1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that the officers of his department are treating boot stiffeners as stationery, and are therefore charging a duty of 25 per cent, upon them?
– I am not aware of the fact ; but I will make inquiry into the subject.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs lay upon the table of the Housethe reports which he has received from his officers as to the practicability of making certain mining machinery within the Commonwealth? He has several times in Committee of Ways and Means referred to the existence of such reports.
– Will the honorable member repeat his question to-morrow morning? In the meantime, I will see what papers I have on the subject.
– Has the Minister for Defence received a cable announcing the termination of the South African war ?
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Reid) -
That the standing orders be suspended to enable the right honorable member for East Sydney to make a motion, without notice, with reference to a public speech made by His Excellency the Governor-General on the 27th inst.
– I move-
That this House, whilst fully appreciating the generous motives which prompted His Excellency the Governor-General, ina speech delivered by him on the 27th instant, to justify the conduct of Ministers, and to express his own personal opinion upon their delay in offering a Commonwealth contingent to the Mother country, earnestly hopes that the course token by His Excellency upon that occasion will not be regarded as a precedent.
I submit this motion under a full sense of responsibility. I should have been better pleased to move the ordinary motion for the adjournment of the House; but I find that our rules are against that procedure, and therefore I am prepared to take this more formal course. I wish to say at once that I suppose no member of this House, and no person in the community,is a warmer admirer of our distinguished Governor-General, or has a higher sense of his great and conspicuous services, not only to the Crown, but also to the State of Victoria and to the Commonwealth of Australia. I have studiously endeavoured to couch my motion iti such terms as to give a more practical proof than mere words of the feelings which I entertain in regard to the representative of the King. I wish to go further, in order to prove my desire to deal simply with the broad constitutional principle involved in this matter, by saying that I shall be perfectly ready, after it has been noticed in this House, not to persist in asking honorable members to pass the motion. My desire is not to pass a motion which would seem in the slightest degree to reflect upon His Excellency; but there are occasions when some one or other must call attention to the sound rules of responsible government, which are as much designed for the protection of the representative of the Sovereign as for the free and unfettered discussion of political matters. I trust that in this Commonwealth we shall preserve those traditions with reference to the representative of the Sovereign which have happily prevailed in the States hitherto, and which prevail in the mother country. It is an ordinary saying in the mother country that the King can do no wrong. The meaning of that phrase is that every public act of the Sovereign, if it is attacked at all, must be attacked, not as his personal act, but as the act of the responsible Ministers of the day. So far from the saying being intended to cover ‘ some pretensions to divine right on the part of the Sovereign, it has a much wiser and broader meaning, and that is that the august embodiment of all the powers of government shall always be removed from attack in reference to current political affairs. I am sure that His Excellency the Governor-General would be the first to recognise the principle than matters of controversial policy are matters for which Ministries are solely responsible to the people of this country. He owes no responsibility in an official sense to the people of Australia ; he is the representative of His Majesty the King, and his responsibility is to the British Government. The responsibility of Ministers, on the other hand, covers all the active political affairs of the Commonwealth. I am sure that from every point of view it is a wise rule that the name, the influence, and the opinions of His
Excellency should be scrupulously absent rom all our party conflicts and vicissitudes. The motive which evidently prompted His Excellency is one which does every credit to him as a generous man. He has, I believe, made a mistake, under a manly impulse which every one of us must respect. But, just as the venerable Sovereign who reigned over the British people for GO years had to keep her chivalrous impulses’ strictly under control, and, no matter how strong her views may have been upon the burning questions of the day, never permitted herself to make a public declaration cither in support of or adverse to the policy of her Ministers, so I think the representatives of the Sovereign in this Commonwealth must always exercise similar control, and recognise the same inviolable rule. Many of us in our humbler positions must often subdue our impulses as men to a sense of our public duty, and the proper observance of the rules of government, and the most distinguished in the community must do the same. I should be the last to pick up some casual expression of His Excellency the Governor-General to take notice of it, and I am not, therefore, captiously calling attention to a mere accidental remark. It is only because His Excellency,, of set deliberate purpose, entered into an elaborate disclosure of his confidential communications with the Prime Minister, and of the opinions expressed during those consultations,’ and mentioned his desire to share the responsibility with Ministers for their conduct, and his resolve to take whatever measure of praise or blame there might be, and share it with them, that I was compelled to consider the propriety of drawing attention to this matter. We shall generously, I trust, draw a broad distinction between accidental words and formal and intentional expressions. To show that what I have said is justified, I shall read the report of His Excellency’s speech which appeared in the Age of Tuesday last. In justice to His Excellency, instead of fucking out the particular passages in the speech of which I complain, I shall read the whole of his remarks : -
Since I am addressing members of an association which has such immense influence on public opinion in Australia, I beg leave to say a very few words upon the events which have led. up to the formation of the new contingents which are shortly to leave our shores for the seat of war. My Government has been accused of showing some backwardness in offering additional troops for the service of the Empire in South Africa. Now, gentlemen, there are occasions when it is rather difficult to stand by and see a man, or a set of men, pretty severely pelted for doing something which you have had a share in, and of which you evidently approve. (Hear, hear.) I feel, therefore, that I should be wanting in frankness and fairness to my advisers did I not assure you that the position taken up by Mr. Barton and his colleagues was most freely approved of by myself. No one can accuse me of being wanting in patriotism. (Cheers.) There is nothing of the pro-Boer about me in such matters as this. I am a real, good, old-fashioned tory of the old school - (cheers and laughter) - and whatever view I might have of any quarrel in which my country was likely to be involved, when once that quarrel hod been brought to a head and war declared, my country would, in my eyes, be in the right. (Loud and continued cheers. ) Having given you this assuranee, gentlemen, I may now venture to tell you that Mr. Barton and I have for many months discussed anxiously the question of the propriety of offering unasked a further supply of troops for South Africa. Looking to the magnificent manner in which Australia had asserted her loyalty to the Empire at a time when the Empire was most in need of that loyal support ; looking to the fact that there were still some thousands of our fellow countrymen in South Africa, and believing, as we did, that the war was in its last throes and the enemy at his last gasp, believing too that offers of further assistance made by other parts of the Empire had been declined, we were not of opinion that the moment was a favorable one to offer further contingents. We were, however, ready and willing to ask the Australian people to make any sacrifices provided we had a definite assurance from the Imperial Government that such sacrifices were considered by them desirable and necessary. (Hear, hear. ) We may have been right, we may have been wrong-, in taking’ up this position. We believed we were right, we still believe we were right. (Cheers.) At any rate it was an intelligible position, and whatever may be the measure of blame, whatever may be the measure of praise, which a calm and dispassionate consideration of this matter may lay at the door of my Government, I, as an honorable man, feel bound to take my share of it. Now I think there is no mistaking the effect of that statement. lc is a very frank and full disclosure of the operations of the Government within a circle which has hitherto been sacred from the public. In the course of responsible government, Ministers - Prime Ministers - may often have conversations with the representative of the Crown. On many occasions Ministers may be largely indebted to the representative of the Crown for the benefit derived from the exchange of such opinions, and I am the last one to speak in contravention of affording the utmost latitude to the Prime Minister and the Governor-General in such discussions. But the golden rule which attaches to such communications is that they are confidential, because, if they are not to be confidential, the public should know all of them. It should be entitled to know what these communications are just as freely when they favour His Majesty’s Opposition as when they suit the purposes of His Majesty’s Government. The mere statement of such a proposition shows how absolutely necessary it is that these communications should be regarded as confidential in the strictest sense. More than that, His Excellency identifies ‘himself with his Ministers before the public in a way which has been repeated more than once - “ We think this,” “ We do this,” “ We are prepared to take our share of praise and blame.”
– Perhaps he speaks as a Sovereign.
– The expression “ My Government” is perfectly inoffensive ; there is no harm in that expression at all. But what I complain of is that His Excellency should be allowed to lift the veil which both here and in the mother country is always drawn across such communications. They, should at least be as sacred as are those which are exchanged in Cabinet. But the more serious point is this, and it will be well illustrated by the difficulty I felt myself at the function at which that speech was delivered. What would have been the inconvenience if I had followed the Governor-General and had taken up his arguments, had canvassed them, criticised them, and attacked them ? Would not that have placed me in a most improper position with reference to the representative of the Sovereign ?
– It would have placed His Excellency in a bacl position.
– I hope, however, that I had too generous a feeling towards His Excellency to reply ; and that is one of the inconveniences attached to utterances by the representative of the King. A generous man will always let them pass, if only for the reason that the GovernorGeneral cannot defend himself. This is a further illustration of the inconvenience of such a situation. Then His Excellency invites the public to distribute praise or blame between himself and his Ministers, with reference to a controversial matter of public policy. If that course were adopted as a general rule, it would upset the working of our Constitution. The ideal, here as in the mother country, of this office, is that the distinguished person who occupies it shall steer so prudent and so impartial a course that he shall equally command the respect and confidence of both of the -great political parties of the State.
– Of all parties.
– Of all parties. I do not care how many those parties are ; of every elector in the State. He should always be in such a position that if the vicissitudes of public life called upon him to choose another set of officers, that set of officers would come to his counsels without any embarrassment, and he should feel that he could receive them without the slightest remembrance of expressions or views which placed him in conflict with them. One of the most serious results «f expressions of opinion, especially from a representative of the Sovereign, so justly popular, and so deservedly esteemed by all classes of the community is, that it throws into questions of party politics on one side the weight of an office and of a popularity which should be absent from all political controversies. The more popular the Governor and the more widely esteemed the man, the more embarrassing will it be if the public, in dealing with their own affairs, should have to reckon with his opinion, or if political parties, in struggling for what they deem to be right, should have to battle against his popularity. I make these remarks because I felt that it was time that some notice was taken of observations of this kind. I do not wish to say anything in reference to previous utterances. I simply wish to say that this was one to which I felt that serious attention should be called by some one or other. If that is the course which is to be followed by an experienced Governor, less experienced gentlemen who fill the same office might naturally feel at liberty to follow the example.
– Especially as His Excellency is the first Governor-General.
– I have tried scrupulously to limit my remarks more to an expression of opinion as to the future than to any severe criticism as to the past. I should like to call attention to one or two observations of the Prime Minister upon the same occasion. Of course, when we come to the utterances of the Prime Minister we can breathe more freely, because my right honorable friend is here to answer for himself. I may say that one of my reasons for calling attention to this matter, and for determining to do it in this House, was the very strong and proper one that if I were to address a letter to the newspapers there would be no representative of the GovernorGeneral to watch what I was saying and reply to it ; but the presence of his Ministers in this House is a sufficient guarantee that if any unfortunate mistake is made by me, they will be careful to set me right. The Prime Minister - and, as I said before, we breathe more freely when we come to his utterances - said -
He had had the greatest pleasure in listening to the speeches which had been delivered by Their Excellencies, and he would like to refer especially to the generous remarks of Lord Hopetoun with regard to the raising of the contingents now about to leave for South Africa. Of course, as far as Australia was concerned, the responsibility belonged to the Ministry-
That points to my observation that the GovernorGeneral .is responsible only to the Imperial Government, and that if His Excellency wishes to give expression to opinions upon public events in Australia, the proper channel through which they should come is the Imperial Government, to whom he is responsible, and which has authority over him. “We cannot too clearly and sharply draw the line between the King’s representative and his opinions, and the action of responsible Ministers and their reasons for it. The Prime Minister recognised that very properly in these words that I have just read. He adds - but Loi-d Hopetoun was also in a position of responsibility, and naturally he would not say anything which might seem to trespass beyond his province.
– I think it might be fairer to the right honorable gentleman to mention that I think that what I actually said was that His Excellency was a responsible officer in another sense.
– I believe that is so. 2sow this is where I join issue with the Prime Minister -
On this occasion his path was easy, because controversy on this particular subject was now practically at an end.
Is political controversy and criticism as to the delay of the Government in offering assistance to the mother country practically at an end 1 Certainly not. The line cannot be drawn too strictly between the political truce which prevailed in passing ‘ certain memorable resolutions rebutting European slanders on the mother country and her soldiers, and offering generous assistance to the mother country - the line cannot be drawn too sharply between that position, which I admit was one of a national character to a great extent, and the question of whether the conduct of the Government before these resolutions were submitted was worthy or otherwise of public approval. “When I cordially supporfced the Prime Minister, who moved those resolutions, I made the following observations at the outset of my speech -
I heartily echo tlie desire expressed by the Prime Minister, that we should draw a distinct line between any criticism we may have to offer as to the conduct of the Government with reference to matters which the Prime Minister has gone into at considerable length, and the subject of the resolutions which the right honorable gentleman proposes to submit……. I shall, at the proper time, have, perhaps, strong criticism to offer on the action of the Government in the matters referred to, but I felt so strongly on the more important question that I took the liberty of addressing a letter to the Prime Minister yesterday.
I went on to say, a little later -
I merely make this explanation to show that whilst I do not surrender my right of criticising any action of the Government at any time, I consider that the proposal which the Prime Minister is about to make, is one which should unite ns all in a unanimous expression of opinion.
Thus I clearly reserved to myself, and those who follow me - as the public must have reserved to themselves - the right to continue to hold opinions, and the right to criticise the public acts of Ministers. There is no magical period at which those acts can be covered with the veil of oblivion. There is no magical moment at which the human intellect is to be suppressed, or the free expression of public opinion is to be stopped with reference to matters affecting the conduct of public affairs by His Majesty’s Ministers. Whilst I was fully conscious of the great advantage which 1 gave to the Government by exchanging probably a fierce criticism of their conduct in the matter of delay for an attitude of cordial support with reference to a larger matter, and whilst deeply sensible of the fact that my action might make any further discussion of the previous incident comparatively lame, I was the last one to look upon that incident as closed. I do not wish to express any opinions which may happen to conflict with the opinions of the Governor-General. I have no light to know what those opinions, are upon such matters. But with reference to the opinions of His Majesty’s Ministers, I have no hesitation in saying that, as the first Commonwealth Government, they entirely misunderstood the situation when they thought they could render as much assistance to the mother country in an hour of difficulty by waiting to be asked for help as if they had emulated the example of Mr. Seddon, of New Zealand, and had spontaneously offered help.
– Is it fair to raise that matter upon a motion of this sort ?
– In reply to the honorable member, I wish only to say - because I am very anxious not to incur the censure of any honorable member - that these observations are called from me in a relation to the Prime Minister which absolves me from all those restraints of delicacy which operated in the case of the Governor-General. I scrupulously avoid discussing the opinions of the Governor-General. I do not want to know what those opinions are. We have no right to know them. But surely I can deal freely with the public expressions of the Prime Minister. The honorable member’s interjection only serves to show the embarrassment caused by mixing up the opinions of the Governor-General with those of His Majesty’s Ministers.
– The light honorable member is making an attack on the Ministry under cover of a resolution dealing with the utterances of the Governor-General. That is unfair.
– After the course which I have pursued it is very ungenerous to make that observation. Some people are willing to accept evidence of a higher spirit than that, and yet afterwards do not give one credit for having acted from such a spirit. In reference to what the Prime Minister said, I wish to make it clear to the public by the observations I am making that it was not on the subject of the resolutions that His Excellency the Governor-General was expressing his opinion, but on the question whether Ministers had acted wisely, or imprudently, or wrongly, in pursuing a certain course of public policy which culminated in the neglect to offer assistance to the mother country. The Prime Minister seemed to assume that the matter with which the GovernorGeneral was dealing was the resolutions which had been adopted by this House. It was nothing of the sort. He was dealing with the failure on the part of the Government to do something which made those resolutions doubly necessary. Here
I want to remark that those opinions of His Excellency the Governor-General - which I decline to discuss - are a sufficient answer in themselves to the slanders which are often levelled at the representatives of the Sovereign by some people who urge that they are here merely to act as the puppets of Imperial Ministers. Whatever may be the merits of His Excellency’s views, everyone will admit that whether he was right or wrong, he, showed a thoroughly disinterested spirit, and did not act as an Imperial puppet, anxious to prompt Australians into a fictitious exhibition of loyalty. Whether right or wrong, he exhibited a spirit of lofty disinterestedness, and acted not so much as the Imperial representative as a man of independent judgment. I mention this incidentally, to show that out of this little difficulty we only get more and more of an assurance of the innate manliness of the present occupant of the distinguished office of Governor-General.
– Under the Constitution is he not to act independently rather than as an Imperial puppet, as the right honorable member suggests ‘I
– No” one would arrogate to the Governor-General larger powers than attach to His Majesty the King. May I suggest to the honorable and learned member for Corio that I am afraid he would search a long time before he would discover any public utterances on the part of a monarch with reference to a matter of politics at issue in the country.
– The late Queen did it on several occasions.
– The honorable and learned member is slandering the memory of the late Queen when he says so. I defy any man,if he ransacked the parliamentary history of the country, to find an occasion when Her late Majesty used the channels of publication in order to indicate to the public that she was behind her Ministers in their political acts, and was actively directing and shaping the course of public policy.
– What about the letter which the late Queen sent to Gordon’s sister t
– Was that a public address at a public function 1 I pity the intellect of a ‘man who would draw a parallel between a private letter written by one woman to another in an hour of grief, and a public address delivered at a public function. Surely my honorable friend must see that there is a very substantial difference between those two matters? People are still human beings even though they are Governors-General or Sovereigns, and there is a wide distinction to be drawn between acts of sympathy exchanged between human beings under the shadow of bereavement and public addresses delivered at a great political function. His Excellency the Governor-General at the beginning of his remarks recognised that the gathering which he was addressing was a centre of immense weight in public opinion. Surely my honorable friend sees the difference between the two things ? His Excellency’s remarks, I repeat, were not directed to the resolutions concerning which the House almost unanimously took up a certain position, and in regard to which both parties acted together. They had reference to a very controversial question, which I do not think is yet disposed of, namely, the course of conduct pursued by His Majesty’s Ministers in delaying an offer of a certain kind to the Imperial Government. I think I have fairly and fully called that public attention to this matter which its importance deserves, and I wish again to say that I have been careful to word my resolution so as to use this incident,’ not as a means of criticising His Excellency the Governor-General somuch as of preventing similar mistakes in the future. I hope that in dealing with this resolution, the House. and. every honorable member of it, will do me the justice to perceive that that is my clear desire. At any rate, I have endeavoured to make it apparent, and I have studiously framed this resolution in such a way as to throw the weight of it rather on the future than on the past. I repeat the statement that I have no desire even to put it upon the records of the House. I have too deep an appreciation of the great and distinguished career of the Governor-General to desire to put even the mildest possible resolution upon any permanent record. I simply wish, as a man who feels it to be his public duty, to make this incident only prominent enough to prevent a similar mistake in the future. Therefore I move the resolution.
– I quite appreciate the spirit in which the right honorable gentleman opposite has brought forward this resolution, and also his desire not to force it upon the records of the House. I take that to mean - he will tell me if I am wrong - that he proposes, when the matter has been discussed, to withdraw the resolution or allow it to be negatived.
– I -wish to say, in reply to the Prime Minister’s question, that I have moved the resolution. It is not now my property, but it is my desire to withdraw it when the matter has been dealt with. I do not wish the resolution to be put to a division, but, on the other hand, it is one which can scarcely be negatived.
– I cannot allow interjections of that length.
– I think, sir, that you have given a very proper latitude to the right honorable member in answering the question, because it was important to the House that he should make the statement which he has made. I quite appreciate the position which the right honorable member takes up. The motion cannot fail, of course, to go on the records of the House, even if it be withdrawn, because it has to be stated in order that it may be shown that debate ensued.
– That is all the prominence I wish to give to the matter.
– I quite appreciate, as I said before, the readiness of the right honorable member to withdraw the motion rather than that it should be a question for a vote of the House. A resolution of this kind always presents some difficulty to a constitutional assembly. The difficulty that is always raised by a motion of this character is of a twofold nature. If -the act is in any sense an official one - and an official utterance is an act for this purpose - there can be no responsibility so far as Parliament and the people are concerned, except the responsibility which the Ministry are bound to accept over the whole sphere of the utterance. If, on the other hand, it is an utterance which is not in any sense official in character, so as not to clothe with the importance of dl official the words uttered, then a private act of this sort - one which is at the other end of the pole - is equally not the subject of criticism. There remains therefore only the question whether there is a field between the two in which it is competent for this House to take up the cudgels and address itself to what; however softened down in effect, means- a censure on the utterance of a high official. There can be no doubt that although the leader of the Opposition has struggled, with all his ability, to prevent this resolution from assuming a form of censure against the Governor-General, if it were carried, which is not intended, it would, in effect, be a censure on that officer.
– And on the Government.
– It would be a censure at any rate on the Governor-General, but I do not think that in this case it is intended to set up the proposition that the utterance is so far official that the Government themselves are implicated in any responsibility for it.
– It would be ridiculous to make any such proposition.
– So far as the Ministry and myself are concerned, we are absolutely and perfectly prepared to stand by the GovernorGeneral in accepting any responsibility. But the leader of the Opposition has not directed his attack to that portion of the question.
– Hear, hear.
– The right honorable gentleman has said that this is so far removed from an official utterance, and at the same time so far removed from a private utterance, that it stands within the intermediate ground on which it may be made the subject of such a motion as this. That, of course, ‘ is the position to which any one proposing such a motion must, as a matter of reason, commit himself. The utterance or act must either be official, or so utterly non-official as not to be the subject of criticism, or it must stand on some undefined ground between the two, so that the official, however mildly, can be attacked without the Ministers themselves coming- under the censure within the terms of the motion. I think this House will, be with me in saying that a ground of that kind should not be made the subject of an extension f further than is necessary, that we should not extend the Constitution so far, but should endeavour to confine all matters of the kind between the two limits, one being the responsibility of the officer for an utterance that is not specially official, and the other being the responsibility of his Ministers for anything considered official. That is the position on which all matters of this kind, I humbly submit, must be discussed. In which branch does this matter stand ? If ifc is an entirely private matter, it cannot be made the subject of attack. If it is an official matter, by ever so little, then it should be a motion of censure on the Ministry. On the ground between, where does this -matter stand? Where is it to be placed ? Is it a “ no man’s land “ ? I do not think that we ought to indulge, or ought to assist in encouraging ourselves to indulge, in discussions on matters of this kind unless we can relegate them to some absolutely constitutional principle j and I cannot fmd any Safe ground of constitutional principle on which the motion of my right honorable friend can rest.
– Is the Governor-General to express private opinions on matters of contentious policy ?
– I do not think the Governor-General is always and altogether prevented from doing so.
– He is prevented from doing so bv all the authorities I know.
– I always think that a high officer, such as the Governor-General, and particularly one of such strong tact, knowledge, and insight as to public affairs as the present occupant of the office, considers carefully whether he is trespassing beyond his province in any utterance he may make. I take it that the GovernorGeneral did consider this matter carefully, and came to a conclusion. But that is not the part of the argument I was dealing, with. I was considering, not whether care ought to be observed in utterances of that kind, but whether this was one ofthose occasions in which Parliament has been in the habit of attacking, utterances which come from the Crown or its representatives. As I say, we ought, as far as we can, to confine ourselves to two lines, one having reference to those utterances which are so far of a private or personal character that they ought not to be attacked, because the personal acts of the Sovereign or his representative are not attacked ; and the other relating to utterances which come so far within the principle, by ever so little, as to be made the subject of attack on Ministers, on the ground that they are responsible for the acts of the Crown. If that ground had been taken, I should have been perfectly content, and prepared to meet it. But it seems to me that the result of deliberation is to put this motion on to a foothold so narrow as to make it worth considering whether it should be entertained seriously. As to the motion itself, the leader of the Opposition has accurately quoted what appeared in the newspaper report of the date named. He has quoted something of what I said ; and I should like to say at this moment that I have nothing to withdraw. It would be beyond the reach of ordinary decent humanity for a Minister, who had been the subject of attack in such a matter, not to feel that, whatever opinions others may hold on the utterances of the Governor-General, these were manly and generous utterances for him to make. I think that will be admitted by fill.
Ma-. Reid. - We all admit that.
– As to that portion of my speech, I think I need no advocate.
– If a man cannot be replied to he should not make statements.
– I am unable to appreciate the application of that remark to anything I was saying. On that occasion I went on to say -
Of course, as far as Australia was concerned -
I said the Australian Parliament and people - the .responsibility belonged to the Ministry, but Lord Hopetoun was also in a position of responsibility
I added the words “ in another sense” - and naturally he would not say anything which might seem to trespass beyond his province On this occasion his path was eas3’, because controversy on this particular subject was now practically at an end. The practical unanimity of both Houses of Parliament had endorsed what had been done, and had encouraged the people and the Ministry of the Commonwealth to take such steps as-might be adequate in the future in repudiating baseless charges find asserting the solidarity of the Empire. They had reached a stage to-day when Australia had shown beyond all cavil that she was practically unanimous on this subject, and when His Excellency spoke upon it he was voicing the opinion of a people held together by a common bond of loyalty.
There may be differences of opinion as to the accuracy of what I then said, but I certainly intended then, and intend now, those words to cover my belief and my opinion on the whole subject. It was on the 14th January that the Government brought down resolutions on this subject, one of which was an expression of the readiness of Australia to give all such aid as might be requested, up to our ability of course, for the purpose of bringing to a proper close the war now going on. I was of opinion, and I believe that His Excellency must have been of opinion, that this matter had passed beyond the limits of controversy. Thirteen days had passed since these resolutions had been brought down. I quite apprehend what the leader of the Opposition has quoted from his speech on that occasion, but I think those who have a proper appreciation of parliamentary government will not extend any utterance such as he then made into a vague impending threat of something he may do at some future stage up to the close of the session. Here was a subject projected at once on the attention of Parliament. Resolutions were brought down in which we were at one in repudiating certain baseless charges, and to those resolutions I added, and the leader of the Opposition accepted, a declaration of our readiness to render all aid.
– The Governor-General spoke on a subject the resolutions did not touch.
– That may be my friend’s opinion, but I think I shall be able to show the connexion. The question whether the leader of the Opposition was going to attack the Government for not having sooner offered troops for South Africa must surely be decided according to ordinary parliamentary limitations. When a. matter of this kind opens up the whole ground, upon which the right honorable gentleman might have discussed the question of the responsibility of the Government for not making an earlier offer, when he stated that he did not wish to complicate that matter with the motion then before the House, in which course he had my entire agreement, any reasonable person would have supposed that, as soon as the resolutions had been dealt with, he would have brought down some motion censuring the Government - would have taken the only proper course of inviting some expression of opinion on the question whether the Government had been right or wrong in regard to the time of the despatch of troops. Thirteen days had passed since those resolutions were before the House, and in regard to this matter the political sea was unruffled by any ripple of the right honorable member’s creation. We had not had any attack, and we had reason to suppose that the whole’ thing was blown over, unless an intimation, a vague one of the kind he had made in his speech, was to be held to justify any man in political life in holding a sword over his opponents to the end of the session. How could that be supposed by any selfrespecting Government? We were perfectly justified in the conclusion that an attack had been abandoned, and I think the leader of the Opposition knew perfect well that, from the end of the discussion o the resolutions, an attack of the kind ha mighty little chance of success in this Parliament.
– But the position might have changed.
– The position had changed, considering that the contemplated attack had been in full evidence up to the time of the resolutions being passed. But that fair flower had withered away in the meantime, and there was not even a crumpled leaf left on the 27th January. That was the position, and if that did not justify His Excellency in supposing that he was talking on a subject on. which controversy had passed away, . I do not know what stronger justification the Governor-General could have. The Governor-General must have known, as well as any of us, that any threat of any attack upon this subject had passed away, and that, therefore, as a matter of controversy, the question was dead. Who will say that when controversy has passed away, and a question is practically at an end as a matter of discussion by Parliament, the Governor-General or any representative of the Crown is precluded from giving an expression of his opinion upon it at a festive gathering of this sort? I am sure that if His Excellency had suspected, or had had the least reason to suspect, that my right honorable friend intended the resurrection of which he now speaks - that the leader ofthe Opposition was about to dig up the corpse of his adverse motion and throw ic across the table at me at some future date - he would never have made an utterance of the kind he did. But His Excellency did not suspect anything of the kind, and if he was led to that conclusion by the silence of the right honorable and learned member, the right honorable member owes it to himself.
– Am I the only person who has-a right to publicly criticise the Government? Surely any member of the community has that right ?
– That is so. I do not deny that right. But the principle of Ministerial responsibility does not rest there - it rests with the community as represented in Parliament. While this Parliament lasts it is the only body which can call the Government to account. If, therefore, he who professed to have in his charge the means of calling the Government to account, and whose daily duty it is to call us to account, allowed so much time to elapse that the Governor-General was led by his silence to suppose that the occasion upon which so much had been built had been utterly abandoned, because of the events which had intervened, why does it rest upon him now to censure the Governor-General for coming to a conclusion in which he was justified by the right honorable member’s own action 1
– Does the right honorable gentleman justify that Governor-General’s speech ? If he does, very serious difficulties will arise.
– -Whether an utterance of that kind can be justified absolutely depends upon the state of political events - upon whether the question referred to is a live question or a dead one. When a question is dead, and even a fortnight after its death, it is in a position to become the subject of reminiscent observation.
– Does the right honorable gentleman say that the Governor-General has a right to publicly express his private opinion upon dead controversies?
– If the leader of the Opposition so treats a great public occasion as to say that he wishes the discussion of certain resolutions to be dissevered from an aspect of the question to which they are equally relevant, so as to give him an opportunity to deal with that aspect separately, and then leads every one in the community to suppose that he has done with the question, and is not going to raise again a kind of criticism which, I think, this House would not have tolerated for very long - if he allows the question, not to fall into oblivion, because from oblivion there can be no reminiscence - but practically into a state of dissolution, as he did, I do not think it comes with a good grace from him to move what he calls a kindly, admiring resolution, but what is really a censure upon the Governor-General. I do not think the House is inclined to support him in this resolution. I am not saying that it is right that the Sovereign or his representive should take part in political discussions ; but the Sovereign and his representative, when a question has obtained a position in which 27 ii it seems safe to mention, as a matter of reminiscence, that certain things have been done, and certain opinions have been held in regard to it, is perfectly at liberty to mention it. Let us look a little further into the matter. A great deal is based upon the words asserted to have been used by His Excellency. The leader of the Opposition very accurately read the report of the whole speech ; but he laid particular stress upon that part of it in which the GovernorGeneral, after giving his assurance that the position taken up by the Ministry had been, fully approved by him, and stating that heand I had been for months anxiously discussing this question, is reported to have.-, said :-
Believing as we did that the war was in its last throes, and the enemy at his last gasp ; believing too, that offers of further assistance made by other parts of the Empire had been declined, we were not of opinion that the moment was a .. favourable one to offer further contingents. Wewere, however, ready and willing to ask theAustralian people to make any sacrifices, provided we had a definite assurance from thoImperial Government that such sacrifices wereconsidered by them desirable and necessary. Wis may have been right, we may have been wrong, in taking np this position.
I take it that the gravamen of the charge really lies in the fact that the GovernorGeneral so fully identified himself with the policy of the Government as to use the word “we” as applying to him and to myself. No one who knows Lord Hopetoun would believe that he used that word in any significance implying that he and I, instead of the Ministry as his advisers, were identified in the policy which was carried out. I think we all agree that he is thelast man to attempt a usurpation of power, and, whatever faults may be attributed to.me, I know that there are no circumstances under which it would be possible for me, as. a Constitutional Minister, to tolerate suck a usurpation upon his part. Happily, nosuch usurpation was attempted, or ever will be attempted by His Excellency ; so thatthere is no occasion to defend him upon that ground’. The fact is that when one is speaking at a congratulatory meeting of this kind, words are not chosen or written down beforehand, and delivered with literal accuracy, as they sometimes are on other occasions, and by using the word “ we “ His Excellency did not intend to convey the impression that the policy of tho Government was carried out ia conjunction and in equal terms by him and myself.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that the newspaper reports are incorrect ?
– No; I do not. It depends upon the. way in which men who have any appreciation . of constitutional questions read these words. No one who understands Lord Hopetoun and the principles of constitutional government would read these words as meaning that he was a participant in the policy of the Government.
– That is the only inference.
– It was a fact, as he states - and I am bound to confess it, now that the matter has come before the House - that, in that vein of confidence which must always prevail between the representative of the Crown and his advisers, to which the right honorable gentleman so properly referred, questions of this kind were, as they must be, discussed. It is a fact, not that a policy was matured by His Excellency and myself in conjunction, but that a policy was mentioned to His Excellency by myself on behalf of the Ministry, who are his advisers, and that, being mentioned, it happened to have his approval. If His Excellency had disapproved of that policy, he would, I suppose, still have been advised to give effect to it ; so that the political result would have been the same. Therefore anything that His Excellency might have said at this late stage, when the advice had been taken and the affair was over, could not alter the political result by so much as a hair’s breadth.
– No one suspects that. That is not the ground of complaint.
– It comes to this : That a policy was agreed upon by the Government, and was stated to His Excellency. I have not the slightest doubt that in the private conversations which must always occur in such cases, I intimated to His Excellency what I intended to propose to the Cabinet. Although I do not remember doing so, it is practically certain that I did that, and any chief adviser of the Crown would probably give some information of that sort to the Governor-General. The point to which I wish to bring honorable members is this : I am absolutely sure that His Excellency, notwithstanding what may be considered looseness of phraseology in using the word “we,” did not mean to conveymore than that the ordinary constitutional procedure had been followed. I hope that so long as I am permitted to remain the chief adviser of the Crown in this continent, I shall not desist from the courteous and beneficent practice of consulting with the GovernorGeneral to whom I am about to tender advice. I hope that neither I, nor my right honorable friend, if he suceeeds me, will think for a moment of preserving any unusual reserve in relation to an officer with whom it is of the essence of success of Government that we should maintain confidential relations. Nothing more was meant than that. So that when His Excellency made the remarks he did - and I think I shall, have the support of the whole House in defending him as I have done - he thought that any attack upon the Government for the manner in which they acted in regard to the despatch of troops, was no longer to be expected. He may have been wrong in thinking so ; but if he was, I shared his error, because I thought that the question was dead and disposed of, and I think that most of us thought so, too. If an attack is to be made, we await it with confidence, though we should like to see progress made with public business. His Excellency could not for a moment have supposed that any attack of the kind now indicated was likely to be made, and when he made the utterance to the form of which some objection has been taken, I think that even those ‘who object to it will see that he could only have meant that utterance to refer to something that happened in the proper discharge of the true position of responsibility between the Governor-General and his chief adviser, and that is the sense - and I say it sincerely and frankly - in which I understood the remarks when I heard them. I did not know what His Excellency was going to say, although some people may suppose that I did. Now that that has been said, I think after all there is no occasion to carry this debate to a division, and my right honorable friend will do well to withdraw this motion. If any occasion occurred for the defence of His Excellency by means of a division here, I feel sure that this House would be ready to defend him.
– I think this incident might very well have closed after the Prime Minister had spoken if he had been a little less fervid in his utterances. He has defended His Excellency the Governor-General in a chivalrous manner, as every one expected he would do, but his arguments have been the most unfortunate that could be very well conceived. The Prime Minister says, in the first place, that the Governor-General came to the conclusion that this question was no longer one for discussion, and, in the next place, that he may have used a little loose phraseology. Unfortunately for the right honorable gentleman’s defence, the report of the speech made by His Excellency leaves no room for doubt upon either point. Is there any room for doubt that the Governor-General still regarded the action of his Ministers as worthy of praise or blame, according to the party complexion put upon it, and was there any looseness of phrase about this utterance? He says -
At any rate it was an intelligible position. That refers to the position which the Government have taken up, and His Excellency is discussing the delay, and, therefore, the blameworthiness or otherwise of the Government. He adds -
Whatever may be the measure of blame, whatever may be the measure of praise which a calm and dispassionate consideration of this matter may lay at the door of my Government, I, as an honourable man, feel bound to take my share of it.
– Then a vote of censure on the Government would also be a vote of censure on the Governor-General.
– Necessarily. He invites the public to apportion to him the same share of blame as to his Ministers, and if there is any praise to be bestowed upon them for their calm and dispassionate action, he invites the public to praise him too. There is no doubt as to the accuracy of the language, and as to the tightness rather than the looseness of the language. Equally there is no doubt that, in the mind of the Governor-General, the question was still living, inasmuch as he discusses at length the action of his Ministers as being open to either praise or blame. Therefore, the Governor-General himself disposes of the two points which have been urged by the Prime Minister in his defence. In my judgment, if this were the first occasion on which the Governor-General had made an incursion into the realm of local politics, we need not have discussed the matter at any great length. But, unfortunately, this is not the first time. Only a little while before, during the celebrated tour which he made through Western Australia, in company with the Minister of Defence, he made a political speech to the miners, in which he defended-
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member is referring to some action of the Governor-General in Western Australia, whereas the motion relates specifically to His Excellency’s action on the 27th January.
– I have not observed any transgression of the rules of debate. HadI done so, I should have called the honorable member to order.
– I make this incidental reference to what occurred in Western Australia to justify the course taken by the leader of the Opposition. On the occasion I refer to, His Excellency entered upon a defence of his Ministers in regard to the work they were performing in Parliament, and he also advocated in the most strenuous way the construction of the transcontinental railway. If that is not a matter of active politics, I should like to know what is ? It is well known that the most divergent views are entertained concerning the construction of that line - a matter involving the expenditure of four or five millions of money, and upon which there will be heated conflicts in this House. It must, therefore, be an active political subject, and yet we find His Excellency advocating the line.
– We are all pledged to it up to the hilt.
– I think we should take notice of the action of His Excellency the Governor, when we consider that he is supposed to reign in an atmosphere calm and serene, certainly above the din and strife of party politics. His Excellency prejudices his position by actively interfering in the defence of his Ministers upon questions which have to be discussed in this House. It is painful to me, and it was perfectly evident that it was painful to the leader of the Opposition also, to have to call into question any utterances of the Governor-General, or express any opinion whatever concerning them, but the right honorable gentleman was performing a duty which it was necessary to discharge. It is in the hope that we shall have no more incursions by His Excellency into the region of party politics that the matter is now brought forward. If the GovernorGeneral may discuss matters as to which he is in agreement with his Ministers, he would also be justified in publicly discussing matters as to which he is in disagreement with them. He might with propriety have said to- the members of the A.N. A. - “I have had a serious disagreement with my Ministers this morning, and unless some steps are taken by them to get over the position in which they have placed themselves, I shall have to visit some consequences upon them.” That utterance would have been quite as proper as was the one he made in defending his Ministers in connexion with the delay in sending away a contingent. Had His Excellency spoken generally of the sending away of that contingent no one would have called his utterance into question, but when he set himself to explain the delay which had taken place, and in regard to which there is a great difference of opinion between the parties in this House, he overstepped the bounds which should regulate the occupant of such an exalted position. It has been suggested by the leader of the labour party, by interjection, that it would be impossible to discuss the action of the Government in this matter without also discussing His Excellency’s attitude concerning it. His Excellency has invited discussion, because he has told those who wish to praise the Ministers to also praise him. and those who wish to blame his Ministers to blame him also. He tells us that he has been actively discussing this matter with the Prime Minister for many months past, and that he is in some measure responsible for the delay in the sending away of these troops. This is a very serious matter. He may have been the direct cause of the delay. Of course, that does not lighten the responsibility of the Minsters, but His Excellency may have been the active cause of the delay which has rendered Ministers censurable in this House. “Whilst, however, we may censure Ministers, we cannot censure His Excellency, and therefore it is of the utmost importance that he should be careful about the statements he makes concerning his connexion with the political acts of Ministers from time to time. The action of His Excellency in this matter would almost seem like an attempt at unconstitutional interference with the principles of self-government as they exist in the Commonwealth. That is a serious statement to make, but really it describes the position which has been created by His Excellency himself. His duty, as has been pointed out, is to guard Imperial interests, and to leave his Ministers to guard the interests of the Commonwealth at large. We look after our own interests here, whilst he takes care that we do not infringe upon Imperial interests. That, I take it, is the line of conduct he is bound to pursue - that is the reason he is sent here. The moment the people begin to find that there is such a thing as personal government in this Commonwealth, they will begin to cease to respect the institutions under which they live, and hence the seriousness of the slightest incursion of this kind into party politics by the GovernorGeneral. The Prime Minister has clone his best to defend the Governor-General, but the points which he selected for his defence are easily disposed of by His Excellency himself. His Excellency has stated in effect that there was no looseness of language about his utterances, and he has also shown clearly that the incident of which he spoke was not closed. He said that if there was to be any blame attached to any one he desired to take his share. He associated himself actively with a subject upon which there is great difference of opinion among members in this chamber. I hope we shall have no further experiences of this kind. It is most unfortunate that at the beginning of our existence as a federation it should have been necessary to bring forward a motion such as that now before the Chamber. I hope that, for the sake of the welfare of the continent, there will be no occasion to refer to any further utterances of the Governor-General except in terms of the most cordial and unqualified approval.
– I must confess to a feeling of disappointment at the speech of the Prime Minister in defending the speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral. I think the right honorable gentleman has somewhat overlooked the main point which the leader of the Opposition made in the course of his remarks. To begin with, the question whether any political issue is a live one or not has no bearing upon the point at issue. The point raised by the leader of the Opposition was that it is dangerous from a constitutional stand-point for His Excellency to obtrude his opinions or to indicate whether he approves or disapproves of the policy of his advisers for the time being. The
Prime Minister has tried to argue that the question referred to was a dead one, and that there was no controversy going on, but if we look at the language of His Excellency how can we come to any such conclusion? His Excellency speaks about his advisers having been “ pelted.” What does that mean ? He asked how a man could stand by while those with whom he was associated were being pelted by others. That language shows that His Excellency was conscious that there was widespread adverse criticism of the conduct of his advisers. He would not have spoken of their being “pelted” unless he were conscious that their acts of administration were being criticised throughout the Commonwealth. It is not a question of whether the leader of the Opposition proposed to move any motion of censure in this House. Political opinion is not monopolized by members of this Parliament. From one end of the country to the other, the newspapers were criticising the conduct of the Commonwealth administration. I take it that the sound principle, that the opinion of the Sovereign or Sovereign’s representative shall not be obtruded upon Parliament, involves more than that. It implies that it shall not be obtruded upon the public, because after all Parliament is merely the vehicle through which the public registers its opinion. . And if the opinion of the Sovereign or his representative is not to be obtruded upon Parliament, it is equally a constitutional principle that it shall not be publicly stated. This Government had a policy in regard to the despatch of troops to South Africa. Whether that policy was indorsed by this House or by the country is altogether foreign to the question. The Ministry had a policy, concerning the wisdom of which considerable criticism was proceeding throughout the country. That controversy had not ceased, and for the Prime Minister to urge that because the leader of the Opposition had not tabled a no-confidence motion it must have ceased, is absolutely ridiculous. Did not the right honorable gentleman know when he spoke that this House has yet to discuss the voting of money in connexion with the despatch of those troops, and that the whole question of the action of the Ministry is open to controversy upon the floor of this Chamber ? How can the controversy be dead, when the sovereign right of Parliament to vote supplies has yet to be exercised ?
– No supplies are needed. The Home Government are paying for everything.
– There are supplies which have to be granted. But if money had only to be incidentally voted by this House, the whole conduct of the Government in regard to their foreign administration is open to discussion when the Estimates are under consideration. There are a thousand opportunities for debating the conduct and the policy of the Ministry in regard to this matter. To argue that because the leader of the Opposition did not table a motion of censure, the controversy had ceased is simplyridiculous. The Governor-General did not think that the controversy had ceased, or he would not have made the remarks which he did. Those remarks implied that he was conscious of the fact that a very widespread feeling existed concerning the inaction of the Government. Being conscious of that feeling, he came to their rescue by declaring that equally with them he was responsible. My chief objection to his remarks - and I take it that this is the most important point in the whole controversy - is that the expression of that opinion by one who is so widely respected and highly popular as is our Governor-General, is calculated to relieve Ministers of their responsibility. The Governor-General’s irresponsibility in relation to this Commonwealth and his impartiality are inseparably linked together so far as the people of the Commonwealth are concerned. We hold the GovernorGeneral’s advisers responsible for all acts of administration. It is unfair from a political point of view, as I am sure it is unconstitutional, for one holding the high office of Governor-General to relieve Ministers of the responsibility of their acts in the slightest degree. Of course it may be said that they are still responsible for their acts to Parliament and the people. But are they not to a very great extent relieved of their responsibility when such a highly respected and intensely popular dignitary tells the public that the whole of their acts have his approval and support, and that those acts were performed by them in conjunction with himself? The Prime Minister has absolutely ignored the fact that in his remarks the Governor-General invites the country and Parliament - or, indeed, anybody who may be adversely criticising his advisers - to include him in their condemnation. He asks to be allowed to share the blame attaching to their action, or the praise if there be any praise. Does that not mean that he is sharing their responsibility 1 Under these circumstances we have a right to let the Governor-General know that we do not wish him to accept any responsibility for the acts of his advisers. We have the utmost respect and admiration for the gentleman who occupies the distinguished office of Governor-General, but we do not hold him responsible for any acts of administration. The gentlemen who occupy the Treasury benches alone are those to whom responsibility attaches. My chief objection to the utterances of the GovernorGeneral on the occasion in question, is that his action will, if repeated, tend to destroy the wholesome responsibility of Ministers for their acts. The Governor-General is assuming a responsibility which does not belong to his high office. I venture to think that when honorable members come to consider the possibilities which might be developed if Governors or Governors-General were freely to express their approval or disapproval of the acts of Ministers, they will recognise that such a practice would inevitably result in the complete destruction of the impartiality of the occupant of the office.
– I do not believe that.
– I think that if it became the practice for Governors to express their opinions upon matters of this sort there would be an absolute destruction of their impartiality. I do not complain - and I do not think that the leader of the Opposition has claimed - that there was any element of partisanship in the utterances of the Governor-General.
– He is incapable of it.
– -I agree with the right honorable and learned member that the Governor-General is absolutely incapable of any display of partisanship ; and I do not think that the utterances complained of were prompted in any way by a desire to bolster up the position of the Government. But in the most manly and generous spirit he rushed in to share with them the responsibility of their acts, and to accept any odium which might be cast upon them for their inaction. He wished to explain the cause of that inaction; but in doing so he has taken a course which may mean - and in some circumstances would mean - relieving
Ministers of their responsibility ‘to Parliament and the people. I do not believe that this motion is intended in the most remote way as a censure upon the Governor-* General. ‘ Its object is to give this House an opportunity to express its opinion upon a most important point which has arisen in the early history of the Commonwealth, so that we may be enabled, at any rate to some extent, to create precedents in regard to these matters which may be safe landmarks in the future. The discussion which has taken place this afternoon may possibly have the result of preventing the recurrence of what I regard as a regrettable incident.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I do not think that any honorable member can find fault with the spirit, the purpose, or the delicacy with which the leader of the Opposition has addressed himself to this motion. It was a most difficult matter to deal with, and I am very glad that it has been taken up by so promiment a member. There is no doubt whatever that if it had been brought forward by a private member, and especially by one who holds my views upon the subject of the war, he would probably have been regarded as very disloyal. I must confess that I was very much surprised at the utterance of the Governor - General. It amazed me, as beyond precedent. In Victoria we have known Lord Hopetoun, and certainly there has been no Governor more tactful, more considerate, or constitutional in his methods than he has been. Therefore I am quite sure that he himself would be the first to recognise that the very fact of this debate being possible is one of the strongest reasons why such utterances should not be indulged in. There is nothing more important in our constitutional arrangements than the recognition of the principle that the Governor-General’s action must never be censured or criticised. But, as a condition to that, it is indispensable that the Governor-General must never descend into the sordid arena of our debates. The position is that, if there is to be no criticism, there must be no personal opinions expressed. I may also add that, from the language which was used on the occasion referred to, any one would gather that the action of the Ministry, in connexion with the grave matters with which they have recently had to deal, was influenced by the personal wishes of His Majesty’s representative, because the Governor-General distinctly states that “ We discussed this anxiously,” and “ We were of such and such an opinion.” Nothing will tend more to unhappily alienate the sympathies of the people of Australia from the old country than the feeling that their actions and deliberations are sought to be influenced by the Colonialoffice, or even by His Majesty’s representative. The people of Australia elect men to do their work for them. They expect to have their will given effect to, and as one who wants to see the connexion between the old country and Australia perpetuated, I am anxious that no false step shall be taken which will convey to the people of the Commonwealth the idea that His Majesty’s representative brings pressure to bear upon Ministers of the Crown. We wish to have the will of the people carried out whether it be right or wrong, and we do not desire any interference with that will. If an expression of opinion on the part of one who is not elected by the people of Australia., but who is appointed by the Home authorities, is likely to influence Ministers, the position of the Governor-General will become very unpleasant. Unfortunately we have experienced in Victoria an infringement of the rule that the representative of the sovereign should abstain from expressing his opinion upon matters of public policy, and, perhaps, the impunity with which the leaders of parties have allowed it to pass has encouraged its continuance. I recollect that during the discussion of the Federal Constitution Bill, his Excellency the Governor of Victoria publicly volunteered his opinion that the people ought to vote for it. Coming from such a high source and from a man of such weighty character, there is no doubt that an expression of personal opinion was to be desired by the party who wished to carry the Bill, and was equally to be deprecated by those who did not. The more popular a Governor is, the more dangerous is this practice. Only in November last the Lieutenant-Governor of this State, at an agricultural show, volunteered some statements which may be right or may be wrong. But the fact remains that they were distinctly debatable matters, and aroused a great deal of resentment amongst the people who read his speech. It is not one minute too soon that attention has been called to the false course into which we are drifting. Personally, though I think the Government are not in the slightest to blame, I have to thank the leader of the Opposition for having, from his weighty position, called attention to this false step. It has been urged that this is a dead matter, and that therefore His Excellency could speak on it. I from my heart deprecate the doctrine that His Majesty’s representative is at liberty to give expression to opinions on subjects supposed to be dead. What would have happened if, at the first objection to the repeal of the Corn Laws, the Queen had given her opinion as to the happy issue of the debates, seeing that within two or three years afterwards the entire position was changed ? Supposing, when Sir Robert Peel carried his motion, the Queen had expressed an opinion, what would have happened? There is nothing in the world which may not be open to discussion afterwards, and the constitutional kings and queens of England have taken good care to keep themselves -
Only, as likest gods, who have attain’d
Rest in a happy place and quiet seats
Above the thunder.
In the speech delivered by His Excellency there is a very debatable matter - a matter of ethics, which I hope sincerely has not been settled - at least, in the way which he desires. I see that His Excellency stated -
Whatever view I might have of any quarrelin which my country was likely to be involved, when once that quarrel had been brought to a head and war declared, my country would, in my eyes, be in the right.
I sincerely hope that the doctrine of “ my country, right or wrong,” has not been accepted as a finally-settled point of ethics. I can see no distinction between that doctrine and saying, “ My family, right or wrong,” or, “ Myself , right or wrong.” It means castingasideeveryprincipleof morality in order to aid the Government if the Government happen to declare war.
– Does the honorable and learned member hold that the Governor cannot discuss ethics?
– I consider it is not advisable, having regard to the exceptional position the Governor has in constitutionallygoverned countries, at the head of society and at the head of the political machinery, to give expression to views on ethics as affecting politics, because ethics must and ought to govern politics. In fact, the most excellent governors are always governors who express the least opinions. That is a very hard position to occupy, especially for a man of active mind ; but, at the same time, governors must take the restraints along with the gratification, and one restraint is not to speak ex cathedra their own private opinions on politics or on ethics, which must, and always ought to, rule politics. The country is, of couse, waiting anxiously for the end of the Tariff debate. I have tried to avoid speaking on the Tariff from first to last, in order to facilitate the proceedings, because 1 know there is a feeling of disgust gathering because that important subject is not yet disposed of. However, I do not think that the few hours have been wasted this afternoon iia considering this subject. In my opinion, the leader of the Opposition has done his duty, because he has a duty to the country as well as have the Ministry. If this matter had been overlooked by the leader of the Opposition, he would have been allowing a precedent which might and would be followed, and which would lead to most damaging consequences in the government of this country.
– I do not regard this as a party question. The importance of the question justifies our devoting some time to its elucidation and its clear understanding in the future. The merits of the question may be tested in this way at the very beginning. Suppose the leader of the Government thought beyond doubt that the Governor-General had committed an indiscretion, what would have been his position as leader of the House if he had come down with a motion to that effect ? That shows to me that when this action has to devolve on the leader of the Opposition, or some private member, there is some great principle beneath which calls for an expression of our views, and having such an understanding that in the future there shall be no necessity for any hesitation or doubt. I recognise in the speeches of the leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister two great deliverances quite worthy of this occasion. I think also that we can gauge, with the opinions which have already been expressed, and which will be shared by the whole community, that Lord Hopetoun, in expressing himself in the way he did, was moved by the keenest sense of personal honour, and by the most chivalrous desire to share whatever blame might be thought attaching to Ministerial inaction at a moment of national crisis. There can be no doubt, at least in my mind, that the inevitable effect of what His Excellency said was to strengthen the. hands of the Administration”, and to shield - if it were necessary to shield - their political reputation. I recognise also in the speech of the Prime Minister an equally loyal effort to stand by the Governor-General.
– Hear, hear !
– I recognise that the Prime Minister has said in his able speech all that it was possible to say to relieve or modify the situation. But when all has been said, and when we have made due allowance, not only for the high position of the representative of the Crown in the Commonwealth, but also for the occasion on which the address was delivered, and for the fact that post-prandial addresses are not usually regarded with too much solemnity or seriousness - after all necessary concessions have been made, there is a principle that stands out above and beyond all - a principle that is so plain, clear cut, and well defined that it is hardly capable of escaping recognition. It has been said that the position of the GovernorGeneral is at least o£ a twofold nature - that he is the agent of the Imperial Government, and also that he is the titular, and only the titular, head of the Australian Executive.
– He is the representative, not the agent.
– The position which His . Excellency occupies makes it incumbent on us, when an address like that which we are discussing to-day has been delivered, to make our position as clear as we can. His Excellency’s position is one which requires for its effective discharge qualities of a very high nature. It calls for the display of resources and of discretion that are not given to every man. And I think we are ready and proud to acknowledge that our first Governor-General is a man who exhibits the required qualifications in a most exceptional degree. But, however, exalted his official station may be, however pure and ardent his patriotism, however devoted he may be to the cause of the Empire, and solicitous for the welfare of the people amongst whom he is dwelling for the time being - whatever his political sagacity or personal attributes may be, this much ought never to be forgotten : That in all Australian governmental action, whether that action is confined to our local concerns merely, or expands into the broader field of Imperial connexion and relationship, the Governor-General must assume no responsibility. He must stand clear of the whole region of debate and controversy, and it seems to me that he must not merely have no atom of responsibility, but that he must be particularly and Studiously careful that he does not, even by accident, if he can possibly avoid it, do anything which may be regarded as an intervention between Ministers and their legitimate, established, and inescapable responsibility to Parliament and the nation. That principle of Ministerial responsibility, unaffected by any opinions whatever of the Crown, seems to me the fundamental principle of our Constitution. It is the keystone of the arch of our system of Government. It is what we all have been striving for for generations, and its importance grows every moment. It is the very essence of our political thought. There is no debate on any executive act but that this principle is regarded as the touchstone. It is the best guarantee we can possibly have for our freedom, and further, it guarantees the safety of the Crown. Judging as well as I am able, following on the able speech of the leader of the Opposition and the equally able speech of the Prime Minister, I am bound to say, as a representative of the people here, that in my opinion, according to that standard, the observations of Lord Hopetoun were unfortunate. If the representative of the King is able to go on to the public platform and protect the reputation, or the position it may be, in the present or in the future, of Ministers by his expressed personal approbation, it must be equally competent for the representative of the Crown to go on to the platform in an equally open manner and condemn them at any time by his personal disapproval. We never know, unless we carefully guard this particular point, when any observations coming from so high a source may be used on the one hand to start some political crusade against the Government of the day, or to modify or improperly influence some projected opposition to their conduct. The only safe course seems to be that .the Governor-General should studiously refrain from doing anything that is even on the fringe or border of controversy. One safe rule on this question which can be laid down is that the Governor-General of the day must not only avoid by any expression, however well-intended - and in this case we know there was no intention to enter into anything like partisan conflict - departing from what has been alluded to already as a strictly impartial position between the contending parties in the State, but must also observe absolute neutrality regarding Ministerial responsibility. For these reasons I am bound to express my sense that the better case has been made out by the leader of the Opposition. The people of Australia have too much confidence in Lord Hopetoun to believe for an instant that lie ever dreamt of improperly crossing the lines of constitutional Government; and, therefore, we are freer to speak our minds on this subject constitutionally than we otherwise would be. But at the same time, while confirming by our assurance here today the confidence we feel in him as a Governor and as a man, we ought to be none the less resolved te declare from our places in Parliament that we shall preserve the traditions of our Constitution, and preserve in their unabridged fullness the vital principles of popular Government.
– The spirit in which the honorable and learned member for Indi and other honorable members have addressed themselves to this question is an assurance to the public that the House is prepared to deal with it, not upon personal considerations, but in recognition of a high question of principle. The honorable and learned member for Indi divested himself in his speech from all ties of party, and admitted that the leader of the Opposition has performed a high public duty in,drawing the attention of honorable members to what he conceives to be an action on the part of the Governor-General of a kind which, if persisted in, would lead to the destruction of constitutional government. The inquisitorial power of Parliament was fought for and obtained some 300 years ago, and incorporated with it is the doctrine of the irresponsibility of the Crown. So far as the Commonwealth Ministry are concerned, the Governor-General stands ia the same position as does the King to the Imperial Government, and he is armed with similar rights and prerogatives. Having this inquisitorial power, we must use it for the protection of our rights and of the rights of those whom we represent. The honorable and learned member for Indi recognised the sagacity of the GovernorGeneral, admired his general breadth of mind, and admitted his popularity, but he rightly objected to the slightest importation of his influence into political matters. The honorable and learned member told us that if it was right for the Governor-General to give utterances to political views, and to express, at a function like the annual meeting of a powerful political organization like the Australian Natives Association, his willingness to share Ministerial responsibility, it was only a matter of time when constitutional government would be at an end. That was virtually the case presented by the leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister stated that, because the Opposition allowed certain patriotic resolutions in regard to the war in South Africa to be carried by this House, he was precluded from moving a motion of censure against the Government for their delay in despatching a Commonwealth contingent. There is, however, nothing to prevent the leader of the Opposition or any member of the House from taking such a course. If such a motion were carried, the Prime Minister, as the responsible adviser of the Governor-General, would, no doubt, ask for a dissolution. Can we conceive of the Governor-General refusing a dissolution under the’ circumstances ? That being so, we should at once have a .party contest - the leader of the Government asking the people of Australia to signify their approval of the action of the Government, and the leader of the Opposition asking them to condemn the Government. In that struggle the Government would have the’ advantage of the influence of- the Governor-General, whose very popularity makes any interference on his part so much the more dangerous. That case illustrates the danger of such utterances as these. The proper position of the Governor-General is one of absolute neutrality. No one in his position is able to exercise the keen power of judgment which a responsible Minister must exercise, for the simple reason that no penalty attaches to any error that he may make. But a Prime Minister knows full well that if his discernment in regard to a public question is not clear and right, and in keeping with the aspirations and desires of the people whose affairs he controls, he must pay the penalty by loss of office. If the Governor-General has the sagacity which he is supposed to have, and which those who are in close relation with him say that he has, he will admire the action of this Chamber in upholding a principle, the recognition of which was won so many years ago, and which it is necessary in the interests of right constitutional government to uphold. If the Governor-General is allowed to interfere in political matters, he will at once cease to be impartial, and his usefulness as the connecting link between Australian and Imperial interests will end. I can understand the action of the leader of the Government in defending His Excellency. Such action on his part was as magnanimous as was the conduct of His Excellency in seeking to share the responsibility of the Ministry. The Governor-General, however, allowed his personal feelings to carry him away, and he assumed a responsibility which he had no right to assume. The Prime Minister’s speech at the banquet showed that in his mind there was the belief that the Governor-General had somewhat overstepped the bounds, because he assured the gathering that Ministers accepted all responsibility. I am very sorry that the right honorable gentleman should think that this motion has been moved for party purposes. Those who heard the speech of the leader of the Opposition must admit that he was most careful in the wording of his. motion, and most delicate in his references to His Excellency ; but he did not shrink from the duty which was cast upon him to uphold the great constitutional principle of non-interference in political matters by the representative of the Sovereign. It is not the Governor-General, . it is the Ministry who are responsible to Parliament, and Parliament is responsible to the people. The motion will be the means of drawing the attention of the electors of Australia, whatever their political views may be, to the fact that we are determined to guard and maintain the liberties which have been placed in our charge. It is really a protest on behalf of political liberty. Although some warm expressions may have been used during the debate, there has been nothing in the nature of a personal attack upon the Governor-General. We all admit that he has a most difficult task in finding subjects of address for the public gatherings which he is obliged to attend. It is his duty to refrain from remarks upon subjects of a political character, therefore he is forced to devote attention to questions of morals and social ethics. Even in that sphere of discussion, however, it is difficult for him to avoid unkindly comments, and only the other day he brought upon himself the hostility of the feminine portion of the community by suggesting a curtailment of the length of their dresses. Still the rights and powers of one in his position are well denned and clearly laid down, and the practical advice of the Home-office in the past to all Governors has been to keep out of political scrapes. I think the House has taken the right course in noticing the GovernorGeneral’s remarks, because otherwise they might form a precedent. The leader of the Opposition ‘ had no need to make a party question of the matter - it would have been beneath him to do so - and all honorable members who have addressed themselves to the subject have done so quite untrammelled by party considerations.
Mr. CROUCH (Corio).- I should like to mention, what I regard as a new phase of the question. In spite of the attack made by the leader of the Opposition, and of the defence or apology that has been given by the Prime Minister, I hold that the well-known tact and sound judgment which has always characterized the GovernorGeneral has not deserted him on this occasion, and that he has been more constitutional than have those who have criticized his conduct. The question was raised by the leader of the Opposition whether the Governor-General was in the same position as the King. Under our Constitution so far as executive acts are concerned he is distinctly the representative of the King, whereas in legislative acts he has certain functions assigned to him which limit his powers. What we therefore have to consider is what would have been the position of the King if his conduct, instead of that of his representative, has been concerned in this matter. I venture to think that the King can say -what he likes, and it is assumed as a legal and constitutional axiom that the King can do no wrong, and the only question that then arises is where the responsibility lies if the King says something with which his Government or his Ministry do not agree. The honorable and learned member for Indi was correct in stating that if the GovernorGeneral could speak in support of the Ministry he could also take the platform and attack the Ministry ; but if the GovernorGeneral were to attack his Ministers they would only have one course open to them, and that would be to resign, as they could no longer serve the Crown independently. They are the Ministers of the King ; they are not the Ministers of Parliament, in any sense.
– Are they not ?
– Certainly not. Any one who has studied constitutional history will know that what I say is correct. The Ministers of this Commonwealth are Ministers of the Crown, who at the present’ time have the support of a majority of this Parliament, and it is the King’s policy which is being carried out through them. The Parliament supports them in that course by stating that it has confidence in the King’s Ministry. That is really the position. Then we. are asked to consider the position put to us by the Prime Minister as to whether the Governor-General or the King can speak in an official or nonofficial sense. Neither the King nor the Governor-General can be regarded as an official. I submit that everything that the Governor-General says, and everything said by him upon the occasion referred to was uttered in the official sense, and that it is as much his duty to support his Ministers, as it is the duty of his Ministers to support him in every public utterance. It has been asked what would be the position of the Governor-General, and what would be his duty in the event of the leader of the Opposition being placed in office, and of His Excellency finding that a large number of his Ministers were opposed to the position that he had taken up. That would not present a novel state of affairs. We know that George IV. publicly spoke against the emancipation of the Roman Catholics. In 1801 he dismissed the Pitt Ministry because they brought forward a Bill providing for the emancipation of the Roman Catholics, and in the year 1S29 he also dismissed the Ministry - I think it was the Duke of Wellington’s - for bringing iD a similar measure.
– Does the honorable member approve of that 1
– It is not a question of what I approve of, but a question of constitutional history. So long as we have the monarchical form of Government we cannot escape the personal rights of the King. In 1829 the Ministry of the day determined to again bring in a Roman Catholic Emancipation Bill, and what was the consequence 1 They went to the King, and gave him what was called the kiss of peace upon dismissal, and he had to take them back into power, and in the end had to sign the Bill which he had declared against. The honorable member for Northern Melbourne asked us what would have happened when the Bill for the repeal of the Corn Laws was introduced by Sir Robert Peel if the late Queen had previously expressed herself against any such measure. As a matter of fact, in one of her speeches from the Throne, Her late Majesty stated that she did not believe in the abolition of the Corn Laws.
– No ; she said that was her Ministers’ view.
– The honorable and learned member will find that the personal pronoun is used - that the pronoun “ we “ is employed.
– The term used is “ my Ministers.”
– When Sir Robert Peel came into office, her late Majesty, through her speech from the Throne, stated that she was strongly opposed to the abolition of the Corn Laws. Sir Robert Peel’s Ministry, however, changed their view, largely owing to the agitation of Cobden and Bright, with the result that her late Majesty afterwards said in her speech from the Throne that she did believe in the abolition of the Corn Laws. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has given me the instance I desired, to show that it does not matter what governors say, or what kings or queens say, so long as they support their Ministers. If they do otherwise their Ministers have to resign. It is not a question between them and the public, or between them and the Parliament, but between the Crown and its Ministers. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne is wrong in his reading of constitutional law. He objects strongly to what he calls the personal influence of the Governor-General. The Governor-General and the King have a right to exert their personal influence. There has been no power of veto openly exercised in English politics since the reign of Queen Anne, but the Royal veto is exercised in the Executive before the Bills go before Parliament.
– I did not show the Governor of New South Wales a single Bill before submitting it to Parliament.
– If that was so, the Governor of the State of New South Wales very much neglected his duty.
– There were three Governors concerned.
– It would be the duty of the Governor to protect the rights of the Crown in connexion with every Bill before it was submitted, and every Bill before being submitted to Parliament should have the imprimatur of the Governor. That is the time when every Governor should exercise what was previously the right of veto. Very likely that right was not exercised in New South Wales ; but the right of veto still exists there. It has been revived in regard to our States, whereas it does not exist in England. I am sure that the King has the right, and that it has been exercised to the extent of examining Bills before they are presented to Parliament. The very fact that the GovernorGeneral has to send down a message to Parliament before many Bills can be brought in, is a recognition of the survival of that right. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne spoke against the personal influence of the King being exerted. I think it is still exerted in the Executive Council and in the Privy Council, although His Majesty is absent from the Cabinet. The personal influence of the King was exercised in 1832 upon the Lords to get them to pass the Reform Bill and avert a revolution. The personal influence of Her late Majesty Queen Victoria was shown very clearly in the case of the Maine treaty. Although her Ministers wished to send a letter to the United States, which would have led to war between the two countries, the Queen used her influence to alter the draft, and thus preserved peace between the two countries.
– She did not make a speech in the next week and tell the people all about it.
– When the GovernorGeneral makes a speech in public as GovernorGeneral - as he undoubtedly did on the occasion referred to in the motion - he speaks in an official capacity, and he can say what he likes, and he can continue to say what he likes. If he is so tactless as to oppose his Ministers he can do so. Again the maxim comes in “ The King can do no wrong.” If the Governor-General is wrong, in his public utterances, the responsibility rests not upon upon him but upon his Ministers, anc! they will discontinue to hold office if he opposes their policy, or is so indiscreet as to attack them on the platform. I hope this motion will not be withdrawn, as I think, the leader of the Opposition is constitutionally and historically wrong in the position he has taken up, and I should prefer to see him defeated. “What would be the position if the motion were carried1? Would it not be foolish for us to pass a motion which would really be a blank resolution 1 If the motion were carried and the Governor-General were to persist in the course of conduct which he has hitherto pursued, what would the leader of the Opposition do? Are we to instruct the Governor-General as to what he is to say 1 And if he continues to speak as he chooses what are we to do ? Our only action would be to make his Ministry responsible and force their resignation. He personally is free from responsibility. The motion is really valueless, simply because we cannot carry it into effect, and although I believe Lord Hopetoun might, as a favour, be inclined to cease delivering some of his graceful speeches, he will really be giving- away his rights and departing from the proper constitutional course which he adopted on the occasion referred to.
– I had not intended to speak upon this motion, because it seemed to me that after the excellent speech of the leader of the Opposition, and the equally able speech of the Prime Minister, the matter might have been allowed to rest. As, however, a general debate has occurred, one’s silence may be interpreted as giving consent to the action of the Governor-General, and, therefore, I feel constrained to say a word or two. The people of Australia are indebted to the leader of the Opposition for drawing attention to what appears to be a grave infraction of the constitutional position held by the Governor-General. I know that what has been stated by the honorable and learned member for Corio conforms to the letter of the Constitution, but the letter of the Constitution does not actually regulate our Government. We know well that the spirit of the Constitution is that the people are to govern themselves through the Parliament and its Ministers, and that the GovernorGeneral represents the King in respect to matters in which the general policy of the Empire is involved. The honorable and learned member for Corio must, on reflection, see that the idea of the personal intervention of the Sovereign or his representative has faded out of British politics for many years past. I do not wish to discuss that aspect of the matter, because it is so well understood as to be unworthy of argument. The point I object to in regard to the Governor-General’s speech is that it places us in this position : If a matter of a controversial character comes up for discussion, any motion of censure that may be passed upon the Ministry must also become a motion of censure upon the GovernorGeneral, and, independently of the hampering effect that this would have upon some honorable members of this House, it would be a grave error to expose the GovernorGeneral, as an official head, to criticism which he should be ‘ beyond. That is one reason I have for objecting to the interposition of the Governor-General in matters of this sort. The Prime Minister stated that he was ready to defend himself and the Government against a motion of censure. But it seems to me that whatever our views may be with respect to the action or inaction of the Government concerning the despatch of troops to South Africa, we must admit that there was room for an honest difference of opinion. Personally I believe that the Government did the right thing. I do not think it is the duty of the Ministry, in view of all the difficulties that confront us in regard to the settlement of our country, to unnecessarily rush in- with offers of assistance, which the Home authorities might be constrained to accept rather than run the risk of giving offence by refusing them. I am sure that no honorable member will deny that every facility should be given, free from any outside influence whatever, for securing an expression of opinion upon the matter from this House and from the people of the Commonwealth. I contend that such an expression is circumscribed and unduly hampered by any expression of approval emanating from so high an authority as the Governor-General. Any share of the responsibility of Ministers which he assumes has the effect of buttressing to that extent the position which they occupy. For that reason the action of the Governor-General was exceedingly unwise. I do hot wish to delay the House by speaking at greater length. Indeed, I should have preferred to see the motion lapse after the leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister had spoken to it.
– The honorable and learned member for Indi should be included.
– Yes ; the honorable and learned member for Indi made an excellent speech, but still I believe he would have been satisfied if the matter had been allowed to lapse after the first two speeches. The leader of the Opposition did not desire to do more than enter a respectful protest against the descent into the seething vortex of politics of one who we hope will always be above it.
– I must thank the leader of the Opposition for giving honorable members a chance of discussing this matter. At the same time I .view it from a stand-point altogether different from that of the right honorable member, because I thoroughly believe in the action which the GovernorGeneral has taken. I do not see why he should be so muzzled as to prevent him from saying what he thinks, and thinking what he says. I recognise that the desire of the leader of the Opposition is that the GovernorGeneral shall not become an active political partisan, but when I look around I find that the greatest men the world has produced - men like Abraham Lincoln, and Garfield - have gone right into the very cauldron of politics, and have given the world the benefit of their intelligence. Political discussion is a brain stretcher.
– They were party men.
– If the right honorable member occupied the position of Governor-General, and had his mouth closed, I do not know how we should manage him. I have heard the Governor-General make speeches with which I was delighted. There is no subject which he touches that he does not grace with eloquence and scholarship. I hold that this discussion is a sort of snowstorm under a tropical sun, because it means absolutely nothing. ‘ Let us suppose that the Governor-General was allowed to address a political meeting at Woolloomooloo, or at Collingwood. Everybody would be delighted with him, and he would give the people something to think about. I want to see the day come when the Governor-General will dispense with horses and carriages, and come up the city streets as McKinley did - on a tramcar. That is the sort of thing which will endear him to the people. I hold that the present occupant of the distinguished office of GovernorGeneral is the nearest approach to a democrat that Australia has ever had.
An Honorable Member. - I thought he himself stated that he was a Tory.
– He was a Tory until he came out to Australia and was touched by the democratic spirit of its people. I would ask honorable members whether they are in favour of the Governor-General being a dumb dog. I am opposed to any infringment of the rights of democracy, and this motion embodies such an infringement. It is an attempt to restrain the intelligence of one of the ablest men in Australia. Some time ago the leader of the Opposition made a speech at a .big meeting at which the Governor-General had spoken well of the Ministry. At that time hq was evidently getting a little jealous, and intended to have his battle-axe ready if the GovernorGeneral praised Ministers again. Why should not the Governor-General have full scope for praising his Ministers ? He is as the honorable and learned member for Corio has pointed out, the mouthpiece of his Ministry. The constitution prescribes that there shall . be a Governor-General, and to all intents and purposes he occupies the position which he would fill if the people elected him. His appointment by the Imperial authorities merely saves the necessity for an election, and therefore the Governor-General’s mouth should not be arbitrarily closed. I do not believe in the imposition of restraints. We talk about liberty,’ about democracy, about the glory of the country, and the rights of the people, and yet we want to tie up the greatest authority in the Commonwealth so that he shall not be able to say anything. Would some honorable members have a commission to visit His Excellency every day before he makes a speech, and tell him what he is to say %
– That is practically what :, Ministers do.
– Nothing of the kind. I am told that during the five years that the leader of the Opposition was Premier of New South Wales he never once consulted the Governor of that State in reference to his Bills. But the right honorable member is a strong self-reliant man. Other men may be a little weaker and go in for consultations. I am in favour of giving the Governor-General the same liberty that I. claim for myself. I desire no privilege that I am not prepared to extend to him.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I do not know that we ai-e really called upon to answer the constitutional arguments which have been advanced by the last two speakers. I cannot avoid expressing my admiration of the position taken up by the honorable and learned member for Corio. Where this political Rip-van-Winkle has been I do not know, but certainly it was interesting to hear some of the theories which he advanced, especially when we thought that they had been long since exploded. The earliest instance of their refutation to which I can refer the honorable and learned member at the moment is when Charles I. walked into the House of Commons and asked the Speaker what he should do, whereupon the Speaker replied that he had “ neither eyes to see, nor ears to hear, save as the House should direct.” Yet we are now told that the Governor-General can direct the course of public policy. But I do not wish to refer to this matter further, because the leader of the Opposition and the honorable and learned member for Indi have clearly established the constitutional position. I should not have joined in the debate had I not noticed that, upon two previous occasions the Governor-General has made use of expressions which might have caused some controversy. Of course we all recognise how difficult it is for a man holding strong opinions to refrain from expressing them. But I claim that anybody filling the high and distinguished office of GovernorGeneral ought not to express his opinion upon any controversial question of public policy. I am sure that the House will be only too willing to join in the tribute of praise which has been bestowed upon Lord Hopetoun by many honorable members. At the same time I sincerely trust that we shall not have to refer to a similar matter again.
– Coming from the northern State of the Commonwealth I wish also to add my tribute of praise to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral’s uniform courtesy, kindness, tact, and desire to act in a constitutional manner. The leader of the Opposition, however, has called attention to a very important matter, and, seeing that we are at the beginning of our national life, it is just as well that our political principles should be clearly defined.
Moreover, the conduct of the GovernorGeneral becomes to a certain extent a precedent for lesser lights, the LieutenantGovernors of the various States. The principle which the leader of the Opposition has laid down is, I think, a clear one, and is amply justified by constitutional authority. Quoting from Todd, page 805, I find the following in a despatch by Lord Lytton to the Queensland Government in 1859-
Remember that the first care of a Governor in a free colony is to shun the reproach of being a party man. Give all parties and all the Ministries formed the fairest play.
Then on page 808 the same writer cites with approval a paper by Sir William Fox, formerly Premier of New Zealand, which was read before the Royal Colonial Institute on 23rd May, 1876. The writer of that paper says : -
Still the Governor is not reduced to a mere dispenser of vice-regal hospitalities, which I am bound to say they do dispense with a very liberal hand. If a Governor is an educated man, has common sense, and is familiar with political principles and precedents, he may be of much use in advising with his Ministers, though it would be highly improper for him to take a side in party politics, or engage in political intrigues. It is his duty also to set a high social example, and to interest himself not only in the general progress of the colon)’, but, as far as possible, in the personal welfare and prosperity of the colonists engaged in the great battle of colonial life.
Summing up, Todd gives his own opinion under the heading of “ No partisan.” He says -
The position of a constitutional Governor towards those over whom he is set as the representative of the Sovereign, and especially in relation to his Ministers, is one of strict neutrality. He must manifest no bias towards any political party, but on the contrary be ready to make himself a mediator and a moderator between the influential of all parties ; and he must be uniformly actuated solely by a desire to promote the general welfare of the province or dependency of the Empire committed to his charge.
So that the constitutional position is very clear indeed. A Governor must observe strict neutrality, and must not exhibit any bias towards any political party in the Commonwealth. I understand that is the position for which the leader of the Opposition was contending, and I do not think any honorable member will for a moment dispute the point. But there arises the question whether this principle has been violated. That is the point at issue. I do not think that the leader of the Opposition will contend that the Governor-General, in his .position as Governor-General, upon matters which are really of local concern, is not entitled, in consultation with Ministers, to offer his personal advice private and confidentially. That such is the case is clearly laid down in the authority which I have quoted. But I understand that the grievance of the leader of the Opposition is that this private confidence which should exist between Ministers and the GovernorGeneral, has been violated, inasmuch as the Governor-General told the public what took place at confidential meetings. I may be wrong, but the reiteration of the word “public” by the leader of the Opposition would seem to indicate that that was the proposition contended for, and I must say that I agree with that contention. It certainly would imperil very much the position of Ministers if they knew that the opinions and advice which they gave confidentially to the Governor-General, would be made public. But there comes a time when the advice must be made public, and that is when action is taken. A Governor, when advice is tendered to him, must either accept or reject it. We had a case in Queensland, in which Sir George Bowen refused to accept the advice of the responsible Ministry, with the result that the Ministry resigned. That advice was made public, and other Ministers were found to take the same view as the Governor ; but it then became not the Governor’s view, but the view of the Ministers, the men who in the end did really command the confidence of the public. I am convinced that, technically, there has been a violation of a constitutional rule, but still, seeing the action was made public - that the Government had, even after delay, decided to send the troops, and that the public knew it - the Governor-General must of necessity have accepted the advice, or otherwise he would have dismissed his Ministers.
– The honorable member surely does not suppose that the public think the Governor-General only says “ yes “ to the advice of Ministers when he personally approves of it. *
– I do not for a moment say that, but I say that in this instance the advice was evidently given and acquiesced in.
– It was a negative position - not doing anything.
– The GovernorGeneral accepted the advice of the Ministers.
– It was not a case of advice ; the Ministers did not propose to do anything.
– Perhaps it would be better to speak of the responsibility for the position. The question is whether the Governor-General committed an indiscretion in making known to the public what they already knew 1 I must confess that, in substance, no great wrong has been committed, but I agree that on the whole it would be better if Governors abstained from expressing opinions on questions which may become the subject of heated debate in Parliament. In this matter, however, I do not think any grievous wrong has been committed. Honorable members opposite say that they know that the Governor-General is not a partisan, and they do not for a moment suggest he has shown favour or bias to any particular party. Only some particular act has been called in question, and that act cannot be said in any sense to involve a principle which divides political parties in the Commonwealth. After the statement made by the Prime Minister, we can clearly see that the Governor-General never did intend to become partisan, and evidently did not think he was breaking the principle of strict neutrality. I think we should accept that assurance, although it is well that the constitutional principle has been so clearly enunciated at the very beginning of our career.
– I have no intention, even if I had the ability, to add to the wealth of constitutional lore which will be reproduced in the already voluminous pages of Hansard. The leader of the Opposition has said all that need be said in connexion with this matter. My intention in rising is not to refer to the constitutional aspect, but rather to take exception to an expression of the honorable member for Parramatta, who went out of his way to try to create an impression that the Inter-State railway to Western Australia-
– The honorable member cannot discuss that question.
– I regret that I am in the position of not being able to traverse the attitude taken up by the honorable member for Parramatta. I .wish, then, simply to say that whether the Governor-General be right or wrong as regards the speech he made, I trust the time is far distant when, in a matter that is not a party question, and which relates to the welfare of the people and the development of the country, the Governor-General may not he allowed to take, at any rate, an active interest.
– I desire to say two or three words in reference to the alleged non-party attitude taken up by the Governor-General. There is no desire on the part of any honorable member to impute for one single moment that His Excellency had any intentions other than the very best in stating what he believed to be, and doubtless were, facts, in order that people might know that the Ministry had not been guilty of any laxity of conduct. Such a matter cannot be removed from any relation to party politics. The attitude taken by the Government had impressed itself on the people in a certain way. The people had made up their minds as to the dilly-dallying, or whatever they chose to call it, of the Government in reference to the despatch of troops, and had registered in their own minds what they conceived to be the value of that attitude. It cannot be said that, because a motion of censure was not immediately brought down, everything was therefore condoned -and forgotten, and the effect of His Excellency’s speech has been, as it were, to place the Government in a better position than they were in before. It is now an understood thing that the Government are not to blame, and surely that is a pure party matter. At the next election, which might take place in three or six months, that would be an undoubted factor, and might turn very many votes. I have not the slightest doubt that the people had made up their minds that the action of the Government was undesirable, both from the standpoint of those who wish the British troops well, and of those who, for some reason or other, extend their sympathy to the Boers. It would appear from the revelations made in His, Excellency’s speech, and by the admissions of the Prime Minister, that at the very time the right honorable gentleman pledged his word to the House that no action would be taken as to the despatch of troops, he knew that negotiations were then going on, and that the decision depended not on any action of his, or on any determination of the House, ‘ but merely on the expressed desire of the British Government for such despatch. Therefore I say that the action of the Governor-General has affected very materially party aspects in this matter; and that is undesirable. I should not have mentioned this point except for the fact that . the honorable member for Darling Downs emphasized the contention that, while technically an error may have been made, practically no harm has resulted. So far as movements in party politics can be said to make for either harm or good, direct harm has resulted or may result to the prospects of the Opposition or the country as a whole. Those who believe that the Government acted wrongly are likely to have their opinions materially altered, and what the leader of the Opposition said on this point is undoubtedly true. The Governor-General should abstain rigidly from all such references. He ought not to determine what is or is not a live question, and his advisers in this connexion may not advise as to what is a non-party question. A Governor ought not to interfere in any other than social functions; but if he is to interfere, he should make clear everything that passes in Cabinet, and give the leader of the Opposition the benefit of the revelation. A good deal has been said about the responsibility of Ministers, but I doubt whether Ministers can be held more than technically responsible for the action of the Governor-General, who, in this matter, acted entirely on his own initiative. Though I do not deny that, technically, Ministers are responsible for the acts of the Crown or its representative, we stand in a different relation to the representative of the Crown than does the British Crown to the Cabinet itself. The representative of the Crown is responsible directly to the Crown, and not to us, whereas the Crown at home has no responsibility, except to respect the Constitutional privileges and laws of the Kingdom. For many reasons it is undesirable that the Governor-General should interfere. The one reason why so many people in the Commonwealth believe in a nominee Governor rather than an elective Governor is that the former is absolutely free from any party bias. If we are to have party in connexion with the Governor, let us adopt the American elective principle, under which the Governor makes no pretence of belonging to no party, and distributes offices of profit as he chooses. Between such a Governor and the Governor-General there is a mighty gulf, but if we are to have our present system maintained in its integrity, there must be absolute immunity on the part of the Governor-General from interference in the politics of the country.
Mr. REID (East Sydney) inreply.- There is one feature of the debate which has taken place which will afford’ satisfaction, not only to this House, but to the country, and that is the vein of genuine appreciation of the distinguished worth and ability of His Excellency the Governor-General, and of the great and patriotic services which he has rendered to the people of Australia during a long series of years, that has pervaded it. I felt the greatest reluctance to bring the matter before the House; but some one must deal with these matters, even when they affect the highest power in the land, and it seemed to me that the duty might fairly be said to devolve upon me. I have fearlessly discharged it, but I trust in a manner which will leave no rankle or unkindly feeling behind. I fully appreciate the difficult position of the Prime Minister in the speech which he addressed to the House. I think he did only that which any generous man in his position would have done under the circumstances. Therefore I do not propose to indulge in any criticism of the arguments he used.I only wish to say - not so much by way of reply to him as to set up a land-mark, which I think should not be forgotten - that nice questions as to whether a matter of public policy is dead or not, and as to whether there is to be a vote of censure or not, are not safe questions for a representative of the Sovereign to decide when he is proposing to comment upon the political acts of his advisers. I am not the only person who has the right to canvass the acts and policy of the Government, and the Houseisnottheonly body which hasauthority to deal with them. There is, and always will be, periodically, an appeal to the electors, and then the conduct and policy of the Government during their whole term of office will be brought forward for review. I feel, therefore, that the safest course for a representative of His Majesty to pursue will be always to leave expressions in defence or justification of acts which fall within the province of political debate to those who are properly responsible for them, and whose opinions can be freely replied to.
Feeling that the object which I had in view has been fully attained, I wish now, with the consent of the House, to withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. BARTON laid on the table, by command -
Copy of an agreement between the GovernorGeneral of Australia and the LieutenantGovernor of Victoria in respect to the occupancy of the Victorian parliamentary buildings.
Ordered to be printed.
asked the Prime Minister,upon notice -
Whether, in view of the importance of a correct knowledge of the tides and tidal currents around the Australian coasts, the Government will take such steps as may be necessary to bring under Federal control thework of securing tidal records, and issuing tidal predictions in the various States, so that the work for the whole of the Commonwealth may be done upon a uniform and scientific plan ?
– The honorable member has put to me a question of almost unexampled difficulty. The object which he has in view is an excellent one, and I understand that his question was suggested by a discussion which took place at the last meeting of the Science Congress. It is very difficult to know whether paragraph VIII. of section 51 of the Constitution, which permits astronomical and meteorological observations to be taken under the control of the Commonwealth Government, would cover what the honorable member refers to. I am. inclined to think that it would not, but I shall bear the question inmind, and see if anything can be done when a short Bill is introduced for taking over that department from the States. At the present moment I cannot venture to express an opinion upon, so difficult a matter of constitutional law as whether the matters referred to in the. question are included within the powers which could be taken under such a Bill.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– I have been supplied with the following answer : -
Inquiries are being made, and the information, when obtained, will be supplied to the honorable member.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether any reply to question No. 7 of the 15th instant, with reference to the presentation of medals to the Imperial soldiers who visited Australia on the occasion of the inauguration of the Commonwealth,has yet been received from the Government of New South Wales ?
Mr. BARTON for Sir John Forrest.I have been supplied with the following information : -
No promise to issue a medal has been made by the Commonwealth Government. It a ppears that the Premier of New South Wales promised to issue a medal to commemorate the establishment of the Common wealth.
In Committee of Ways and Means :
Consideration resumed from 29th January (vide page 9428).
Division VI. (Special exemptions).
– I should like to take this opportunity to inform honorable members that the Government propose, so soon as the committee has dealt with division VI., to take the question of excise, for this reason amongst others, that it is. highly desirable that the people of Queensland should know exactly how they stand in reference to the excise upon sugar.
Amendment (by Mr. Mahon) agreed to.
That the following exemptions be added: - “ Brass rules, leads, slugs.”
Amendment (by Mr. L. E. Groom) agreed to-
That the following exemptions be added: - “Hoe cultivators, buskers and shellers, horse rakes, milking machines, mowers, potato raisers, root cutters, straw stackers.”
– I move -
That the following exemption be added: - “ Threshing machines.”
I understand that these machines are not manufactured within the Commonwealth, and as they are used very largely in Queensland, I desire that they shall be placed on the free list. I believe that some of these machines are put together in Victoria ; but the parts are not manufactured here.
Question - That the following exemption be added : -“ Threshing machines” - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).I intend to move -
That the following exemptions be added : - “ Patent porcelain and steel rollers for flour mills.”
I understand that whilst flour milling machinery is manufactured here, these rollers have to be imported, that, in fact, they are the only parts of milling machinery thathave to be imported.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).Imove -
That the following exemption be added : - “Flour milling machinery.”
I am sorry, indeed, that the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs has not adhered to his determination to place all thismachinery upon the free list. I have been informed by millers that it is impossible to purchase it within the Commonwealth.I know from Mr. Crago, whose mill was burned down a few months ago, that he endeavoured to purchase within the Commonwealth the necessary machinery to enable him to carry on his business, and was unable to do so. Consequently he was compelled to cable home for it. “Upon its arrival in Sydneyhe allowed it to remain in bond for a considerable time in the hope that possibly this class of machinery would be included in the schedule of exemptions. Finally, however, he took it out under protest. He assures me that the duty which he had to pay upon it constituted a severe handicap. The committee have already decided that the machinery necessary for converting fibrous material into cloth shall be placed upon the free list, and yet some honorable members are opposed to a similar concession being made in the case of flour-milling machinery, which is used for the purpose of converting grain into food for the people. Protectionists declare that they are anxious to provide employment, but their action in seeking to place a heavy duty upon milling machinery will probably have the effect of causing the grain to be exported instead of the flour, in which case a great many men will be thrown out of employment. I ask the committee to carry out the original intention of the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs by placing the whole of this machinery upon the free list.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Macquarie has made out any case for the inclusion of flour-milling machinery in the free list. He has not shown that this class of machinery cannot be made within the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, I know that it has been successfully manufactured in Victoria for a quarter of a century. At the same time, I am open to receive information upon the item - “ Porcelain and steel rollers for flour mills.” I should like the Minister for Trade and Customs to tell the committee whether, machinery of that kind can be locally manufactured. I am informed that very little of it is made in Australia, and it might therefore be reasonable to place it on the free list.
– The position is, that the Government as the result of their inquiries find that there are manufacturers of flour milling machinery both in Victoria and South Australia. I am also credibly informed that one manufacturer alone has invested £15,000 in a plant. Everything has been done to enable us to obtain flour milling machinery locally at a reasonable cost, if we so desire. As regards rollers, we find that there is no industry established here for their manufacture, and that when required they are imported. Under these circumstances we propose to strongly resist the general exemption.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).In order to allow the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs to test the feeling of the committee upon his proposal, I tusk leave to temporarily withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. L.E. Groom) agreed to-
That the following exemptions be added : - “Patent porcelain and steel rollers for flour mills.”
Amendment (by Mr. Sydney Smith) put -
That the following exemption be added : - “Flour milling machinery.”
The committee divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The honorable member for Melbourne has an amendment on the notice paper.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).A. notice suggesting several exemptions appears in the name of the honorable member for Darling Downs, before that of the honorable member for . Melbourne. The honorable member for Darling Downs has misled the committee.
– That expression is quite out of order.
– The honorable member for Darling Downs gave notice, of a proposal to place several articles on the free list, but has now abandoned the intention. In order to give the honorable member an opportunity of voting against his own notice of exemptions, I move the following amendment : -
That the following exemptions be added - Acme harrows, cane shavers, cane shredders, cultivators, dairy refrigerators, fertilizer and drill combined, grain mills, steam-ploughs, sulky ploughs.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).The position I have taken up is logical and right. The Minister for Trade and Customs asked honorablemembers to give notice of what items they desired to have placed on the free list, telling us that he would make inquiries and inform us whether the articles could or could not be, or were or wore not being, manufactured in the Commonwealth, and if he found they were not being manufactured in Australia, they would be placed on the free list. If there is a national industry worth preserving, I deem it my duty to assist in preserving it ; but if articles are being used by the primary producers, and not manufactured in the Commonwealth, it is only in accordance with the free-trader’s revenue-tariff principles to propose to put a revenue duty on them. I trust the Minister for Trade and Customs, and if he tells me that the articles which I desire to have placed on the free list are being manufactured in the Commonwealth, I do not desire to proceed with the amendment. If we ourselves make inquiries outside, we have to go to two different parties, the importers and the manufacturers.
– Why not go to the consumers?
– To whom did the honorable member go in the first place?
– I am not here to be cross-examined ! I am conscientiously striving to do my duty to my constituents, the State, and the Commonwealth. I entered this House under the belief that there were two parties - the Revenue Tariff party, and the party led by the Prime Minister. In regard to each of the items of which I gave notice, and which have now been embodied in the amendment of the honorable member for Macquarie, I am informed on the best authority that they are being manufactured in the State. I have asked the opinion of consumers, who inform me that the machinery made in Australia is the best and most efficient, and the most easily repaired.
– rise to express my thorough appreciation of what the honorable member for Darling Downs has said. I do so in view of the statement he has just made that Australian machines are very malleable, and easily altered and repaired ; that being so, I can understand his Australian attitude on his proposed amendment.
– I see that the notice of motion now before us, which is that originally given by the honorable member for DarlingDowns, includes the fertilizer and drill combined. I have a large experience of the places where such machines are used, and it is news to me that these are made in the Commonwealth. I have not seen one of them which has been made here.
– I can assure the honorable member that these machines are made in the Commonwealth.
– They may be made in the Commonwealth, but they are far from being in general use. This is one of the implements to which I drew attention some little time ago, and I am in a position to describe definitely the result of the use of a fertilizer and drill combined, on my own land. On my property I have a paddock of 500 acres, which I offered to my share tenants, who refused one part because it was inferior land. I myself took that inferior portion, and, with the aid of the fertilizer and drill combined, obtained 5 to6 bags to the acre, whilst the tenants who had not the advantage of those machines obtained only to 4 bags. This is an article which should certainly be placed on the free list, until it is shown that those made here are in general use.
– These machines are being made now within the Commonwealth.
– But the local machines are not as good as those imported.
– The honorable member says he has not seen the local machines.
– The test is whether the local machines arc in general use.
– There are two manufactories in Victoria where these machines are made.
– I have not seen one on any farm in Victoria, and I am sure that throughout the whole States not 1 per cent, of the machines used are Australian. This machine comes into use where phosphate manures are used, and the result is that land, which was never before regarded as agricultural, now produces 5 and 6 bags to the acre. I believe that the honorable member for Wimmera has given notice of an amendment in regard to these fertilizers.
– If the fertilizer and drill combined is not included in the amendment now moved by the honorable member for Macquarie I shall be glad to propose that it be placed on the free list.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Sydney Smith) proposed-
That the following exemption be added : - “Harrows.”
– The honorable member for Macquarie said that he would give the honorable and learned member f or Darling Downs an opportunity to vote against his own proposal, and he then moved that harrows be added to the free list, as though the honorable and learned memberforDarlingDownshadsuggestedthat, when, as a matter of fact, his proposal was to place, not all harrows, but only a certain kind of harrow, upon ‘‘the free list. Every blacksmith’s shop in the Commonwealth is capable of turning out harrows at a reasonable price, so that there can be no fear that if a duty is imposed upon these implements, a combinationwill be formed amongst manufacturers to keep up prices. If there is to be any duty at all upon agricultural implements, harrows should certainly not be upon the free list.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).The honorable member for Corinella voted for the placing of a duty of 15 per cent. upon agricultural machinery, and for the placing of 20 per cent. upon mining machinery. He desires to impose heavy taxation upon the primary producers of the Commonwealth, but he is not so anxious to tax manufacturers of woollen material and other manufacturers. I withdrew my previous Amendment in order to allow honorable members to deal with each item separately.
–.Before giving notice of proposed amendments, I looked through the notice paper to see what amendments were proposed by other honorable members, and where I saw that I had been anticipated in any item, I left that item out. I think, therefore, that if an honorable member does not move a’ motion of which he has given notice, it is quite competent for some other honorable members, who might otherwise have given a similar notice of motion, to move in the matter ; while, of course, any honorable member is entitled to refrain from moving a motion of which he has given notice, if he thinks fit. If the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs had moved his amendment exempting Acme harrows, I should have moved the omission of the word “Acme,” because there are several other kinds of patented harrows, and I do not see why one kind of harrow should be admitted free and duties imposed upon other kinds of harrows. A considerable number of the harrows used by agriculturists are patented implements which are not manufactured in the Common wealth, and, therefore, even from the protectionist point of view, should be admitted free.
– I think it should be understood that we on this side of the Chamber do not agree that all harrows should be made dutiable simply because some harrows are made in Australia, because it may be that harrows could be manufactured within the Commonwealth without any protection at all. I hope that the amendment will be carried, and that the Government will allow amendments, which honorable members refrain from moving, to be moved by other honorable members, who would have given notice of them had they not considered themselves forestalled.
– The Government have no objection to any honorable member proposing any exemption he pleases, because we desire to give the committee the fullest opportunity to deal with the whole matter. With regard to the proposal now before the Chamber, I wish to say that if we cannot supply agriculturists with harrows of a good quality at a reasonable price, it is time that we abolished the duty upon agricultural implements altogether. Harrows are very largely made within the Commonwealth .
– Then is any protection required by the industry?
– I feel that we are bound to give it a reasonable amount of protection. At present it is protected by a duty of 15 per cent. on agricultural implements, and no one can say that that is too high.
– Is there not supposed to come a time when protection is not needed?
– We have not started yet. Wait for 100 years.
– I am not going to discuss the question which the honorable member wishes to raise. The Government have dealt liberally in placing articles which cannot be manufactured in the Commonwealth upon the free list, although there will be some loss of revenue in consequence ; but to place harrows upon the free list would be to reverse the policy which the committee have already indorsed.
– I have always understood that honorable members are prepared to admit tools of trade free. Harrows, cultivators, and other implements which have been enumerated are the tools of trade of the farmer, and it is in the interests of the agricultural community that they be placed upon the free list. The protectionists seem to be consistent only in their inconsistency. The representatives of Victoria, with the exception of two or three, all hang together for the benefit of the industries of their own State, but they do not care what becomes of the industries of other States. If they had been consistent they would have seen that a duty was placed upon wire netting, which is so largely manufactured in New
South Wales. Although ordinary harrows can be manufactured by blacksmiths, the Acme, stump-jumping, and many other harrows cannot be made here. If the ordinary artisan is to get his tools of trade free, the agriculturist should in common justice be accorded the same treatment.
Question - That the following exemption be added : - “ Harrows “ - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Sydney Smith) put -
That the following exemption be added : - “Cultivators.”
The committee divided.
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I move -
That the following exemption be added : - “Dairy refrigerators.”
In view of the importance of the dairying industry, and the necessity of equipping our dairymen with the best and most up-to-date appliances, I think refrigerators, which are essential to the successof dairying operations, should be admitted free of duty.
– I think the Government should give us some information on this question. I do not know whether refrigerators are being successfully manufactured within the Commonwealth or not. There is no doubt that refrigerators are indispensable to those engaged in the dairying industry, and if they, cannot be produced within the Commonwealth at a reasonable cost I shall vote in favour of the amendment. If, on the other hand, they can be successfully made here, I shall vote, as I have hitherto done, in favour of a reasonable duty.
– I have the assurance of my officers that daily refrigerators are made by various manufacturers in the different States. This information is the result of inquiries which have been made regarding this and a number of other articles, and I shall be very pleased to fully acquaint honorable members with all the particulars in my possession.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).The statement made by the Minister is very vague, and should not influence honorable members. We know that nothing is so essential to the successful carrying on of dairying operations as the best machinery. Improvements are being made in refrigerators every day, and many of them are so protected by patent rights, that they cannot be manufactured within the Commonwealth. At present, Denmark monopolises 40 per cent, of the dairying trade with Great Britain, and, although our farmers have made great strides, we have still a long way to go if we are to successfully compete with the Danish dairy farmers. We should afford our dairymen every opportunity to keep themselves abreast of the times, and we should certainly place them on as advantageous a footing as are our manufacturers, whose machinery and tools of trade ha ve been placed on the exempt list.
– The policy of the Government seems to be to tax j those engaged in primary industries as j heavily as possible, but it is only fair that some consideration should be shown to the dairying industry, which has done a great deal towards promoting the prosperity of the States of Victoria and New South Wales. Dairying has assumed a prominent position amongst our primary industries, very largely as the result of improvements in machinery ; and as our dairymen have to compete in the markets of the world, we should afford them every possible facility.
– I can “quite understand the action of honorable members upon the opposite side of the Chamber, because they desire to see everything admitted free. I judge that from the way in which they have voted in the past. With reference to dairy refrigerators, I may inform the committee that they are largely manufactured throughout Australia, more particularly in Victoria. Speaking as one who has been connected with the dairying industry for many years, and as a. director of one of the largest factories in Victoria, I may say that we much prefer the locally manufactured article to anything that can be imported. Consequently, I hold that these machines are entitled to a fairamount of protection.
-The paucity of the information given to the committee by the Minister for Trade and Customs is sufficient to cause us to discuss this matter at some length. The honorablemember for Gippsland has asked a very pertinent question. He desires to know how the price of the local article compares with that of the imported, and whether there is any considerable margin of difference. Surely the Minister for Trade and Customs is in possession of that information. I do not suppose that the honorable member for Corangamite will argue for one moment that we should protect local manufacturers irrespective of the price of these articles. I have no doubt that dairying refrigerators are extensively manufactured within the Commonwealth, but I am not prepared to come to a decision upon a question of this kind on the meagreinformation which has been supplied to the committee by the Minister.
– As a director of a dairying company, I wish to confirm everything that the honorable member for Corangamite has said. The company with which I am connected has been supplied with these refrigerators by local manufacturers. In purchasing them I think that the honorable member for Lang will credit us with seeing that we receive good value for our money, both in respect to quality and price. I know that in Victoria these articles are very largely manufactured. I am also informed that they are made elsewhere. It seems to me that the committee are too prone to look at the present small dimensions of local industries, altogether oblivious of the fact that with a larger market such as federation gives us, there is ample scope for development.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The honorable member who has just resumed his seat says that these machines are made locally. I believe that his statement is correct. I have made inquiries, however, about their manufacture. Quite recently I had a conversation with an importer who is also a manufacturer, and who gave me permission to use his name. I refer to Mr. McDonald, of Messrs. McDonald and Co. He is a manufacturer, both in New South Wales and Victoria, and he is supplying machines which ho is importing from Chicago to every State in, the union. He assures me that they cannot be locally manufactured to advantage, and further that if we impose a duty upon them he will still be able to bring them in from Chicago and undersell the local article. Therefore the imposition of a tax upon them will merely mean increasing their price to the dairymen who use them.If we levy a duty upon these refrigerators, the factory which the honorable member for Mernda referred to will still have to take the machine which is imported from Chicago, if its directors wish to obtain the best article at the lowest possible price. I hope that the honorable member for Gippsland will vote in favour of placing these machines upon the free list. The imposition of the proposed tax upon them will merely increase the cost of the imported article by 15 or 20 per cent.
Mr. WINTER COOKE (Wannon).Honorable members are asked to support the proposed tax, not as a revenue duty, but from the stand-point of protection. The Minister for Trade and Customs asserts that these refrigerators are made in New South Wales. If they have been made in that State without the aid of a duty, the other States ought to be able to manufacture them under similar conditions. If they cannot be made in the other States, those who use them will be able to import them from New South Wales. I am at a loss to see why the users of these machines should be put to any additional expense. The honorable member for Corangamite has twitted us with having voted in favour of admitting everything free of duty. But, upon this occasion, we are asked to support a duty simply to afford protection to an industry. Inasmuch as these machines are manufactured in New South Wales, I fail to see the necessity, even from a protectionist point of view, for the imposition of a duty.
– I shall vote with the honorable member for Corangamite. I believe that many firms manufacture these machines in Victoria, and I think that the honorable member for Robertson was under a misapprehension when addressing the committee, because, although Mr. McDonald is the agent for the Hercules Company, I believe that the class of machine which they manufacture is not similar to that with which we are now dealing. I am under the impression that the Hercules machine is chiefly used in connexion with frozen meat, and I have no knowledge that any such machine is imported for dairying purposes. It is a different machine from that under discussion. I think that some protection should be extended to these articles.
– It is very evident that this is not a machine which is required by the manufacturers, otherwise it would have been on the free list. The same practice has been followed right through the Tariff debate. To my mind, it is shameful that the primary producers are not receiving, more consideration.
– The duty proposed is a most peculiar one. The honorable member for Corangamite must surely have been asleep, because hitherto these machines have not been subject to duty in Victoria. What has the high priest of protection been doing that he omitted to see that these articles were taxed ? The honorable member for Corangamite has supplied one of the best arguments I have heard why dairying refrigerators should not be subject to duty. He says that these machines have been manufactured for a long time in Victoria and New South Wales, without any artificial aid. Why then is it necessary to impose a duty now? I hope that the committee will place these machines upon the free list and give the dairy farmers an opportunity of making a little money.
– The honorable member for Robertson gave us the strongest argument why a duty should be placed on these articles. He pointed out that the local manufactures are subject to competition from Chicago of a character with which, without a duty, it was impossible to cope. That, from a protectionist stand-point, is quite sufficient reason for imposing a duty. Whenever we find an industry subject to unfair competition from outside, that industry requires the attention of the State.
– What about the dairying industry? Is the price of the machinery not increased ?
– I should like the honorable member to be more succinct in his information, and show us how much the proposed duty will affect the price of the article that is imported. I admit that if a duty be placed on an imported article, the price of that article is frequently increased far more than the duty, because importers have a habit of adding a profit to theduty which the consumer pays. But where there is local manufacture, the conditions are entirely different, and the local competition becomes an important factor. The imported article . is certainly increased in price, but the price of the locally-produced article is invariably reduced. I defy the honorable member to give a single instance where an industry has been established under protection and local competition engendered, and where the price of the local article has not been reduced. We have not had one atom of proof in regard to the statements made as to the increase in price of Shearer’s shares and other articles by the imposition of protective duties. The statements made by the member for Tasmania, Mr. Cameron, in this connexion have been disproved by both manufacturers and consumers. I can show correspondence from different parts of the State to the effect that in regard to prices, value, and lasting qualities of the local articles, the statements of freetraders are entirely erroneous.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).I am afraid it is of little use attempting to furnish honorable members on the other side with statements showing that prices are reduced in the absence of duties, because all such statements are emphatically and promptly denied on the spot.This is essentially a free-trade industry, which has to be carried on under the severest form of competition. The produce has to go to the London market, and compete with that from the Continent of Europe, where the dairymen have the advantage of buying their machinery in a free-trade market at a much lower price than that at which it can be made in Australia.
– Where is that ?
– Is Denmark a free-trade country ?
– Does the honorable member not know that it is ?
– Denmark is practically a free-trade country.
– This is practically a freetrade Tariff.
– The dairymen of Denmark are able to get all their raw material free of high duties, and the cost of them is much below that which the Australian dairyman has to meet. Our farmers find their, strongest competitors in the Danish dairymen.
– And they are protected ?
– They are not protected. If the honorable member is content to make this Tariff as free as the Denmark Tariff on the dairying industry, we on this side will not say another word. We have a right to consider the international aspect of this question. Do what we can we cannot get as high a price for the Australian product as is obtained for the Danish product, and it is of the utmost importance that we should allow our people, in the swift race of competition, to get their tools of trade and machinery in the same market as their competitors. We should take care to see that our makers of butter and cheese are not handicapped by having to pay more for the articles they use than is paid for similar articles in other parts of” the world. The honorable member for Melbourne told us to-night that the particular machine mentioned by the honorable member for Robertson was not used in dairying at all, but was used in connexion with the frozen meat industry.
– I said I believed that was so, and my belief has since been confirmed.
– The honorable member will find on investigation that this particular machine is used very largely in dairying.
Mr.Fuller. - It is used on the South Coast of New South Wales more largely than any other machine.
– All over New South Wales it will be found that this machine easily beats all others in the dairying industry. But it will not be used so extensively if a stiff duty is fixed, the intention of that duty being to shut the machine out altogether.
– There is no necessity for a dissertation as to where the butter comes from which competes with Australian butter in the free-trade markets of the world. But obviously almost every country that produces butter is protectionist, there being only one free-trade country amongst civilized nations, namely, Britain. The honorable member for Parramatta says that in protectionist countries the farmers are placed under a disability, and, in reply, it must be stated that almost all the’ butter in the world is made in protectionist conntries. Danish butter competes, with the Australian butter in England - half of it comes from Finland - where, although it was news to me until quite recently, there is some of the most magnificent machinery in the world. For the same reason that we in Australia will be able to beat the whole world in the market, because Providence has so arranged our climate that we are able to milk cows all the year round, so in Finland they are able to make machinery equal to that produced anywhere else, because of the magnificent water-power they possess. Finland is virtually the home of the De Laval separator, and many other advanced appliances - the dairy and the factory are mutually benefited by a protectionist policy.
– That separator is patented, and cannot be made in Australia.
– The patent laws have been arranged by all Governments for the protection of ingenious people, and are lifted right away from the fiscal controversy. In this House I am the representative of perhaps the largest number of farmers ; if a man gets the farmers’ vote in my district, his return is assured. Some honorable members, who talk about representing farmers, represent the farmers of Balmain, Leichardt, and the abattoirs. But these are farmers who deal with dead cattle, not live ones. A representative who has to speak and vote in a certain way with the knowledge that his constituency is interested, stands in a little different position from those honorable members whose electors do not know a separator from a coal scuttle. If this duty does an unfair thing to the farmers, I and other representatives of the farmers are unsafe. If we are treating farmers unfairly, we shall pay for it .at the next election ; and as a farmers’ representative I desire to say a word or two. On the South Coast of New South Wales, which is represented by the honorable and learned member for Illawarra, there was a type of free-traders, who remind me very much of a large number of honorable members in the House. This South Coast free-trader believed at one time in a duty on butter, bacon, cheese, and everything he produced, but desired freetrade in everything else. Almost the whole of the electorates on the South Coast of NewSouth Wales, with one or two exceptions,, where the electorates are swayed by men of great intelligence and personality, is now protectionist.
– I do not believe 100’ farmer-protectionists are there to-day.
– They are found there at election times. If at election times there is a majority in his favour, that ought to satisfy any candidate until, at any rate, next election. There are a number of free-traders from the south coast in my district, and they see now the illogicality of their position. If there be anything at all in protecting labour, it must be protected all round, and if there be anything in protecting industries, they must be protected irrespective of the electorate or of the State in which they happen to be established. What is it to us whether machines are made in Tasmania, New South Wales, or Victoria? It is sufficient that they are made within the Commonwealth, and, if it is right to protect local industries, a duty should be placed upon them. The farmer knows that as a man he is not entitled to Iia ve duties imposed upon butter, bacon, and cheese, for the preservation of the local market to him, if the manufacturers of machinery are not similarly protected. It is not a question of fiscal policy altogether with them, it is a question of common manhood. If my constituents ask why I voted for a duty upon agricultural implements, I shall tell them that I did so because I voted for duties upon their productions. As their representative, I would not ask for them what I denied to other producers. Some honorable members appear to wish to offer to the people of the Commonwealth absolute free-trade. We know, however, that the Commonwealth needs a revenue of over £8,000,000 ; and how could the money be obtained if everything were upon the free list ? The farmer knows that if there were no duties, there would have to be direct taxation, and he would be the first to be called upon to pay a heavy land tax. He must pay upon something, and he would rather pay upon machines and agricultural implements, which give employment and increase his local market, than pay a heavy land tax, which has no such compensations.
– I shall not follow the honorable member for Richmond in what I think his somewhat irrelevant remarks about Finland and Denmark and the general question of protection and free-trade. The latter subject has been pretty well debated now, and it would save the time of the committee if no inducement were offered for its further discussion. In my opinion, the exemption does not go far enough. If it is desirable to ‘exempt the refrigerators used by dairy farmers, it is also desirable to exempt the refrigerators that are used in the large exporting industries on the continent. No one will deny the importance of refrigerators to the carrying on of many of our industries. They are necessary for the success of the meat exporting industry and of the butter exporting industry, and in warm parts of the continent perishable goods cannot be stored and sent to market without their aid. That being so, why should refrigerators be made more expensive to those who have to use them simply because some kinds of refrigerators can be manufactured in Australia 1 Does not the Minister for Trade and Customs know that most of the refrigerators used by the. large companies are patented ? I believe that some Hall refrigerators have been made here under arrangements with the patentees, but the Linde and the Hercules refrigerators must be imported. If a duty is placed upon these refrigerators, which have been found to be the most successful and economical, it will increase thenprice, and seriously handicap the industries which use them.
– Will not the arrangement which has been come to in regard to patented machinery generally apply to them ?
– That arrangement was come to chiefly to provide for the introduction of new inventions which cannot be specified, and the Ministry asked members of the committee to supply them with lists of individual articles of machinery which they think should be exempt. That being so, this is the proper time to deal with the subject now under discussion. I urge that refrigerators are of such general use - and they are being used more and more every year - that the industries in which they are used should not be handicapped by having to pay higher prices for them.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).- I am quite willing to accede to the request of the honorable member for North Sydney, and with the permission of the committee, I will omit the word “dairy” from my amendment.
– The remarks of the honorable member for North Sydney at all times deserve attention, because of the amount of information upon business subjects which he imports into the discussion. The honorable member for Richmond introduced, for not quite the first time this session, the vexed question of free-trade and protection ; and he stated that honorable members on this side of the House we’re free traders only so long as the interests of particular constituents were not affected, and that where that happened they became protectionists. He, like every other honorable member who represents a farming district, got up to say that he represents the largest farming district in the Commonwealth, but I can say without fear of contradiction that in my electorate there are more men engaged in iron works and in the manufacture of machinery and metal working generally than in any other electorate. But they do not plead for special assistance. They do not come, cap in hand, like paupers, and ask that the Commonwealth a’s a whole may be penalized for their benefit. The honorable member for North Sydney has shown that certain patented machinery is of great importance to the dairying and other industries, and that that machinery cannot be made here. He therefore wants to have it admitted free of duty. I think that the committee may very well, place refrigerators upon the free list, and I hope, therefore, that the amendment will be agreed to.
Sir MALCOLM MCEACHARN (Melbourne). - The amendment would place me and other honorable members in a difficulty. I wish to support the imposition of a duty on dairy refrigerators, because they are manufactured here ; but I would be in favour of placing on the free list refrigerators such as the Linde and Hercules machines, which cannot be made here. I hope that dairy refrigerators will be dealt with separately.
Mr. REID (East Sydney).- It will be perfectly competent for the honorable member for Melbourne, supposing the committee declare against the general exemption, to specify the special patented machines which he desires to have placed on the free list.
– That will scarcely serve my purpose.
– The substantial difficulty can be overcome in the way I suggest. I wish to point out the peculiar hardship to which the farmers are to be subjected. If instead of thousands of farmers there were only three or four, these refrigerators would be placed on the free list, because so few would be required that they would not be made in the country, and would, therefore, not be fit subjects for taxation. Because; however, there are thousands of farmers and a large number of machines are required, a duty must be imposed. With reference to the statement of tlie honorable member for the Richmond,’ I would point out that the great industry to which he referred grew up ‘ under a free-trade policy. It is remarkable that the honorable member, who is so intelligent and so candid, should forget that fact. I need not enlarge upon the general question, because our position on the matter has been so often expressed.
– I differ entirely from the view taken by the honorable member for Melbourne, because I consider that if any duty is placed upon refrigerators it should be imposed upon the large machines used by wealthy companies instead of upon those employed by our dairy farmers. In Queensland where the weather is very hot, refrigerating machinery is an essential part of the equipment of every well conducted dairy, and the Government are ill-advised in putting an article of this kind upon the dutiable list. Our farmers are placed under many disabilities, including the heavy interest charges which they have to pay, as compared with the Danish dairy farmers, with whom they are called upon to compete in the English market. I shall not be a party to placing any unnecessary taxes upon the farmers, who are .struggling under many disadvantages to sell their produce in the markets of the world.
– If a duty is imposed on the larger refrigerators the ship-owners will be taxed.
– Not at all.
– The companies who use the larger refrigerators are better able to pay duties than are the dairy farmers. I hope the dairy refrigerators will be dealt with separately, because I shall certainly support their addition to the list of exemptions. I am informed that they are constantly being improved upon, and that many of them are so protected by patent rights that they cannot be manufactured here.
– Cannot we have patents here also ?
– I do not doubt the ability of Australians to make almost any article, but it would be stupid on our part to assume that there is the same intellectual power free to devote itself to tlie invention of machinery in Australia as in the rest of the world. We should not deprive our dairy farmers of the opportunity to obtain the latest and best machinery available.
Mr. FULLER (Illawarra).- With regard to the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne, I may state that Hercules refrigerators are very largely used in certain dairying operations in tlie South’ Coast district of New South Wales, and it is very probable that they are also availed of in other parts of that State. We were told by the honorable member for Laanecoorie that one of the strongest arguments in favour of imposing a protective duty upon refrigerators was afforded by the competition to which local makers were subjected by the refrigerators coming from Chicago to Mr. McDonald, the local agent for the manufacturers, and the Minister for Trade and Customs said that after the honorable member for Corangamite had testified to the fact that the farmers in his district were thoroughly satisfied with the locally-made refrigerators, we ought to be satisfied. So far as Victoria is concerned, that, no doubt, settles the whole matter, but we, in New South Wales, have been accustomed to buying our appliances under free-trade conditions, and we do not wish to be handicapped by having to pay heavy duties upon the articles which we require, whilst we have to compete with our produce in the markets of the world.
Mr. A. McLean.Do the New South Wales dairymen buy their refrigerators more cheaply than they can obtain them in Victoria ?
– I do not know. I hav© not seen any Victorian refrigerators in New South Wales. We are quite satisfied with the refrigerators we have, and we wish to conduct our industry under the freest conditions possible. I was surprised at the somewhat satirical statement of the honorable member for Richmond, that all the farmers in the South Coast district of New South Wales were protectionists. The honorable member knows as well as I do that there were really no protectionists there at any time, but that they were really retaliationists. When the South Coast farmers found that Victorian produce was being admitted into New South Wales free of duty, whilst any produce from ohe mother State was subject to a heavy duty on being imported into Victoria, they became retaliationists. The honorable member for Richmond also stated that if revenue were not raised by means of protective duties, the farmers would have to submit to a land tax. It is a wonder that the honorable member did not say that the farmers would have to submit to the single tax, because that is what the honorable and learned member for Indi has more than once put forward.
– The free-trade platform says so.
– It says nothing of the sort, and I defy the honorable and learned member to show that any of us who have come here as revenue tariffists have ever put forward any such proposition t
– Order; the honorable member is digressing from the question before the Chair.
– Surely, Mr. Chairman, I may be permitted to reply to the statements made by the honorable member for Richmond.
– On my attention being called to the fact that the honorable member for Richmond was digressing, I immediately asked him to desist, and I afterwards called the honorable member for Dalley to order in the same way. I must now ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question before the chair.
– Might I suggest, with all respect, that the honorable member for Illawarra should be permitted to refer to the statements made by the honorable member for Richmond1! If he is deprived of that opportunity, an important statement which seriously reflects upon the members of the free-trade party will be allowed to go forth uncontradicted . I am sure that your own sense of Parliamentary propriety will induce you to decide that the honorable member ought to be allowed to at least challenge the statement that the free-trade policy includes the imposition of a land tax.
– The right honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that I have allowed every reasonable latitude to honorable members, and that it is only when I have considered that advantage has been taken of my leniency, to conduct a general debate, that I have called honorable members to order/
– I only wish to deny the statement made by the honorable member for Richmond, which was calculated to prejudice free-traders who -represent farming constituencies. We are fully entitled to deny that the imposition of a land tax is any part of the policy we have come here to advocate. The dairying industry has assumed a magnificent position amongst the primary interests of the Commonwealth, and I ask honorable members to recollect that the dairy farmers have to send their produce 16,000 miles, to compete in the London market with the produce from countries within a few days sail of Great Britain. If we have to pay an increased price for our refrigerators, and for everything connected with the dairying industry, we shall be handicapped more than we are at the present time. Our farmers have had a bad time of it. One has only to pick up the Melbourne daily newspapers any morning in order to see that the dairying industry in Victoria, instead of going ahead, is retrogressing. I want to see the industry progress. I belong to a family which comprises more dairy farmers than does any other family in Australia, and having such an intimate knowledge of the industry, I appeal to the committee to grant the dairy farmers some little consideration.
– If we levy the duty which is proposed upon refrigerators we shall be doing a very grave injury to the dairy- farmers. The dairying industry is rapidly becoming an important one in Queensland. It is one of the bright spots in that far away land in the Tropics. To my mind it is not wise to tax a machine which so many thousands of our dairy farmers have to use. Hitherto these articles have been admitted free both in Queensland and Victoria. It is well known that the dairying industry actually saved Victoria a few years ago, and on that ground alone I claim the support of every Victorian representative to the proposal to place this machine upon the free list.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I wishto say a word or two in reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne. He deplored the fact that it was proposed to include all refrigerators in the list of exemptions, and declared that he would vote for placing those used in connexion with the meat industry upon that schedule. At the same time he said he could not support a similar concession in the case of the dairying industry, because these machines are being manufactured locally. I cannot understand the consistency of the honorable member in advocating that the refrigerators which are used in connexion with the richer industry shall be exempt from duty, whilst similar machines used in the dairying industry shall be heavily taxed.
– Because the former machines are not manufactured here.
– I think that the honorable member ought to be fair to all industries. I cannot understand the desire of some honorable members to impose a heavy duty upon dairying refrigerators, seeing that they have been exempt in Victoria for years past. I ask the committee to allow me to amend my amendment by omitting the word “dairy.” That will allow a division to be taken upon the question whether all refrigerators shall not be included in the free list.
– I object.
– I appealto the honorable member to allow me to take a straight out division upon the larger question.
– I do not wish to embarrass any honorable member, and although I should prefer to vote upon the matters involved separately, I shall withdraw my objection.
– The difficulty could easily be overcome by honorable members voting first upon the question of whether dairying refrigerators shall be exempt, and afterwards upon the inclusion in the free list of brine and dry air refrigerators. When I spoke previously I was under the impression that a duty of 25 per cent, upon refrigerators formerly operated in Victoria. I hod that information upon the authority of a manufacturer. Yet I now find that refrigerators have for years past been exempt from duty, whilst ice machines were subjected to a tax of 25 per cent.
– Up to the present no honorable member has refused to withdraw an objection when it would have the effect of preventing the proposition of another honorable member from being submitted.
– I have withdrawn.
– But I object.
– This will be the first occasion upon which an honorable member has prevented another honorable member from putting an amendment which he desired to move before the committee. The difficulty has occurred several times, but upon each occasion the member objecting has given way when he found that his objection was fatal to the proposition being submitted. If the course suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne ispursued, a great many honorable members will be placed in a very awkward position, by seeming to vote against the inclusion of dairy refrigerators in the free list.
– After the expressions which have fallen from the leader of the Opposition I will not press my objection. But I would point out that whilst he desires that I should withdraw it in order to overcome the difficulty in which he finds himself, I raised it for the purpose of overcoming the difficulty in which honorable members upon this side of the Chamber found themselves.
– I understand that the honorable member for Melbourne desires that the larger class of refrigerators shall be exempt from duty. I would therefore ask whether, on the assumption that it is decided to include all refrigerators in the free list, the honorable member will be in order in moving the addition of the words, “ except dairy refrigerators.”
– It seems to me that the difficulty is all in the opposite way to that suggested by the leader of the Opposition. If a vote is taken upon the exemption of refrigerators generally, those who favour any class of machine being admitted free, will vote for the amendment in order to ensure their views being carried. But if a vote is taken to decide whether dairy refrigerators alone shall be exempt, then every member will subsequently have an opportunity of moving for the inclusion in the free list of any particular machine that he desires to see there.
– The proposal of the honorable member for Macquarie simply carries out the practice which we have followed all through thi3 debate. For example, let us assume that there is a proposition submitted in reference to mining machinery. Those who do not wish to include all mining machinery in the exemptions would vote against it. Then when the amendment had been negatived, those who desired to exempt special machinery under the head of “mining” would be at liberty to move in that direction.
– We gain nothing by making any distinction between refrigerators. If we begin to define by using the word “dairy” refrigerators, what do we mean,? We mean refrigerators used in a dairy ; and we have it on the testimony of some honorable members that the larger refrigerators, which some honorable members desire to get in free, are actually used in dairies. It is inevitable as the industry attains a larger scale–
– The honorable member is not addressing himself to the point of order.
– What is the point of order ? An objection was taken to a withdrawal of the amendment, but that does not constitute a point of order; and, in any case, I believe that the honorable member is willin’g to withdraw that objection, or has withdrawn it.
– The honorable member for Laanecoorie took a point of order as to the mode of procedure, there being a doubt whether, if the amendment were put in the form desired by the honorable member for Macquarie, honorable members might not be debarred from detailing any particular refrigerators they might wish to have on the free list. I rule that in the event of the proposition being submitted to the committee as dealing with refrigerators only, and being negatived, honorable members will not be deprived of the opportunity of placing dairy refrigerators, or refrigerators of any other class, on the free list.
– There are separators used in the cold stores of Melbourne and Sydney, where butter and all forms of dairy produce are dealt with. Will these refrigerators come under the term “ dairy refrigerators 1 “
– Is it the pleasure of the committee that the amendment be amended by omitting the word “ dairy ?”
Amendment amended accordingly.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).- I take it 3that the honorable member for Melbourne asks .that all .freezing machinery, 27 k other than dairy refrigerators, _ shall be. placed on the free list, on the ground that there are certain large patent machines just now being imported. But there are also certain patent dairying machines being imported, and I ask the honorable member to be more consistent. The position I take is that there should be a duty on both classes of machines. The honorable member for Melbourne desires a duty on dairy refrigerators because these happen to be made in Victoria.
– And in the other States.
– That is a good principle, and I ask the honorable member to act on it with regard to freezing machinery generally. I have information from a large firm in Queensland to the effect that freezing machines are being manufactured there at the present time, and it is only failthat the principle should be applied all round.
– Who is making these machines in Queensland 1
– Walker’s Limited, at Maryborough, and their factory is one of the biggest, and turns out some of the best machinery seen in the Commonwealth. On these grounds I ask the honorable member for Melbourne to be consistent.
– I certainly shall be, if the honorable member assures me that these machines are made in Queensland.
– I am informed that refrigerators of the extensive character referred to by the honorable and learned member for Illawarra would not come under the term of “dairy refrigerators.”
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- It is utterly futile to attempt to make these distinctions. ‘ How can we say whether a machine is a dairy refrigerator or a refrigerator for cold stores, seeing that it may be used for either ?
– They are different in extent.
– They are not different in extent if the cold store is small. There are large dairies and small cold stores, and the latter are becoming more popular. If we make these distinctions, an unscrupulous importer will only have to say that what he is importing are dairy refrigerators, in order to get them passed free. What is the use of fixing the duty, not on the article itself, but on the use to which the article is going to be applied, especially when it can be applied to several uses? All machinery of this kind should be treated alike, whether or not a duty is imposed.
– I understand that on several occasions attempts, such as that referred to by the honorable member for North Sydney, have been made by importers, who have stretched their conscience to the extent of declaring that the machines they were introducing were dairy refrigerators. The statements of the importers in these cases have been examined, with the result that the attempts to “get at” the Customs have not been so successful as the honorable member suggests.
– No distinction should be drawn between different classes of refrigerators - whether a duty be fixed, or whether they be admitted free. Some misapprehension seems to exist in the minds of honorable members as to the duties which existed in Victoria. Most of the refrigerators were, I believe, imported into that State under the head of ice-machines, and had to pay a duty of 25 per cent. In Victoria there are many firms mamrfacturing some of this patented machinery under agreement with the patentees, such as the Hall patent which has been referred to.
– I admit that that is being manufactured here.
– The firm who manufacture that patent supplied the refrigerating plant to the Spencer-street railway-station, Melbourne, for the purpose of making the ice used in the cool storage trucks. Many manufacturers have been supplied with machines which have been made locally ; and I trust that whatever fiscal conditions are applied to one class of machines will be applied to the other.
– I only desire to emphasize the contention that the treatment accorded to manufacturers should be on an all-round basis. If we pass refrigerators free, then ice machines, dairy machines, or any other kind of machine must come within the same category. It would be unfair to allow one class in free and subject the other to duty, and personally I see no reason why all refrigerating machinery should not bear the same duty. Such machines are made in New South Wales as well as in Victoria and Queensland. I admit that their manufacture was carried on in New South Wales in open competition, and, perhaps, with some duty the industry will be extended without undue extra cost to the consumer. Whatever the decision of the committee, it should be without exceptions.
Question - That the following exemption be added : - “ Refrigerators “ - put. The committee divided -
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Sydney Smith) put -
That the following exemption be added : - “ Dairy refrigerators.”
The committee divided.
Majority …. … 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move-
That the following exemption be added : - “Combined Fertilizer and Seed Brills.”
In the district I represent the combined fertilizer and seed drill is very largely used, especially among the wheat growers. It has only recently come into general use, but in three towns within my own electorate 180 of these drills have been sold this year. The price of the drill varies, according to size, from £33 to £40, and the duty would on the average amount to something like £4 10s. per drill. The drills are used for the purpose of distributing seed and manure in one operation, and my own impression is that before another two years have passed, almost every farmerwill have one of the implements upon his farm. I do not think the drills are made to any large extent within the Commonwealth. There are only two firms in Victoria who have recently entered upon their manufacture. These manuf acfacturers do not confine themselves entirely to the making of drills, which constitutes only a small branch of their business, and I do not suppose there are twenty men constantly employed in drill-making within the Commonwealth. There are some 5,000 or 6,000 farmers in my electorate who will require at least 2,000 of these drills, and if a duty is imposed they will be penalized to the extent of something like £10,000. In the last issue of the Journal of the Department of Agriculture of Victoria, Dr. Howell, the lecturer upon soils for the department, refers to the use of these drills. He says -
The statements which have appeared in the press indicative of the altered attitude of the farmer towards scientific teaching, are the echo only of what has been told me right through the country. For instance, Mr. Josephs, President of the Kaniva Agricultural Society, informed me that on the occasion of my first visit there were only two drills in the district, and that now he thought every second farmer had one. At Jeparit, Dimboola, Minyip, Warraelcnabeal, Bealiba, St. Arnaud, Donald, Birchip, Boort, and Wycheproof, there was much the same story, viz., the yearly income of manures at each town jumping from a few tons to, in some cases, hundreds of tons, and the drill becoming the rule, and not the exception. Present indications lead one to believe that in a very short time, indeed, it will be difficult to find a farmer in our wheat-growing area who has not adopted the use of the drill and manure as the regular practice in his farming operations.
That testifies sufficiently to the value of these drills, and there can be no doubt that it will be many years before the local manufacturers will be able to keep pace with the demand.
Mr. POYNTON (South Australia).The honorable member for Wimmera seems to desire to restrict the exemption to combined fertilizer and seed drills, but my own view is that all drills, whether combined or separate, should be exempted. Enormous advantages are being derived from the use of seed and fertilizer drills in South Australia. They have perfectly revolutionized farming operations in many localities where it was thought impossible to grow wheat, and the time is very near at hand when every farmer will use drills. In the dry districts of Yorke Peninsula, the use of drills has brought about an increase in the yield of wheat to the extent of 6 or 8 bushels per acre, in fair seasons, and in the west coast districts similarly favorable results have followed wherever the drill has been introduced. I hope the Government will agree to the amendment.
– I am somewhat surprised at the position taken by the honorable member for Wimmera. He asks the committee to place combined fertilizer and seed drills on the free list on the ground that there are only two Victorian manufacturers engaged in making them, and that they cannot supply the demand. Is the honorable member aware that the principal makers of these drills are the Massey-Harris Company, of America ? If he is in favour of having these drills brought in free, why did he vote a short time ago in favour of imposing a duty upon cultivators? Cultivators are of far more importance to the small farmers than are fertilizer and seed drills. These drills cost from £35 to £40, whereas cultivators range in price from £12 to £14. The poor farmer can sow his seed broadcast, and then work the cultivator over the -ground, whereas the employment of tlie combined drill involves an initial outlay of a comparatively large sum of money. I shall vote in favour of placing these drills on the free list, because I think their exemption from duty will benefit the fanner.
– The honorable member for Tasmania has just given us some agricultural information which may be perfectly correct so far as Tasmania is concerned, but which certainly does not apply to other States. The “honorable member is always saying something about the Massey-Harris Company, and I think it would be desirable if honor- able members were to abstain from mentioning names as far as possible in the course of these debates. The less we hear of the Massey-Harris Company the better. The honorable member admits that that company are the largest makers of these implements, and if that be true it affords an additional reason for the attitude I intend to take. ,1 believe the same company are also the largest makers of reapers and binders, and in view of the importance of enabling the farmers to secure their implements at the lowest possible cost, I am afraid to do anything that would prevent the local manufacture of the article, as I do not wish to see the farmers left to the tender mercies of the importers. These cultivators are made in Victoria, although they are not used up to the present to anything like the same extent as in South Australia. They were used first in that State, and they are now part of the equipment of almost every farmer in those districts which have a decent rainfall. I cannot speak positively, but the probability is that they are very largely manufactured in South Australia, because we have large agricultural implement works there. I hope the Government will oppose the amendment.
– The proposition of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, needs only to be stated to evidence its absurdity. He declares that if these drills are not placed upon the 20 per cent, list, they will remain at such a high price that the farmers will not be able to purchase them. If this is so, the manufacturer must gain by having an increased price, which would give his employes an increased wage. Yet his argument the other day was that if we imposed a duty upon any article we lowered its price to the consumer. Low prices, he said on that occasion, were synonymous with low wages. Therefore upon his own argument he is attempting to lower wages. Personally I desire to see these fertilizerdrills placed upon the free list, so that the cultivators of the soil may be able to obtain them as cheaply as possible. No less than 250,000 acres have passed out of cultivation in Victoria during the past year, and it is j just possible that the general use of improved scientific farm appliances may do much to restore the agricultural industry to its former state.
– In reply to the remarks which have fallen from the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, I wish to say that the farmers of Victoria( require these implements now. Even protectionists do not contend that in the initial stages of the establishment of an industry the articles which that industry turns out are made cheaper, although it is possible that later on that result might be experienced. These fertilizer - drills are urgently wanted by people who have suffered very great hardships in the past - people who have taken .up land of a very inferior character upon the Dividing Range of Victoria for the purpose of growing vines and fruit: Now, however, they find that by the use of these’ drills their lands have become profitable for farming purposes. There are thousands of acres which I should not have taken up at a gift for wheat-growing purposes, but which, as the result of the use of these seed drill fertilizers, will now produce prolific crops. I might refer to the whole of the land in the Stawell district as an example. Then there are other lands extending from Geelong to the Western district of “Victoria which have hitherto been regarded as fit only for a sheep-walk, but which have now become suitable for agriculture. There are 30,000 or 40,000 acres between the Ararat and Hamilton railway stations, upon which formerly no wheat was grown, bub which, through the use of these drills, now produce good crops. No less than five wheat buyers visited this locality during last year. The greater portion of that land would be useless but for these drills. I cannot see why the farmers upon the inferior lands should be compelled to pay a higher price for their drills to enable those implements to be locally manufactured. I know that, as a result of the introduction of this machine, many men are leaving the Wimmera district for localities where there is a better rainfall, so that they may engage in agricultural pursuits. I urge the committee to grant, at least, this one concession to the farming community.
– The honorable member who has just sat down lias pointed out how successful these fertilizers and drills combined have been in Victoria. I believe that every word he has uttered is borne out by the facts, and, of course, he speaks with a special knowledge of the subject. But I should like to remind the honorable member that these prosperous conditions obtained under the very circumstances which we propose, namely, that the drills, if imported, shall pay a duty of 15 per cent., and no more. The honorable member has clearly shown that the imposition of a duty will not in the slightest degree be fatal to the agriculturalists, but that the prosperous conditions upon which he has dilated so forcibly will still obtain. It has been proved to demonstration, that no disaster will overtake the Commonwealth if we adopt the same duty as that which has previously obtained in Victoria. It has also been proved that if we establish in our midst a manufactory which is wanted for our local conditions, there is almost a certainty that improvements will shortly be made in connexion with it, which will give it an added value and improvement to Australia itself. This question of fertilizers and drills is of very considerable importance. I venture to believe that the fertilizer and drill is almost of equal importance with theplough. We might as well refuse encouragement to our ploughmakers as todeny it to the makers of fertilizers and drills. We know perfectly well that just sis our artisans have proved their capacity in connexion with mining machinery they can be safely trusted with the development pf an industry of this description. Something has been said about the position of the various States in connexion with this industry. Let me tell honorable members that South Australia was the first State to adopt these fertilizers and drills to any considerable extent. Their use was advocated with great force by Professor Lowrieof the Roseworthy College, and the result has been that they are used more generally in South Australia to-day than in any other State in the Commonwealth. I find that the conditions which have existed , there are somewhat similar to those which obtained in Victoria. In other words, a duty of 15 per cent, operated. I put it to the honorable members whether it is not”, infinitely preferable to trust to our knowledge of the skill of our workmen when settling this Tariff than to throw thedoor open to the importer, with theprobable result that what has been experienced in connexion with reapers and binders will be .repeated. Honorable members know perfectly well that in this connexion the Australian public has been, plundered by importing rings.
– By the patentees and their” agents.
– We have been plunderd by the importers. Let us have’ the industry established in our midst, and I venture to think we need not fear results of’ the description to which honorable members’ have referred. It is a matter of great importance. What is the position to-day 1 We are getting on fairly well under the conditions -which obtained, as regards an import duty of 15 per cent. Do honorable members know that these implements are being manufactured locally 1 Lennon and Company comprise one firm which manufacture them.
– They are a fraud.
– I trust that the honorable member for Tasmania will be a little more caref ul in the suggestions which he makes concerning matters of this sort. We have had a considerable exposure of the extremes to which he has had recourse in order to damage the reputation of Shearer’s plough shares which we all know so well. In this connexion I venture to think that if the honorable member repeated to Mr. Shearer the words which he -employed in this House, he would find himself engaged in a lawsuit, out of which he would not come triumphantly. We have to say whether we shall continue _ the practice which obtains in these two States, where these implements are being successfully made, or whether we shall throw open the door, and expose ourselves to the risks and mischief we have experienced in connexion with the other matter to which I referred. I do hope that, under all the circumstances, having regard to the importance of the question, and to the fact that it is “a farce to protect agricultural ^machinery and not protect an item of this sort, honorable members will decide on continuing the fair measure of protection proposed by the Government.
– I most strongly deprecate the imputations of robbery and plunder which the Minister for Trade and Customs is never tired of hurling at the class who happen to be import ers. Such language is disgraceful, and I wonder the honorable and learned member for Indi did not take his hat off at the very suggestion of such violent language in connexion with this matter. Here is a Minister of the Crown, who is supposed to be a pattern of propriety and decorum, and who is a man of singular moderation both in his intellectual and physical attitudes. Yet he is betrayed by this fierce partisanship on the subject of fertilizers and drills into charges against the honesty of importers. But half the importers are manufacturers, and in connexion with their manufactures import articles and perform all sorts of exploits in the way of solemn declarations. But the honorable member wants to pile all this abuse on the one particular class, .who happen to be importers only. The mere fact that this implement has been heard of in South Australia accounts for the bigoted affection of the Minister foi; this particular line. It is quite enough for it to be heard of there to make it an object of religious veneration. I would point out to the right honorable gentleman that alongside the State of Victoria a whole British community have for years had their doors open to everything, fertilizers included, and instead of the farming industry withering and pining away, the increase in the area under cultivation in New South Wales in a- few years equals the increase in Victoria and South Australia put together.
An Honorable Member. - And in Queensland.
– I want to be within the mark, because I am speaking from memory. The two great agricultural countries of South Australia and Victoria, with all their artificial methods of fostering on the one hand and bleeding on the other - of plastering with favour on the one hand and picking pockets on the other–
– Who is picking pockets *?
– I am adopting the language of the Treasury benches. I say that with all the expedients resorted to by these two States, the adjoining State, which had the open door to .all kinds of machinery and products, has an area of cultivation which has spread with lightning rapidity.
– It has taken a long time.
– The right honorable gentleman, from the force of his political convictions, is a coward fiscally. As a man he is prepared to indulge in the deadliest encounters ; but as a fiscalist, he has not the pluck to allow Australia to fight her own industrial battle under ordinary natural conditions. There is a perpetual attempt to surround Messrs. Smith and Co., Lennon and Co., Brown and Sons, and a number of other individual firms with a sort of preserve, in which they can milk the Australian public, including the farmer, at their leisure without any disturbance from the rude foreigner, under which term we include our British fellow-subjects. All this cowardice lurks under the ideas of the right honorable gentleman. I would invite him to trust a little to that pluck and courage which enables Great Britain, with her open doors and ports, to command the finance and commerce of the world. I am sorry we have such degenerate stuff amongst us - that instead of following the example of the good old parent land, we have a lot of crawling cowardly protectionists.
– Is that quite parliamentary ?
– That is the sort of language that, is used to a decent class of people, who are called plunderers. It is sometimes the best way of rebuking men, to imitate their example for a minute or two.
– To disgust them.
– I quite appreciate the knightly atmosphere in which the honorable member for Melbourne’ lives and breathes. I deliberately use this violent language in order to show how absurd and wrong it is to apply such terms as have been applied by the Minister. The gentle, courteous instincts of the honorable member for Melbourne may be disgusted at the words I have just used, because they apply to himself. He did not feel at all disgusted when a class of men with whom he is associated in business every day of his life, and who are an honest and honorable class of men, were branded as plunderers and robbers.
– I did not hear the remark.
– That is very unfortunate, because I hoped that honorable member would have immediately resented the charge. I want to emphasize the absolute unfairness of singling out one class of this community for these vile insinuations. This sort of denunciation of men, simply because they happen to act as distributors of the abundance of the world in Australia, in the sphere of commercial exchange, ought to be put down. Why should importers be singled out as if they were robbers simply because they do not make something in the country ?
– They make money.
– I hope every one of us tries to do that. I wish to protest in a very emphatic way against these epithets. If we are to use such epithets, it is easy to use the language I have used with regard to the fiscal opinions that .I object to. The policy which is prepared to face the world without any advantages, and without any barriers, surely has the merit of superior pluck.
– Superior folly.
– It may be folly, but it is the folly of the brave, resolute, sanguine man, prepared to battle against the world. I hope that these epithets will be abandoned, and the only way to get rid of them is to show how ugly they are when used from the other side.
– I said they plundered the public in a certain manner.
– The expression seems to me to be very offensive to a class. I have no connexion with importers, or any personal feeling in regard to them, but the expression is offensive, and when these people take up their morning newspaper, each will feel that the words are a sort of a reflection upon them. I hope that we shall be able to get on with this business without any charges of that kind being made. I have no sort of antipathy to the development of colonial industry, but I say that the industry of agriculture is the one we should study most of all. In connexion with mining, the more I think of it the more I am convinced of the difficulties which the men so engaged have to confront. As the right honorable gentleman knows, the committee have put the tools of trade of a dozen or twenty of the large industries of Australia upon the free list. That is really the serious object with which I rose. The Government are now changing their ground. The ground we got them down to by a series of very nice divisions was that if it were shown that the things were not made in the country, they would place them on the free list. Now we are told by the Treasurer that we ought to encourage the development and growth of manufactures. That is the proper protectionist position. But the other position was not. It was a weak-kneed position - that, seeing that the machines are not made here, we should abandon every prospect of making them by putting them on the free list. The position now taken is a more logical one. I hope that those who are not bigoted protectionists will at any rate allow these machines, which increase the fertility, of the soil, and which are imported in large numbers, to be placed on the free list. The fact that those who use these machines have preferred imported fertilizers to those made in Victoria or South Australia, is an eloquent proof that the imported machines are better adapted for local use, or are cheaper, or both. The fact that under equal conditions the farmers prefer to buy the superior article at a higher price shows the need for placing it upon the free list. There are hundreds of things that we have refused to put on the free list for the benefit of the farmers, but surely we can make a concession in regard to this one.
– I cannot understand the attitude which is from time to time adopted by honorable members with regard to the various items which come up for discussion. Either the principle of freetrade is true or it is not. If that principle is true and correct, I cannot understand by what mental obliquity some honorable members are able to go off at a tangent at stated intervals for the purpose of travestying the principle they profess to admire. The right honorable member for East Sydney has been good enough to apply certain epithets to the party to which I belong. He told us subsequently that he applied them for the purpose of following the method of the executioner in the Mikado, and to “make the punishment fit the crime.” His desire, he said, was to show exactly how it felt to be treated in the same fashion. I distinctly remember the word “ rob “ being used by the right honorable member himself on a certain occasion. I am not going to thrust myself into an arena of personal abuse, in which I should have a very small chance of competing with the leader of the Opposition. My education, I am happy to say, has been neglected in that particular direction. But I do desire to point out that I can neither understand nor appreciate the action of free-traders who are prepared to demonstrate their courage and their pluck by subjecting other people to unfair competition. This is really what the leader of the Opposition has told us he is prepared to do. He is a free-trader, and he is courageous and plucky. Why 1 Because he is prepared to open the door of Australia to all sorts and degrees of competition.
– And every one who has tried it has been able to thrive under it.
– The right honorable gentleman should consider the feelings of those with whom he is dealing. The unrestricted competition to which manufacturers - and what is more important, mechanics engaged in the various industries - would be subjected by honorable members opposite, would not in my opinion prove the courage of those who would shackle such a policy upon the community, but would evidence the retrograde movement which has taken place even in this go-ahead progressive country on the part of those who fail to keep themselves abreast of the times, and who are prepared to follow the fiscal policy which is adopted in such a country as, we will say, Turkey. I feel sure that the leader of the Opposition would not care to throw open his private residence to the Chinese.
– Would not the honorable member drink their tea ?
– The right honorable member is, however, prepared to submit our workmen, the bone and sinew of the country, to the unrestricted competition of those very people. If that is an evidence of courage the right honorable member is brave indeed ! But I take it that the community which, for the sake of preserving its race and of maintaining its standard of comfort, is prepared to make a sacrifice and to put up with certain disabilities, shows far more courage and bravery than does the leader of the Opposition. With regard to the particular item under discussion, I represent a constituency which consists largely of farmers. I have been intimately associated with agriculture during the whole of my life, and I profess to have some little knowledge nf the conditions under which the people following that industry work. With that knowledge I say that if there had to be a choice between a further experience of what we have seen in the past in regard to another class of machinery - the formation of a gigantic monopoly or ring - I should have no hesitation in making that choice. I do not say that this monopoly robbed the public, but certainly they charged 100. per cent, more than they were entitled to charge for a certain implement, simply because there was no local competition.
– There could be no local competition.
– Subsequent!)1, when the company found that their machine was being displaced by what is known as the Complete Harvester, they reduced the price, so that in the protected State of Victoria it could be obtained for £15 less than in the adjoining free-trade State of New South Wales.
– That is not so.
– I know what I am speaking about. Rather than that our people should have to submit to extortion of the kind that was practised upon them for years by the company to which I refer, I would prohibit the importation of these machines, although I am not a prohibitionist, and have never favoured the imposition of high duties. There are a number of milkers in Australia who are manufacturing seed drills and fertilizers - machines of as good quality, though slightly higher priced than the imported machines. They are being made by Australian workmet), who are being paid Australian rates of wages, and I cannot understand the desire of honorable members to see the local industry obliterated, and the farmers placed at the mercy of foreign manufacturers. No doubt the local conditions, the rates of wages, and labour conditions in America are such that they are able to make these implements for lower prices than our manufacturers can afford to charge ; but they do not make better machines, and they do not attempt to introduce the improvements which from time to time are found necessary to cope with our local conditions. Under these circumstances, the courageous and plucky course is to give such assistance to the local industry as will soundly and successfully establish it. The result of such action will be to employ Australian workmen at good wages, and we shall obtain a machine of a quality equal to that of the imported machine, and better adapted to our conditions, so that, notwithstanding a probably slight and temporary increase, the balance in the ledger will be to our credit.
– It is a great mistake to make comparisons between the manufacturers of America and of England and those of Australia, because, while the Australian manufacturer has only the small local market, and can therefore employ only a small number of men, the English and American manufacturers supply the whole world. Some of the American factories employ 15,000 or 20,000 hands. Once you get your plant set down, your offices open, your machinery going, and your business concentrated, you can manufacture so cheaply that it is ridiculous to think of a small man competing with you. It is like putting a five-year-old boy to fight John L. Sullivan.
– Yet honorable members opposite are always trying to do that.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I cannot allow the amendment to go to a vote without expressing my approval of it. I remember that, when seed drills were first introduced into New South Wales a great number of people ridiculed the idea ; but it has been shown that by using them less seed is required, and better crops are obtained than under the old system of sowing. The committee should encourage in every way the use of these machines, and I am pleased to find that a few of my honorable friends opposite are now disposed to adopt a favorable attitude towards the farmers. I am sorry that they did not take a similar attitude ‘in regard to other machines to which reference has been made, and which are equally valuable to the agricultural community. It seems to me that where strong representations have been made by farmers to those representing their districts, they have been able to obtain influence; but where they have not come into personal contact with their representatives they have often not been regarded. I can speak on these matters from practical experience, and I feel sure that great wrong has been done to the farming community to-night by some of the votes which have been given, and especially by the vote in regard to refrigerators. Only to-night I saw a letter from a constituency represented by a strong protectionist, stating that a patented machine which was made only in Germany, and was absolutely necessary to the success of a particular industry, and consequently had to be imported here, had to pay duty to the amount of £250.
– What sort of a machine was it 1
– A zinc-refining retort, used in connexion with mining. During the last few months Dr. Cobb, of the New South Wales Agricultural department, visited America, and he has since pointed out the importance of encouraging the use of machinery among our farmers. He states that the good results which tlie American farmers have obtained are largely due to the use of machinery.
– I can assure the leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Macquarie that the farmers of Victoria are not led away by the maudlin sympathy expressed for them by the members of the Opposition. They quite understand who their friends are, and they do not look upon the leader of the Opposition as the agricultural Messiah of this country. I am rauch surprised to find that some honorable members holding protectionist ideas have not learned the lesson which has been taken to heart by the agriculturists of Victoria, namely, that where an article has been required for general use and the importers have had the market to themselves the farmers have been sweated and robbed on every side. We know by experience that the only way in which we can secure agricultural implements at a reasonable rate is by encouraging the local manufacturer, and so inducing competition.
– Why did the honorable member vote in favour of exempting traction engines?
– Because they are not made here. A few weeks ago we placed portable engines on the free list, and those who desired to buy them naturally expected that they would be able to procure them at a cheaper rate than when they were subject to a 25 per cent. duty. A friend of mine came from the country this week to buy an engine, and, on inquiring the price, found that it was just the same as that which was asked a few months ago. The reason given by the importer was that the carriage had been raised to the extent of 25 per cent. My fear is that a somewhat similar result will follow in the case of these drills, unless we retain the duty upon them. I shall, therefore, vote against the amendment.
– It is astonishing to hear the honorable member for Echuca lecturing honorable members as he does. Only four or five years ago the honorable member said that for 25 years the Victorian fanner had borne the burden of protection.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
Mr.WINTER COOKE.- I am not making my statement haphazard, and the attitude now taken by the honorable member for Echuca strikes me as being a most remarkable one. I wish to indorse what has been stated by the honorable member for Grampians with reference to the country to the west of Ararat, extending towards Hamilton. Until the last year or two that country was carrying nothing but sheep, but now wheat farms are scattered all over the country, and I am told that this result is entirely due to the use of these combined fertilizer and seed drills. This is an instrument which is largely productive of increased wheat growing, and on that account, it is beneficial, not only to the farmer, but to the State. It is of enormous benefit to the primary producer, and of great benefit to the States generally, because, first of all, people are kept upon the land, and secondly, because what they grow upon the land adds largely to the revenue of the railways of the States. I appeal, therefore, to the Prime Minister to say whether he cannot see his way to make this an exception to the agricultural machinery upon which a duty of 15 per cent, is charged.
Question - That the following exemption be added : - “ Fertilizer and drill combined “ - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … … 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Manufacture of Electrical Machinery. - Commonwealth Contingents. - Drawback on Sugar. - Statistical Returns. - Troops at a Public Meeting.
Motion (by Mr. Barton) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish, to ask whether it is possible for the right honorable Treasurer to obtain a statement of the number of persons in the Commonwealth who are employed in the manufacture of electrical plant. I have no doubt there will be a very long and interesting discussion as to whether there should, or should not be a duty imposed upon electrical plant, and in the decision of the question members of the committee would be greatly assisted if they had some authentic return presented to them showing the number of men in the Commonwealth at present engaged in the manufacture of electrical plant of all kinds.
– Manufacturing and repairing ?
– It is perfectly clear that repairing is not manufacturing. The question has been very clearly stated, and though I can quite understand why protectionists should not desire to answer it, Ministers should say whether or not they are prepared to furnish the information.
– The reason I suggested that repairs should be included, is that in all large electric lighting works, there are a number of men who go through their training as electrical engineers, and who come in to those works to learn their business. They ought to be included, because instead of sending work out to manufacturers, much of it is done by the staff on the premises. I can give as an instance the City of Melbourne Electric Light Works. Many of the staff of that company might fairly be termed “ manufacturers.”
Mr.F. E. McLEAN (Lang). - I hope that in preparing such a return the Government, if they see fit to accede to the request, will not complicate it by introducing figures relating to establishments that are not absolutely factories.
– The honorable member wants it all his own way.
Mr.F. E. McLEAN.- I do not think any good argument can be advanced to show that those in charge of electrical plants are engaged in the manufacture of electrical machinery. The return is sought for the specific purpose of showing the number of persons actually employed in the manufacture of this particular kind of machinery. It should be confined to that matter, otherwise it must necessarily complicate the issue sought to be settled. I do not think that any good purpose can be served by adding the information sought by the honorable member for Melbourne, unless in the report a distinction is clearly shown between those actually employed in the manufacture of the machinery, and those in charge of plants or engaged in effecting repairs.
– That is what I want.
– In the absence of the Minister for Defence I wish to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister a complaint from country districts, that eligible men for the second contingent experience great difficulties in putting in their applications for enrolment. Candidates have to come to Melbourne and make personal application. Many young men residing in the country cannot afford to pay the railway fare to Melbourne, and therefore are not afforded the same chance of joining the contingent as are young men in the city. We know very, well that the men required for the contingent are those who come from country districts. No city men are wanted. If local selection should be, decided upon, or if the Government intend to give men in the country a chance of coming to Melbourne in order to make personal application they should make public that intention at the earliest possible moment.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney).Seeing that the Minister for Trade and Customs has announced the intention of the Government to proceed with the consideration of the excise duties within the next few days, I desire to know whether he has found any reason for altering the official declaration as to the amout of drawback which is to be given on the export of goods containing sugar. The decision of the department is in contravention of the promise which the Minister made to the committee that the full amount of duty would be allowed. The departmental decision is that only five-sixths shall be considered.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I desire to support the request made by the honorable member for Barrier. The matter is a very important one, and I consider it is only fair that in the preparation of the return a distinction should be made between those engaged in the manufacture of the machinery and those employed in the repairing works. If that is done honorable members will be able to determine whether it is fair to place those engaged in repairing works in the same position as those employed in manufacturing the machinery. Already the- committee has been advised of serious injury that is being done to certain industries within the Commonwealth and still greater injury is likely to he suffered by persons requiring electrical plants unless some alteration is made in the Tariff. In order that the committee may be advised as to the number of people who will be . benefited - if protection is to benefit them, which I deny - the Government should bring down a proper return showing the exact number of people employed in each State within the Commonwealth. Then we should be in a position to consider any statement which might be submitted by the Minister for Trade and Customs when presenting this item to the committee. Some weeks ago the committee made a request to be supplied with information not only in regard to the total revenue .derived from the customs duties at present in force but also detailed returns. It is all verv well for the Government to give us the monthly returns of revenue, but in order that we may be able to ascertain the total amount collected on every item of taxation, the Government ought to supply us with a detailed return of the revenue received under the several divisions of the Tariff. The information could be obtained readily by telegraphing to the various Customs-house officers, as they keep the details separately. It would enable us to judge of the reductions made in the Tariff ; we should be able to see how the revenue is coming in, and to determine what course should be followed in the future in regard to the Tariff proposals.
– About the middle of last year, when some returns were being sought, I requested honorable members more than once to indicate any other returns likely to be required. The request was made in order that the Government should be able to meet the convenience of the House, as we knew that a good deal of time would be occupied itf the preparation of these returns. There is a great deal of difficulty in securing the information required.
– Could not we have details, for instance, under the ‘heading of machinery ?
– If honorable mem.bers endeavoured to extract from the Customs books under the old system - the new system not having got into proper working order yet - the particulars under the various headings of the new Tariff, they would find themselves confronted with a difficulty which would almost appall them. I think we have fairly kept our promise. We shall be glad to give honorable members all the information in our power. We cannot do impossibilities. In regard to what has been said about persons ‘employed in certain branches of industry, I have only to sa)’ that we will do our best to supply the information asked for. I confess that I have not any great hope of being able to obtain these particulars from the various States at a very early date. The House, however, has a right to all’ the information which can bear upon the subject. As to the question put by the honorable member for South Sydney, the Government have intimated that their policy is that drawback to the full amount of the duty on the sugar exported shall be allowed. In connexion with the export of jam, a question has been raised as to whether the proportion of sugar in that article is one-half, or a little less. We are disposed to think that the usual proportion is more like £2 10s., out of £6, than £3 out of £6. However, the honorable member has called my attention to the matter, and we are agreed . that we should allow all our exporters the full duty paid on the sugar exported. The Government are having various samples of jam collected in the different States and analyzed, in order that they may be able to form an opinion as to what is the precise proportion of sugar which they contain. When these analyses have been completed, we propose to deal with the question on the facts disclosed.
– Does the Minister promise that the Government will do their best to obtain the return I have asked for before next Tuesday?
– We shall do our best to obtain it at once.
, in reply. - The questions raised on the motion for adjournment have all been disposed of, apparently, with the exception of that relating to applications for enrolment in the contingent, and the railway facilities afforded to intending candidates in Victoria. The matter has been explained already, and there is no doubt that the Victorian railway authorities will respond in the same way as the authorities in the other parts of the Commonwealth have done. Some question was raised last night on a motion foradjournment,which I do not desire to traverse, as to a certain meeting held in South. Australia. The question involved was whether or not it was a political meeting. Not thinking it right to telegraph until the matter had been disposed of - because I considered I should have no right to seek support in reply to any message I might receive from any quarter - I telegraphed after the question had been resolved in the negative, asking whether the troops were to attend that meeting to receive a farewell, as represented to us in the telegram from the Premier of South Australia. I felt that unless they were to attend to receive some farewell we should have been placed in this position : that we had been, whether unintentionally or not, by other people misled. I have received from the secretary to the actingPremier this telegram, whichI am quite sure will be pleasing to all the House -
No political significance underlying last night’s meeting, and the attendance of troops thereat. The latter was a voluntary parade. It was, as stated in Mr. Jenkins’ telegram to ,Sir John Forrest of 23rd instant, to support British Government’s policy in South Africa, and to farewell contingent. The meeting was a magnificent demonstration of loyalty. There was a general reference to the contingents despatched and about to be despatched to South Africa, and the South Australian unit of the departing contingent, who were given special significance by every speaker at the meeting, and who also had a special and prominent platform set apart for them, and were, on behalf of the citizens of Adelaide and the colonists generally, wished God-speed andfarewell, and the hope was expressed of speedy peace and an early return. Reference to the departing contingent was by inadvertence omitted by His Worship the Mayor from the public advertisements.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 January 1902, viewed 7 November 2016, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020130_reps_1_7/>.