Not a thing that the miner uses, except forks, is on the free list, and in regard to forks the Minister might have allowed the Opposition credit for having brought the matter under his notice. I suppose, however, he will refer to that exemption as an instance of what he has done for the miners. I have long since come to the conclusion that he is a sort of political Bashi-Bazouk, and does not deal very largely in fairness as a political quality. We have a right to demand fair and equal treatment for the miners.
– Hear, hear.
– The honorable member seems to think that a duty of 15 per cent, is fair treatment for the miners of the west coast of Tasmania, who have done so much to build up the wealth and prosperity of that country. What the Opposition desire is that the miner who endangers his life every day, and obtains no protection for his productions, but has to compete against foreign rivals, should be given the same treatment as the manufacturer who is protected. We have been told that every ounce of gold produced in this continent costs more in labour than its value. Surely, then, this is not an industry which can afford to pay specially heavy duties. It has been argued that under protection things are cheaper ; but if the manufacturers really believe that statement, why do they not ask for a duty upon then tools of trade in order that theymay get them more cheaply ? But they do not believe it. Even miners’ oil is taxed . That is an article which enters largely into the daily consumption of a miner. Then there is a tax of from 20 per cent, to 25 per cent, upon blasting material. A miner - to plagiarize a forcible statement of the honorable and learned member for Indi- can use nothing but taxed tools, eat nothing but taxed food, and wear nothing but taxed clothes. It is time that Ministers looked away from the State of Victoria, and took note of the surging industrial activity of the Commonwealth. If they did that, I am certain that they would considerably modify their Tariff, and would treat the mining industry more favorably than they are now disposed to do.
– I have no wish to assist in the expansion of this debate, which I think has gone on rather too long. If we do not proceed at a more rapid pace, I am very much afraid that we shall not get the Tariff through until the Minister looks much older than he does now.
– We shall be sitting here all through the year.
– I wish to say only one or two words in regard to the proposed exemption of mining machinery. I hardly think that very much is to be added to what was said by me in regard to this matter three months ago at the time of the censure debate. I reminded the Minister for Trade and Customs, who is personally very popular in Western Australia, that it is a bad way to repay the gratitude and the confidence of the people of that State in him to increase the duty upon mining machinery from 5 per cent, to 25 per cent., and to tax every commodity which the working miner uses. I want to show him to-night - and when I have made this observation I shall have finished - that, although he may succeed in compelling the users of mining machinery to obtain that machinery within the Commonwealth, in so doing he will be inflicting a very great wrong upon them. Especially in Western Australia, where mining machinery has to be carted sometimes for several hundred miles, its initial cost is slight compared to the cost of cartage and erection. What is really important is that the people who work the mines shall get the very best machinery possible, because, apart altogether from theKalgoorlie mines - where the grade of ore is falling, and will continue to fall, and where the margin of profit is becoming less and less - we have to consider the enormous area of country which is auriferous, and where the prospectors are working their own properties. If a man has to cart a battery for 200 or 300 miles, or even for 100 miles, the difference between the price of the foreign battery as compared with that of one locally manufactured is comparatively of little account, because by the time he gets his machine erected on the mine, the cost of the carriage is very much greater than the original cost of the battery. The experience in Western Australia is that these colonial batteries work very well for about twelve months, and then get out of repair. The result is that the people who use them have to spend a large sum in repairs, and are put to great inconvenience through the delay. I do not wish the Ministry to take my word on this point, but in support of my statement I shall quote what is said by one of the best known mining men in Western Australia.
– I know who it is, and I deny his statement. It is Mr. Hall.
– Yes, it is Mr. Hall to whom I am referring. I thought the honorable member at first meant Mr. Morgans, whose experience is, I believe, much the same as Mr. Hall’s. Both these gentlemen know their business, and know a great deal more about mining than do the members of this committee. I quote Mr. Hall because he is an acknowledgedmining authority.
– He is a very good man, but he is wrong on this point.
– I presume Mr. Hall is speaking from his own experience, and what he says is borne out by the general experience of mining men in Western Australia. He says in effect that it is essential these miners should get the best machinery, and that can only be obtainedfrom abroad. It is unnecessary to add anything to that statement, but I contend that the miners of Western Australia and the miners of the Commonwealth have as muchright to be placed upon such a footing as will enable them to work their industry at a profit, as have the book-binders, printers, and hat-makers of Melbourne. The men who face the perils of life in the backblocks are entitled to be placed in as good a position as are the artisans of Melbourne, who have all the advantages of gardens, parks, theatres, and so on. I think it very unwise and undesirable that the Tariff should place handicaps upon the pioneers and upon the men who carry on the primary industries of Australia ; and the present is not the time for us to pile upon the mining industry charges which can only have the effect of reducing employment and shutting down properties which might otherwise be profitably worked in various parts of the Commonwealth.
Mr. KIRWAN (Kalgoorlie.) - I wish to refer to some statements which have been made as to the good faith of the Government in connexion with the duty on mining machinery. I previously stated that the impression created in my mind was that the Government would allow all patented machinery to be placed upon the free list. I now propose to quote from Hansard certain statements made by the Treasurer, which, I think, will show that we have had good reason for all we have said. Subsequent to the division being taken on machinery, I understood that the Government were desirous that a list should be supplied of those articles which could not be manufactured within the Commonwealth. I was one of those members who were particularly interested in the mining industry, and one who represented an exclusively mining constituency, but I supplied no list whatever. One honorable member, who went to a good deal of trouble to make up his list, on presenting it to the Government, met with such a reception as I think will not encourage other honorable members to follow his example. The reason I did not supply the list was that, in the first place, I considered it utterly impossible to supply a list that would be in any way complete. If we desired to supply a list of patented machinery that could not be reasonably produced within the Commonwealth, we should have to obtain particulars of all the importers’ goods - those imported by Eraser and Chalmers, and other similar firms - and even then that list would not be complete. There is plenty of machinery which is patented at the present time, and which is not used within the Commonwealth, but which it may be necessary to introduce within a very short time. Further than this, in connexion with the mines in many parts of Australia where they have to deal with refractory ores, almost every mine uses a different class of machinery, and the various articles comprised in mining machinery and appliances are endless. If we were to attempt to supply a list of patented articles which could not be manufactured within the Commonwealth, and made some omissions, which we naturally would do under the circumstances, the onus would be placed upon us of having supplied an incomplete list. I declined to be placed in such a position, and the only way out of the difficulty seems to be to treat all mining machinery alike. With reference to the offer made by the Government, I wish to quote” what the Treasurer stated as reported in Hansard, page 8,914. The Treasurer said -
What we propose to do is to specify as far as we can in the exemption list all those articles which should be exempted from duty, a number of which have been mentioned. No doubt honorable members who have a knowledge of what is required will give us further information. We shall be glad to investigate such information, and see whether the articles mentioned should be placed on thefree list.
The information sought for is indicated in another sentence further on in the same speech. The Treasurer said -
We are prepared to reduce the duty on those articles which are imported, and to go the length of making patented portions, and all patented machines which cannot be made here, absolutely free.
I ask honorable members whether that does not exactly convey the impression which honorable members have stated was given to them by the statement of the Treasurer, and yet when an honorable member accepts the statement of the Treasurer in good faith, he is subjected to gross insult. Then the Treasurer goes on to say -
Then we will call on the committee to deal with engines, boilers, and pumps. We can deal with those separately or together. It will then be competent for honorable members to suggest any other articles that they think ought to be subjected to the lower duty.
I think that statement bears out what I stated some days ago, although what I then said was questioned by the representatives of the Government. I would ask the Government to be true to its promise, or to recommit the whole question of mining machinery so that we may take the next vote on the subject without being influenced by promises which the Government have failed to keep.
– It is rather a pity that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie should take the trouble to repeat a statement the fallacy of which has already been exposed. To put it that the committee was led to believe that all patented machinery would be absolutely exempted from the payment of duty is to say that which is not correct.
– That was the impression conveyed.
– The Treasurer put the matter plainly before the committee on several occasions.
– The Government secured their vote on that statement.
– I will show the honorable member on what we obtained outvote. It is very strange that to-day, the 29th January, we have to repeat the exposure of the misstatements which was made on the 21st January. In Hansard, at page 8964, I am reported as follows : -
In a matter of this kind I would like to quote what I actually said, and to fortify my observations from Hansard. At page 8847 of Hansard, if will be found that I said - “If the honorable member for Barrier can specify any machine which cannot be produced in Australia, I promise him the fullest inquiry into the subject. I will place an officer at his disposal to assist him in exploring all sources of information. I venture to suggest that in matters of this sort honorable members should freely accept the statement of the Government of what their wishes are, and the means which they have taken to ascertain the facts. Then they should assist us in regard to the facts. Those honorable members who say we cannot manufacture some of these machines should tell us what they are.”
I went on to say -
I believe our capacity to manufacture mining machinery is equal to that of most British peoples. I note with delight, by the way, that a firm comtemplates starting manufacturing machinery away up on the gold-fields of Western Australia. No doubt their success will be equal to that which has attended similar undertakings in other States.
– I went on further to say-
If they can show that a machine cannot be made here we will put it upon the free list.
Then the honorable and learned member f or Werriwa led me right up to the point which is now involved.
– All patented machinery ?
Did we promise that all patented machinery should be placed upon the free list ?
– I spoke in terms which I should have thought would have made the matter well remembered by honorable members. Still quoting from Hansard, I am reported to have replied to the honorable and learned member for Werriwa as follows : -
Patented machinery ? I cannot be caught with chart’ of that sort. If we were to accept a broad definition of that kind, we might, by the patenting of some small matter in connexion with mining machinery, have to permit the free admission of all the mining machinery in the world into Australia, and destroy the benefits which are intended to be conveyed by protection in connexion with these manufactures. I venture to think I have made a fair offer. Can any honorable member suggest a fairer one? Are we agreed that it is a reasonable thing to protect machinery which can be manufactured, here at a reasonable price ?
There we parted company. Quoting still further from the utterances of the Treasurer as reported in Hansard, page 8915, I find the following : -
– Are we to understand that machinery which cannot be manufactured here owing to its being patented will be placed on the free list ?
– I do not say that all machinery will be placed on the free list.
The very idea of putting all patented machinery on the free list was simply scoffed at from the Ministerial benches.
– Scoffed at?
– We scoffed at it so as not to mislead the committee. We would not have anything to do with a proposal of that sort, the very absurdity of which is patent upon its face. When we have already refuted, by quotations from Hansard, the charges which have been made, it is a little too bad to have them repeated.
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- If any charge of want of faith can be sustained, it is in regard to the explanation of the Minister for Trade and Customs. The Treasurer distinctly stated what has been quoted by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. He said -
We are prepared to reduce the duty on those articles that are imported, and to go to the length of making patented portions and all patented machines which cannot be made here absolutely free.
In no part of that speech did the Treasurer say that any patented mining machinery would not be free.
– What page does the honorable member refer to?
– I am quoting from page89 14 of Hansard. The reply of the Treasurer to the honorable member for Robertson, shows clearly that he was referring to other machinery, and not to raining machinery at all. When the honorable member for Robertson asked if the Treasurer’s remark referred to all patented machinery, the Treasurer replied that it did not, thereby indicating that it referred to mining machinery. Another interjection was made by the honorable member for Mernda. He stated that there were other important branches of business employing patented machinery, and the Treasurer then said that his proposal did not refer toall patented machinery. Adverting to the quotation which I have already made, that all patented mining machinery or portions thereof would be exempted, I say it is absolutely wrong of the Treasurer to urge that the statements therein contained did not influence’ the committee in their decision. It was the statement made by the Minister immediately prior to the division taking place. After Sir George Turner had spoken, the Minister for Trade and Customs addressed a few words to the committee, but did not refer to the question of exemptions at all. Then the division took place. Irrespective of what statements had previously been made, the Treasurer declared that he would go the length of making patented portions of machinery, and all patented machinery which cannot be manufactured locally, absolutely free. That was the last statement by a Minister, and if the Ministry vary in their statements - as they frequently do - surely those who took part in the division would rely upon their final statement, and not upon those which had previously been made. That being so, the Minister for Trade and Customs is entirely wrong in reflecting upon honorable members who have quoted those statements, and in declaring that they did not affect the decision of the committee. After the division in regard to the imposition of a 10 per cent, duty upon mining machinery had taken place, and without any further statement by Ministers, a proposal was made to make the rate 15 per cent. This was negatived on the promise given by the Ministry, which promise has not been fulfilled. Seeing that the Government have made a promise which they cannot fulfil, every opportunity ought to be given to honorable members to review their previous decision.
– My attention has been called to the statement which I made immediately before the division upon the proposal to impose a duty of 20 percent, upon mining machinery. That statement certainly went further than I thought it did. I know that upon several occasions I have told the committee that the mere fact of machinery being patented was not a reason why we should place it upon the list of exemptions. However, I am not going to have it said that anything which I stated misled honorable members, and that upon the strength of my statement a vote was wrongly obtained. I know that the division was very close, and no doubt some honorable members were influenced by the statement which I made, and entertained the impression that I intended all patented mining machinery to be admitted free. Under these circumstances there is no other course open to me but to intimate that the Government will allow honorable members an opportunity at a later stage of re-discussing the item and taking a fresh vote upon it.
Mr. REID (East Sydney). - I think that the Treasurer has taken the course which everyone who knows him expected him to take. But I would point out that it is a singular misfortune that the Minister for Trade and Customs should get up to prove that the Treasurer did not make the promise which has been referred to, and that his own colleague should rise half a minute later and admit that he had made it, and that theitem should be reconsidered. The statement of the Treasurer has disarmed every member of the committee. There will not be another word said about the matter. But I do hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs will do the right thing in reference to a certain event which occurred earlier in the evening. By withdrawing the imputation which he cast upon the honorable member for Kooyong, he will be doing only bare justice to himself.
Question - That the following exemptions be added : - “ Mining machinery “ - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 8
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong).- The first item consists of “ engines, with patented valve motions, Riedler pumps, Riedler compressors, and Riedler blowing engines.”
Engines with patented valve motions. - The type of valve or valves and the mechanism to open and close same is often a patented feature of an engine, as, for instance, the Willan’s engine ; also, several types of full-stroke Corliss engines have patented valve motions.
I had supposed that other honorable members, who are interested in this industry, would have given notice of various engines which ought to be placed on the free list.
To show how new inventions in this line are constantly coming up, it is worthy to note the latest kind of valve gear, whereby the valves are opened by electro-magnets which are acting on the double-beat valves by special contact arrangements.
I have been supplied witha quantity of technical matter, with which I do not propose at this stage to trouble the committee. I am advised by those who have technical knowledge that this is a valve motion, which requires special consideration, and I think this is an opportunity which I should take to put myself exactlyright with the Treasurer. I pointed out in a speech last week that an injustice was likely to be done to the local manufacturer, if some adjustment as to the patented parts of these engines were not made.
I know, as a purchaser, that engines possessing this patent valve motion have been made at Castlemaine, and are doing most excellent work. But, at the same time, we ought to have regard to the patentee who has gone to considerable labour and expense in conducting the experiments which have brought this valve to the present state of perfection ; and it is one valve motion which is included in the pumps, compressors, and blowing engines. I shall submit my amendment with the qualification that engines of this character and possessing this valve are already made here of a very serviceable type. I have tried to estimate the relative value of the patented parts, and taking 100 as the whole, I find that the movement itself is worth 35 per cent., and, with the cases, 40 per cent. I contend, therefore, that 40 per cent, of these engines should be free, and that 60 per cent, should bear a reasonable duty in the interests of the local producer. I move -
That the following exemptions be added : -
Engines (with patented valve motions), Riedler pumps, Riedler compressors, Riedler blowing engines.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).The honorable member for Kooyong asks us to allow engines with a specially patented valve motion to come in free, although such engines would compete with other engines manufactured within the Commonwealth. He does not ask that the special patented part - the valve motion - should be admitted free ; that would be a reasonable request.
– That would not be the effect of the amendment if carried. The amendment would allow all engines with patented valve motions to come in free.
– And thus give the manufacturers of such engines a bonus of 20 per cent.
– Yes. I do not think we should give a special advantage to any particular patentee. If the honorable member had proposed that this patent and all other patents which may compete with it should come in free, there would be some reasonableness in the request. I hope the committee will not accept the amendment.
– I think that upon consideration the honorable member for Kooyong will see that the admission which he has made proves this proposal to be either inadvisable or unworkable. He tells us that he has made a calculation which shows that the value of the patented parts of these engines is about 40 per cent, of their total value, and he proposes that that 40 per cent, shall be admitted free, and that the remaining 60 per cent, shall be dutiable. I venture to think that such an arrangement would be unworkable. At any rate there would be endless differences between the Customs officers and the importers. The honorable member must know that a very large proportion of imported engines have patented valve motions. Nearly every manufacturer of engines has his patents. Then there are engines manufactured within the Commonwealth whose valve motions may or may not be patented. The fact that someof these engines have patented valve motions does not prove that they are better than engines with unpatented valve motions ; but the amendment will practically remove engines with patented valve motions from the 20 per cent, list to the free list, so that it would not be long before all imported engines had patented valve motions. I have known of patents being introduced which were rather a disadvantage than an improvement to the machine, but which were used in order to prevent imitation, and something of that kind would happen if the honorable member’s amendment were carried, because what the honorable member suggests is somewhat similar to allowing a man to patent the top of his little finger, and then ask that his. whole body be admitted free. The Riedler compressors and pumps perform a function which is performed by other pumps and compressors which may or may notdo the work equally well. The only patented machinery which we should admit free of duty is machinery to do some special work which other machinery cannot do. Patented machinery that comes into competition with other patented or locally made machinery, should not be allowed to come in free. Surely the Commonwealth maker, whose manufacture is patented, is as much entitled to protection against the foreign maker, whose manufacture is patented, as the Commonwealth maker without a patent is entitled to protection against the foreign maker without a patent.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong).- I hope that now the committee understand the exact proposal of the Treasurer, and the difficulty that will be experienced in estimating the value of these patented parts. The speeches of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, and the honorable and learned member for Corinella accentuate that difficulty. The particular valves which have been referred to cannot be made in any other State of the Commonwealth except Victoria, where through some accident, they were not patented ; and they cannot be used without risk to the companies using them. I am quite prepared to withdraw the amendment, having brought distinctly under the attention of the committee the difficulty that will confront the department if it attempts to make the distinction which the Minister proposes.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong).- The Treasurer has already taken the objection that it is wrong to mention the names of specific makers in connexion with special manufactures, and I agree with him that it is not desirable. But one of the disadvantages attending this extraordinary exemption list is that it can hardly be avoided. With regard to my proposal to place “Green rotary pressure blowers “ upon the free list, I find that the Treasurer has wisely provided for this by making all blowers for smelting purposes exempt. With regard to heat economisers and superheaters, they are used very largely in association with Babcock and Wilcox boilers.
– Are not economisers and superheaters largely manufactured in all the States ?
– Yes ; but without wishing to be disrespectful to the local manufacturer whose works I want to see increase, I may say that they are not considered serviceable for the larger undertakings. The difficulty to which I have already referred is accentuated in this case, because it is unfair to the local manufacturer to say that he is not able to manufacture heat economisers and superheaters which are serviceable to the smaller class of boilers. It is absolutely impossible for the Customs department to make a list which will meet the whole of the conditions without dispute, without trouble and without ultimate loss of revenue and probable loss to our local manufacturers. One of the mining companies on the Mount Lyell field in Tasmania is landing superheaters and economizers which will cost £5,000. It is estimated that these appliances will effect such a saving in fuel that they will pay for themselves in eighteen months. Surely in the present depressed condition of mining, caused by the low price of metals, it is desirable that such enterprise should be encouraged. I think I am justified in asking that economisers and superheaters which are patented by the Babcox and Wilcocks Company of Engineers should be admitted free of duty. They have special merits, and as they have been only recently patented all over the world, they cannot be produced here without consent. I move -
That the following exemptions be added : - “Economisers, superheaters.”
– I do not think the committee can possibly agree to place all economisers and superheaters on the free list, because it is admitted that these articles are very largely made throughout the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Kooyong appears to desire to limit the application of the exemption of these articles to those made by a particular firm. The more we look into the matter, the more we consider it to be impossible to comply with these suggestions. If we attempt to limit the exemptions to articles made by certain individuals, we may find in a few months that a better class of article is made under some other patent. With regard to these articles we think we ought either to put the whole of them on the free list or make them dutiable, as otherwise we may do great injustice all round. As the superheaters and economisers are largely made within the Commonwealth, the committee would not be justified in admitting them free of duty.
Question - That the following exemptions be added : - “ Economisers, superheaters “ - put. The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the following exemptions be added : - “ Automatic stokers, briquetting machinery, roll-shells, manganese steel, parts arid blowers for smelting furnaces.”
Mr. KIRWAN (Kalgoorlie).- I would appeal to the Ministry to consider the question of putting diamond drills on the free list.
Amendment agreed to.
That the following exemption be added: - “ Type.”
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. KIRWAN (Kalgoorlie). - I move-
That the following exemption be added:- “ Diamond drills.”
I would point out that these drills are patented, and their usefulness throughout Australia is recognised by the various railway departments, which carry them at a special rate. Owing to their use, a number of valuable mineral discoveries have been made, and, consequently, I think that they should be included in the list of exemptions.
Question - That the following exemption be added : - “ Diamond drills “-put. The committee divided.
Majority .. … … 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I think that the amendment upon which honorable members have just voted was rather toocomprehensive. If the Minister for Trade and Customs will promise to look into the matter, and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie will subsequently move that diamond drillbits and diamonds be admitted free, I think he will obtain substantially all that he wants.
– No .; we want the whole of the diamond drills admitted free.
– I think that we might further consider whether the diamond drill bits and the diamonds can be locally manufactured. But if from mere perversity the honorable member refuses to recognise the real gist of the thing, he must expect to be beaten upon a division such as this.
House adjourned at 11.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 January 1902, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020129_reps_1_7/>.