1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers. .
– I wish to know if the Treasurer has yet come to a determination in regard to the items in the Tariff which it is proposed to. recommit. If so, I would ask him to give honorable members fair notice of them, so that we mayhave time to consider his proposals. I presume that he, on his part, would be glad if honorable members gave printed notice of the recommittals which they intend to pro-, pose.
– I hope that we are not going to recommit small items. The Government promised to take into consideration a certain number of matters referred to during the debate on the Tariff, and I have taken them into consideration, and prepared a rough draft of the proposals I should like to make in regard - to them ; but I desire to consult the Minister for Trade and Customs before circulating them.
Suspension of Standing Orders : Easter
Encampments : Telephone Construction : Post-office Improvements : Nonpayment of Accounts: Carriage of Mails : Partially Paid Coups : Rifle Rancgs and Clubs : Federal Railway Passes : Dr. Maxwell : Bisley Rifle Team : Accident to Cabman : Government Printing-office : “ Hansard “ Reports.
Motion (by Sir George Turner) proposed -
That the standing orders be suspended in order to enable all steps to be taken to obtain Supply, and to passa Supply Bill through all its stages without delay.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I wish to know from the Treasurer why we are asked to suspend the standing orders in this ‘Summary fashion to enable a Supply Bill to be passed, of ‘which copies have been placed in our hands only this morning?
– It appears tome that the tendency is increasing to let financial measures go through without the consideration which was formerly deemed necessary to apply to them. No doubt’ the schedule was available to honorable members yesterday morning, but we had no idea that there would be this summary motion for the sus- - pension of the standing orders.
– The Senate intends to adjourn from to-day until after the Easter holidays, so that, unless we pass the Bill this morning, we shall not be able to obtain Supply until after Easter.
– Am I to understand that there is no item in the schedule which is a novel one 1
– That is so. The Bill provides merely a month’s Supply for the’ ordinary services of the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply
Sir GEORGE TURNER (Balaclava-
Treasurer). - I move -
That a sum not exceeding £262,415 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1902.
It is unfortunate that I should have to ask for Supply monthly, but honorable members know that we cannot break in upon the Tariff discussion for the purpose of dealing with the Estimates. I hope, however, that we shall finish the Tariff discussion before the Easter adjournment, and that we shall be able to consider the Estimates very shortly afterwards. The Bill makes no provision for anything but the ordinary services of the year, except that it provides a small amount for the holding of Easter encampments. Money for that purpose has been placed upon the Estimates, and it is the only item which can be termed in any sense novel.
– I think it is deplorable that in the States as well as in the Commonwealth the arrangements for the calling together of Parliament, and the consideration of the finances, are such that temporary Supply Bills are almost always necessary, and the expenditure of the year has practically all been incurred before Parliament has had an opportunity to consider the Estimates and to pass the Appropriation Bill. I have always thought that the changing of the financial year in New South “Wales to the twelve months ending the 30th June from the twelve months ending the 31st December was a mistake, but I shall not discuss the matter now, because I am anxious that we shall get on with other work. We have the assurance of the Treasurer that the Bill covers simply the ordinary-expenditure of the year. The provision for Easter encampments may give rise to a little debate, but, personally, I believe that if we are to have a defence force we must provide for the practical training of our men. I have always thought it false economy to grudge a few thousands for continuous training, because the only way in which we can create esprit de corps, and build up a mobile defence force, is by bringing the various bodies of volunteers in the States into contact with each other, and subjecting them to, as nearly as possible, the conditions of actual warfare.
– I wish to know if the Treasurer has made provision in the Bill for the carrying out of works which are not only absolutely necessary, but which, if carried out, would give an immediate return to the Treasury. The construction of several telephone exchanges in New South Wales has been held in abeyance . pending the voting of money out of loan funds.
– I am going to deal with that matter this afternoon. I have the papers upon my table now.
– I am opposed to spending loan money when we have the necessary revenue in hand, but, in any case, there can be no doubt that in New South Wales, at any rate, these telephone exchanges have been the best paying concerns that the Government has entered upon, and it is bad policy to refuse to construct works which would bring in a large and immediate revenue. Furthermore, it is unjust to persons who want, and are prepared to pay for, the convenience which a telephone service would give them.
– The importance of the Tariff is such that it is hardly possible to deal with the Estimates until its discussion is finished ; but I trust that this is the last monthly Supply Bill that the Treasurer will ask us to pass, and that the Estimates will speedily be brought before us. As the honorable member for Bland has indicated, a considerable amount of friction and trouble is being experienced in New South Wales because of the delay of the Federal Government in extending telephonic facilities. For some years previous to federation the State of New South Wales was doing good work in connecting outlying country districts by telephone with telegraph offices. Several such extensions in my electorate were approved of before the Postal department was handed over to the Commonwealth, but the State Postmaster-General decided not to carry them out, but to leave them to be dealt with by the Commonwealth PostmasterGeneral. When, however, we apply to the Commonwealth Postmaster-General the only reply we can get is that a general scheme is under consideration, or that nothing can be done until the Estimates are passed. I have the same complaint to make in regard to the delay in carrying out necessary improvements in post and telegraph offices. I have endeavoured to have some of these matters dealt with as urgent, and in one case the Treasurer has been asked to make provision for the work out of his advance account ; but he wants to be satisfied that the matter is urgent before doing so. The postal authorities considered that because the State Postal department did not deal with the matter it could not be urgent. That may be a good excuse for the postal authorities, but it is not satisfactory to the 31 z people who are suffering inconvenience. I do not propose to offer any opposition to this Bill, but I hope that it will be the last of its kind this session, and that we shall speedily have the Estimates and loan votes placed before us.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Treasurer a matter that deserves immediate attention - that is, the non-payment of accounts in the Postal department. Some accounts have been outstanding since last November, and the people to whom they are owing cannot get the money. A constituent of mine, after making vain attempts for months to secure payment of his account, solicited my assistance, and I interviewed the Postal and Treasury authorities. I was finally advised that the money had been sent on to the Postal department, and that the account would be paid ; but this morning I am told that my constituent has received the same answer as before, namely, that the money is not available. Many of these people to whom accounts are owing are small contractors, and all their capital is represented by the few hundred pounds owing to them by the department. They are prevented from making deposits in connexion with other contracts, and are obliged to waste their time for weeks and weeks in going about from pillar to post seeking for the money to which they are fairly entitled. Tt is the duty of the Federal Government to put an end to this state of affairs, and some decisive action should be taken at once.
– A practice has been in vogue for some time, particularly in the back country of New South Wales, against which I desire to enter a most emphatic protest. The Postal department has, in many cases, asked persons to enter into a guarantee to pay certain expenses in connexion with the carriage of mails over and above the cost which the department itself might be prepared to incur. In some cases this guarantee has been insisted upon before mail contracts were entered into, and in other cases existing mail facilities have been withdrawn owing to the failure of certain persons to give the guarantees asked for. Those who are most active in asking for the extension of mail facilities are generally public spirited men, and it is exceedingly unfair to ask them to become responsible for the cost of carrying on mail contracts whilst other persons are allowed to enjoy the same facilities free of all cost or liability. It has always been understood that the State undertakes the carrying of mails, and that all persons, irrespective of whether they live in the country or in thickly populated localities, should receive reasonable facilities. Therefore, it is wrong in principle, and specially unfair to people in sparsely settled localities to ask them to guarantee any portion of the cost of carrying the mails. Sufficient profit should be derived from the conveyance of mails in thickly populated districts to make good the losses that are inevitable in connexion with the carriage and distribution of mails in the sparsely settled parts of the country. Every encouragement should be given to the people who are settled in the backblocks, where they have very few advantages. At the end of last year, some of my constituents were entirely cut off from their business town, owing to the action of the Postal department in discontinuing their direct mail service, on the plea that it did not pay to carry mails. That should not be the basis upon which mail contracts are let. I would remind the authorities that mail contractors receive by no means sufficient payment from the Postal department to compensate them for carrying the mails. In- every case the tenders are very low, and the mails would not be carried at such rates unless the services were worked in conjunction with the carrying of passengers. The department, therefore, receives the benefit of the business enterprise of the contractors in other directions than that of the mere carriage of mails, and they certainly should not try to transfer an)r portion of their responsibility to certain sections of the people. I desire also to support what has been stated by the honorable member for Bland. I know of one case in which the department could not carry out an extension of a telephone service between a hospital and the residence of the medical officer. Every one will admit that it is most important in such cases to provide telephone communication, because patients’ lives may depend upon the prompt attendance of the medical man. I know of another case in which the expenditure involved was only 30s., and yet the department could not make the extension because it was stated that nothing Could be done until the Estimates had been passed. There is as much money spent in writing and humbugging about as would be involved in the carrying out of the work desired. Some vigour requires to be shown, and ordinary routine should not be checked because the department has been handed over to the Commonwealth. , Where people are prepared to pay for their telephone services, the department should give them the necessary facilities, because every extension will add to the income of the department. In New South Wales the income derived from the Post and Telegraph department is a very substantial one, and if there is a deficiency in Victoria, it is doubtless due to the mistake that was made in reducing the postage. It would have been better to extend the facilities to the public and to increase the salaries of the officers than to reduce the postage, and it is of no use to excuse the inaction of the department on the ground that no funds are available.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I understand from the Treasurer that the only item in the schedule which is in any sense new is the vote for the Easter Encampment, and I desire to know whether it represents an increase upon previous, votes.
– There has been an increase asked for in Queensland ; that is the only case I know of.
– - I see that it is proposed to spend £52,655 in powder, shot, and shell, and various other things which cause explosions. Unless we are very careful we shall mortgage the heads,, hair, and boots of the people in order to establish a phantom- defence, and this unnecessary expenditure will therefore have my uncompromising opposition. I see that £20,649 is to be voted for the purposes of the Trade and Customs department. Thatmeans business and peace, commerce, hope, prosperity, and happiness for a unitedpeople; but the other vote means’ blood, boodle, and beer.. The amount of £175,625- is appropriated for the Postmaster-General’s department, and that is a very large, sum. I know of one post-office at Normanville, in South Australia, where the revenue - amounts to £85, and the cost of maintaining the office to £300. The expenses in connexion with these small postoffices should be so reduced as to make ends meet. I assure the Treasurer that all matters connected with military expenditure will be very carefully scrutinized.
Sit- GEORGE TURNER.- It is evident from what the honorable member for Tasmania says that my right honorable colleague, the Minister for Defence, -will have a lively time in connexion with his Estimates. He will no doubt take warning, and prepare himself to meet honorable members who think that we can have a defence force without providing powder and other necessary munitions of war. So far as the question of works is concerned, they are to a small extent provided for in the Estimates, but larger works necessarily have to be provided for out of loan moneys. -It would be very unwise to introduce into a Supply Bill votes for the construction of works. The Supply Bill is always passed on the assurance of the Treasurer that it makes provision for only the ordinary expenditure of the various departments, and if the construction of one work or another were provided for it would be unfair, because such matters ought to be discussed on the general Estimates. I have given a general authority that telephone connexions shall be proceeded with in cases where the expenditure will be under £10, and that the cost of the work shall be charged against the Treasurer’s advance account in the meantime. Where works involve a larger outlay, I have informed the department that I cannot anticipate the authority pf Parliament unless I feel perfectly satisfied that the work is really urgent.
– What is the test of urgency ?
– TheTreasui-er has to deal with each particular case. M.y honorable friend has an urgent case with which I propose to deal this afternoon, and the honorable member for Bland has another which is before me at the present time. The stoppage of mails which has been complained of is a matter of which I - have no knowledge, and I would suggest to the honorable member who brought it -forward that he should place a question upon the business - paper for Tuesday or Wednesday next, by which time he will be able to obtain a reply from the Postmaster-General’s department regarding the course which is being pursued. The delay -v/hich occurs in connexion. with the payment of accounts is becoming very serious. I do not understand why the accounts are not- paid promptly, as the money is always available immediately the necessary vouchers are sent in. Advances are made to the officers for the purpose of discharging obligations with alacrity. The case mentioned by the honorable member for Echuca is the only definite one which has been brought under my notice, and in that instance I forwarded authority for the payment of the account in question upon’ the same day.
– People do not get thenmoney until three weeks after the vouchers have been sent in.
– In ordinarycircumstances they certainly ought to b® paid much quicker, because the money is available for the purpose. If any specific case is brought under the notice of either the Minister for Home Affairs or myself, it will be immediately inquired into, and steps taken to remedy the delay. I regret the persistency with which these complaints are made, because the Commonwealth ought to discharge its obligations promptly, as people are naturally desirous of obtaining their money i n order that they may be enabled to enter into fresh contracts. The question as to when the financial year should close is. one which will have to be considered at a later stage, and I do not think it would be wise to discuss it upon a Supply Bill. When the Estimates are under consideration, the matter can be debated with a view to determining which is the best period of the year at which to balance the public accounts. Then, the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, wishes the Government to reduce the expenditure in connexion with the Normanville Post-office, in South Australia, whilst other honorable members complain that we do not provide sufficient postal accommodation. In the one case we are accused of giving too much, and, in the other, of giving too little. Of course, I can understand that from time to time difficulties will arise in a large department, because its officers are naturally desirous of economizing, but certainly that policy ought not to be pushed to the extreme of preventing people in the remote country districts from enjoying proper mail communication .
– I have a small grievance to bring forward in connexion with the Hughenden Post-office, in North Queensland. At that town, the office in which all the postal and telegraph business is transacted measures only about 6 feet by 8 feet. Hughenden is one of the most important places in North Queensland, outside of Charters Towers and Townsville.
Three years ago the State Government recognised that the accommodation provided at this office was woefully deficient, and plans and specifications were drawn up for its enlargement. The alterations, however, have never been proceeded with. For years past the accommodation has been wretchedly inadequate, and, seeing that the State Government promised to provide increased facilities for the transaction of business, I think it is high time that the Commonwealth undertook this work.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister for Home Affairs the delay that occurs in carrying out small improvements which have been sanctioned by the Federal Government. In my own electorate, two works were authorized six months ago, but “have not been proceeded with. “When I inquired the cause of the delay, I was informed that the matters in question had been referred to the State Works department. Alterations to the Lithgow Postoffice were promised months ago, but so far, no steps have been taken to effect them. The office in question is about the size of that mentioned by the honorable member :for Kennedy, although Lithgow has a population of about 5,000. Upon a Saturday afternoon it is impossible to get into the building. I ask the Minister for Home Affairs to see that authorized works are carried out with reasonable expedition.
– There is one matter to which I should like to draw the attention of the Treasurer. I believe that the Government are making a grave mistake in prohibiting recruiting in connexion with our partially-paid defence forces. Orders have been issued forbidding corps from carrying on the ordinary busi-: ness of recruiting for the purpose of maintaining their original strength. I will take as an illustration the corps in my own town, which nominally consists of 300 men. ^Speaking generally, about one-fourth of that number leave the district every year, and -owing to the action of the Government we -are prevented from keeping the corps up to its normal strength. It may be urged that this action is influenced by motives of economy. If so, the abolition of the whole of these corps would result in greater economy. If the orders issued are not the outcome of a desire for economy they must be the result of ‘some impending re-organization scheme, in which case it has probably been deemed advisable to -allow things to remain in statu quo. But they are not ‘ remaining in statu quo ; the strength of the force is being diminished. I wish also to point out that a portion of the allowance granted to volunteer corps depends upon their numerical strength. If recruiting be forbidden and these branches of the defence force become weakened in numbers, although the Government may be the gainer in one respect, but considerable inefficiency may follow. At the present time the particular corps to which I refer is 50 under its normal strength. Usually it is necessary to form squads of recruits three times a year to fill up the vacancies created by the departure of men from the districts in which they were formerly resident. As, however, the Government have forbidden recruiting, the strength of these bodies has fallen off. Next year if they are allowed to recruit up to their full strength they will require to equip their new members with uniforms which have to be paid for out of the corps’ funds, with the result that just when they have to incur a heavy expenditure they will be docked in the allowances made to them by the Government. If things are to remain in statu quo, surely the forces ought to be kept up to their ordinary strength. Vacancies in the permanent force are being filled by recruits. Why is not a similar practice adopted with regard to the partially-paid forces ? As soon as permission was given to the authorities of the permanent force to recruit, a volunteer officer applied to- the district commandant for a similar privilege, hut it was promptly refused. This is a most serious matter, and must inevitably interfere with the efficiency of the force. The troops are going into camp next week 40 or 50men weaker than they should have gone, had we been allowed to carry on in the usual way ; and the body is not of a proper size to be handled for operations of the kind we are supposed to undertake. The force is more skeleton than it ought to be, and the work done cannot be so good. It may be said, perhaps, that the amount of money required will not be passed on the Estimates ; but- if that view be taken, it means that, from the 1st July each year until the Estimates are actually passed, the whole affairs of the military forces will be at a stand-still so far as the maintenance of efficiency is concerned. This is most unfair to those who are responsible for efficiency.
It is their duty to keep the troops up to a proper standard, and if the establishment is found under strength, they are told that it is their duty to recruit. Considerable numbers of men cannot suddenly be recruited in country towns, and, even if they could be, large batches of new men introduced amongst the trained soldiers at one and the same time create a certain amount of unsteadiness. In order to maintain the standard, it is the bounden duty of the Government to allow the strength to be kept up in the ordinary way, and I am utterly at a loss to understand the present attitude. I understood that, pending the scheme of reorganization, matters were to remain in statu quo. I do not know whether the Minister for Defence is willing to allow recruiting, but the Treasurer is keeping a watchful eye on the funds. It must be remembered, however, that we are not asking for an increase of expenditure, but only for that which the Treasurer has told us halfadozen times is being sanctioned by those temporary Supply Bills ; that is, that the ordinary expenditure may be carried on, and no extraordinary expenditure incurred. Every corps is entitled to keep up its strength in the ordinary way, and to forbid that being done will result in a great deal of injury to the troops to which the new condition applies. I understand the rule prevails throughout the Commonwealth, so that in every district, with certain exceptions, the troops, whether partially paid or volunteers, are affected, though I cannot understand why there is this difference in policy. I trust it is only necessary to draw attention to the matter in order to induce the Minister for Defence and the Treasurer to allow recruiting to go on in the usual way. Unless this is done efficiency will be impaired, and remain impaired for at least twelve months to come,’ owing to the introduction of large instead of small drafts. At the very time that a considerable sum of money is wanted in order to clothe large numbers of recruits that money will not be forthcoming, because the corps will be unable to earn the effective allowance. From a great many years’ experience in the matter, I can say that the course proposed by the Government is most undesirable.
– Five or six months ago a rifle range at Ipswich in Queensland was closed by order of the Government on the ground that it was unsafe, with the result that two of the most efficient clubs in that State have been prevented from practising. Recent developments in modern warfare have demonstrated that one of the most useful attributes of the military forces is expert rifle shooting, and it was supposed that every encouragement would be given to this arm of the defence force. The contrary, however, seems to be the case, so far as Queensland is concerned. The rifle range of which I speak has been in use for about 40 years. I am reminded in a recent letter from the Defence department that the range of projectiles has increased considerably, but, as an old rifle shot, I do not think I need reminding of that fact. I have here a photograph of a “Victorian rifle range, 100 feet long, with a hill 14 feet high, and’ on country as level as a billiard table. On the other hand, the range in Queensland,, which has been deemed unsafe, is backed by a, hill 40 feet high, the first 15 or 25 feet, of which is almost precipitous. It is argued that because there has been some little increase of settlement behind the hill the range is unsafe. I know every inch of the country, and I can say that the representations made to the Minister for Defenceare not strictly in accordance with factIt is not as though we were asking the Defence department to spend money on the range, because all we desire is to be let alone. From the time the range was opened up to date, the Government have not spent £10 on it ; but, through some officious interference, the range has been closed, with the result that some of the finest shots in Australia are prevented from practising. Two members of the two clubs who used this range have on two occasions been included in the team which represented Australia at the international meeting at Bisley, and one of these members on one occasion topped the score of the Australian team. Members of these clubs are now desirous of qualifying themselves for the forthcoming Bisley meeting, but the closing of the range entirely prevents them. In the letter from the department it is suggested that, the members of the rifle clubs might be permitted to practise at Dinmore, 6 miles distant, with companies of the defence forces. It must be remembered, however, that the means of communication in that district are not such as are enjoyed in Melbourne or Sydney, and the men are not able to spare the time in journeying to and fro. During the whole of the 40 years this range has been in use there has not been a single accident, and we hare used the old Snider, the Martini-Henry, and have for some years been using the303 rifle.No complainthas been made as to danger to settlement, and considering the construction of the range, any such objection would be ridiculous. The letter from the Defence department says : -
Behind the targets is a kill about 40 feet high, of which the first 15 or 20 feet are fairly perpendicular ; but towards the top the slope is much easier ; the top itself forming a plateau which extends to the railway, only half -a-mile distant. A house occupied by Mr. Walson, the would-be seller of the land, stands 200 yards behind the targets, and 135 yards to the left of the line of fire.
Just fancy that being deemed an element of danger !
That fact makes the range unsafe ; and there are also many other dwellings in close proximity.
That is not true.
No complaint, however, appeal’s to have been made up to the present.
Then why close the range ?
In order to make the range moderately safe for members of the clubs who are good shots certain improvements were suggested, which would cost £184-
Notice the liberality of the department in dealing with rifle clubs, which we supposed were to be encouraged at least as much as any other arm of the forces. The range was prepared and maintained by the rifle clubs, and if the defence force authorities have such a poor opinion of the marksmanship of their troops, let the latter go to Dinmore. I am satisfied that there are few members of the rifle clubs who would fire so widely as to render the shots dangerous.
– Is this private land 1
– There is an acre and a half of private land which the Government can buy for £24, and the department suggests that if this purchase be made the club should spend £184 in terracing the hill. That appears to me the reverse of liberal treatment. The letter continues - - but as such improvements would not render the range sufficiently safe for the use of Defence Force companies under service conditions, the Commandant pointed out that such a large sum was not likely to be granted by the Government, - but that if the clubs were willing to pay for the improvements, he would recommend the Government to purchase the 11/2 acres. It is further suggested that the angle of rise of ricochet bullets is greater than you imagine, and you are also reminded that, with modern ammunition, nearly 21/2 miles beyond a target on level ground is necessary to obtain a zone of safety.
There is scarcely any settlement within 21/2 miles of the target within the line of fire. The railway runs behind at a distance of a little more than half-a-mile, but it is in a depression, and the chance of a bullet doing any injury in this connexion is very remote. The letter proceeds -
The Commandant further points out that, when claiming the range as safe under past conditions, the presidents appear to have lost sight of the present requirements of the303 rifle, and the increase in settlement in proximity to the range. There would be no objection to the members of the rifle clubs going by train to Dinmore, in the same way as the Defence Force companies from Ipswich.
I shall have something more to say on this head when the Defence Estimates are under consideration. These two rifle clubs have been treated in a most shameful manner not only in regard to the range, but in regard to another matter. More than half of the members who were returned as efficient last year have this year been returned by the officer in charge as non-efficient, on a little technical point. One of the Queensland rifle club regulations is that members to qualify as efficient must provide themselves with uniforms. I have been a member of a rifle club for about fourteen years, and provided myself with a uniform; but I know that most of my fellow members did not get uniforms, because the regulation was considered a dead letter. But, as soon as the Defence department was transferred to the Commonwealth, a niggardly system set in, and the regulation was put into force.
– Why do the members of the rifle clubs want uniforms ? It would be much better to spend the money in buying cartridges.
– I think so. If I am rightly informed, the members of the Victorian rifle clubs are not required to provide themselves with uniforms. I understand that there are about 20,000 members of rifle clubs in Victoria, and that Queensland comesnext with about 4,000 members. There can be no question that these clubs would provide a very effective defence force in time of need. To disqualify their members, and to throw the clubs into a state of insolvency by putting an arbitrary regulation into force without notice, is a cruel thing. The members of rifle clubs spend three or four times as much as their allowance from the Government amounts to, and they would not have grumbled if they had been given notice of the intention to put the regulation into force. The result of the action of the department is that there is a talk of disbanding many of the clubs. I hope that the Minister will take notice of what I have said upon this subject, and of the correspondence which has passed be- tween myself and his department, and will do something to remedy the grievance com- plained of.
Mr. MCDONALD (Kennedy).- For some time past the Premier of Queensland has been in the habit of making statements concerning the privileges which are given to members of the Commonwealth Parliament in regard to railway travelling, and the abuses for which they are responsible. I consider that those statements are not very creditable to the maker of them, and that they do no honour to the State which he represents. In this morning’s Argus an account is published of an interview held with the Queensland Premier yesterday, and, no doubt, owing to the way in which telegrams to the provincial press of Queens land are manipulated, a similar paragraph appears this morning in every newspaper of any importance throughout that State. The paragraph to which I refer is as follows
The Premier stated to-day that it was being made to appear as if the Queensland Government was acting in a churlish manner in regard to passes to federal members, but the position was misstated. The federal Premier had been issuing orders on the Queensland Government for passes to the wives and families of federal members. The State Government had honoured the orders by issuing tickets, and had actually paid New South Wales and Victoria their proportion of the fares. The Railway department had since been regularly rendering accounts to the Federal Government, but not a shilling had been paid, with the result that the railway authorities had been forced, at great inconvenience, to keep books open. 1 think that in fairness to the members representing Queensland, and for the sake of their own dignity, the Commonwealth Government should immediately take the necessary steps to pay their indebtedness to Queensland upon this head.
– And upon any other.
– I think that the statement contained in the paragraph is a piece of gross impertinence, and that such statements are humiliating to Queensland. If it is the right of every member of the Federal Parliament to obtain a pass to travel over the lines of the States, I intend to exercise that right ; but if it is to be regarded merely as a privilege granted to individual members, I refuse to take it, and I think every other honorable member occupies a similar position. I do not want it to be thought that the Queensland Government are paying the fares of the wives of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament who happen to travel in Queensland. As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth Parliament pays, and Mr. Philp ought not to have made the statement.
– I think it a very great pity that there should be these recriminations between the Federal Government and the State Governments. It is very unfortunate that Mr. Philp has gone out’ of his way to refer to this matter, and it is very hard upon members living at a great distance from Melbourne that they should be treated as they have been treated by him. Similar privileges have been granted in the past to all members of State Parliaments. In Victoria, up to quite lately, each member received four passes a year, with which he could do as he pleased. They were not always used by his wife, but could be handed to anybody to travel all over the State within a certain period.
– They are available only between any two stations.
– That is the case now. Representatives of other States sacrifice a great-deal to come here, and it is only right that they should be able to bring their families with them. The object of the remarks made by the Premier of Queensland can only be to increase the friction between the two Governments. Up to a certain point I sympathized with him in the difficulties with which he had to deal. His State has, to my mind, suffered by the action of this Parliament, but I think that he has no excuse for trying to create illfeeling between it and the Commonwealth.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).I feel that it would be more dignified for this Parliament if the Treasurer could see his way to pay to the Queensland Treasurer the sums alleged to tfe due for railway fares.
It is most irritating to the representatives of Queensland that these matters should have to be continually brought up. It is being improperly made to appear that we are trying to arrogate to ourselves privileges which are not granted to the members of State Parliaments. There seems to be an intention on the part of certain persons in Queensland to do all they can to intensify the friction between Queensland and the Commonwealth. So far as I am able to understand the workings of this Parliament, there is a strong national feeling among its members, and a desire to do justice to every State in the Union. The Premier of Queensland, however, speaks as though all our legislation were directed against Queensland, with the express intention of injuring our State. - Of course each honorable member does what he can to properly place before the House the position of the State which he represents ; but, in coining to a decision, the House is influenced by national rather than by provincial considerations. Statements are being circulated throughout Queensland which we have no opportunity of refuting. The Premier of Queensland seems to be endeavouring to create a bias against nationalism. Provincialism is shown by men who at one time stood before the people of Queensland as the great advocates of a national spirit in Australia. I believe that the people of Queensland have every confidence and trust in the Treasurer, and in the good faith of the Commonwealth Government, but I hope the account referred to will be promptly paid, and an end put to all this bickering and petty complaining on the part of Mr. Philp.
– I cannot pay it until it is passed by Parliament.
– I would sooner see it included in a monthly Supply Bill than allow it to remain unpaid. .
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– If it is the general feeling of honorable members that I should pay it, I shall do so at once.
– The charge is that New New South “Wales and Victoria have been paid and that Queensland has not been paid.
– No ; the grievance is that Queensland has had to pay a proproportion of the travelling expenses incurred in New South Wales and Victoria, whereas her own account has not been settled. °
– I think too much is being made of this matter. The Premier of Queensland is in difficulties owing to his own incapacity and other circumstances, and is endeavouring to divert public attention by misrepresentations and personal abuse. Mr. Philp, in this matter, is repeating a statement which was made by his Attorney-General some time ago and corrected, and his action is entirely beyond defence. If he had remained within decent bounds no one would have mentioned his name, but he has repeated private conversations which took place in this House, and has now descended to an insinuation that the wife of an honorable member of this House has been carried free on the railways beyond Brisbane on two occasions.
– He did that to belittle me.
– If honorable members are to regard free passes for their wives as a privilege, no Queenslander will accept them, but if we can claim them as a right, we should not be worthy of our position if we did not do so. Mr. Philp has stated that Queensland is carrying honorable members and their wives free, and that the Government of that State are paying their proportionate share of the expenses incurred in travelling in New South ‘Wales and Victoria in addition ; but that is not true. Mr. Philp, by his repetition of proved misstatements, has shown himself quite unfit’ to occupy his present position. So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, it would be satisfactory for us to pay Queensland from time to time, but I should not ask the Treasurer to do for Queensland what he is not prepared to do for the rest of Australia. The very fact of a special vote being passed for Queensland would humiliate the people of that State, and I would not support any such proceeding. No great inconvenience is being caused to Queensland in . keeping an account of the Commonwealth indebtedness, and no substantial grievance has been disclosed. In order to show the depths of the degradation to which the Government of Queensland desire to subject members of this Parliament, I may mention that it was notified to the railway officials in that State that they were not to honour Commonwealth orders for railway tickets for the wives of Commonwealth representatives unless the orders had first been submitted to the Minister for Railways. I should not allow an order issued to me to go before the Minister for Railways, or any other Minister of the Queensland Government. .1 should not allow any order issued to me to be bandied about among people who have descended to the repetition of private conversations, and who have allowed petty personal matters and feelings of spite to displace considerations of high public policy. If the Queensland Government are not prepared to honour the paper of the Commonwealth they should say so at once and have done with it. Queensland has been degraded by the present Government, and I trust that we have heard the end of this petty trouble.
– I regret, very much that these matters affecting Queensland should come up so frequently. I am sorry to say that honorable members are very much to blame. I do not say that Mr. Philp is not open to censure to a certain extent, but honorable members should bear in mind that there has been a general election in Queensland within the last few days, and that during the campaign a great deal has been said which both sides no doubt regret. Questions have been asked in this Chamber with a view to disparage Queensland, and Ministers themselves appear to take a delight in laying hold of anything that may be said by the Premier of Queensland with a view to lowering that State in the estimation of Australia generally. Questions have been asked, particularly by honorable members representing Queensland, and the general impression is that those questions have been inspired.
– That is not true.
– I have before attacked this practice of speaking against Queensland, and I again protest against anything being done that will tend to create disunion by causing friction or ill-feeling between the people of Queensland and the Commonwealth.
– Has the honorable member any knowledge of questions having been inspired t
– No ; but I know that that is the general impression in Queensland. With reference to railway passes, I was somewhat surprised when I first heard of the action taken by Mr. Philp, but I concluded that there must have been some reason for it. We did not hear both sides of the question until this morning. It appears now that the Commonwealth Government have been running an account with the Queensland Government since this Parliament opened, and I should like to know whether it is right that the Commonwealth should allow its liabilities to remain unpaid for such a long period. That is not the practice followed in ordinary affairs Queensland has been called upon to pay Victoria and New South Wales its proportion of the expenses of conveying members and their wives by rail, and yet has not been paid herself. The fault is not all on the part of Mr. Philp. Perhaps he has said something which might have been left unsaid, but he has been very much irritated by remarks from the Prime Minister downwards. The Government should settle their accounts regularly, and, if necessary, should arrange for an overdraft with the bank in order to enable them to meet their obligations in the ordinary way
– I cannot agree with the attitude taken by the honorable member for Oxley, who suggests that the Commonwealth Government should arrange for an overdraft at the bank. The financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and Queensland are purely a matter of the adjustment of accounts. The Government of Queensland are now receiving far more than they would be entitled to at the hands of the Commonwealth, if we had exercised our strict rights. We are entitled to retain a quarter of the receipts from Customs and Excise, but we have not done so. Therefore, if we had stood upon our strict legal rights, the Treasurer of Queensland would have found that tho amount returned to him was far less than he has received, and that the difference would be a very large one compared with the small item due to the Railway department of that State. Moreover, we are forwarding him the Customs receipts weekly instead of monthly, as provided for under the Constitution, and it appears that he has quite overlooked the consideration thus extended to him But I think that the honorable member for Oxley was upon very sound ground when he pointed out that this was the utterance of an individual only. We must always make allowance at exciting periods, such as election times, for sources of irritation. I decline to assist any honorable member, even if he feels aggrieved,’ in passing judgment upon the Premier of Queensland or any other individual. It is quite time for us to quarrel with that State when, through its Parliament, it expresses dissatisfaction with the treatment meted out to it by the Commonwealth. . The representatives of Queensland, however, repudiate the grievance. Why, then, should we take notice of an individual? Now that a protest has been uttered by one or two Queensland representatives, whose position we can all sympathize with, because it would have been better if such statements had not been made by Mr. Philp, I think we can well afford to allow the matter to drop. We shall best consult our own dignity by refusing to take any further notice of it.
– My name has been brought up in connexion with the action and utterances of the Premier of Queensland. I think honorable members - knowing the part which I took in connexion with the accomplishment of federationwill credit me with a natural desire to preserve the most friendly relations with the Government of every State of the Union. I have never relaxed my -efforts in this direction, and although there has been some argumentative correspondence upon public questions between Mr. Philp and myself, I think it will be recognised that in all my answers I have preserved that attitude of calmness and dignity which befits the Commonwealth. I do not for a moment wish to perpetuate any little discussions that have arisen in regard to certain pettinesses that have occurred. It may be true - as has been stated - that the Commonwealth Government has charged for. the use of an officer’s services. That is natural ; and I think that when I met the Premiers in conference last December there was a sort of understanding as between Commonwealth and State that the value of the services of borrowed officers should be recognised. Regarding the statement made concerning Dr. Maxwell, honorable members are aware, from questions answered in this House, that that officer was paid an honorarium for any services which he rendered to the Commonwealth. He devoted great skill and ability to the rendering of those services, and fully earned anything that was paid to him. I have no more references to make to this matter, except to add that it will always be my endeavour to preserve friendly relations with the Governments of the States. At the same time, I do find myself subjected to a strain when I can scarcely pick up a newspaper .without . noticing that some small and unworthy attack has been made upon me. So far, I have endeavoured to answer such attacks by a bare reference to facts, and have refrained from indulging in too much comment. It would be the wildest of suppositions to imagine that I desire to see any friction engendered between the Commonwealth and any State or any public man in a State. All my efforts will be directed towards preventing quarrels and friction. In the last few remarks of the honorable member for Oxley, I think I detected a sort of insinuation that certain questions had been put to me in this House by arrangement. He very much misunderstands me if he thinks that I am capable of making a hit at any one who criticises me by prompting an honorable member to ask questions.
– I said it is a matter of common rumour.
Mi. BARTON..- Lest the honorable member should be under a wrong impression, let me assure him that the rumour, if “ common,” is uncommonly false. When I tell him that such is not the case, I believe he will accept my word.
– I accept the right honorable gentleman’s word, of course.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- It occurs to me that before we indulge in too much criticism of Mr. Philp it would be better for us to take the beam out of our own eye. I understand that no money has been paid to any Railway department for the passes of honorable members up to the present time. I certainly think that this money ought to be paid monthly.
– It is not ordinary expenditure, and therefore I would not be justified in including it in a Supply Bill.
– I will undertake that if any State desires cash payment from the Commonwealth for any service rendered, it shall have it.
– Ought it to be a matter of a State requiring it t
– It was an. understanding that there was to be a debit made in order that it might be the basis of the final- payment.
– If ‘Mr. Philp understood that he has been guilty of a very wrong act indeed.
– As has been pointed out by one -or two honorable members, a difficulty arose upon the establishment of the Commonwealth as to what should be done in reference to railway passes for the members of this Parliament. For many years the custom in New South Wales had been to credit the Railway department with a certain sum of money for the carriage of State members. As a majority of the Railway departments in the States desired payment from the Commonwealth for the conveyance of members of this Parliament, an attempt was -made to decide what sum should be charged, because honorable members will agree that it is a proper thing for the Commonwealth to pay for services rendered. Accordingly the Chairman of the Railway Commissioners of New South Wales entered into negotiations with the commissioners of the other States, with the result that a conference was held upon the subject. The outcome of that conference was that the amount for which the commissioners asked was deemed to be too high, as was also the sum demanded for the conveyance of the wives of honorable members. Subsequently another conference was held by the commissioners in Melbourne. When it was concluded they saw me and declined to enter into an arrangement regarding the charge to be made for the carriage of members’ wives. They also mentioned a sum which they thought would cover the cost of issuing passes to honorable members. We still thought that the amount named was too high. I therefore suggested that a record should be kept for six months of the journeys made by honorable members and their wives to and from the various States, because. I had hoped that before the expiration of that period we should discuss the Estimates, and be in a position to include in them an amount, based upon that record, sufficient to cover all our liabilities in this connexion. That is the reason why the money owing has not been paid. The amount has not been included in the Supply Bill because, as the Treasurer explained just now, it is really extraordinary expenditure. I am glad to learn that there will be no objection to paying this money before it is actually voted. I find upon inquiry that the total sum due to Queensland for the conveyance of members’ wives is £164.
– That includes travelling over the Victorian and New South Wales lines ?
– Yes. That is the total sum due to Queensland for the conveyance of the wives of honorable members since the establishment of the Commonwealth.
– That amount includes the passes issued to the wives of senators 1
– It includes the tickets issued to the wives of senators as well as to the wives of members of this House. Originally the Railway Commissioners had a very inflated idea of the amount which should be charged for this particular service. The sum which I suggested was a very high one. Indeed, up to the present time our liability in this connexion does not represent one-half of it, and not more than one-third of the sum submitted by the commissioners in Sydney. As far as I can judge, the little friction which has arisen - and I say this without any desire to disparage Mr. Philp - is probably due to honorable members having used their railway passes to enable them to take part in the recent Queensland elections. A similar course of action is frequently followed in the other States without any objection being raised. There should be still less objection to members of this Parliament using their passes for that purpose, because of the greater distance which they require to travel.When I saw the statement in the press made by Mr. Rutledge I at once instructed my Under-Secretary to ask the Treasurer for an advance in order to pay the Queensland account. That has already been done, so that there need be no further trouble. The honorable member for Parramatta referred to the non-carrying on of certain public works, and my lack of control over the Works departments of the States. Up -to the present, however, very little trouble or friction has arisen, and the Works departments, as a rule, are completing the works as rapidly as possible. But it must be admitted that there is a lack of that control which the Federal Government and Federal Parliament should have over the public works in the various States. I can see clearly that some arrangement must be made to give a little more of that control which is desired, and honorable members will see from the Estimates that, with this end in view, provision is made for some appointments, though not for creating an elaborate department. My desire is to let this department grow as slowly as it reasonably can, but to have a nucleus in some of the States which will afford an opportunity to me of, at least, knowing whether works are being carried out, how they are being carried out, and whether there is any unnecessary delay. In the meantime, it is almost impossible to obtain information in this connexion, and I ask honorable members to let me know of any cases of unnecessary delay. I have been dependent, to a large extent, on honorable members for information, and it must be admitted that in any cases submitted to me I have taken prompt action. Until the Estimates are passed we cannot do much more than we are doing at present.
Mr. WATSON (Bland). - I desire to know whether the committee will be afforded an early opportunity to discuss the propriety of expending £2,000, which, I understand, is to be advanced by the Government towards the cost of sending a rifle team to the international meeting at Bisley. I do not know when it is suggested the team should leave ; but we should certainly have an opportunity of discussing the matter before we are committed to the expenditure. My contention is that there is no justification whatever for spending this £2,000 not in teaching our men to shoot, but merely in exhibiting in the older land the degree of proficiency to which certain men have arrived I have spoken to several prominent members of the New South Wales Rifle Association, and I find that the general opinion is that the money could be much better spent in the encouragement of rifle shooting in the Commonwealth. This money might be expended in prizes, though the question raised by the honorable member for Moreton opens up an even more important avenue of desirable expenditure. The Government are compelling men to put their hands into their pockets to furnish the mere appurtenances of rifle ranges.. So far as I can learn, all improvements to ranges have, under the State regulations, to be paid for by the individual riflemen ; and yet the Government are boasting of an anxiety to encourage rifle shooting. If there be £2,000 to spare, it could be much better spent in assisting clubs to improve their ranges. If this expenditure would result in increasing the efficiency of the ten or twelve men who would be sent to Bisley, or in teaching them something of which they now are ignorant, it might perhaps be justified, but no such result is possible. Money is needed in a much greater degree in other directions for the encouragement of rifle shooting
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - I join in. the wish expressed by the honorable member for Bland that we may have an opportunity of discussing this matter before the community are committed to the expenditure. If the Commonwealth can afford to spend £2,000 in order to prove that twelve men, whom we all know to be good shots, can shoot well, there should not be so much difficulty in inducing the Government to spend a much smaller sum in instructing 2,000 men who cannot now shoot and want to learn. The safety of the Commonwealth against invasion will not be materially increased by the expenditure proposed, and if we can afford £2,000 for what, after all, is a luxury - though a very pleasant and permissible luxury, if the money be available - there are many objects in connexion with rifle shooting for which money is vainly asked and which should be assisted by the Government, who, however, urge want of funds. On the spur of the moment, I could suggest a scheme for the expenditure of this £2,000 within the Commonwealth in such a way as to enable 20,000 men to do some shooting under fieldservice conditions,- resulting in material advantage to the whole of them. I know, however, that it is of no use my suggesting such a scheme, because I should be told that £2,000 is not available for the purpose. There- are a dozen ways in which money could be spent to better advantage than in sending these men to Bisley. It is flouting the interests of rifle shooting in Australia to spend money in this way, while there are so many other directions in which it is more urgently needed. The £2,000 could be divided up into sums to be awarded for rifle shooting under field-service conditions in each of the States. It would have to be organized shooting, and not individual shooting at a fixed target. The Victorian Commandant the other* day said that shooting at a fixed target is the mere alphabet of rifle shooting, and I quite agree with him, and would point out that that is the kind of shooting which obtains at Bisley.
– De Wet is not a fixed target on which bulls’ eyes can be made.
– As the honorable member says, fixed target shooting would be of no use in the case of General De Wet. It might be suggested that each State should be divided into districts, and prizes offered for shooting by teams drawn from branches of the military forces . and from rifle clubs.
A certain prize could be offered to the best team in each State, and a further prize to the best team in the Commonwealth, for some simple form of firing under field-service conditions. These conditions could be prepared in an hour or two by a few military men, and such a scheme would raise and maintain far greater interest in rifle shooting than that excited by sending men to Bisley. That is only one suggestion of a dozen which might be made for the promotion of rifle shooting. Indeed, there -are twenty or a hundred modes of spending the money in urgently necessary ways, any one of which is superior to that embodied in the proposal to send men to Bisley. I do not object to sending men to the international meeting, but I object to money being spent in that way when there are so many more desirable objects. I notice that arrangements are in progress for sending a team home, and I hope the committee will have an early opportunity of saying “ yea “ or “ nay “ to the proposal.
– I heartily agree with the honorable and learned member for Corinella that £2,000 could be spent to much greater advantage within the Commonwealth than by sending a handful of men to compete at Bisley. I would remind the Minister for Defence that in Western Australia the forces have been in a half-starved condition for some time, and I have had complaints as to the paucity of targets on the rifle range for Perth and Fremantle, which, I believe, is the only range in the coastal districts of that State. It is a common occurrence for men, after waiting the whole afternoon, to have to come away without being able to get a shot ; and matters of this kind demand the attention of the Government, very much more than does a proposal to enter into this show business of sending a dozen men to Bisley. I know that the Minister for Defence is anxious to have the forces as efficient as possible, and that only financial considerations prevent his doing as he would wish. I hope, however, that at the earliest possible moment these matters will be dealt with, and that the defence forces of Austrlia will be enabled to co-operate efficiently in the great national work which I know the Minister has at heart.
– As to the complaint by the honorable member for Moreton, in reference to the rifle range at Ipswich, all I know is that the military authorities have condemned the range as unsafe, and that being so, I cannot take the responsibility of keeping it open. I do not want the charge of manslaughter levelled against me, and when the military authorities report to me that a rifle range is dangerous to life, I shall at once close it.
– One of the militaryauthorities did not know how to open the breech of a rifle.
– The report to me was that the rifle range is unsafe, and I am not going to take the responsibility of authorizing shooting there. In regard to the complaint that members of rifle clubs have not been passed, on the ground that they have not complied with the regulations in regard to uniform, so far as I can remember, I have not heard it before. It seems to me unreasonable, if the regulation had become obsolete, to bring it into force again without notice.
– It is absurd.
– There is probably some reason for the regulation, and we had better find out the . facts before commenting upon them. I shall do my best to remedy any injustice that may have been done. In regard to the rifle clubs generally, the whole matter is under the consideration of the General Officer Commanding, and, therefore, we are not in a position to deal with it as we should desire. We have no Act to work under, so that we are carrying on our administration under the various State Acts. In reply to the observation that has been made, that little is known of what is being done by the Defence department, except from stray paragraphs in the newspapers, I wish to say that the General Officer Commanding is preparing a report, setting forth his proposals. I hope to be in possession of that report shortly, and I shall lay it upon the table, so that honorable members may have full knowledge of our intentions.
– I hope that it is not true that the General Officer Commanding is going to perpetuate the frilled and obsolete cavalry corps.
– I do not know anything about that. With regard to the proposal to send a rifle team to Bisley, the National Rifle Association, which, I understand, represents all the States, has been informed that it must not take it for granted that the money required will be available, but that everything depends upon the vote of Parliament. At the same time, I think it will be a very good thing if Parliament can come to a decision in regard to this matter soon, because it is not fair to put the association to the trouble of selecting marksmen from the whole of Australia, only to discover that no money is available for the object in view. I might be inclined to concur in the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Corinella if the sum involved were a large one, but it seems to me that, under the circumstances, £2,000 is a very small amount. I am informed that the Rifle’ Association considers it important that the Commonwealth should be represented at Bisley. We seem to be getting into what I may call a mingy condition in this House, when every shilling has to be looked at three or four times before it oan be spent. One might be pardoned -for thinking that the Commonwealth is impecunious. The Treasurer has told us that he finds it difficult to advance a few hundred pounds without a vote of the House ; but I once spent £600,000 in one year without any such vote,
– The right honorable gentleman is more cautious now-a-days.
– I am neither Treasurer nor. Prime Minister now. On one of my trips to the gold- fields of Western Australia, I arranged for the expenditure of £200,000 without the sanction of Parliament. I do not want to spend money without parliamentary authority, because I do not think it is right to do so ; but if expenditure were necessary I would not flinch from taking the responsibility of incurring it, knowing that Parliament would never refuse to ratify an act that was absolutely necessary. It would be impossible to carry on the work of government as it should be carried on, if the vote of Parliament were necessary for / every single item of expenditure. When the country is in a go-ahead state, and fresh needs are constantly arising, it is ridiculous to expect things to be carried on as they should if the sanction of Parliament has to be obtained for every paltry expenditure. With regard to the complaint of the honorable and learned member for Corinella about the instructions which were issued to cease enrolling, I may explain that they were issued some time ago, when it was anticipated that it would not belong before the Estimates were passed, and it was desired not to increase expense until the Genera] Officer Commanding had arrived, and Parliament had agreed to the departmental vote. Since then, however, the information has reached me that the various corps are becoming reduced to a greater extent than they should be, and during the last few days I have called for a report upon the subject. I think that the reduction in numbers is becoming too great, and that we shall Iia ve to allow recruiting again. Honorable members must remember, howeever that the work of the department is being carried on under great difficulties, with not a single penny to spend, except from the ordinary votes for the year. There is no vote upon which we can come and go. There is no big miscellaneous vote, such as I, have been accustomed to, to meet the contingencies that must arise in every department. If I could obtain a good miscellaneous vote, to be expended during the year as occasion arises, it would be very easy for me to give £100 to this object and £500 to that.
-i- What amount would the right honorable gentleman like to have 1
– Not too much, but just enough. It is necessary to have a-> contingency vote to provide for expenditure that cannot be foreseen. If the government of the country can be carried on in the eastern States without such a vote, the people here are more clever than I am, or things are in a more quiescent state than they were in Western Australia. Every Minister should have a contingent vote, and then he would not have to refuse paltry sums which are necessary to meet unexpected emergencies. What the honorable and learned member for Corinnella has said will have my careful consideration, and I hope in a day or two to be able to relieve him of the difficulties he is in. The want of money is at the bottom of his trouble, as it is at the bottom of mine ; but if I can do anything to obviate the difficulties to whichhe refers I shall be very glad.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- Last year, when some workmen employed by the Postmaster-General’s department in Sydney were repairing some wires, one of - them broke, with the result that a strong electric current was diverted into a cab-horse, so that the horse was killed, and the driver was thrown from the cab and severely injured.
– A telephone wire fell on to a tram wire.
– Yes. The cabman, ‘ however, is unable to bring an action against the department because it can set up the defence that, as the accident occurred after the proclamation of the transference of the department, but before the coming into force of the Act, neither the State nor the Commonwealth authorities are responsible.
– The Federal Government should be responsible for anything that occurred after the 1st March.
– When I asked a question upon the subject, I was told that as it was a legal matter it could not be answered, so that the Postmaster-General does not appear to know how long the department has been under his control. In my opinion, the department would be right in declining to take advantage of any technical defence in this case.
– I certainly think so.
– The .matter ought to be dealt with entirely on its merits, and if an action is instituted I hope the Government will not set up a merely technical defence. I am sorry that, presuming upon the absence of legal responsibility, the Government have refused to even consider the matter. As a matter of justice we ought to see that a full inquiry is made, and that any claim which the man may have is fairly dealt with.
– The matter to which the honorable and learned member for Werriwa has referred is one of great importance in connexion with the construction of Government electrical works generally. In the cities of the old world special precautions are taken to protect the public from injuries through accidents resulting from defects in electrical materials .or negligence on the part of responsible officials, and something should be done here to safeguard the public against the repetition of accidents similar to that which has been mentioned. It is common knowledge that in cities like Melbourne and Sydney, where telegraph and telephone wires cross each other at right angles, there is always a danger’ of their coming into contact and causing injury to citizens. I trust the Postmaster-General will give attention to this matter, and see that all necessary precautions are observed.
– In regard to the matter brought forward by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, I hope that no payments will be made, or any promise given to the Australian rifle team which it is intended to send to Bisley, until Parliament has sanctioned the vote for their expenses. I think that £2,000” might be spent to much greater advantage than in sending a few expert shots to the Bisley rifle meeting. It has been represented to me that there are some causes for dissatisfaction amongst the printers engaged at the Government printing office. A number of paragraphs have appeared in the press which tend to show that our printing bill is a very large one.
– As a matter of fact it is not.
– I believe that what the Treasurer says is correct. But the men complain that they are compelled to wait in the printing office from 5 o’clock in the afternoon until about 2 o’clock in the morning, and that they very often go away with- out having been able to earn more than 6s., 7s., or 8s. I do not think that that is a condition of affairs which the Treasurer would approve of.
– A deputation waited upon me some time ago, and I handed all the papers in reference to the matter to those members who were interested, but I have heard nothing more about it.
– I know that there is a certain amount of dissatisfaction, owing to the long periods for which the men are kept idle.
– The men have no cause for complaint whatever. They are paid 3d. per 1,000 more than is received by men engaged in similar work for the State, and they are very well treated.
– I am told that if a return were prepared, relating to the work done from the beginning of this year, it wouldshow that the average wage earned by the men has been very small.
– The information supplied to me showed that the men were being very well paid, and that simply because they would not do a little of each other’swork, there was a good deal of grumbling.
– I believe that they are” now assisting each other, but that the wages do not average much more than £1 per week. If that be true, I am sure that- honorable members would like to see some alteration made.
– This matter was investigated yesterday by the joint printing committee, and the Government Printer informed us that the men were engaged upon piece work, and that they were receiving ls. 3d. per 1,000, or 3d. per 1,000 in excess of the ordinary rate.
– There are a number of things which counterbalance =that to some extent.
– It is explained that this extra pay is intended to compensate the men for the delays incidental to the work in the Government Printing office ; but, on the whole, Mr. Brain considers that the men are very well and liberally paid.
– I am informed that a good deal of the trouble arises from the fact that the same number of men are being kept on now as were employed when both the State and the Commonwealth Parliaments were sitting.
– Oh, no ; the number of the men has .been considerably reduced.
– Of course if a full staff of men is kept on without regard to the fact that the volume of work has been considerably reduced, the men must of necessity lose a lot of time in waiting.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).There has been a great deal of talk about the Commonwealth printing account, and the newspapers have endeavoured to make it appear that we are very extravagant. I notice that the Hansard reports are being cut down, and I should like to know by whose authority this is being done? Of> course we are not anxious to have the reports of our debates unduly lengthened, but I think honorable members generally would object to any person having the right to decide what shall be included in or what shall be omitted from Hansard. We should not permit of any approach to the system adopted in one of the States of allowing one of the newspapers to compile the Hansard reports. These official reports constitute our only safeguard against misrepresentation on the part of the press, and we have a right to look to the record for a full and accurate representation of our views as expressed in Parliament. No one should be permitted to interfere with the reporting of our proceedings by the Hansa/rd staff.
I have noticed for some months a great decrease in the length of the reports, and I suppose that this has been due to some instructions issued to the Chief Parliamentary Reporter, and apparently in order to remove all possible grounds for complaint on the score of extravagance. The Treasurer, however, says that our printing bill is not unreasonably large.
– Not when we consider that we are dealing with the whole Commonwealth and with the whole of the departments, and that we are holding an exceptionally long session.
– I quite believe that the view taken by the Treasurer is correct, but the newspapers are endeavouring to make it appear that the heavy printing bill is due to the excessive length of the Hansard reports. Honorable members are entitled to look to Hansard for a fair and accurate report of the debates, and we should not be in any way dependent upon reports such as appear in the Melbourne newspapers. I have had no reason, so far, to complain of the way in which my own speeches have been reported ; but there is evidently considerable condensation, and I should like to know by whom it has been authorized, and where it is to stop. In many cases the electors in country constituencies have no means of ascertaining what is going on in Parliament or of forming an accurate judgment of the conditions under which legislative work is being carried on, except Hansard, and honorable members should strongly object to any-: thing being done that would impair its value as a full and accurate record of our proceedings.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and agreed to.
Resolution of Committee of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Committee of Supply, reported and agreed to.
Bill presented and passed through all its stages without amendment.
In Committee qf Ways and Means: - Consideration resumed from 20th March (vide page 11144). *
Division III. Sugar.
Postponed item 6. - Glucose, per cwt., 8s.
– I think that the duty proposed by the Government is an extremely high one, and I should like the Treasurer to give the committee a little information upon this item. I understand that glucose is largely used in the manufacture of confectionery.
– Glucose, which is not manufactured within the Commonwealth, is used largely as a substitute for sugar. It is produced from maize, and the view which the Government entertain is that we should not encourage its use in any shape or form. It is chiefly used in the manufacture of confectionery, and in the brewing of beer. We believe that the people engaged in these, industries ought to use sugar, and not glucose, which is a mixture that takes the place of sugar, and is inferior to it. Under the circumstances, we consider that the article is a fair subject for a high rate of duty.
– I would point out to the Treasurer that glucose is not a mixture, and that it is used in many cases where sugar cannot be utilized. I believe that its use in the brewing of beer is deleterious, but in certain forms of confectionery it is impossible to use anything else. The chief reason why it is employed in the manufacture of confectionery is that it does not crystallize. It is necessary to use glucose in connexion with articles which require to be made in a semiliquid condition. It is also used by tanners in the preparation of leather. I understand that the confectioners have made strong representations that the imposition of this duty will handicap them in their manufactures, and I think that these people should be extended some consideration.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra).- I also understand that glucose does not take the place of sugar. It is a pure product from maize, and is largely used in the confectionery business. The duty levied upon this article prior to the introduction of the Federal Tariff was 6s. per cwt. in Yictoria, South Australia, and Tasmania, 10s. per cwt. in Queensland, 4s. per cwt. in New South Wales, and 2s. per cwt. in Western Australia. Glucose is more expensive than sugar.
– I have been supplied with figures which show that glucose costs £23 10s. per ton.
– The value of it is about £10 per ton.
– This article is not used as a substitute for sugar, but there are certain classes of confectionery which cannot be manufactured without it. The imposition of the proposed duty will handicap the confectionery manufacturers throughout .the Commonwealth .
– They get an advantage of 2d. per lb.
– But the Government propose to levy a higher duty upon confectionery manufactured from glucose than upon confectionery manufactured from sugar.
-The invoice price of glucose in Sydney is generally about £10 per ton.
– According to the Statistical Register, it works out at about 8s. per cwt.
– The price has risen very considerably of late.
– That is because the price of maize has gone up all over the world. The inflation of the maize market, however, is merely temporary. I know thatglucose is very largely used as an adulterant . in cordials, which the public believe are made from sugar and fruit essences. These, cordials are frequently made from glucose- and sweetened by the addition of saccharine.. . In my judgment the use of this article,. . except by tanners, ought to be discouraged. I am informed that it does not possess the food properties which are contained in sugar, although I do not know that its use is essentially injurious. In my opinion, the duty upon glucose should be at least as high as . that which has been levied upon sugar. We should certainly not impose a less duty.
– I think that the proposed duty is;, unreasonable. I suppose that it is practically a revenue duty, and it seems to methat we are going rather to extremes in. attempting to levy a revenue duty of 100 per cent. I think that a duty of 5s. per cwt. would meet the case.
– That would be lessthan the rate we have imposed upon sugar.
– We aredealing with an ordinary revenue duty.
– But glucose is a substitute for sugar.
– Why should we enter into a consideration of the question of whether this particular article is used as a substitute for something else, or whether its use is deleterious to the people ? The consumption of thousands of things is deleterious, but they are articles of commerce, and we have no right to deal with them from the former aspect. I am sure that a duty of 5s. per cwt. will produce more revenue than will the rate proposed by the Government. I, therefore, move -
That the words “ and on and after 22nd March, 1902, os.” be added.
– The duty proposed by the honorable member for Wentworth is more than high enough. Glucose is not so sweetening as ordinary cane sugar, but it is quite innocuous ; and ifwe try to interfere with developments- of this kind, we ought at least to have some knowledge of chemistry.
– Glucose contains arsenic.
– Only in very small quantities.
– I cannot conceive that there is any arsenic in glucose;
– According- to the Government analyst there is.
– There was alleged to be the case in England.
– Are jams not branded in England as not containing glucose ?
– If so, it is in accordance with legislation brought about by men quite ignorant of chemistry ; and we are asked to impose a duty on a commodity the properties of which we really do not understand. Protectionists in this case are not right even from their own point of view.
– Is glucose innocuous when used in beer 1 Some experts say that it is not.
– Perhaps 25 or 30 years -ago, when these preparations were first brought into general use, care was not taken as to the compounds, but at this time of day it may be taken for granted that on the whole glucose is a very pure article ; a-t all events, it is sufficiently representative of the pure article. We relieved saccharine from duty and I approved of that step.
– We charge a duty on saccharine according to the strength. That is done under section 141 of the Customs Act, because it is impossible to say what rate should be charged. Saccharine may be made of varying strength.
– Does the Treasurer not i see that what we are trying to do is to I determine when sugar should or should not be used’? If sugar be charged £6 per ton, glucose, which is not so sweet, ought not to pay more than £o per ton. If we are trying to frame a Tariff, from a protectionist point of view, we ought at least to be consistent. If, as the Treasurer suggests, saccharine should be taxed according to its strength, so ought glucose, which, under that arrangement, should not pay more than £3 per ton. I have heard no reasons from the Treasurer, or from honorable members on the other side, as to why the high duty proposed should be imposed, and the amendment of the honorable member for Wentworth is extremely reasonable. It would seem as if, owing to representations made by certain classes of manufacturers, the Government desired to prohibit the use of this commodity.
Amendment negatived. Amendment (by Sir William McMillan) Put -
That the words “and on and after22nd March, 1902, 6s.,” be added.
The committee divided -
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The only time that the Treasurer is willing to give way is when he knows that he is beaten. The other night I thought that he was making a concession ; but I afterwards found that a couple of his supporters had informed him that they intended to vote with us, and that that was the reason of his giving way.
Item agreed to.
Postponed item 7 - Sugar, viz.: - The produce of sugar-cane, including molasses, golden syrup, and syrups, n.e.i., per cwt., 6s. Other, per cwt,, 10s.
– I propose that we should deal with the duty upon sugar separately from that on molasses, golden syrup, and its various by-products.
– I have no objection.
– While there has been no absolute understanding in regard to the sugar duties, during the whole discussion upon the white labour question, it has been assumed that a duty of this kind would be agreed to, and therefore we, on this side of the Chamber, do not intend to propose a reduction. We do not, however, desire it to be thought that we approve of this high import duty, nor that we approve of an excise duty which will disappear after a certain number of years, and leave a. practically prohibitive import duty. We intend to support the duty as a matter of high public policy, in -view of the legislation which, the Commonwealth has passed affecting, the position of Queensland.
– As I ha^ve already explained, the firm to which I belong, and other manufacturers engaged in similar undertaking.^ will lose beavily by this duty. I feel my firm will lose £2,000 first year of the. duty, by reason of which we have to we use. The effect certain that jig the imposition of the the increased, price pay for the sugar of an excise duty of £3 per ton and an import duty of £6 per 32 a z ton has been to give the company controlling the sugar market of the Commonwealth an opportunity to add nearly the whole of the difference to the price of sugar, and thus large wholesale buyers like myself are being compelled to pay over £2 per ton more for the sugar we use than we formerly had to pay. But, although I had calculated upon this loss some time ago, I am perfectly prepared, in order to secure what has been called a “ white Australia,” to submit to it. I have already pointed out, however, that proper provision should be made for allowing, drawback upon the sugar used in the manufacture of confectionery, biscuits, beer, preserved fruits, and other goods which are exported from the Commonwealth. In Germany, manufacturers pay £11 5s. per ton for their sugar, and in England, owing to the competition of the continental producers, £10 10s. per ton, while here good sugar cannot be obtained for less than £19 10s. per ton. As in many of the articles into the manufacture of which it enters, sugar composes half of the whole contents, the manufacturers of- jams, confectionery, and similar goods within the Commonwealth are at a disadvantage of £4 10s. per ton as compared with the English manufacturers.
– But do they not get their fruit much more cheaply 1
– Peaches, apricots, and. grapes are cheaper here than they are in England, but, speaking generally, fruit is cheaper in England than it is here. I am talking of jam. now, not medicine. We now have to import English fruits and pay an immense duty. Strawberries are being imported into the Commonwealth, and are subject to a duty which is almost prohibitive. It is impossible for us to grow strawberries- for manufacturing purposes. I do not know why, but there seems to be an almost continuous failure of crops. The point, however, is that if we are to be compelled to pay an extremely heavy impost in order to secure a White Australia,, we should not be further crippled and driven out of the markets of the world by unjust treatment in regard to drawbacks. There is a clean-cut difference- of £4 10s. per ton between the prices here and in England, and I claim that we ought to be placed on the best possible terms in connexion with drawbacks. We have opened up markets
I outside the Commonwealth at considerable expense. Very large sums of money have been paid to agents and experts who have been employed to open up trade for Australian firms in South Africa. We are securing that trade, and we are also exploiting the markets of the East, but if we do not get the full drawback we cannot expect to retain our trade. When I brought this matter before the committee on a previous occasion, I was assured by the Minister for Trade and Customs that the drawback would be given, and ultimately proposals were made to give us five-sixths of the duty on sugar as a drawback. There is no reason, however, why the manufacturer should be penalized to the extent of one-sixth of the duty. I consulted the Minister for Trade and Customs on the subject, and he promised that if his inquiries led him to believe that there was 50 per cent, of sugar used in jam, the full drawback would he given. In answer to my interrogation across the Chamber some little time ago, the Minister said that he would give the full drawback, but that he would take good care that the department was not imposed upon. I afterwards told him that those engaged in the trade were perfectly willing that the department should take every precaution against fraud or imposition. The matt er has since remained at that stage. I now hold that before this sugar duty, in regard to which I am personally making a considerable sacrifice, is passed, we should have an assurance that drawback will be given to the full extent, and that the manufacturing industry will not be crippled. The Government have had ample time to find out the facts of the case,, and to make up their minds as to the policy they will follow; and I now ask that the full amount of drawback shall be paid to the manufacturers. I have a letter from a firm in Tasmania, who have been frequently writing to me upon this subject, and who assure me - and here is where some of the Treasurer’s surplus will go - that their claims on account of drawbacks amount to £2,000. I know of similar claims which have been made by the manufacturers in New South Wales, and, doubtless, many others have been made by Victorian firms. Some manufacturers, whose capital is being kept from them, have asked for payments on account, without prejudice to the full amount of their claim being recognised when the question is settled. They have suggested that the department should pay them the £2 10s. per ton offered, on the understanding that the balance of 10s. should be paid when a definite decision was arrived at. That was a fair proposal, but the department gave them to understand plainly that if they wanted the money they would have to take what was offered without any prospect of obtaining the balance - that, in fact they would have . to submit to being defrauded of 10s. per ton. Speaking on behalf of those engaged in the industry in which I am concerned, and of others, I think we have a right to a clear-cut and definite decision, that the full amount of the drawback shall be given, the Customs Department taking every possible care that they are not defrauded. Without that assurance I shall feel perfectly free to join in any movement that may be made to oppose or reduce the duty on sugar.
– In answer to what has fallen from the honorable member for South Sydney, I may say that the facts are very much as he has stated, and that it is the intention of the Government to take action as soon as possible in the direction of allowing to the local manufacturers the amount to which they are entitled on account of the sugar contained in exported articles. The difficulty, however, is to arrive at a fair basis for calculating the quantity of sugar. Some manufacturers use more sugar than do others, andi we adopt a uniform rate - which I do not see that we can very well avoid - we shall run the risk of adopting one so high that, whilst we are doing mere justice to the manufacturers who use a large quantity of sugar in their jam, we shall do more than justice to those who use a lesser quantity, and who may therefore derive profit from a larger amount of drawback than they are entitled to. In order to avoid this difficulty we have - I think it was at the suggestion of the honorable member for South Sydney himself - taken considerable pains to find out the quantities of sugar used, and we have had the jams manufactured in the different States analyzed. We find that, whilst some show a large proportion of sugar, others contain a very much smaller quantity.
– Could the right honorable gentleman tell us what is the average 1
– No ; I cannot do that. Since the figures were available- I have not had an opportunity such as I should have liked of considering them,’ but I shall be happy to supply the fullest information to honorable members, and to invite them to assist the Government in arriving at a just conclusion. None of us would wish to deprive the manufacturers of the drawback to which they are fairly entitled, and we should all be equally anxious to prevent any manufacturer from profiting at the expense of the Government, by drawing money to which he would not be entitled. There is no’ uniformity in the quantity of sugar used in jam making, even in one State, and I am sure that the honorable member for South Sydney will sympathize with the difficulties of the Government under the circumstances, and that he will note that we are doing all we possibly can to arrive at a reasonable conclusion, by proceeding on the lines which he has been good enough to suggest. I might point out that the matter is further complicated by the fact that it sometimes happens that sugar which is locally produced and sugar which is imported are refined together, and that there is a difficulty in deciding what drawback shall be allowed upon the export of sugar of that description. It is not all entitled to rebate at the same rate, the imported sugar having paid the higher duty, and the local sugar the lesser. I do not think there will be an)’ great difference of opinion as to what ought to. be done in the circumstances. I have pointed out the difficulties that confront us, and I believe that the position taken by the Government, as indicated by my remarks, will commend itself to the committee generally. We shall be only too glad to place all possible information before the committee at the first opportunity.
– The honorable member for South Sydney, who has made an appeal with regard to drawbacks, has admitted that the imposition of the sugar duty is interfering with certain manufacturing industries, and as a free-trader I am not prepared to vote for an impost which will have any such effect. In this case we are able to state that the removal of the duty will undoubtedly operate towards the building up and encouragement of several important industries, such as jam-making, preserving, and biscuit-making. We are now being asked to vote for the imposition of a duty upon sugar, as one of the conditions necessary to secure a “ white Australia.” I voted for the exclusion of the kanaka irrespective altogether of the sugar duty, because I believed that the presence of the kanaka was inimical to the best interests of our white citizens. If we are to bargain outvotes, and to abandon our fiscal principles, in order to secure the removal of the kanaka, the time may come when some Victorian industry may be crippled, and we may be required to pay compensation for the injury which our legislation has caused. So far as I am concerned, I think that the policy of the free breakfast-table should be extended to the exemption of sugar from duty. In New South Wales, the sugar duty was gradually diminished, with the intention that it should eventually disappear. It had been brought down to £3 per ton when its further diminution was arrested in view of the early accomplishment of federation. I was opposed to the retention of even the reduced duty, and I am still strongly adverse to any duty being imposed upon sugar. I would suggest that not only the free-traders here, but also the representatives of Queensland, should vote against this duty, now that we are assured that the kanaka will be excluded from the Commonwealth. I fail to see that the Commonwealth is called upon to purchase the exclusion of the kanaka at the price of a heavy duty upon a commodity of universal consumption. Surely the protectionists will not support a duty which will have the effect of hampering a number of important industries 1 The honorable member for South Sydney said that he was personally makin” a great sacrifice in connexion with this duty, but I do not consider that he is called upon to do so. As I am afraid there is very little prospect of securing the free admission of sugar, I move -
That the words ‘ ‘ per cwt. 6s. , and on and after 22nd March, 1902, 4s.” be inserted after the word “ Sugar-cane.”
– I was very pleased to hear the Minister for Trade and Customs announce his intention of allowing drawback upon the sugar contents of jams and other preserves, and I would urge him to extend similar consideration to preserved milk. Honorable members will recollect that upon this article the Government proposed to levy a duty of Hd. per lb., which the committee reduced to Id. per lb. I am given to understand that about 40 per cent, of the contents of condensed milk is represented by sugar. In Queensland a large number of factories have been established for the manufacture of this milk, and I think it is reasonable to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to deal with it in the same way that he has dealt with jams and other preserves.
– The honorable member ‘for “South Sydney has made a calculation for the purpose of showing the difference which exists between the cost of jam manufactures in Germany and Great Britain, and their cost within the Commonwealth. He declared that this difference represents £4 10s. per ton. I recognise that the honorable member is an expert upon this subject, and my only desire is to gain information. I have given some attention to this matter, particularly as regards the effect of granting a rebate upon the sugar contents of jams, and I know from experience that under such con.ditions a very great difficulty exists in protecting the revenue. The manufacturers supply information to the Customs department from only one source, namely, their books. Their factories are not bonds. There is no actual supervision over the quantity of sugar which enters their factory and the quantity of jam or preserve which leaves it. In Victoria the method formerly adopted was to calculate that sugar comprised 40 per cent, of the jam contents, and to allow a rebate of £3 per ton upon the quantity thus used. As a result there was an enormous increase one year in the amount which had to be paid as rebate in this connexion - an increase from about £28,000 to nearly £50,000. The cause of that increase was never satisfactorily explained. Unless some better system can be devised than that to which I have referred, we should hesitate to agree to any scheme for granting rebate. If the honorable member for South Sydney can suggest any method by which it is possible to accurately determine the sugar contents of jam or preserves he will have made out a very strong case for consideration. I should be perfectly willing to assist him to carry out his desire if I were convinced that the revenue would not be likely to suffer.
– I am surprised that the honorable member for Dalley should submit an amendment to the Government proposal. I am also astonished at his declaration that he voted in favour of bringing about a white Australia, without having any regard to the sugar duties. I do not doubt the accuracy of his statement, but I venture to think that, judging from outward appearances, he stood very nearly alone in the attitude which he assumed. I would remind the committee that when the Pacific Island Labourers Bill was under discussion, some honorable members urged that it would work very great injustice to the Queensland sugar planters. The reply made to that objection was that we were compensating the planters in two ways - first by allowing them a rebate upon sugar grown by white labour, and secondly by giving them the advantage of the difference between the excise and the import duty. This statement was cheered alike by free-traders and protectionists. I venture to assert that what the acting leader of the Opposition stated- is correct, and that there was a widely spread feeling amongst members.of this House that we were giving the planters a pledge that they should enjoy the advantages named. Some honorable members urged that even if the import or the excise duty enhanced the price of sugar, the people would cheerfully pay that higher price for the sake of securing a white Australia. That sentiment was cheered all round the House. If such statements, against which no dissentient voice was raised, meant anything, they meant that this House was content to accept the sugar proposals pf the Government. But, altogether apart from fiscal considerations, I feel bound to support the proposed duty. I am sure that the view of a vast majority of honorable members is that this House - whether the matter was put in definite terms or not - committed itself as a body of honorable men to the sugar duties proposed by the Government.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney). - I quite agree with the last speaker that there was an implied compact on the part of this House that the Government proposals in reference to the sugar duties should be accepted.
– The honorable member can speak only for himself.
– I say that with nine-tenths of the members of this Chamber there was an implied compact. But I wish more particularly to refer to the question of the wisdom of granting drawbacks upon sugar used in certain manufactures. When I was speaking, the honorable member for Laanecoorie made an interjection to the effect that though lower _ rates were paid for jam in Germany and Great
Britain than those which obtained within the Commonwealth, lower prices for fruit’ prevailed here. But I would point out to him that in Victoria at the present time there ave many hundreds of tons of raspberries for which no market can be found. If fruit commanded such a high price in the German or English market, how is it that the Victorians cannot sell those raspberries? In Great Britain last year hundreds of tons of plums were absolutely thrown away. The firm in which I am interested has hundreds of tons of fruit which it is actually sending to England at a loss. The honorable member for Laanecoorie also declared that it was very difficult to devise any system under which drawback could be allowed without risk that the Customs department would be defrauded. He said that doubtless the department had been defrauded under the’ system which operated in Victoria. If he has any doubt whatever upon that subject, I can relieve his mind by telling him that I know the department was defrauded. I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs to devise some scheme to enable us to obtain drawback upon our exports. Acting upon my suggestion the Minister has obtained samples of jams, and he admits that some of those samples contain 50 per cent, of sugar. I feel certain that I can find jams which contain even more than that percentage of sugar. In a first-class factory about 112 lbs. of sugar are put into 120 lbs. of fruit. Of course there is a loss of 10 per cent, in boiling, consequent upon the water in the fruit being evaporated. I am satisfied that any analysis of a sound jam will show that it contains 50 per cent, of sugar. I suggest that the Minister should allow a drawback upon all jam showing that percentage.
– Would that insure a good article ?
– Yes ; it would be a good thing for the whole community. Another plan would be to station Customhouse officers in the factories, in connexion with most of which the sum at stake is large enough to justify such a step for the protection of the revenue. No one regrets more than (myself the unfortunate circumstances which have prevented the Minister for Trade and Customs attending to this matter, and I believe the right honorable gentleman is sincere in his intention to deal with it. But after the House adjourns there may be no opportunity to express our opinion; and, in all fairness and justice, and in a business-Eke spirit, theseclaims for drawbacks should receive attention. In one case the Customs departmenthave retained £2,000 for some months, and I ask the Minister to instruct his officials in Tasmania to pay over that sum, less the one-sixth in dispute, which may await the decision of the case. I have no personal claim, because all my product is sold in the Commonwealth ; but my friends have, in one case £2,000, and in another case £l,000, detained in this way.
– I do not see that it is fair, when a certain -amount is claimed, and there may be difficulty or doubt only as to a part, that the whole should be retained. We shall look into the accounts from that point of view, and the amount which is owing will be paid, the balance being left for subsequent adjustment.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - 1 should like to remind honorable members on this side, who seem a little doubtful how to vote, that, in this case particularly, there is fairness in the proposal of the Government, especially from a New South Wales point of view. The duty in New South Wales was 3s., and it is now 6s., with an excise of 3s.
– An excise of ls.
– I am not talking about the exemption, which I donot think will operate to the extent which some honorable members imagine.
– It will operate in regard to all sugar grown by white labour.
– That is. so ; but it will not operate for the next three or four years, seeing that we are not deporting these kanakas wholesale.
– They are being “ sacked” wholesale.
– The Government may have to deal with the kanakas in the north of New South Wales, but I am referring specially to Queensland, and I do not think that anything like the amount of money will be involved that, some people anticipate. In New South Wales we had a duty of 3s. at a certain period, and this is one of the cases in which free-traders have been a little weak. Of course we did intend ultimately to abolish the duty, but under all the circumstances, as this matter has been mixed up with the Queensland question, it is reasonable to pass the duty proposed, with the protest that I have made on. behalf of the free-trade party, namely, that in the first place we consider it an unreasonable duty - in fact our policy would have been to do away with it- and in the next place we object to the stoppage of the excise duty at the end of a certain period.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- I hold that there was no implied contract of any sort, though we are now told by Queensland representatives that they are making a “ white Australia “ a matter of bargain and sale. After the eloquent denunciations we have heard as to slavery in Queensland, it seems extraordinary that the present view should be taken of the question.
– Britain compensated the slave-owners.
– Compensation, if made at all, ought to be made in the proper way, so that we may know exactly what we are paying. This is now said to be not a question of public morality, but one of buyer ‘ and seller, although I should have thought that a matter of this kind would have been dealt with on the highest grounds. Not only myself, but half-a-dozen other honorable members, objected to the question of a “white Australia” being confused with any other question, and years ago in Queensland, kanakas were prohibited on public grounds alone, though it is true the law was subsequently altered. In the first place, there is an excise duty of £3 per ton, and from the point of view of every free-trader there must be import duty of at least that amount. Putting aside the question of drawback I would support a duty of £3 per ton, but the moment I am asked to go further I have a right to ask how much is to be allowed to the individuals paying this excise for the amount collected. The production of sugar in Queensland and New South Wales is, roughly, 160,000 tons per annum.
– Not quite that this year.
– We estimate 160,000 tons for an average year. The production might be a great deal more, but we did not take a large quantity.
– The excise “on 160,000 tons is £’480,000. If we put the duty at any higher sum the individuals supplying the duty and excise must be compensated not only for the £3 per ton, but also for depositing that amount of capital before they get any return. There is, therefore, always a slight difference made between the excise and the import duty, and the question is what would be a fair difference. If the difference were made .5s. per ton, that would amount to £40,000, which is a very fair rate of interest on £480,000. The honorable member for Dalley has gone a step further, and moved that the duty be £4 per ton, and if that be carried the interest will be raised to £160,000 - an absolutely free gift.
– That is nothing new.
– Is the honorable member prepared to hand over £480,000 of the people’s money to practically one company 1
– That is the price which we are paying for the abolition of kanaka labour.
– But we are not paying it to the sugar-growers. The Commonwealth sugar market is controlled b)’, at the most, four companies, and practically the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has the whole control. Will it be contended that the extra profit which these companies will make by reason of this duty will go to the growers 1
– Does the honorable and learned member intend to allow a vote to be taken to-day 1
– I do not care when it is taken. I think the subject should be ventilated, and the fact that one or two individuals desire to get away should not prevent its discussion. I can understand, however, that honorable members opposite do not want the matter ventilated. We are giving £480,000 to three or four private companies. Would it not be better to give the money direct .to the growers, if it is the price that we are paying for the abolition of kanaka labour ? We have no right to deal in this way with the money of the people. The honorable and learned member for Corinella has told the committee that it was a compact that this amount should be paid to Queensland.
– What I said was that it was a compact that the duty should be imposed. I did not raise the issue that the duty would, or would not, increase the price of sugar.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that the duty will increase the price of sugar 1
– Then the duty is of no effect, and he should vote with us for its reduction. The honorable and learned member is playing a trick upon Queensland in proposing to vote for a duty which he believes to be of no effect. I am surprised that he should admit that this concession is worthless.
– I do not admit anything of the kind, and the honorable and learned member has no right to distort what I say.
– If the honorable and learned member thinks that the proposed duty will not benefit Queensland he is giving that State a concession which he believes to be worth nothing. No doubt many other honorable members are in the same position. But what right has this Parliament to barter away the people’s money 1
– What are we here for 1 Mr. CONROY. - We are here as the guardians of the people’s money, and to represent grievances. There should be as little legislative interference as possible with the businesses of the people. Parliamentary interference in such matters often makes things ten times as bad as they were before. I ask honorable members who say that they voted for the Pacific Island Labourers Bill because they knew that this duty would be imposed upon sugar, whether the representatives of Queensland would have refused to accept that Bill if it had been proposed to impose a duty of only 4s. per cwt. upon sugar? We are calling upon the people to paj’ £960,000, of which only £4S0,000 will find its way into the Treasuiy. I, for one, protest against such extortion. Another point which I wish to raise is this : Sugar is the raw material of not one or two merely, but of a hundred industries. The honorable member for South Sydney has shown us how the duty will affect the jam-making industry. It will also seriously affect the fruit-growing and the wine-making industries. If jam cannot be manufactured in the Commonwealth at a price at which it can compete in the markets of the world with the jam manufactured elsewhere, our fruit-growers will suffer. However, honorable members do not seem to think the matter worthy of consideration, and I therefore content myself with entering my protest against the Government proposal. I shall vote for the amendment of the honorable member for
Dalley, although I think that the duty which he proposes is altogether too high.
Mr. R. EDWARDS (Oxley).- I wish to remind the Minister for Trade and Customs that he has omitted to reply to the question which I put to him in regard to the giving of drawbacks upon the sugar contained in preserved milk. Without discussing the proposed duty upon sugar, I wish to express my surprise that even one member of the committee has raised his voice against what for many months it has been understood the committee would agree to. The consideration of the sugar duties was postponed until it was seen how the Pacific Island Labourers Bill would be dealt with by Parliament. Although no compact was made, Queensland has a right to claim that there was a general understanding that the sugar duty proposed by the Government would be agreed to. I have sufficient confidence in this committee to believe that they will act according to that understanding.
– I had overlooked the question which the honorable member asked me, but I shall take it into consideration with a view to recommending that provision shall be made. Whilst it is fair to provide for the return, on export, of the customs or excise duty paid upon sugar, it is very difficult to distinguish between the imported sugar and the locally produced article, and between the sugar which has paid £3 per ton excise, and that which has paid £1 per ton excise. It will therefore be somewhat troublesome to make proper arrangements for the payment of drawbacks. It would not be fair to allow the full amount of the excise on sugar produced by white labour, nor would it be fair to allow the full amount of the import duty upon the sugar subject to excise. Thus honorable members will see that the distinctions will involve a considerable amount of trouble.
– I have great sympathy with the honorable member for Dalley in the position he has assumed in this matter. I was not a party to any compact regarding the duty on sugar in conuexion with the abolition of black labour. I have a distinct recollection of an altercation with the Chairman concerning some remarks with reference to this matter. The honorable member for Herbert was trying to secure the exemption of bonecrushers, and I asked him if, in return for our support, ‘we might expect some help from him when the sugar duties were being considered. My attitude in regard to black labour all through has had no connexion with the duty- on sugar. The d.uty, as now proposed, will give to the sugar-growers in New South Wales an advantage of £2 per ton in excess of that which they have hitherto been receiving. This they do not require, because they have been able to carry on successfully without any such assistance. I have yet to learn that it is our duty to make the sugar growers of New South Wales a free gift of £2 per ton at the expense of the users of sugar. .This matter has been discussed from the standpoint of a local industry.
– No; it is a national industry that we are dealing with.
Mr. -JOSEPH COOK.- We ought to take into account the interests of the consumers. If the committee were not so strongly against us in regard to this duty, I should like to urge the claims of the orchardists, as well as of those who make up small quantities of preserves for home use. Every pound of jam or preserves that we use will be increased in price owing to the duty. And all this is being done in order that we may get rid of the black labour of Queensland at the expense of orchardists, farmers, and others, who have struggled on under the most adverse conditions, without having ever attempted to employ black labour. I hope that my position on the black labour question is sufficiently clear to acquit me of any desire to keep the kanakas on this continent. I wished, from the outset, that they should be deported, but I never entered into a bargain to compensate their employers at the expense of the community as a whole. We are practically buying out the sugar industry under the cover of a duty, and if compensation is necessary, we ought to provide for it by a straight out vote. I am afraid that, under the circumstances, all we can do is to make a protest against the imposition of the duty.
– From the very beginning I have protested against the imposition of a duty upon sugar for the purpose of compensating those who have been employing colored labour in Queensland. Therefore I am entitled to vote against the duty, which I regard as giving a preference of from £3 to £5 per ton to the growers of sugar in
Queensland. The import ‘duty in South Australia amounted to ‘£3 per ton, and this represented an impost of about 3s. to is. per head of the population per annum. In discussing the tea duty last night T calculated that it would involve an extra cost of 7s. per annum for a family of four, and adopting the same basis of calculation in this instance the duty on sugar represents an additional cost of about 12s. per family per annum. Those who supported the abolition of a duty on tea have a much stronger case for the abolition of the sugar duty. All this mere talk about the free breakfast table amounts to nothing more than to -
Amendment (by Mr. Conroy) negatived -
That the words “ per owt 6s. and on and after 22ndMarch, 1902, 5s.” be inserted after the word ‘ ‘ sugar-cane. “
Amendment (by Sir George Turner)’ agreed to -
That the words ‘ ‘ per cwt. 6s.” be inserted af er the word ‘ 1 sugar-cane “
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Sir William Lyne) read the first time.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Barton) -
That the House at its rising adjourn until
– i move -
That the House do now adjourn.
In submitting this motion, I should like to explain a statement I have made, that Dr. Maxwell received an honorarium from the Federal Government for his report on the oondition of the sugar industry in Queensland. I understand from Dr. Maxwell that he does not think that the term “ honorarium “ is sufficiently or fairly descriptive ; and in fairness to him, I shall detain honorable members for a moment or two in order to read a few excerpts from letters which passed when he was asked to furnish a report. I do not think a valued officer such as Dr Maxwell should suffer any disadvantage from what ho considers a misapprehension. The following extract is from a letter written by the Secretary to the Department for External Affairs to Dr. Maxwell -
If you are agreeable to undertake this work, he (Mr. Barton) will be glad if you will send him a telegram stating your determination in the matter, and naming a fee which you would consider fairly remunerated you.
Dr. Maxwell, in his reply, wrote
Concerning the first matter upon which you desire to bc informed, I will say that I shall Dot make any fee or compensation for the service requested, other than for expenses, and personal wear and tear incurred.
The Secretary to the Department, on that, wrote to Dr. Maxwell, as follows : -
I om to state that you will be allowed all trundling expenses, and, in addition, such sum as appears to you and to Mr. Barton to be reasonable. The Prime Minister will be glad if you will give him a definite indication of the sum which you consider reasonable, apart from expenses, which latter you will receive as a matter of course.
In this letter Dr. Maxwell was asked to furnish his report within a certain time. In reply, Dr. Maxwell, referring to hia previous letter, wroto -
Tn order, however, to make this matter more explicit, and to reply to your request for an approximate statement, I will say that I estimate general expenses at 60 guineas, clerical aid at about twenty guineas, thus making about ?80 or ?90. To put the matter in another form, I beg to suggest that live guineas per day be allowed for a period of 30 days, this to cover ull expenses, and that no fee or compensation be paid to me.
On that I minuted -
Question resolved in the affirmative. House adjourned at 4.30 p. m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 March 1902, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020321_reps_1_9/>.