1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire toknow whether the attention of the Minister representing the Prime Minister has been directed to a statement made by Mr. Madden that, under the Commonwealth Franchise Act, women will not be able to record their votes?
– I have not had the privilege of reading any opinion expressed by, Mr. Madden, or any one else, to that effect.
-I desire to know from the Treasurer whether, in view of the presumed intention of the Government to withdraw the Loan Bill, any determination has yet been arrived at withregard to submitting additional estimates providing for the construction of some of theworks previously proposed to be provided for out of loans.
– The Government have not yet determined to withdraw the Loan Bill. If it should be found that we cannot proceed with that Bill, there will be no opportunity ofmaking provision during the current financial year for the works to which it was intended to apply loan moneys. The matter will have to be dealt with whenI am making my Budget statement for next year, probably about the middle of August. We. shall haveto ascertain our financial position for next year before we can considerthequestion of voting large sums of money for the construction of public works.
– I desire to knowwhether, the Minister for Trade and Customs will takeaction with regard to a letter which has appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, and which is of such an extraordinary character as to demand attention. The writer says : -
I passed entries for a shipment of goods on 16th May, and in one of the cases were some goods which the Collector of Customs thought dutiable, although they are mentioned on the free list.I tendered the amount of duty, to insure anearlydelivery.The duty was refused, and the matter reported totheMelbourne Comptroller of Customs. From thereIhavenot receivedan answer for the last three weeks, although I have written several letters, and sent about a week ago a telegram offering to deposit the amount of the goods and duty. The goods are perishable, and have been lying now on the wharf for the last four weeks, yet 1 cannot get my own goods oven by depositing their value.
It seems that everything is referred, even by the high and responsible officer in charge of the Customs department in Sydney, to the head office at Melbourne. But whether this is true or not, there is a general impression that the administration of the Customs department in Sydney is in a state of paralysis.
– That is not so. I have noticed on more than one occasion that merchants generally do - not recognise their undoubted right when fraud or anything of that kind is not suggested, to paythe duty claimed, and to obtain their goods.
– In this case the duty was offered.
– Yes, and it seems to me a little extraordinary that it should not have been accepted. I have issued several directions in the matter, and the complaints have become so annoying that I have caused a circular to be issued with a view to make public the true position and rights of merchants.
– I desire to know from the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether the telegraph messengers in New South Wales have yet been supplied with their winter uniforms, and, if not, how soon the matter will be attended to?
– I am informed thatnone haveyet been supplied, but that, the contractors state that they will all be supplied before the end of this month, and that a delivery of portion of the order will be made to-day.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether he will take some steps to provide for the payment of various contractors in connexion with the public works, whose accounts have now been long outstanding. There are many cases in which great hardship has been inflicted, some accounts having been outstanding for eighteen months.
– I regret to hear the statement made by my honorable friend, which is news to me. I mentioned to the House before that I entered into an arrangement with each of the States, immediately after federation was accomplished, that they should go on with works in hand, and for which they were paying out of loan funds, until we could raise our own loan, the understanding being that the amount expended by the States Governments would be taken into consideration when we were fixing the value of the transferred properties. The Government of New South Wales continued to do this until the end of last December, but suddenly shut down without any intimation to me. I then pointed out to the Treasurer of New South Wales how unfair it was to take up that position, and asked him to meet all the liabilities incurred on the faith of that bargain. These amounted to a considerable sum, and I understood that all claims had been paid. With regard to Queensland, the same arrangement held good, but their votes lapsed on the 30th September, and no more money was voted. In New South Wales there was no want of money, but the Government would not pay any further. I do not know of any large claims that remain unsatisfied in New South Wales, but in Queensland the outstanding claims may amount to £15,000 or £20;000. I propose, in connexion with Supply, on account of the next financial year, for which I intend to ask to-morrow, to request honorable members to vote £50,000 for the Treasurer’s advance account, so that I may pay a number of claims which ought to have been settled long ago. I am as anxious as any one to see these claims paid, but I have no loan moneys available, and my advance account is utterly exhausted through the payment of wages and other pressing accounts. As soon as Supply is granted, and I am provided with,afurther advance, I shall be able to meet the demands referred to. I shall be glad if the honorable member will furnish me with particulars of any cases with which he is acquainted. Several honorable members have been good enough to direct my attention to specific cases, and I have made inquiries regarding them. In most instances payments have been made between the time of the complaint and the receipt of the replies to my inquiries. 1 shall promote the settlement of thesematters in every way I can.
– I wish to ask the
Minister representing the Prime Minister whether, in view of the brief reports of our proceedings which appear in the Melbourne daily newspapers, it is the intention of the Government to ask, the Printing Committee to consider the desirability of issuing a daily Hansard ?
– There has been no such proposal submitted yet. I understand that the Printing Committee are engaged in considering the future printing of the Commonwealth, and that they have asked for returns from all the Government Printers who do work for us. Anumber of these reports have not yet been received, but they are overdue, and are expected very shortly. When they come to hand the committee will be able to judge as to the extent of our expenditure, and to consider what arrangements shall be made for the future.
– Some time ago the Treasurer said that he had given orders for the payment of all increments voted to officers during this month.
-With the June salaries.
– The officers have not yet received any word regarding these increments, and I should like to know whether , it is not time that they were notified regarding them.
SirGEORGE TURNER.- About the middle of May I intimated that I would provide for the payment of all increments to. officers with the June salaries, this being in accordance with the practice in the States, under which increments are not paid until they are voted by Parliament. When the House bad dealt with the whole of the Estimates I felt perfectly justified in directing the payment of the increments, and instructions have been given to all the departments to hand them over with the J une salaries. Salaries will be paid about the 28th or 29th of this month, because we desire to have ali payments made before the end of the year. I should have thought that the public notification that was given would have been sufficient. It would have been impossible to send round and tell all the officers individually.
– The Premier of Queensland is reported to have stated that the Federal Government collect the Customs revenue and keep the 25 per cent, which each State has to contribute, whether they want it or not; further, that the States Governments are not supplied with detailed accounts. In view of this statement, will the Treasurer explain the principle upon which repayments of Customs revenue have been made to the States 1
– A somewhat erroneous impression seems to prevail with regard to the repayment of Customs revenue to the States. It does not follow that each State gets back 75 per cent, of the amount contributed through the Customs, and many honorable members appear to have been misled on this point when considering the amount we have to distribute out of the revenue. The- prohibition is that the Federal Treasurer must not retain more than one-fourth of the Customs revenue of the Commonwealth, but there is nothing to prohibit him from retaining more than onefourth of the Customs revenue derived from any particular State. It may be that the new expenditure, together with the loss in connexion with transferred services in some of the States, would be so heavy as to amount to more than one-fourth of the Customs revenue derived in such States. As a rule it is not so, but it may possibly be so in Queensland. We do not retain one shilling more than the amount absolute! y required. We have the right under the Constitution to retain one-fourth of the total Customs revenue, but only if we expend it. Whatever amount is collected in a State is credited to that State, and whatever amount is expended for that State is debited to it, and month by month, on the last day of the month, we hand the balance back. We do not retain the full one-fourth from the States, because we have not up to the present required that amount.
– But the Treasurer says that it may be that one State is credited with some of the money belonging to another.
– No. We credit each State with the amount collected, and debit it with the amount expended. We hand over the balance, but it does not follow that that balance must necessarily be more than three-fourths of the customs and excise revenue collected in any State, because the prohibition against the Treasurer is that he must not appropriate a sum in excess of one-fourth of the total customs revenue for the expenditure of the Commonwealth. I do not know any case so far in which we have retained more than onefourth. In Queensland - as in all the other States - we had to meet a very heavy expenditure in May. As honorable members are aware, I have been forced to bring forward Supply Bill after Supply Bill, and in those measures I have kept the expenditure down to the lowest possible limit. As the end of the financial year approached I found that if I did not make certain payments in May T should not have sufficient money to make them in the following month, and should thus have had to carry arrears forward to the next year. Unfortunately, in one or two of the States we had to make pretty heavy payments, especially in Queensland, where they pay the military forces yearly. The result is that the whole expenditure for the twelve months falls at the end of the financial year. I. had to provide for that expenditure in order that I might be able to meet our June payments. Under these circumstances, the amount returned to Queensland last month was comparatively small ; but the large amounts having now been paid, I hope that- the amount returned in June will represent a considerable sum.
– The Treasurer tells us that some of the States may require more than three-fourths of their revenue. Assuming that to be the case, how will he make up the difference? Will he appropriate it from the revenue of the States 1
– My honorable friend need have no apprehension upon that ground. The revenue of no State will be drawn upon to make up the deficiency in another. I can assure him that we are not likely to take anything from New South Wales. Of course this is a very serious question, and one .which will have to becarefully considered, especially when some honorable members talk about spending large amounts for public works out of the revenues of the States. Honorable members desire to return to each State threefourths of the total revenue collected therein.
– If the Minister kept back a proportion of the expenditure for each month it would not fall so heavily upon them.
– I cannot do that. I had intended to deal with this matter when I spoke upon the Loan Bill. Section 87 of the Constitution provides -
Duringa period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth, and thereafter until the Parliament othewise provides, of the net revenue of the Commonwealth from dutiesof customs and of excise, not more than one-fourth shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its expenditure.
That means that we can retain up to our full one-fourth if we choose to spend the money. But so far as the total revenue is concerned, we do not retain anything like one-fourth. Unfortunately, honorable members will insist upon dealing with the total revenue instead of with the revenue of the individual States. The same section also sets out -
The balance shall, in accordance with this Constitution, be paid to the several States, or applied towards the payment of interest upon debts of the several States taken over by the Commonwealth.
Therefore it is quite clear that, if we choose, we can appropriate one-fourth of the total customs and excise revenue, quite independently of the consideration that, by so doing, we might return to some of the States far less than the three-fourths of their total revenue, which honorable members desire them to receive. Then section 89 provides -
Until the imposition of uniform duties of customs, the Commonwealth shall credit to each State the revenues collected therein by the Commonwealth.
That refers to the revenue from the Customs, Post-office, and Defence departments, and to some little new revenue that we have. The same section continues -
The Commonwealth shall debit to each State -
The transferred expenditure is therefore to be debited to each State. The section referred to also provides that the Commonwealth shall debit each State with -
That refers to the new expenditure. A proportionate part of that expenditure is debited to the respective States, and the balance is handed over to them. But if we largely increase that new expenditure, some of the States will not receive three-fourths of their total customs and excise revenue. One of the reasons which induced me to consent to the postponement of the consideration of the Loan Bill was that I wanted at the end of the year to be able to get certain information, so as to show honorable members how much each State has been returned. I desire to give honorable members an opportunity of considering the whole position, and seeing whether they are justified in compelling the Treasurer to spend large amounts out of the revenue of the States, thereby causing him to return to some of them less than three-fourths of their total revenue.When I make my next. Budget speech, I hope to show exactly how the matter stands, and then I shall ask honorable members to reconsider the whole question.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, ‘upon notice -
Whether it is true, us reported in the press, that rubber “frank” stamps had been used in the Post-office for all sorts of purposes, “including the sending of love letters, the promotion of bazaars, and the issuing of notices to members of football clubs ; “ and, if so, what steps have been taken to prevent the continuance of the scandal ?
– I have been furnished with the following reply : -
It is true that the “frank stamps” have been used for other than legitimate purposes, as stated in the press. The instances that have been brought under notice are not very numerous, as they can only be discovered by accident, the Post-office having no authority to open letters bearing “ frank stamps.” Section 47 of the Victorian Post-office Act, 1890, authorized the State Postmaster-General to supply a “frank stamp” to the Governor, the responsible Ministers of the Crown, the President of the Legislative Council and others. These stamps appear to have been used by irresponsible persons, as envelopes bearing the “frank stamps “ have been supplied for use by persons other than those mentioned in the Act, and envelopes purporting to have “ frank stamps “ printed thereon have been supplied by the Government Printing-office without the authority of the Postmaster-General. Uo action to prevent the abuse referred to can be taken until there has been further legislation, except in the instances brought under notice, when the department whose “ frank stamp “ has been used is informed, and asked to take the necessary action to prevent any further abuse.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Watson) -
That leave of absence for the remainder of the. session be grunted to the honorable member for Wide Bay, Mr. Fisher, on the ground of urgent private business.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply.
– The grievance which I desire to ventilate is the action of the Government in giving the Bonus Bill precedence over the Electoral Bill upon the business paper. Already the session has lasted a considerable time, and it is well known that honorable members are desirous of enjoying a short recess prior to re-assembling for the purpose of receiving the’ Tariff from the Senate. Recently the practice of the Government has been to bring down Bill after Bill to the House when there has been no possible hope of passing them. As a result, valuable time has been wasted. Honorable members have been kept discussing Bills which the Government themselves must have known had not the slightest- chance of being carried. Now they are desirous of proceeding with the consideration of still another Bill - a course which can only result in a wilful waste of time. The Electoral Bill is a measure which is more urgent than any other legislation which is contemplated. It is well known that after that Bill becomes law the whole energy of the department will require to be- concentrated on getting the details into working order, so that the measure may be effective for the next election. Every one admits that it is desirable that honorable members should go to the country for the next general elections under the Federal electoral law. The Electoral Bill, however, is being bandied about in a manner which suggests doubt as to whether the Government are in earnest in their desire to carry it. Only last night they adopted a peculiar course, which compelled the whole of their followers to vote against them, so that their proposal was only carried with the assistance of members of the Opposition’. Their action in giving precedence to the Bonus Bill this afternoon can result only in the whole of to-day’s sitting being wasted. I understand that it is proposed to adjourn to-morrow for three weeks or a month, and if that be so, when we re-assemble we shall probably have the Tariff to discuss, in which case it will then be too late to deal with the Electoral Bill. I claim’ that we should finish the consideration of that measure immediately, so that the Senate can consider the amendments which are certain to be made in it, whilst this Chamber is devoting its attention to the requests made by the other Chamber in connexion with the Tariff Bill. The procedure which the Government seek to adopt practically means the shelving of the Electoral Bill, and therefore I emphatically protest against it. I hope that the Ministry will see their way to postpone the consideration of the Bonus Bill, and proceed immediately with the discussion of the Electoral Bill. I have no desire to dictate to them, but under the circumstances I think it is advisable that we should transact legislation which is likely to be beneficial to the community.
– I take this opportunity of referring to the matter upon which the honorable member for Kennedy has spoken. It seems to me that if we are to enjoy a short recess, pending the decision of the Senate in respect of the Tariff, it is absolutely necessary that an adjournment should take place to-morrow. The only question is whether, if the Electoral Bill is to go through this session, we should re-assemble a week before the Senate is likely to complete its consideration of the Tariff. I think we may fairly take it for granted that- the proper time to adjourn is to-morrow. We must adjourn over next week, and to adjourn for one week only would be very inconvenient to honorable members, as they would be required to come back here, and then adjourn again. I ask the Government to consider this question. I admit that it was a difficult one at the beginning of the week. The Electoral Bill has opened up an amount of debate which shows that its consideration will occupy a considerable time. It is absolutely certain that the Bill cannot be put through this week. What ‘the honorable member for Kennedy says’ with regard to the course of business is very reasonable. The Bonus Bill is not a matter of urgent necessity. I do not want to enter into any controversy in regard to that measure, but having regard to the secondreading speeches, and to the fact that the Bill does not come under the category of the measures which were foreshadowed at the last election, it is doubtful whether it can have any effect for a considerable period ; indeed, it is about the last measure we should endeavour to pass this session. The Attorney-General knows that I never desire to dictate the order of business, which is a matter for mutual arrangement ; but in my opinion he should go on with the Electoral Bill, notwithstanding the absence of the Minister for Home Affairs, and then fix on the period over which the House shall adjourn. It seems to be the desire of a great many honorable members that the Electoral Bill should go through, and in view of that fact it would be better, if possible, to meet a week before the Senate disposes of the Tariff, and devote that time to the consideration of the measure. From what I can gather from honorable members, there is a strong desire to have a . reasonable adjournment,’ which should certainly be for not less than a month.
– Will the Senate take so long a& that to complete the Tariff?
– I have made inquiries, and I think the Senate will occupy that length, of time.
– How long is it proposed that the Senate shall adjourn for the Coronation t
– For a week, I understand ; and in conversation with senators I have learned that there is not the slightest chance of the Tariff coming back to us until three weeks after that adjournment.
– We shall require a week to deal with the Electoral Bill.
– So long as there is a pledge on the part of the Government that the Electoral Bill will be put through before the session closes, that ought to be satisfactory. In fairness to honorable members from Queensland and Western Australia, we should adjourn for at least four weeks. It is impossible to imagine honorable members remaining here during the whole of that period, and if a reasonable adjournment is not granted, there will not be time for them to go home, and to give a week to the consideration of the Electoral Bill before dealing with the Tariff. I hope the Government will proceed at once with the Electoral Bill.
– The position in which we are placed suggests certain elementary considerations, on which we are agreed. The first is, that as soon as we conscientiously can we should have a short adjournment prior to considering the proposals which will be submitted to us from another place in connexion with the Tariff. It may also be admitted that an adjournment, to be effective so far as the representatives of the distant States are concerned,, must be for at least three weeks, or, if possible, a month. We are also all agreed that the Electoral Bill is a measure which requires to be passed through all its stages this session, and so far as the Government are concerned, the session will not be permitted to close until the measure is dealt with. But the issue is put - why, under these circumstances, bring forward to-day the Bonus Bill, involving a detailed discussion, which must occupy considerable time ? The answer is very simple. The desire to have an adjournment for three weeks or a month is governed by the length of time which will be occupied elsewhere in considering the Tariff, part of which, to a large extent, hinges on the Bonus Bill.
– Is it not the other way - that the Bill hinges on the Tariff 1
– One is connected with the other ; it may be the old puzzle as to which comes first, the hen or the egg. I am not asking the House to take sufficient time to dispose of the Bonus Bill absolutely. We are faced, however, by an amendment on that Bill, tabled by the honorable member for Bland, as to the limitation to be imposed on the proposed bonus for the manufacture of iron. If that amendment be carried, it will necessarily alter the attitude of many honorable members here and elsewhere in regard, to part of the Tariff, and it is only fair to all that that portion of the Bonus Bill should be disposed of in one way or the other. Until that question is settled, we leave Division VIa. of the Tariff in a condition of uncertainty, which is in the highest degree undesirable.
– We had to settle Division VIa. without having the Bonus Bill- before us.
– That is so. But for circumstances over which the Government had no control, the Bonus Bill would have been submitted at an earlier date, and thus have been under consideration in another Chamber simultaneously with the Tariff. All the Government ask honorable members to do is to advance the Bonus Bill far enough to dispose of this important question. Honorable members are not asked to take the Bill further, because I know that many honorable members are absent who object to bonuses.
– The desire is to test the amendment of the honorable member for Bland ?
– Yes. If it be determined b)r the House to give these bonuses to any person or company as distinguished from the States, the Government will be satisfied with that determination. As to the Electoral Bill, we are in the hands of the House. We are perfectly prepared to continue to sit to-morrow, and, if necessary, on Saturday, or to meet early next week, and sit up to Coronation Day, in order to dispose of the Bill as far as possible.
– Why not go on with it now?
– I am asking the House to give a decision on the question as to whether or not the bonuses on the manufacture of iron are to be limited to the States.
– The Bill was carried on the casting vote of Mr. Speaker.
– What has that to do with the question before us ? I am now giving fair reasons why this issue should be settled before we rise. If honorable members will meet the Government in that way, I am prepared to meet them by sitting as much or as little as they please, prior to the adjournment, in order to dispose of the Electoral Bill. . It seems to me that if we sit for the first three days of next week, we can practically dispose of the Electoral Bill, leaving only a few consequential amendments or revisions to deal with. We can then adjourn with a clear conscience until the Senate shall have finished its consideration of the Tariff.
– There was an announcement in the press that there would be an adjournment over next week, and many honorable members have made arrangements accordingly.
– That was contingent on the business being done. The only announcement made to the press in answer to inquiries was that if the business were transacted there would be no objection to an adjournment ; and there is no objection now.
– The Bonus Bill stopped the business.
– No; I am not asking honorable members to dispose of the Bill, because I do not wish to take advantage of those who find it necessary to be absent just now. I am trying to meet the House in every way. We regard the Electoral Bill as ohe which it is absolutely essential to pass before we close the session - as a Bill which it is desirable to pass as early as possible - having in view the machinery which has to be brought into play.
– If honorable members are satisfied with the assurance that the Electoral Bill would be passed this session, they would rather deal with it after the adjournment.
– I am in the hands of the House. The Government are perfectly willing to sit on in order to meet the wishes and convenience of honorable members. We hope to obtain an elastic adjournment, in order that honorable members may be summoned earlier in the event of the Senate disposing of the Tariff sooner than is at present anticipated.
– The adjournment will not be worth having if we have to now go on with the Electoral Bill.
– That rests with honorable members, but my opinion is that we can break the back of that measure in a couple of sittings.
-paterson.- - -Why adjourn at all?
– No one could put in a better claim than the honorable and learned member to a short adjournment prior to the reconsideration of the Tariff: The honorable and learned member represents a distant community, with whom he must have been out of personal touch for some time, and it is to afford him and others an opportunity of visiting their constituencies that a month’s adjournment is proposed. AVe ought to be able to dispose of the amendment of the honorable member for Bland in three or four hours.
– Let us decide to adjourn to-morrow, no matter what happens.
– It is doubtful whether we can do that ; but, if we dispose of the amendment, I shall take the responsibility of dealing with the Electoral Bill in the absence of my colleague. I shall do so at some disadvantage, because I am not able to afford honorable members the same information as the honorable gentleman who will administer the Bill. I am willing to sit on as long as honorable members please in order to dispose of as much of the Electoral Bill as we can before adjourning.
– Why not accept the suggestion to meet a week earlier than it is expected the Senate will have finished with the Tariff?
– I wish to give honorable members from distant parts the advantage of an adjournment for a full month ; less than which would be of little service.
– Honorable members desire to get to their homes for the Coronation festivities.
– Thatis desirable, but we cannot have everything.
– It would be much better to cut a week off the other end of the adjournment.
– But the “ other end “ is not a fixed quantity. Honorable members who reach their homes on Coronation day will be much more fortunate than those who represent more distant constituencies. Let us have a decision on the main features of the Bonus Bill, and proceed with the Electoral Bill as far as possible. We can then have the longest adjournment consistent with our duty to the country, and with our not delaying the consideration of the Tariff by a single hour.
– While I should prefer to adjourn for a month, I would sooner have a clear three weeks from the end of this week than come here next Monday and Tuesday. It was understood that we should not meet next week, and I believe that honorable members have made arrangements accordingly. I think we are fully entitled to an adjournment, and should be afforded this opportunity to visit out electorates. There are portions of my electorate which I have been unable to visit since Parliament met. With regard to the conduct of. business, I should like to see the Electoral Bill dealt with before anything else, but there appears to be some justification for the request of the Government that a decision should be arrived at in regard to the Bonus Bill, inasmuch as our attitude towards that measure may affect the decision of the other Chamber in regard to the provisions of Division VIa. of the Tariff. In any case, judging by the rate of progress yesterday, I do not think we can finally dispose of the Electoral Bill this week. It is an important Bill, containing a large number of clauses, and deserves full consideration at our hands, and I think that if we do a reasonable amount of work this week, the Government should consent to a reasonable adjournment.
– I do not see any force in the argument that the Bonus Bill should be proceeded with to-day, in order to throw some light upon the path of honorable senators in their discussion of Division VIa. of the Tariff. This House was able to deal with that division without such illumination ; and it seems to me that if we give the Senate an additional bone of contention, it will only prolong their labours. The promised adjournment is like a beautiful mirage ; it continually recedes as we appear to advance towards it. The AttorneyGeneral says that he is quite willing to sit here on Monday and Tuesday, and perhaps he would be willing to even stretch his loyalty to the extent of meeting on Coronation Day in order to forward public business. But, then, he can go to his home at any time, whereas honorable members from other States cannot do so. I know that if the Government determine to meet next week, they will not get a quorum. It may be possible to get the Electoral Bill through this week by confining our attention to it to-day and tomorrow, and I should even be willing to sit on Saturday to secure that end, but if the Government determine to go on with the Bonus Bill, they will discover that they cannot obtain a decision in regard to the amendment that has been moved until it suits the convenience of honorable members. If they were so anxious to obtain a decision in regard to it, why did the Minister in charge report progress the other night before it was decided? Another matter to which I wish to refer is the reply of the Minister representing the Prime Minister to a deputation of the unemployed which waited upon him yesterday. The honorable and learned member then allowed the silvery stream of his eloquence to overwhelm his discretion. He told those who waited upon him that it was not for him to criticise Parliament, and then, like honorable members who say, “if it were not out of order I should say so and so,” proceeded to do it. He practically told them that this Parliament is responsible for the unemployed difficulty, because of its action in delaying the passing of the Loan Bill. That was a very improper criticism,.especially in view of thefact that the Government themselves declined to go on with that measure. It is impossible to ascertain the actual opinion of the House in regard to any question, except by a vote upon that question. Why did not the Government obtain such an expression of opinion from Parliament in regard to the Loan Bill ?’ I trust that in future no Minister will attempt to criticise the actions of Parliament except in Parliament, and that our deliberations will never be influenced by any other motive than the desire to serve the interests of the whole community. To attempt to achieve notoriety by offering empty sympathy to the representatives of the unemployed does not reflect credit upon those who do it, and will not tend to assist us in our deliberations. I trust that we shall proceed to-day with the Electoral Bill, and abandon the miserable subterfuge which the Government call a Bonus Bill.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat - AttorneyGeneral). - By way of personal explanation I wish to say that the newspaper paragraph referred to by the honorable member for West Sydney is a fair condensation of my remarks ; but there is an omission of the statements to which they were a reply. The members of the deputation appeared to be ignorant of what had taken place in regard to the Loan Bill, and urged that the construction of telephones and other works, which they understood to be authorized, should be pushed on with at once. In reply, I was obliged to point out to them that those works were provided for in the schedule of a Loan Bill which the House seemed indisposed to pass, and that they could not be proceeded with until Parliament had had an opportunity to consider whether they should be provided for out of revenue. My remarks were, therefore, a statement of fact, and in no way a criticism upon the action of Parliament.
Question resolved in the negative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 12th June, vide page 13635).
Clause 2 -
This Act shall commence on the first day of July one thousand nine hundred and two.
Upon which Mr. Batchelor had moved -
That the word “ two” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “four.”
– If the committee agree to the amendment, it will be a practical declaration of its intention not to proceed with the measure. I am willing to consent to allow the Bill to come into force immediately upon its passing, or - which I think would be better - in September next. I wish honorable members to remember, however, that the date of the coming into force of the measure will not be the date upon which the various bonuses provided for in it may be earned. I intend to propose an addition to the schedule, which will provide dates for the coming into force of each particular bonus, and honorable members will have the fullest opportunity of dealing with the proposal in regard to each bonus upon its merits. I do not suppose that the honorable member really wishes to shelve the Bill, and in view of what we propose I would ask him to withdraw his amendment, so that we may more effectively deal with it in connexion with this schedule.
– The amendment now proposed brings us face to face with a very important consideration. Although many honorable members believe that bonuses may provide a proper means of encouraging industries, they consider that we shall be committing a great breach of political faith if we enact that this Bill shall come into operation during the currency of the present Parliament. During the federal elections the clear and distinct policy laid down by the Prime Minister was “ Revenue without destruction.” He said most distinctly that, while it would be necessary to provide for moderate protection, we must have revenue. Now a proposal is made to afford protection to an industry without providing revenue. Will any honorable member have the temerity to say that this question of promoting an industry which has hitherto not existed within the Commonwealth should be considered in this Parliament? This proposal will stand or fall with that under which the Government intend to impose a 10 per cent. ad valorem duty at the end of the bonus period. The whole fiscal policy of the country may be reversed very shortly, and I contend that we shall be untrue to our trust if we provide for the payment of large bonuses during the currency of this Parliament.We have no right in the present state of our finances to appropriate £250,000 for the purpose of paying bonuses to manufacturers. I have consistently supported the policy announced by the Prime Minister at Maitland by voting for moderate duties in support of industries created under a protective system, but the present proposal is not entitled to consideration in this connexion. Many of the public creditors are at this moment clamouring for the payment of their accounts, and yet we are proposing to hand over £250,000 to a syndicate. If this industry is to be established at all, there will be room for only one great combination, and the power which is now sought should not be left in the hands of the Executive. We have no clear and distinct statement with regard to the possibilities, even under the terms of this proposal, of creating an iron industry within the Commonwealth. We have abundant supplies of ore, and no doubt we shall ultimately produce pig-iron, and the industry will assume large proportions, but £250,000 may prove entirely inadequate for the successful establishment of the industry. Once we begin, however, to pay money out of the public coffers for the benefit of any industry, we shall have to go on feeding it. I think that the proposal of the honorable member for South Australia that the Bill should not come into operation until 1904 is a reasonable one, and that in agreeing to it we shall be acting honestly towards the public, and even towards those who may be induced to establish the industry.
– As a general desire has been expressed that we should as soon as possible test the feeling of the committee with regard to the amendment of which notice has been given by the honorable member for Bland, I suggest to the honorable member for South Australia that this clause should be postponed. The amendment now proposed by the honorable member may just as well be attached to clause 3 as to the one now under discussion.
Clause 3 -
The Governor-General may authorize the payment outof the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated for the purpose, of bonuses on the manufacture in Australia after the commencement of this Act of the goods specified in the schedule to this Act according to the rates set out in the said schedule.
– I move-
That the following words be added - “Provided that no bonus shall be paid in respect of pig-iron, puddled bar-iron, iron or steel pipes or tubes, or steel, unless the same is manufactured in works owned by a State Government.”
Personally, I should have preferred the adoption of the suggestion for an inquiry as to the desirableness of a State Government or the Commonwealth Governmentundertaking the establishment of the iron industry. I do not say at this stage that it would be a good thing for either of the States to take up the establishment of the iron industry. There are commercial considerations to be taken into account, such as the suitability of the ore and the coal available, the proximity of one to the other, and the existence of supplies of fluxing material within easy reach of the proposed iron works. In connexion with a proposal of this kind we have to consider the possible effect upon the general industries of the Commonwealth. It must be recollected that if the supply of the raw iron should be controlled by one company, a monopoly would be constituted, andall the people engaged in the secondary working of iron would be at the mercy of the monopolists. I stated on a previous occasion that there would not be room for more than one company of any importance in connexion with the iron industry, because one large iron works would be capable of supplying all the requirements of the Commonwealth in the shape of raw material. Those who work in iron now are so poorly recompensed for their labour, and their operations are of so much importance, that we cannot afford to run any risk of placingthemat any greater disadvantage. If a State Government were to embark on this enterprise, the workers in iron would at least have the satisfaction of knowing that the raw material required by them would be supplied, not at the highest price compatible with competition with outsiders, but at the lowest price consistent with the payment of expenses and the interest on capital. Therefore, the interests of our ironworkers and of the community generally would with fair management, be much safer in the hands of one of the States Governments than in those of a syndicate or company. Several honorable members, during the second-reading debate, expressed their sympathy with the general idea of the amendment I then proposed. It is only a proper thing that they should be afforded an opportunity of giving practical effect to the sympathy which they then expressed. I take it that honorable members like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the honorable member for Bourke, who .assert that they would prefer to see the States undertake this work, should not be placed under any disability so far as voting for a proposal of this kind is concerned, because, if the States do not take this matter up within a reasonable time-
– If the honorable member will incorporate that in his amendment, there will be no trouble about the matter.
– If this amendment be carried, and the States do not take the matter up within a reasonable period, Parliament and honorable members most affected will be afforded an opportunity of reconsidering the whole position. But if we pass the Bill - as has been suggested - fixing a time limit, and the Bill is afterwards to apply to any private set of individuals who care to take advantage of it, every person interested in the promotion of a private syndicate or ‘company, will immediately become an agent in one of the several States to prevent the States from embarking upon the enterprise. They will put before the public all kinds of distorted ideas, regarding the fate which awaits any action by the States Governments, and will bring all sorts of personal and political pressure to bear to prevent them engaging in the industry within the stipulated period.
– Then make the period longer.
– We must prescribe a considerable tim’e, if we are to avoid the danger which I think would be present, and which, I am sure, would be taken advantage of by the promoters of any private enterprise. I think that if a free field is given to them there is a greater probability of one of the States Governments engaging in the industry, because I am convinced that no State will embark upon it unless it is granted a monopoly. It is not a good thing for Governments to enter into ordinary competition with private enterprise.
If vested interests are already in existence, in respect of any industry upon which the State wishes to engage, they should be bought out, because if a monopoly obtains there is a much better opportunity of cheapening production. Cheap production is much surer under the trust system than when people are competing with one another, although it is very seldom that the community reaps the benefit of cheap production where a private trust exists. I can only contemplate the States embarking upon an industry in which there was no competition. My desire is to keep the field as free as possible until the States, under the new conditions which exist, and with the larger market which is now open to them, are given an opportunity of nationalizing the iron industry. At least a couple of years must elapse before that can take place. Probably it will take some time for the States to grasp the whole bearings of the question, and to convert some who have not given consideration to its new aspects - to the larger market which is now available, and the assistance which a Bill of this sort would guarantee any State which cares to enter upon iron production. In view of the danger which would result to any possible State enterprise from the passing of this Bill, from the creation of private vested interests, the committee would do well to add the proviso which I have moved.
– In supporting the amendment, I utterly fail to understand the position of honorable members who are so exceedingly anxious to see this industry established in the course of a year or two that they are willing to saddle the country for all time with a huge private monopoly such as must inevitably result from the course which the Government propose to adopt. It has been reiterated time and again - and there has been no contradiction of the assertion - that this proposal practically means handing over the entire control of the iron deposits throughout Australia to a single syndicate, which has the greater proportion of its shares, if not the whole of them, held outside of the Commonwealth. I do trust that the urgency which exists for establishing this industry is not such as many honorable members appear to believe. Even assuming that a State was willing to make the iron industry a State monopoly i I consider that two years is a sufficiently short period in which to enable it to make the necessary preparations for engaging in the work. Under the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who desires to insert in the Bill a provision for buying out any private syndicate which may exist, one of two things will happen - either that proposal will be made so definite and favorable to the Commonwealth that private individuals will not engage in the industry, or the terms will be of such a general nature that whan we attempt to buy out the syndicate, we shall be compelled to offer a fancy price for its interests. Throughout Australia there are a number of instances which go to show the hopelessness of expecting that a syndicate of this kind can be tied down to make a fair arrangement with the State. At the present time Western Australia is cursed with the existence of a syndicate which constructed a railway through a few miles of country upon the understanding that that railway could be taken over at any time, on reasonable terms. Now, however, the State finds that it is impossible to. acquire possession of it except upon the terms offered by the syndicate, which is demanding far more than the actual value of the line. Looking at America, and the way in which it is exploited by syndicates, and having in mind how even the Legislature is powerless to suppress them, I say that the conditions which exist there ought to make every honorable member hesitate before taking steps which will allow of the bare possibility of a similar state of things being created in Australia.
– The proposal of the honorable member for Bland is that we should entirely abandon the idea of offeringencouragement to the public for the establishment of the iron industry, and confine our offer to States Governments.
– The encouragement already exists.
– The encouragement already exists to such an extent that no one will take advantage of it. In the light of history, it is not likely that it will be taken advantage of. There is no doubt that any encouragement which is proposed must be something in addition to that which is conferred by our natural resources. The sooner the industry is established the better. The position is , that various interested parties have, at different times, turned their attention to matters of this sort. I feel a little doubt whether, if we agree to an amendment of this character, the necessary capital will be embarked by private individuals to establish the industry. At the same time, I do not hesitate to admit that we should like to see the States undertake the work. If they are prepared to do so, by all means let them have priority, but do not let us hang up this question for all time by vainly awaiting for the States to come in. Let us fix a reasonable time in which they can exercise their priority of choice, but, if they fail to exercise it, do not let us prevent persons taking advantage of the Bill who can do so to the benefit of the country, though possibly not to the same extent that it would benefit if the States themselves derived the profits which accrued from carrying on this industry. I think honorable members will recognise that we are perfectly sincere when we say that we should prefer the States to undertake this work. At the same time, we do not wish to lose the chance of the early establishment of the industry by giving them .a long period of preference which will choke off those who are now looking at it with a favorable eye, whilst the States themselves do nothing. In the light of the evidence which is before us, I think there are people who are ready to. sink their capital in this enterprise ; but we cannot keep money waiting for investment for a very long period. Those who have it want an early return for it, and if they are told that they will have to wait for some years before we can make up our minds whether we will allow them to invest in the way they desire I am afraid that they will take their money elsewhere. At the same time, there is always capital awaiting profitable investment.
– This is the first time a free market in Australia has been offered.
– I know that thoroughly, but to confine this industry to State enterprise would be a mistake. We must deal with the matter compre”hensively, and consider the relative rights of the States, and of private individuals. We might fix a period during which the States Parliaments would have an opportunity of declaring by Act their intention of embarking in the industry.
– What period does the Minister suggest %
– I do not quite know, but what I want is a fair period.
– It takes some time to pass an Act.
– Say the period of this Parliament.
– That is too long a period.The States Parliaments are now in session, are just commencing their sessions, and no doubt, if we pass the [Bonus Billl now, attention will be directed to the offer contained therein. We do not propose to ask anything in the shape of guarantee, but simply to require legislative declaration of the State’s intention to take advantage of the measure. The Government will be perfectly content that the encouragement should be reserved for the States so that the whole people may get the benefit. If it were a question of inserting words which would have the effect of reserving to the States the sole power of earning this bonus, conditionally on their declaring within a certain time their intention to exercise that power, the Government would endeavour to meet the wishes of honorable members. But, independently of any notification from the States, the Bill will be worthless for the encouragement of private enterprise if the amendment of the honorable member for Bland be passed in the form proposed. Agreeing, as a majority of this committee do agree, thatit is a good thing to get the States to undertake this industry, and at the same time not agreeing that we should prohibit private enterprise for all time, I should be very glad if we could hit on a scheme by which the difficulty could be met, and the risk of the loss of the Bill avoided. I am sure that there is a large majority in favour of the establishment of the industry, and we ought not, in consequence of differences over methods, when we agree in principle, to wreck the fate and futureof the measure. For several reasons I do not think there will be any great monopoly ; and on this point we may look to Canadian history.
– There is the Steel Trust.
– That is in America. In Canada, by means of similar encouragement to that now proposed, there are, I believe, as many as seven large furnace’s in full blast. In the Canadian Year Book I find this passage : -
The active works in Canada in 1901 are : - (.1.) The Nova Scotia Steel Company, blast furnace at Ferona, Nova Scotia ; (2) the Hamilton Steel and Iron Company, Hamilton ; (3) the Canada Iron Furnace Company, Midland ; (4) the Dominion Iron and Steel Company Furnaces at Sydney : (5) the Canada Iron Furnace Company, Radnor ; (6)
Desoronto Iron Company, Desorontoro ; (7) Drummondville Furnaces. The last three are charcoal furnaces. The aggregate capacity of the seven is 440,000 tons a year.
– Arenot all these works in one trust ?
– I have no reason to believe that that is so.
Mr.Spence. - They very soon will be, for that is the trend everywhere.
– The largest trust is the State, and that is the trust to which we propose to give preference in this connexion.
– All the Canadian works do not use native ore.
– The Newfoundland ore is to all intents and and purposes Canadian ore ; that point’ has been discussed time and again. Honorable members no doubt recognise that there is no real distinction to be drawn between Newfoundland ore and Nova Scotia ore, any more than a distinction can be drawn in this connexion between Tasmania and Australia. As to the possibility of monopoly, it must be remembered that the protective duty imposed after the exhaustion of the bonus is only 10 per cent.; and under such circumstances what possibility is there of any abuse? Honorable members know, further, that power is taken to abolish that duty if any dispute should arise.
– Will the duty run concurrently with the bonus ?
– That is not the intention, though, of course, Parliament has power to do anything. I trust that under the circumstances the honorable member for Bland may be disposed to accept some modification of his amendment, if he cannot see his way to withdraw it.
– Does not this discussion, together with the proposed amendment, show that this legislation is premature ? If we are going to decide on such a great national undertaking, surely we ought to be unanimous, or, at any rate, there ought to be a solid, compact majority in favour of the departure. All the circumstances show that we are not prepared for the scheme, and that it was a great mistake to import this question into the Tariff. In dealing with the Tariff, we had a simple duty to perform, and the introduction of Division VIa., with its concomitants, was one of a series of what I may almost describe as ridiculous blunders. An enormous amount of time has been taken up by the discussion of a measure which is by no means urgent ; and now we cannot agree - even those honorable members who believe in the principle of a bonus cannot agree - whether the industry shall be carried on by the State or by private enterprise. There is a suspicion aboutprivate monopoly. There is no analogy between the position of Canada and the position of Australia. We are far away from all civilized countries, with only a handful of population, and, without casting any reflection on the scheme, I say that as a matter of business, if this euterprize is to be a success, it must be concentrated in one huge concern. This industry requires almost centuries of experience, enormous capital; and a sort of heritage of scientific knowledge. What hope is there of a successful industry of the kind at the present moment, unless the Government coddle it up for years and years to come? We are not ripe for this industry, and in the whole course of the discussion there has not been a really workable scheme proposed. It has not been clearly proved that we have so far advanced as to be able to create an industry, which, while employing thousands of people, will not at the same time enormously increase the price of the raw material in a large number of manufactures. I cannot vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Bland ; even if, like some of my friends, I did lean towards a bonus system under certain circumstances, I still contend that we are not in a position to pass this legislation. It is not likely that the industry will be token up by a small State; and if New South Wales, for instance, got the bonus of £250,000 it could probably afford to upset what the honorable member called equality of trade.
– So could a private company, at that rate.
– Not exactly, because we call for all Australia to tender for these bonuses, whereas we should negotiate with each State separately, and every State could not undertake the enterprize. It seems to me that by means of this subsidy we give an advantage to one State over another.
Mr.Fowler. - The other States will be at liberty to get their iron elsewhere.
– But the bonus is to be followed by protection, and
I am satisfied that that protection will have to-be largely increased. In discussing this Bill, we are unnecessarily occupying time, and it would be far better to wait, in order to see what the other Chamber does with Division VIa. of the Tariff. The whole of the bonus system stands or falls by a consequential system of ad valorem duties, and if the other Chamber refuses to pass Division VIa., this Bill must go, except it be passed in the form proposed by the honorable member for Bland. I am absolutely opposed to the Bill as premature, but I cannot see my way to vote for a proposal which will create a state monopoly at the expense of the Commonwealth.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs intimated that he is opposed to the adoption of the amendment, but that he is not opposed to the States taking this matter up, though he failed to inform the committee what period he was prepared to fix in which they could take such action. It will assist us to come to a decision upon the matter if he can give us that information.
– I cannot.
– I am anxious that the States should undertake this work, if it is practicable for them to do so. I know of no State except New South Wales which is likely to undertake it, but surely if that State knew that the matter must be settled within the next eighteen months or two years, because, unless it is dealt with in that period, the promised bonuses will be paid to private companies, an impetus would be given to the settlement of the question by it.
– A shorter period should suffice to draw attention to the matter, and to concentrate the energies of the States in regard to it.
– Two years is very little in the history of a nation. I know that the Government are anxious to bring the Bill into operation in order to establish the iron industry, and I ask them to accept an amendment in the interests of the measure. Those of us who are in favour of State enterprise in this matter should, in the interval, do what we can to urge the undertaking upon the people of the States. But if, after an interval of two years, none of the States have undertaken the enterprise, surely we should not act like the doginthemanger, and say that no private individual shall undertake it. The history of the iron industry is the history of bonuses and import duties. The industry has never been established except with such assistance, and I should like to know how the circumstances of the Commonwealth differ in this respect from those of other places in which iron is being manufactured.
– Carey admits that it is the natural resources of America which have given her pre-eminence in this respect.
– It seems to me that if we fix a period of two years we shall give an impetus to State action by creating necessity for promptness.
– But we also give private enterprise an incentive to prevent the States Governments from taking action.
– We give the States Governments an equal incentive to take action. The discussion of the matter in this chamber has brought it to the front in a way that nothing else would have done, and the Government proposals have focussed the thought of honorable members and of the people outside upon the question. If it is definitely set out in the measure that any State can obtain a bonus of £250,000 if it undertakes the enterprise within two years, that will be u strong incentive to action on the part of any of the States that are able to undertake it. I do not wish to impute motives to honorable members, but I know that there .are some who would do all they could to prevent the development of this enterprise by any of the States. I urge the Minister to accept the amendment, in order to give an impetus to the undertaking of the work by the States.
– The present position of the Government is a distinct advance upon that which they occupied when the Bill was first introduced, but the conditions with which they wish to hedge the alternative before us are far from satisfactory. There appears to be no reasonable opportunity given to the States to take advantage of this offer. There are programmes of legislation before all the States Parliaments which contain much more than is likely to be accomplished, and, moreover, in New South Wales, which has been referred to as the State particularly likely to undertake this enterprise, they are rather short of funds, despite the fact that there lias recently been a very large increase in their revenue. In my opinion, a period of five years should be provided in which the States might take advantage of this offer. It is absolutely impossible that resolutions , affirming the desirability of undertaking such a work could be passed through any Parliament within a session. The proposal that the State should undertake such a work would be considered revolutionary, because, so far, none of the States have attempted to enter into competition with private enterprise in this direction. As the provision now stands, the offer to the States is merely a bogus offer, because no State will be able to take advantage of it. The Minister said that in Canada there had been no monopoly, but that six or more companies had been formed ; but turning to America, I should like to direct attention to a work by an English writer, H. W. Macrosty, on Trusts and the States. Speaking of trusts in America, he says -
Outside of grains, vegetables, and fruits in manufactured forms, and of live stock, it is difficult to purchase any article upon which there is not an artificial price, fixed either by the producer of the article itself, by the producers of the raw materials used in making the article, by the dealers in it, or by agreements between any or all connected with the manufacture or sale of the article. Competition inside the different industries exists only to a limited extent, if at all.
Mr. Chauncey Depew, one of the leading men in America, who is closely associated with all the industrial magnates of that country, says that the large trusts and combinations of America employ eighttenths of the capital and two-thirds of the whole of the available labour in the United States. This position has been achieved during the last quarter of a century. With all these facts staring us in the face, we have no right to do anything in the direction of establishing trusts here. If we do this deliberately, we shall do what no other country has ever done. It is desirable, from every point of view, that the State should embark upon this enterprise, and that every opportunity should “be afforded for taking the initial steps with due care. It would be impossible for the States to act hurriedly without running great risks of failure. I suggest that a limit of three years should be fixed. I should not vote in favour of appropriating the sum of £250,000 for any other purpose than the establishment of a State industry,* because, in our present state of financial distress, it would be nothing less than criminal to incur further burdens. It is idle to say that the granting of a bonus to privateindividualswillnotcreateamonopoly, and, once a vested interest is created, we know the enthusiasm thatwillprobably be shown by honorable members in claiming further assistance.
– The leader of the Opposition says that he is opposed to the amendment of the honorable member for Bland, and that he rather favours the bonus system as against that of protection through the Customs. He appears to have overlooked the fact, however, that the bonus which is now proposed, is to be followed by a protective duty. Although free-traders might have an objection to protection, or even to the bonus system,asapplied to private undertakings, they could have none to the granting of a bonus to their own people as represented by the State. I am surprised at the attitude assumed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. His association with the labour movement ought to have taught him that wherever an opening is offered for syndicates to engage in industrial enterprises, vested interests are created, which operate to the detriment of the labouring classes. The capitalistic party throughout the Commonwealth are particularly active just now, and their opposition is specially directed against State enterprise. They are also hostile to the day labour-system of carrying out public works, to wages boards, and to industrial arbitration boards. In fact they are opposed to anything that is calculated to confer a benefit upon the working classes. They are reorganizing their forces upon a federal basis, and are being assisted by the most influential newspapers in every State. It is therefore evident that those who are acting in the interests of labour will have to retain a tight hold on everything they have. The proposal that these ironworks should become a State monopoly is entirely opposed to the ideas of the capitalists, because they recognise that they will be deprived of an opportunity for making immense profits through the creation of. a private monopoly. Full time must be allowed for the States to consider any proposal for the establishment of ironworks, because, although the necessary legislation may be readily passed through the Legislative Assembly of “Victoria or New South Wales, greater difficulty will be experienced in securing the approval of the Legislative Council in either of those States. The members of the Upper Chambers for the most part belong to a class who are interested in syndicates and monopolies. Lloyd, in his work on Wealth versus Commonwealth, throws a great deal of light upon the operations of trade monopolies. He shows that the great Standard Oil Trust has not stopped even at crime in order to secure its ends. They make enormous profits which they count by millions, and large sums of money are spent in buying up newspapers, and in moving all the forces of society in order to extend their monopoly. The Minister is well aware of the inevitable tendency of these trusts and combinations, which are now being formed with greater rapidity than at any previous time . in history. It has been made abundantly clear during the discussion upon this subject, that if the Government proposal is carried out, the. proposed ironworks will become a monopoly, and that we shall bemaking a gift of £250,000 to a few foreign money lenders. I would rather see the ironindustry remain undeveloped for twenty or fifty years than assist in the establishment of a private monopoly. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports must know that every working man in the employ of a . monopoly immediately becomes a supporter of the particular firm which engages him.. Should the iron industry once become a private monopoly it will be impossible forthe State to secure control of it. What is the use of talking about buying it out? The British money-lender is not a philanthropist, and is not likely to invest his capital in anything which does not promise him reasonable security.
– Is it not a fact that our iron ore is already in the hands of a private company ?
– I have been assured that the company which vis chiefly interested in our iron deposits will not proceed further unless they are given the bribe which is offered in this Bill. All sorts of evils are associated with the establishment of trusts. Indeed, we have not suffered so much from the neglect of the iron industry as weshall suffer from the creation of an iron monopoly. My opposition to the time limit which the Government propose is prompted by a knowledge of the influences which will be set in motion immediately this Bill becomes law. Some honorable members believe that the States should embark upon this industry, and yet they are going to deny them a 50 to 1 chance of so doing. I think that we can afford to give them a fair opening, although the Minister for Trade and Customs seems to be desirous of settling everything this session. If the amendment of the honorable member for Bland be carried it ‘will be quite competent for the next Parliament, if it thinks that a bonus should be offered for the encouragement of the industry, to act in accordance with its belief. Our laws are not immutable. The time limit suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports would allow the New South Wales Parliament only two sessions in which to take the necessary action for establishing the iron industry. I am glad that the Minister for Trade and Customs believes in one of the States embarking upon this enterprise.-
– Does the honorable member not see that in quarrelling about a date we are likely to lose the whole thing 1
– We shall merely lose the establishment of huge monopolies. So far we have heard only of two companies which, under the operation of this Bill, will be tempted to engage in the industry. Should the measure become law, those companies will very quickly combine. History teaches us that. They will establish a monopoly, because they will then be able to produce cheaply, and they will take advantage of that cheap production to make immense profits. It has been asserted by some honorable members that this industry has been developed elsewhere only by the adoption of the bonus system. They have altogether overlooked the fact that during the past 50 or 60 years an immense demand has existed for machinery, and, consequently, there has been an enormous development of the iron industry- 7-a natural development which would have occurred quite apart from the operation of any such system. It has not been shown that Mr. Sandford, of the Lithgow Iron Works, who is admittedlya very fine employer of labour, did not contemplate the extension of his enterprise, even without the State encouragement which is now proposed. I ask those who do not believe in the payment of bonuses to consider whether it is not wise on their part to vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Bland, and thus avoid conferring upon iron that measure of protection which must inevitably follow the passage of this Bill. It has been urged that the adoption of the legislation proposed will result, in the employment of thousands of men in the production of iron. But I would point out that every one of those men will fight on behalf of their employers for the imposition .- of a stiff duty upon that commodity. Something has been said in reference to a 10 per cent. duty. Is it likely that a big company which invests £1,000,000 in this industry will be satisfied with any such impost, when a little umbrella manufacturer is afforded a much larger measure of protection ? It has been conclusively.shown that in America the establishment of these huge trusts is detrimental to the best interests of the community, and, ‘therefore, I ask the committee to support the amendment.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).I hope the amendment outlined by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will be accepted, because it meets many of the objections which have’ been raised to the Bill. The prevailing idea seems to be that it is highly desirable that the iron industry, which forms the foundation of a great many other industries, should be subject to State control. At the same time, it is recognised by members on both sides that there is some difficulty in the way of the measure being taken up immediately by the existing States Parliaments, owing to the limited time. The idea of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is that for a period of two years the States shall have the option, and that if the States will not undertake the enterprise, the way shall be cleared for persons who are willing to invest their capital. In the meantime, I am perfectly sure that the Commonwealth Parliament will have passed a highly necessary measure dealing with monopolies and trusts, the underlying principles of which at the present time are being discussed very critically throughout the United States. There is a great divergence of opinion as to these large combinations. Some economic writers, who favour the views of the honorable member for Darling, see in those trusts a tendency towards the system which that honorable member advocates.
– We want a more direct way. . 1
– In their immediate operations these trusts are capable of doing,- and are doing, great injury; and various, remedies have been suggested.When we come to deal with the question of State enterprise, we are faced with incidental difficulties. A State which entered on the iron industry would practically supply other States. Although a State would be able to have a monopoly of manufacture within its own area, it is very doubtful whether it could prevent the importation of articles similar to those manufactured by the State. That, however, is only an incidental difficulty ; and we ought to give the States the preference for a period of at least two years, the period of one year suggested by the Minister for Trade and Customs being absolutely useless. It is not merely a matter of passing a Bill, but sufficient time should be given to the States to consider the questions as to the raising of the necessary capital, the selection of the site, and other details. The compromise suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports meets the objection of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, in regard to the extension of the Bill to 1904. Until after the next general election no private firm would be able to take advantage of the bonuses, which during that period would be open to the States only. I sincerely hope the Minister and the honorable member for Bland will see their way to accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports,which, although a compromise, does not ask anyone to give up a principle.
– It gives the principle away at the end of two years.
– At the end of two years the matter is open for reconsideration, and the general election will afford an opportunity for the views of the public to be ascertained. The Minister, as I understand, desires that the large stores of iron, which are found in almost every State, shall be utilized in giving employment to our own people, and the question arises how these stores and the labour can be brought into relationwith each other. The Minister believes that the proper way is to give bonuses, open to both the States and private individuals, but other honorable members hold that the iron industry, which lies at the foundation of so many other industries, should be within the controlof the States. Here the honorable member for Melbourne Ports steps in with his suggestion. We cannot dictate to the States the policy which they should pursue, but there is nothing to prevent the Commonwealth laying down what they believe to be a fair and reasonable scheme, of which the States may take advantage. We all desire to encourage the development of our resources-‘ in the most enlightened way, and the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports offers alternative opportunities. During the next few years hard conditions will prevail in Australia. A vast amount of our capital has been destroyed by drought, and to a certain extent occupation of the land will be discouraged. A large number of men are in want of employment, and there is no desire that our population should leave us. Every encouragement should be given to people to stay within our borders, and there is no better form of encouragement than that proposed to be afforded in the development of the iron industry.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred to some honorable members on this side as being actuated by a desire to kill the bonus proposals in the Bill.
Mr.Mauger. - They do not hide the fact, but say they will fight the Bill with every instrument at their disposal.
– The leader of the Opposition has frankly stated that he is not prepared to vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Bland ; but it is not altogether fair to regard every one who supports that amendment as being necessarily anxious tokill any attempt to establish the ironindustry.
Mr.Mauger. - I never said such a thing,
– When the Tariff was under consideration I expressed the opinion that the iron industry is one which calls for special consideration. But the question of what form that special consideration shall take - whether it shall take the form of bonus to manufacturers or a bonus to the States - can be decided only after the whole project has received the fullest consideration. I then pointed out that the House had not sufficient information before it, and we have not sufficient’ information now as to the iron deposits, and the practicability of conducting, on successful commercial lines, an industry of this character. While I shall vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Bland, I do not anticipate thatany State Government will be able, within two years, at any rate, to make inquiries,and pass the necessary legislation. At least three years will be required before any State Government is in a position to embark on an enterprise of thekind. Notwithstanding all we have heard about private enterprise, I am very doubtful whether the Minister, or any State Government, is at the present time in possession of sufficient information as to the practicability of establishing the industry on a commercial basis.
– There is no doubt that people are prepared to go into theindustry, and have capital at their command.
Mr.F. E. McLEAN. - But these people are only willing to go into the industry on receiving a substantial bonus, and there is a very strong feeling in the House against granting any bonus to any individual manufacturers. There may be a dispositionon the part of honorable members to spend public money in attempts to develop the industry, but I do not think the feeling is in favour of putting that money into the hands of any manufacturer or particular syndicate.
– The States can earn the bonus in the same way as individuals.
Mr.F. E. McLEAN.- But a syndicate or company has already been formed to take advantage of this Bill, and it is hardly likely that a State Government would interfere with the operations of such a body, if allarrangements had to be made to commence the industry. In this matter the States have not a fair start.
– The bonus can be preserved for. the States at the start.
– All the negotiations so far have been carried on with certain individuals who are already interested in the iron industry of Australia. They have been consulted, and have been asked whether they are prepared to do certain things. But a new question is now introduced, and that is whether the States Governments are prepared to undertake this industry as a State concern. That question has not received consideration. No communications in regard to it have taken place between the Commonwealth Government and any of the States Governments. I think that if the amendment of the honorable member for Bland is embodied in the Bill, there will be a reasonable prospect of the New South Wales Government considering this matter very seriously ; but nothing will be gained by hurrying on the Bill, and limiting the time tosomething like two years. If a reasonable time is given to the States Governments, Parliament will be free to act at any future date.
If the amendment is carried, and no provision is made for the granting of bonuses to privatemanufacturers, Parliament will be free to deal with the matter again, either in a future session or at a still later date. There can be no urgency for passing the clause in its present form. Can it be shown that any important interest will suffer by delay ? But if we pass the Bill as it stands, and none of the States Governments have either the time or the money to enter upon this undertaking, a private company will get the bonus, and the time will run against the States. We are told that other people are ready to establish this enterprise at once, and to set about obtaining the bonus. It may be of great importance to them that we should pass the provisions of the Bill as they stand, straight away, but I have yet to learn that we are called upon to consider the interests of private individuals before those of the Commonwealth, or even of the States. I urge that the honorable member for Bland be allowed to move his amendment exactly as it appears upon the notice-paper, so that the committee may come to a clear decision upon the question whether bonuses should be offered solely to the States Governments. If honorable members are anxious that the States Governments should control huge enterprises of this kind, I do not see why we should offer to them a bonus for undertaking them, and at the same time offer inducements to private individuals to compete against and, perhaps, forestall them. No States Government would come to a decision upon this matter without obtaining the reports of the highest expert authorities. It would have to engage a geological expert and a manufacturing expert, and it would take them some time to go fully into the whole question, while the Cabinet, and afterwards the State Parliament, would take still longer to consider their reports. Under these circumstances, it would not be possible for the State Government to avail itself of the advantages offered by the Bill in less than two or three years. If the honorable member for Bland moves his amendment as it appears upon the notice-paper, I shall vote with him. However we may differ upon fiscal questions, it appears to me that there are circumstances surrounding the establishment of the iron industry which call for special treatment, and although I am not prepared to commit myself to the principle of paying huge bonuses to provide manufacturers -with the means of undertaking the enterprise, I should be prepared to go out of my way to assist the States Governments, or even the Commonwealth Government, to do so.
– I am very much surprised at the attitude of the Minister in regard to this amendment. He has stated that the proposal of the honorable member for Bland has to a large extent his sympathy. Therefore, he is either a socialist, and believes that the States should undertake enterprises of this kind, or he thinks that the amendment will be inoperative, and that the States will not undertake the work.
– Those who support this proposal need be no more socialists than those who support the management of the railways by the States.
– I am equally shocked and surprised at the attitude of the Opposition in regard to the amendment. By supporting it they declare themselves to be socialists, or, what is not to their credit, they are ready to sink their principles in order to obtain a tactical victory over the Government. It seems to me that a more socialistic proposal has never been placed before Parliament. I claim to be as radical as any honorable member. Radicalism is in my blood, and I could not be otherwise than a radical ; but I consider that it is_ playing with the interests of the working classes, and bringing them under a disgraceful despotism, to try to bring about socialism of this kind.
– Is the manufacture of railway carriages at Newport an example of disgraceful despotism ?
– The honorable and learned member for Parkes differs from me in regard to many matters, but I regret he is not present to firmly oppose a proposal such as this. Unlike his colleagues in the Opposition, his desire to give the Government a fall is not sufficiently strong to prevent him from firmly opposing the introduction of socialism. .It seems to me that the adoption of this principle is the most dangerous thing that could happen to the Australian community. Why has not the honorable member for Bland proposed the application of the principle in regard to the coal industry, as well as in regard to the iron industry, or in regard to the manufacture of clothing ? It is evident that those who support this proposal do not understand the true function of government, which, in my opinion, is the protection of the lives and property of the citizens. I am sorry to have to take this matter up. It is necessary that some one should face the situation, because I consider that this is a most condemnable proposition. It is the first proposal of a socialistic character that has been submitted to this Parliament, and if it is not stamped out, I shall at least have the satisfaction of knowing that I have uttered my protest against it. It may be that my voice is like that of one crying in the wilderness, but the time will come when the opinions I now express will be -received with sympathy instead of with opposition. I should like the Minister to understand that there are a great many people besides myself who believe that the more the Government encroach upon the domain of private enterprise the greater will be the loss to the community. I was able to point out some days ago that in one great trading department of the States, namely, the railways, an actual capital loss of £47,000,000 had been incurred. Then, again, the Government of “Victoria some time ago took over the Melbourne telephone system from a private company at a cost of £250,000. The company had been able to earn a profit and pay dividends of 1 6 per cent., but a Telephone Inquiry Board appointed a little time ago discovered that up to two or three years ago the Government had incurred a loss of £260,000, and had not paid any interest on their capital outlay. Members of Parliament will not be able to check the abuses which will probably arise if the proposal of the honorable member for Bland is carried out. The more the public service is enlarged the greater will be the drain upon the taxpayers, and greater difficulty will be experienced in controlling it. If the functions of Government are to extend to the employment of large numbers of coal miners, iron founders, smiths and fitters we shall, embark upon an enterprise which will tend to largely increase the burdens of the community, and the principle if carried to its logical conclusion will lead to the insolvency of the State, or the ruin, by excessive taxation, of every man in it. Every man will have to
I become a public servant, and then the j amount of money available for the payment : of salaries will be too small to provide the necessaries of life. The only means of escape under such circumstances will be by way of a revolution. We shall repeat the experience of the ancient Peruvians who found that they could only carry on their affairs by tying men, body and soul, to the State, by stopping their removal from one district to another, and making them mere machines in the hands of a crowd of industrial aristocrats.
– The honorable member must be an anarchist.
– Such a system as that proposed would soon make me an opponent of all such legislation. If the Government are to assume control of every form of trade an insufferable despotism will be set up, and rather than submit to it men would set all such laws at defiance or be compelled to leave the State. I trust the amendment will be rejected.
– I am very sorry that the honorable and learned member for Corio should be so alarmed by the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Bland, and so disgusted with the action of the Minister. It was only the other evening that the honorable member supported a vote for a subsidy to certain steamers engaged in the island trade, and to that extent he approved of an act of State interference in what might be regarded as private enterprise and trade. The present proposal does not go half far enough to suit me, because it does not touch the great economic problem connected with the wages system. Any State Government which might contemplate the establishment of iron works would have to engage experts to report on the whole question, and it might be necessary to refer the matter to the electors before legislating upon it. Three years would not be a long period to allow.
– The time is a matter of detail.
– The Minister told us when the Bill was being debated, on the motion for the second reading, that time was an important element, and that the appointment of a committee of inquiry would involve too great a delay. Now he is prepared to allow the matter to remain over for two or three years.
– Nothing of the kind. We are legislating at once.
– But the Minister knows well enough that the Bill cannot actually come into operation before two years have elapsed. It is clear from the reports published in the newspapers that the syndicate which intends to embark upon the establishment of iron works has only been conditionally formed, and that it is desired to obtain a concession so that a company may be floated, and a large amount of profit may be derived by the promoters. We have had an experience of this sort of thing in Queensland, in connexion with syndicate railways. We were told that, if certain concessions were granted, a certain syndicate would be prepared to spend millions of money, and that important industries would be established. Although nearly two years have elapsed, however, no beneficial results have flowed from the granting of the concessions. The same arguments are being used in connexion with this measure that were used in regard to the concessions I have referred to, and we may look for similar results. Like the honorable member for- Darling, I would prefer to see the iron industry remain undeveloped during the next half century, rather than that its control should be handed over to huge monopolies. Are these big trustsformed merely in the interests of the working classes ? Certainly not ! They are established purely for business purposes. It is urged that the Commonwealth is prevented by the Constitution from engaging in this industry ; but I am inclined to believe that if the Government were very sincere in their desire, they could find a way out of the constitutional difficulty which presents itself.
– I think that beyond all question it is impossible for the Commonwealth to engage in the industry.
– I believe that if they were in earnest about the matter they could find a way out of the difficulty. Prom legislation which has been enacted in South Australia, we know that the Minister for Trade and Customs believes in the principle of State interference, and the State ownership of certain works, but he does not comprise the Government of the Commonwealth.
– The Government is always united, and the honorable member has no right to suggest that one Minister thinks differently from another.
– That is all very well, but the right honorable gentleman might just as reasonably declare that, because one member of the Opposition says a certain thing, the others indorse it. It is a generally accepted theory that Governments are unanimous in everything they do, but they are unanimous, not because of their beliefs, but because it is necessary to be so. I congratulate the Minister upon having receded from the position which he took up the other evening, when the second reading of this Bill was carried only by the casting vote of Mr. Speaker. I hope the committee will agree to the amendment of the honorable member for Bland, because I believe it is a move in the right direction. This is the industry, above all others, which the State should control. If we once allow it to get into the hands of a private company, it will become such a powerful-vested interest that the Government will be unable to cope with it in the near future. I could instance several monopolies which have grown up within the Commonwealth, and with which the States Governments have hesitated to interfere. I appeal to honorable members to support the amendment.
– I do riot agree with those who express the opinion that Parliament will be powerless for all time to deal with any evils which menace the community. Neither do I concur in the view expressed by those who would allow this industry to remain undeveloped for half a century rather than see it developed by private enterprise. Parliament is always in a position to deal with difficulties which confront the community. . I have yet to learn that any self-governing community will submit to a monopoly which menaces its welfare. I do not share in the slightest degree the fears expressed by thehonorable and learned member for Corio regarding the chaos which will ensue if the States Governments engage in the iron industry. I doubt whether it is worth while attempting to alter the amendment of the honorable member for Bland, because it simply stipulates that no bonus shall be paid unless the iron is manufactured in works owned by a State Government. I think it is generally admitted that there is a difficulty in the way of any Parliament acting with the same despatch as a private individual. Before embarking upon any enterprise, the Legislature usually exercises more caution than is exhibited by individuals. For that reason, it is not likely that any State Government can engage in the iron industry within the period suggested by the honorable member for MelbournePorts. On the other hand, if the amendment be carried, and at the end of twoyears the States Governments show no disposition to move in the matter, this Parliament can amend the Act, and allow private enterprise to develop the industry. As. reasonable men, we know that it is impossible for any State Government to nationalize it within the brief period of two years.
– Our idea is that if a State pledges itself to undertake the work within a couple of years, tha bonus should be reserved for that State, but the amendment applies to all time.
– If the States show nodisposition to embark upon the enterprise within two years, it would be better for the Government to bring down an amending Bill. If a monopoly is to be created, I prefer to see it vested in the whole of the people rather than in a section of them. We have had experience of State monopolies in connexion with our railways, and our postal and telegraphic business, and we know that if there is any gain from those services the people derive the benefit.
– There is plenty of loss, but no gain.
– There is a considerable gain to the people of Victoria and New South Wales by reason- of the fact that the States exercise control over their railways. If the latter were in private hands we should have to pay considerably more for inferior services. To my mind, the fears expressed by those who foresee dangerin the development of the iron industry by private enterprise are groundless. Surely the Parliament of the Commonwealth will be strong enough for all time to safeguard the interests of the people against the avarice of ‘ any particular section. For these reasons, I do not feel particularly wedded to thesuggestion of the honorable member foiMelbourne Ports. Rather than jeopardize the Bill, I shall vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Bland.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I feel strongly in sympathy with the views enunciated by the last speaker, and I sincerely hope that we shall not be found voting upon different sides. In the Federal Convention, I was successful in carrying section 91 of the Constitution, which enables any State to grant a bounty upon mining for gold, silver, or other metals. My idea was that the States individually should be allowed to pay bounties for prospecting in gold-mining and silvermining, because those bounties do not interfere with freedom of trade between the States,and that any State should be at liberty to develop industries such as the iron industry. But it is now proposed that no bonus shall be given unless to a State. For myself, I should prefer to see an industry of this kind carried on by the State. I am not wedded to any particular theory in these matters, but I certainly feel that the iron industry and the coal industry, on which so many other industries, and on which the State itself depends in some emergencies, would be best carried on by the general community in the general interest. Men of the most conservative temperament, who would shrink from the name of socialists, are in favour of the coal industry being carried on by the State. It is clear that the Commonwealth cannot carry on the industry, but that a State can, though none of the States have as yet entered upon it. I do not think it is our duty to refuse to help to develop an industry merely because we cannot get it carried on by whom we like. I know pretty well the forces at work in the State Parliament, and I see no reasonable prospect of Victoria, at all events, having regard to the constitution of the Houses of that State, being induced, for a long time to come, to carry on the iron industry. But a proposal has been made by the honorable member for “Melbourne Ports, which appears to me to meet the case as nearly as possible. The proposal is that we shall express our view that the States should have the first chance of earning the bonus ; but that if there be any dilly-dallying, we should, in fairness, allow private persons to take advantage of the Bill. I believe that the effect of such an amendment would be to make the States Parliaments hurry up, and make some arrangement to take the industry in hand. But the amendment of the honorable member for Bland would mean no iron industry for many years.
– I do not think that.
– What is wanted is to make this a live question in the States.
– If the Commonwealth are willing to give the bonus, I guarantee this will soon be a live question in some of the States ; but I do not think that two years is sufficient to organize a big movement like this.
– I should not object to make the period three years. I do not know what arrangements have been, or are, being made with regard to starting the iron industry, but I feel that it would be a tremendous relief to the States if’ it were started in an effective manner within a short time. Of course, as has been said, there are great dangers of monopoly ; but almost all the big industries of Australia are conducted by private enterprise, and it will make very little difference if we add another. It must be remembered that the Federal Government have power to impose conditions of which Parliament must approve. I intend later on to submit an amendment giving the Federal Government power to impose conditions as to wages and hours of labour. I do not think there is any danger of foisting on Australia a huge monopoly, while both the Federal Parliament and the States Parliaments have power to remove abuses.. I should like to know whether the Minister regards it as essential that this Bill should be passed before the adjournment.
– It is proposed to take the opinion of the committee on only this particular point.
– I like the idea of indicating on the face of the Bill that this Parliament approves of the iron industry being carried on by the State. Has the Minister any objection to the further amendment suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports 1
– I am willing to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Bland, if he will alter it so as to read -
Provided that if any State shall, by Act passed before the 30th June, 1004, provide for the establishment of State iron works.
– Although we cannot in this matter get our own way exactly, we must not forget that the great object we have in view is that the iron industry, which is well worth the investment of some money, is started as soon as possible. In any event I would remind the honorable member for Bland that his amendment will not answer his purpose. The word “owned” will allow easy evasion.
– With the consent of the committee, I shall amend my amendment by substituting the word “operated,” for the word “ owned.”
Amendment amended accordingly.
Mr.MAUGER (Melbourne Ports). - I suggest that the following words be inserted in the amendment of the honorable member for Bland.
Provided that during a period of two years from the passing of this Act no bonus shall be paid……
I do not want to be put in the position of voting against the principle, in which I believe most firmly, of the establishment of State industries, but I desire to do something to compel the States to act at once.
– The idea which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has in view is right enough, but there is a lot to be said on both sides. In this matter the Government only wish that whatever amendment be carried, shall be in the best terms, and I suggest the insertion of the words which I read a moment ago.
Mr.MAUGER. - I accept that suggestion, and move -
That the amendment be amended by the insertion, after the word “ that,” of the words, “if any State shall, by Act passed before 30th June, 1904, provide for the establishment of State ironworks.”
SirWilliammcMillan. - Does the honorable member for Bland accept that amendment?
– No, I do not.
– I want to say only a few words as to the present position. A large majority of honorable members desire State ironworks started at the earliest possible . moment, and it would be a national misfortune if we failed to give effect to that undoubted desire. Under the Bill as it stands any State, as well as any individual, can earn the bonus. A a matter of law, the States and private individuals are upon an absolute equality, but no preference is given to either. But I indicated that the Government would prefer to see the States or any one of them undertake this work. We want to give the States a preference, and we think that the amendment of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will operate beneficially with that result. We have been impressed, too, with the undoubted weight which attaches to the argument of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne that, if the time within which preference is given to the States is limited, the question is made more and more a live one, and we have the more reason to expect that satisfactory action will be taken in regard to it. But there are some honorable members who are opposed to the granting of Government aid for the establishment of industries, either to the States or to individuals, and we must therefore be careful lest, by clever working, they defeat the wishes of the majority. There are some who think that if the amendment of the honorable member for Bland is carried with qualification, it will mean the defeat of the Bill. Nothing of the sort. The principle will remain as good as before. The Government wish to give a preference to the States for a limited time only, in order to direct attention to the matter, and to compel a decision to be come to by requiring action within a certain period ; but do not let honorable gentlemen lay the flattering unction to their souls that because we cannot get exactly what we want we shall not go on with the Bill.
– I intend to vote for the amendment. We on this side know that, if the settlement of this question is deferred for a couple of years, it will enable the matter to be discussed at the general elections. In any case, I do not think that one Parliament should bind a succeeding one.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted in the proposed amendment be so inserted - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 4
Majority … … … 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The committee divided -
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 18th June, vide page 13879).
Clause 13 -
The Governor-General may appoint one person in each State to be Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the State into divisions in accordance with this Act, and may appoint one of them to be chairman.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 - (Proceedings at meetings) - negatived.
Clause 16 - (Quota).
– I should like some explanation as to why, in fixing the quota, the number of electors, instead of the population in each State, is being taken as the basis.
– I made a suggestion to the Attorney-General with regard to this point. The clause provides that, until the rolls are compiled, all persons qualified to have their names placed on the roll shall be deemed to be electors. Would it not be better to adopt the word “ adults,” instead of “ persons qualified,” because now that the suffrage has been extended to women all adults are qualified persons. By doing this we should obviate any difficulty on the parti of the commissioner in deciding as to what persons are qualified.
– Under the Constitution it was necessary to determine the number of members to be returned for each State, and for that purpose the population, as given in the last census, was taken as the basis. There is no longer any necessity to perpetuate that system, because now that adult suffrage is provided for, all men and women are qualified to vote, and the only persons who are omitted are children and persons who are specifically disqualified. It is only fair to provide that the persons qualified to vote shall determine the quota of electors in the constituencies. I do not think that the insertion of the word “adults” would make any difference. As a matter of fact the commissioner will follow exactly the procedure that the honorable and learned member for South Australia has indicated. The only persons disqualified will be those who are in confinement for criminal offences and insane persons.
Mr.Glynn. - There are certain disqualifications mentioned in the Act.
– Yes; but there are so few persons involved that they are not worth considering in this connexion.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 -
The quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution of the Divisions, and shall be adhered to as nearly as practicable, but may be departed from to the extent of one-fourth more or onefourth less.
– I move -
That the words’ “ and shall be adhered to as nearly as practicable be omitted.
These words are unnecessary. It is provided that the commissioner may depart from the quota to the extent of 25 per cent., more or less, and these words will restrict his action very considerably. I do not think that in all cases it is fair that the electorates should be equal. At the first glance it might appear to be right that we should have the same number of electors in all electorates so as to secure onevoteonevalue. I deny, however, that this result will be achieved by making all the electorates equal. On the other hand, to equalize the electorates will be to depart absolutely from the principle of one-vote-one-value. It can be shown clearly that the compact bodies of electors in the large centres of population have an immense advantage over the scattered electors of the country districts. True liberals, who desire to see every section of the community possess equal power and equal influence upon legislation, should endeavour to place them upon the same footing, but this cannot be whilst one section stands at a considerable disadvantage as compared with others.
– That disadvantage cannot be expressed arithmetically.
– Not exactly ; but it can be shown beyond all possibility of doubt that it exists to a large extent. I pointed out on a former occasion that the electors in the large centres of population can easily get together, and form associations to promote any views that they may hold. They are close to the seat of government, and in direct contact with the leading officials of the State, and thus they can bring infinitely more influence to bear upon the Government, and upon legislation, than can the electors scattered throughout the country districts. More than that, the metropolitan newspapers exercise an influence on legislation second only to that of Parliament itself. They mould public opinion, and largely sway the proceedings in Parliament. They are circulated throughout the whole of the State in which they are published, and the provincial newspapers take their political tone largely from those published in the capitals. The honorable member for Bland admitted on a former occasion that the electors in the country districts were placed at a considerable disadvantage.
– Not with regard to legislation, but only in respect to administration.
– The honorable member must admit that they are at a disadvantage in regard to legislation also. The man who lives next door to the polling booth is better situated than the elector who has to ride 20 miles to record his vote. The honorable member for Bland said that the proportion of electors who recorded their votes was as large in the country districts as in the towns, but I have looked through a large number of the returns in connexion with the Federal elections in all the States, and find that there is no comparison between the city and country electorates. The Federal Parliament has the control of the Tariff, and may impose protective or freetrade duties as it pleases. It also has unlimited powers of taxation. In Victoria, notwithstanding that there has always been a great discrepancy between the representation accorded to the country districts and that given to the metropolitan electorates, the latter have always enjoyed an enormous advantage. In connexion with the Tariff the Victorian Legislature protected every industry in the metropolis, and absolutely refused protection to those in the country. When I entered the Victorian Parliament there was not a single industry in the country which was protected, whilst every metropolitan industry enjoyed protection. A country party was therefore formed, but owing to so many provincial electorates being represented by town men, who refused to extend the principle which they advocated to the country, some years elapsed before we could induce a majority to extend protection to the farmer, and place him upon the same footing as the manufacturer. Then, in regard to taxation, what was the action of the Victorian Parliament? It imposed a land tax which did not touch city property.
– No wonder that the farmers in Victoria are against land taxation.
– The land taxation of this State was levied upon its grazing capabilities. There could be no more unfair basis of taxation, because a man could possess a block of land in the city worth £500,000 or £1,000,000, and yet escape taxation.
– We avoided that in New South Wales, where we have something like equal representation.
– I find that the provisions of the New South Wales Act are wider than those contained in this Bill, and though the margin is not so great, the conditions which the commissioners have to take into consideration there are more favorable to the country districts than they are in Victoria. The Federal Parliament has sole control of the Tariff, and therefore the honorable member must see that if we give an undue preponderance of political power to the cities, it will be possible to tax the country resident up to the hilt, and to let the city resident go free. The industries in large centres of population will probably be protected, while those in the country will be entirely unprotected. As I pointed out, although in Victoria we make a consideraable allowance for the scattered country electorates, out of fifteen of those for the return of members to the House of Representatives, four seats are filled by city men. The whole of the eight seats accorded to the city are also filled by city residents. Therefore, the metropolis has twelve representatives in this House, whereas the country districts have only eleven. Moreover, the city has the whole of the representation in the Senate.
– That is the fault of the country districts.
– It is the fault of the unfortunate conditions which prevail. It is very much easier, in most cases, for a city man to be returned for a provincial district, than for a country man. I admit that city members represent the country to the best of their ability, but their associations are with the city, so that they represent the metropolis just as much as they do the country. Take the case of the honorable member for Bland, whom everyone will acknowledge to be a fairminded man. I am sure that he wishes to do justice to his constituents, and yet when we are dealing with a question of vital importance for the country districts, his unconscious bias induces him to vote for the city as against the interests of the people whom he represents. My honorable friend said the other night that the labor party are always opposed to any departure from the principle of equal electorates. In Victoria, to the credit of that party be it said, they have never asked for that. The man who was the acknowledged leader of that party for many years, until he became a member of the State Government, Mr. Trenwith, was as strong upon this point as I am. He said that he wished to give equal power to every section of the community. But he admitted that the scattered electorates of the country laboured under a great disadvantage as compared with the .compact metropolitan constituencies. He acknowledged that some additional country representation’ was necessary to approximately compensate for the great advantages of the compact electorates of the city. He always desired to act fairly in this respect, and I think that the advocates of labour should not confine their advocacy to the city labourer. Surely there are labourers in the country who are entitled to equal consideration. We should strive to place every section of the community upon an equality. At the same time it is utterly impossible to put the country electors in the same position as that occupied by the city electors. Even if the city had no direct representation whatever, it would still influence the course of legislation more than oan the scattered country districts. In the latter, there are such conflicting interests that it is almost impossible for a country resident to be returned to Parliament. I venture to say that if one comes to analyze the representation of the other States in the Senate, it will be found that the great centres of population have supplied the whole of them. The city press generally supports city men. I think that the margin allowed by the Bill is quite wide enough, and all I desire is that we shall not permit restrictions to remain in this clause which will tie the hands of the commissioner in such a way that he cannot act fairly. I agree with the honorable member for Echuca, that the existing electorates should be preserved until there is some great influx or exodus of population from any particular district. I should certainly like to know the views of the Government upon this matter. So far as I am aware, every member of the Government with whom I am acquainted entertains similar views to my own. I know that the two Victorian representatives have always held the same opinion as myself upon this question. The Treasurer is even more pronounced in his views than I am, because when I subdivided this State into electorates for the return of members to this House, he thought that I had not done justice to the country districts. Instead (of there being fifteen country and eight city members he thought there should be sixteen country and seven city members. I am also aware that the Minister for Home Affairs - the cause of whose absence we deeply regret, because we entertain the greatest respect for him - has always held similar views to those which 1 am enunciating, and has fought for his opinions in the New South Wales Parliament.
– He does not hold them now.
– He holds those views to the present time, and I have heard him’ express them frequently. I think that the Attorney-G eneral should explain whether the Government intend that this provision relating to the one-fourth margin shall or shall not have effect as between country districts and the city. If we know what is intended, and the clause is too ambiguous, it will not be difficult to amend it in the right direction. I hold that we should give a reasonable preponderance of representation to the scattered electorates of the country, in order to modify, even to a limited extent, the great advantages possessed by the electors in the large centres of population.
– The substance of this clause is taken from the New South Wales Act of 1893, where the particular words proposed to be omitted are to be found in something of the same connexion. After referring to the quota, and allowing a margin which, roughly speaking, amounts to about the same as that proposed in this Bill, subsection (4) of section 17 says -
Provided that such quota shall, in all cases, be adhered to as far as practicable having regard to certain considerations which appear in another section, and which are the same considerations as in the next clause, with the addition of another requiring that due regard shall be given to the existing boundaries of electoral districts. That additional consideration, however, relates to another matter which the honorable member brought under notice ; but, with that exception, the Act in New South Wales is identical with the Bill. As I understand, from the course of the debate, the margin referred to has been freely used in New South Wales, and special effort has been made to provide for community of interests. When it was possible to include in one division the whole of an agricultural area, that has been done, even when the result was a larger district to a considerable degree. In the same way, when a mining district, for example, has fallen below the quota, it has been taken by itself so long as it came within the- prescribed margin. The question of means of communication and physical features have been considered, with the result that there are great differences between the various constituencies. In some cases there are differences between one country electorate and another, owing to one possessing greater facilities of communication or greater community of interest. The words do, by themselves, certainly restrict the freedom of choice given to the commissioner, but they have to be considered along with important words which follow, dealing with the extent of the departure allowed. As the words stand they require the commissioner, except for reasons which are permissible under the next clause, to make electoral districts practically of equal size. It may be said that some of these particular considerations in the next clause will exist in country districts, but they can scarcely exist in any town districts. There are very rarely in town districts such distinct demarcations as separate an agricultural from a mining district, or a mining district from a pastoral district ; nor in the matter of means of communication can it be ever necessary for the town constituencies to fall below the level of the quota. In the same way physical features cannot exist in a town electorate so as to make it necessary to accept the less quota. The three particular reasons given for differentiating cannot apply to the reduction of city electorates, though they may be easily applied to their increase. But each and every one of them supplies a ground on which the commissioner, if he think fit, may recommend that the quota shall not be required within onefourth, in a country district. In fact, all the considerations are in favour of the proposition which the honorable member has submitted, and they have evidently been placed in the New South Wales Act in order that they may be given effect to in any distribution.
– If the result is to vary the size of the country electorate, will not the size of the town electorate be varied 1
– I do not think so.
– I presume the Government have some fixed idea as to whether or not they intend there shall be equal electorates.
– I could easily have answered that question, but it is only fair to say that this Bill will be interpreted, not according to the intention of the Government, but according to the language employed, and I am pointing out how
Similar words have been construed in New South “Wales.
– Surely we can get language to express our meaning.
– That is so, but if possible we always take language which has already been tried and proved.
– What do the Government intend in regard to equal electorates ?
– The Government desire that there shall be the margin that is proposed in the Bill, and the considerations which will weigh with the commissioner in his use of the margin are to be found in the clause which follows. The reason why no absolute quota is laid down, is to allow a large margin, so that the circumstances of the country districts may be considered, and it is for honorable members to say whether those circumstances . are not considered in the next clause. But the object of the Government is to permit discrimination in the interests of scattered populations, and the provisions must be read with the clauses providing for voting by post, and other procedure. The plain object of the Government is to afford that consideration which is due to residents who are removed from centres of population and who suffer electoral disabilities in consequence. I have always held that such a distinction should be established, and I have seen nothing to cause me to alter my opinion. Of course the principle may be pressed too far ; but the next clause is specially introduced to give that elasticity in administration which will permit of justice being done to country districts.
– Does the Minister not think that the retention of the word.s will, to a large extent, nullify the next clause ?
– I do not think so ; and I point to what has actually been done in New South Wales.
– Then what harm will the omission of the words do ?
– It is possible to go too far in either direction.
– Will a place like Ballarat be included in the country electorates 1
– Ballarat has been so included so far as community of interests is concerned. The Ballarat division does not only include the city, but also a strip of 30 or 40 miles long, which runs into agricultural country, but in which the prominent interest is mining. We find these provisions in the Act of New South Wales, in which State they have worked well.
– I cannot say I quite agree with the honorable member for Gippsland. The conditions have varied a good deal since the States were federated. Before federation, country districts, unless a smaller number of electors than in the cities could return a member, did not receive adequate representation as country members had to attend to roads, railways, &c. Now, however, both city and country electors are both alike under the one Customs law, the one bankruptcy and other laws. What I mean is that we deal only with matters having a common interest and not matters purely local. At the present time, therefore, I do not see that there is quite the same necessity for allowing greater representation to country districts.
– But Parliament might tax country land without taxing city land, as in Victoria.
– Of course, in such a case as that the considerations which the honorable member has brought forward might prevail. But there seems to me a great difference between the divisions required for the Federal Parliament and the divisions required for the State Parliaments. The proposed margin is very great. Now that the franchise has been extended to women there will be practically 25,000 electors in each electorate in New South Wales. Provision is made calling on the commissioner to explain if he departs from the quota to the extent of more than 1,000, so that the moment he makes the. number 24,000, or only one twenty-fifth less, or adds 1,000, he will have ‘to furnish reasons.
– The margin is quite wide enough, but I do not think the provisions of the Bill will allow any distinction to be made between the numerical representation of the scattered population of the country and that of the compact populationof the cities.
– I do not think that we can frame a hard-and-fast provision which would do what is required in that respect:
The interests with which representatives in the Federal Parliament are concerned are very different from those with which representatives in the State Parliaments are concerned. It is true that if you make the country electorates numerically as large as the town electorates, you, in some cases, give candidates so large an area to go over that the electors are somewhat limited in their choice, but I do not think that, taking everything into consideration, there is any reason for making the alteration which the honorable member desires.
– It is a very futile proceeding to say that the commissioner shall allot a certain number of electors more or less to each division if you require him to adhere as nearly as practicable to the quota, and make it necessary for him, whenever he departs from it to the extent of 4 per cent., to give reasons for the departure. If the provisions of the Bill do not mean that the commissioner is not to depart from the quota unless he is forced to do so by reason of practically insuperable difficulties in the way of adhering to it, I am not competent to interpret the English language.
– It would seldom be impracticable to make the electorates numerically equal.
– They can, practically, be made equal in every case, except for the fluctuations of population. There is no suggestion in the Bill that the commissioner may deliberately make the electorates numerically unequal, which is what the honorable member for Gippsland and others desire. The Attorney-General referred to the New South Wales Act, but in that Act the provisions contained in clauses 17 and 18 are. embodied in one section. The provisions of clause 17 are, therefore, much more stringent and binding than the similar provisions in the New South Wales Act. Therefore, I think the Bill might be improved by combining clauses 17 and 18. That may seem a mere verbal quibble, but, looking at the ordinary canons of legal interpretation, I think what I suggest would have an effective result. The honorable member for Bland told us the other night that we were pledged to the principle “ one adult one vote,” and that its natural corollary was “ one vote one value.” I deny that the ordinary rules of logic can be made to apply to the political conditions of the community. If we followed everything we did to what might be called its logica conclusion, we should often place ourselves in very undesirable positions. Indeed, I dc not think that logic and consistency are interchangeable terms as applied to political affairs. “ One vote one value,” in the sense ordinarily applied to the term, is not a necessary consequence of the principle “ one adult one vote.” The phrase “one vote one value” was used by the honorable member in the sense that each vote must have the same arithmetical value, but life does not consist of arithmetic, and the proper interpretation is that every voter shall have the same opportunity, however small, of controlling the destinies of his country. For honorable members to apply the phrase as though it meant that every elector shall be the same fraction of an electorate as any other voter is of any other electorate is to beg the question, because it assumes that to be the same fraction of an electorate means to have the same effect as a voter. In Victoria it has been found that the number of qualified electors enrolled in country districts is always smaller than the number of qualified electors enrolled in city districts. That is one respect in which the country is at a disadvantage as compared with the city. The reason is obvious. In one case a man has only to walk, perhaps, a few hundred yards, or less than a mile, from his home to have his name enrolled, while in the other case he has to travel, perhaps, 20 miles. The logic of facts is the sternest and most effective logic that I know of.
– One set of facts may be altered without altering another set.
– The fact that I speak of - the smaller enrolment in the country than in the city - is due to a fact which we cannot alter, the fact that in the country people live at greater distances from each other than they do in the city. I think that the proportion of five voters in the city to three in the country would be too wide, and that a difference as between four and three would be quite sufficient. Roughly speaking, in the division of the Victorian electorates for the Federal elections, 10,000, 12,000, and 14,000 were the 1 standards adopted for the country, urban, ] and city electorates respectively. My own electorate was supposed to contain 10,000 electors, and it was regarded as being ; about midway between an urban and a 1 country electorate. It is somewhat more densely populated than a country electorate, and less densely populated than an urban electorate. The Bill should show clearly that, owing to the disadvantages under which country electors labour, it is intended that there should be a distinction made between the country and the city electorates within the prescribed limits. As the clause stands, the commissioners in each State might tate a different view, and split up the States on entirely different bases. This and the next clause should be combined ; the words proposed to be omitted should be struck out, and clause IS should be amended so as to indicate that the proportion of population to the area should be taken into consideration by the commissioners.
– How could the principle advocated by the honorable and learned member be applied to Western Australia and Queensland 1
– We could not allow for a sufficient disparity to meet the divergent circumstances of an electoral district like Maranoa and one like Melbourne Ports, but the subdivisions might be made in the larger States upon the same general lines as in Victoria.
– I earnestly ask the honorable member for Gippsland, and the honorable and learned member for Corinella, not to attempt to fasten upon us any hard and fast rules, simply because such rules may have worked well in Victoria.
– We ‘wish to allow a reasonable discretion.
– But the amendment which has been proposed by the honorable member would not permit of the exercise of reasonable discretion. It is claimed that it is possible in Victoria to make a differentiation of a threefold character, and although that may operate very well so far as that State is concerned, it will not apply to the larger States. Something of the kind has been tried in New South Wales with unsatisfactory results.
– The necessity for the adoption of the course I propose is greater in New South Wales and Queensland than in Victoria.
– I submit that it is not. The honorable member tells us that in Victoria they can reasonably adhere to a standard of 10,000 electors for the country electorates, 12,000 for urban electorates, and 14,000 for city electorates, and asks whether this could not be done in the larger States ? Between some of the country electorates in New South Wales there is a difference of fully 4,000 votes, and there is a still larger difference between the country and the city electorates. The Illawarra electorate contains 13,000 voters, whilst in Darling there are only 9,000. Therefore, we cannot apply any hard and fast rule.
– I am proposing to do away with the hard-and-fast rule, and the honorable member ought to support my amendment.
– I cannot support the honorable member’s amendment, because if we tell the commissioner that he can make the quota for the country electorates less, by 4,000 votes, than that for the city electorates, the wide disparity that now exists between city and country electorates would be increased. The Bill provides that as nearly as possible the commissioner shall equalize the electorates, and that seems to be a very fair instruction to give. The honorable member for Gippsland tried to show that one vote one value was not a corollary of one adult one vote. But it would certainly not be fair to lay down the principle that 40 electors in the country should exercise more power in regard to legislation than 60 electors in the city.
– I do not propose that.
– We are told that it is more difficult for the country than for the city elector to become ‘enrolled. That may be admitted, but that bears only on the necessity of affording greater facilities for registration in the country. Because we cannot give them equal facilities for exercising the franchise it does not follow that we should legislate to the point of declaring that there ought to be an unequal value attached to the votes recorded. If honorable members will tackle the problem of how to confer upon country residents equal facilities with those enjoyed by city electors, I shall be prepared- to assist them. But that is a very different matter from affirming that as country voters have not the same facilities for exercising the franchise that are enjoyed by city residents, 40 country votes shall be equal to 60 votes in the - city. Such a principle would altogether destroy the value of adult suffrage. The honorable member for Gippsland is attempting to set up in the country a vote for something besides manhood and womanhood. What is that something ? He says that the country electors ought to have more voting power than those in the city. Why ? Clearly because they represent provincial interests, and not because they are adults. ‘We have declared that the exercise of the franchise shall be based upon manhood and womanhood, and not upon any geographical position in which people may find themselves. The honorable member’s proposal really sets up the oldtory idea that men ought to possess votes for land and for houses. By all means let us endeavour to give the country electors equal facilities with those of the city, but do not let us incorporate in this Bill a provision that for all time country residents skill have a vote for their manhood and womanhood, and for something besides.
– I am not sure, from the address of the honorable member for Parramatta, whether he is in favour of equalelectorates. When he commenced his remarks, he asked the honorable member for Gippsland not to persist in his amendment, because its adoption would prevent him from gaining that which he desires. Promthat I inferred that he was not in favour of absolutely equal electorates. At a later stage of his remarks he seemed anxious toprevent the omission of the wordsproposed. The clause under discussion prohibits the commissioner from exercising any discretion, because itprovides that the quota shall be adhered to as far as practicable. That is absolutely mandatory; the provision for departing from the quota is merely permissive. Taking that fact into consideration in connexion with the provision mentioned by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, no commissioner could do more than make the electorates absolutely equal as regards population. InVictoria, we feel that the city influence has always been more or less of a curse. I presume that this is partly the case in the other States. If we were to rigidly follow out this clause in Victoria there would be twelve country electorates and eleven city constituencies, so that almost one-half of this State would be represented by the large centres of population. It has also to be remembered that the more we lessen representation in the country the more we must increase the area of the constituencies. By so. doingwe must impose a very great disability, not only upon the voters of the country, but also upon the members who represent them, when compared with the city representatives, who have nothing more nor less than pocket-handkerchief constituencies. I think that this is altogether too important a clause to leave ambiguous. We should place beyond question the basis upon which the commissioner has to proceed, and the rules which are to guide him in the important duty which he has to perform. If we pass the clause in its present form he will be unable to give satisfaction to this House. Whatever he does he will certainly create the most profound discontent when his work comes to be reviewed by this Chamber. A good deal has been said in reference to one vote one value. That phrase sounds ideally correct, but there are other factors beyond the mere arithmetical value which have to be considered. In allotting the privilege of representation and the votingpower of the people we should not take into consideration exclusively the arithmetical proportions, but should endeavour to insure that, when we reach the goal, all the electors stand upon something like an equal footing.We ought rather to treat the matter as we would treat a number of men competing in a race. In such a casewe do not put all the competitors upon scratch, because, if we did, only one or two would have a chance of winning. We handicap them so that all may have a chance. We should apply something like that principle to this Bill. We know very well that where the dominant power is given to the city, it is generally exercised to the prejudice of the best interests of the country. I should like to point out to the representatives of the Victorian metropolitan electorates that the industries of Melbourne have been saved this session by country members. Had it not been for a few of us who had regard to those industries they mustcertainly have gone by the board.
– Does the honorable member think that the country districts would not get as much fairplay as they do under this Bill ?
– There is nothing in this clause for them to come and go upon.
– There is a margin of one-fourth each way.
– The first part of the clause is mandatory while the second is permissive, and a man in a case of this kind will always do what he is commanded to do rather than what he is at liberty to do. I trust that honorable members will have some regard to the country voters. I hope that all will be given an equal opportunity for protecting their own interests.
– The honorable member for Gippsland has referred to a speech which I made the other evening in opposition to a suggestion to give additional representation to country districts. In reply to some statement which I made he spoke of one, in which I declared that the experience of New South Wales - where the electorates are certainly larger than they are in Victoria - was that the country electors had polled as large a percentage of votes as had those of the metropolitan area. I was speaking then from memory, but upon looking at the figures I find that what I stated is amply borne out by the facts. The figures which I had in mind at the time related to the elections for the State Parliament in 1898. Taking six country electorates, and an equal number of city electorates, I find that upon that occasion the votes cast by the electors of the Albury district comprised 66 per cent, of those upon the roll. Armidale registered 60 per cent. ; Ashburton, 63 per cent. ; Young, 70 per cent. ; Tenterfield, 68 per cent. ; and Argyle, 58 per cent. In the city electorates Ashfield polled 66 per cent, of its voters ; Annandale”, 56 per cent. ; and Phillip division, 43 per cent. Coming to King division, for the repsesentation of which the leader of the Opposition and the present Prime Minister’ were opponents, it is worthy of mention that, notwithstanding the excitement engendered by the extraordinary circumstances surrounding that election, only 47 per cent, of the voters exercised the franchise.’ In Canterbury 50 per cent, of the electors voted.
– The figures to which I referred related to the federal elections.
– I have figures showing the percentage of votes polled for the first four country seats in the New South Wales federal elections, which took place last year, and the first four metropolitan seats. At Bland, 66 per cent, voted ; at Werriwa, 68 per cent. ; at Canobolas, 72 per cent. ; and at Cowper, 66 per cent. These are the first four country electorates as they appear in the return furnished by the electoral department, and in the four first city electorates the voting was as follows : -
Dalley, 69 per cent. ; East Sydney, 61 per cent. ; North Sydney, 68 per cent. ; and Wentworth, 69 per cent.
– North Sydney is not a city electorate.
– I thought at the time that North Sydney was a city electorate, but, at any rate, these are the first four on the list. These figures prove that the percentage of voters who polled in each district is just about the same. It must be remembered that in many instances the contests were of such a nature as not to call for a large poll. The honorable member for the Barrier, for example, received a majority of 4,000 votes, and, of course, a large number of people regarded the result, as a foregone conclusion and did not vote. In South Australia for three city seats the polling averaged 37 per cent., and for three typical country seats 39 per cent. The idea that country voters do not show such a high percentage at the poll is a pure myth. My experience is that the country voter does register his vote, and takes a keener interest in the affairs oi the country than do more indifferent people in the city. I could not on any consideration vote for a principle which I believe to be radically wrong. Every person, no matter where he happens to reside, should have an equal, and only an equal, voice in the control of the country’s affairs. If we make special provision for country voters we- might as well make special provision for gum trees. Country voters are always satisfied if they are given proper facilities for getting on the roll and registering their votes, and they take care that their votes are just as effective as those of the people in the city.
– On every occasion, except one, and that was when the question was confused with a proposal of which I did not approve, I have voted in favour of adult suffrage, and the abolition of plural voting. But while I recognise that the natural sequence of the adult vote is equal electorates, I have always held that under the conditions which exist in Australia, it would not be fair to country districts to have this principle laid down by statute. There is no country in the world where th conditions are so abnormal in regard to settlement. Our population is all along the seashore, and the undoubted difficulties in country districts must be taken into account when we are deciding the method of representation. There is 710 virtue in a vote, unless that vote be followed by representation; and if any circircumstances tend to prevent or retard the exercise of the franchise, those circumstances should be taken into account by us. In- an ideal State the population would be evenly distributed, and under such conditions there would be no more ardent advocate of equal electorates than myself. I regard equal electorates as a principle which, if circumstances were different, would produce the very results we desire. I agree that acres and gum-trees should have no representation in this Blouse, but that is not what is sought by those who desire to protect the interests of the country districts, and the interests of the producer. I know that these interests are considered to be not altogether consonant with the interests of large centres of population, although I contend that they are interdependent. We have evidence in Victoria, if not in the other States, of a tendency on the part of the greater aggregations of population to dominate the whole of the State. Representatives of the northern and central districts of Queensland know that it has been found impossible for the people there to obtain justice, owing, largely, to the political system and the evil effects of centralization. A great deal has been said about the percentage of votes recorded in the town as against the country. The population of Victoria is, I suppose, more evenly distributed than that of any other State, and although we still suffer from centralization, we do not suffer to as great a degree as do the people elsewhere. Facilities are provided for the recording of votes by those who are either absent from home, or have no easy means of communication, and yet we find that the greater percentage of votes is recorded in centres of population. I was very much struck, on looking through a speech made in the Victorian Parliament some two years ago, to find that, notwithstanding the principle of equal electorates, which we have been told prevailed in New South Wales in 1898, there was in that State a marked disparity between the city electorates and some of the country electorates. In the metropolitan electorates of Ashfield, there were 3,193 voters; in Balmain, 3,(509; in Newtown, 3,007 ; in the country electorates of Lismore, 1,663 ; Quirindi, 1,193; and in Inverell, 1,194.
– What extra strength, was given to the country districts 39 lj 2 in the State House of Victoria by the difference in the electorates 1
– We adhered to the same proportion that had always prevailed.
– As to the figures quoted by the honorable member for Bland, it must be remembered that the smaller the electorate, the higher the percentage of votes polled, owing to the more intense public feeling which is raised. At Ballarat East, which is a city electorate, 83 per cent, voted at the election for the Victorian Legislative Assembly, while at Dandenong and Berwick 59 per cent, voted ;. at Essendon and Flemington 64 per cent, voted, as against only 46 per cent, at Evelyn ; while at North Melbourne 73 per cent, voted, as against 49 per cent, at Mornington. These are remarkable figures, which show that the experience of Victoriahas not been the same as that of New South Wales, according to the statisticsgiven by the honorable member for Bland. I do not know that I shall assist honorablemembers very much by quoting more figures of this kind, but I am satisfied by the researches which I have made that in the State of Victoria the percentage of votespolled in the country districts has nl ways been lower than that of the votes polled in the metropolitan districts.
– And lower than the percentage of votes polled in the country districts of New South Wales.
– I think that in Victoria there is a larger number of small towns than there is in New South Wales.
– Political feeling is stronger in New South Wales than in Victoria.
– I can quite believe it, after what I have seen in this Chamber. I hope that my position will not be misunderstood. In an ideal State, the absolute numerical equality of electorates would be desirable ; but, as the honorable member for Gippsland has pointed out, the value of a vote depends, not only upon die influence which it has, but also upon the cost to which the voter is put in the exercise of it. It is mainly a question of locality ; and until country and city electors have equal facilities for enrolling and recording their votes, there cannot be absolute equality between country and city votes.
– Whatever may be said in regard to the justice of giving country districts a larger representation than town districts in State politics, the same reasons cannot be urged in regard to federal representation, because there is a much greater community of interest between country and city electorates in regard to the matters delegated to the Commonwealth Parliament than in regard to the matters which remain under State control. Furthermore, inasmuch as the greater part of our revenue is derived from Customs duties, which are levied more largely upon the people in the cities than upon the people in the country, there is every reason for making the representation of the cities at least equal to that of the country. The margin allowed in this clause, however, seems to me to be too large. In South Australia there are 154,000 electors, and with seven representatives the quota for a division would be 22,000. But, as the commissioner is allowed to exceed or to fall short of the quota by one-fourth, the number of electors in one division might be 16,400, and that in another 27,400, so that one electorate would be actually more than twice as large as the other. The same sort of thing might occur in Tasmania. Practically we say to the commissioner that, while we wish the electorates to be equal, we believe that that is actually impossible ; but the margin which we allow him to work upon seems to me to be altogether too large.
– The honorable member for Laanecoorie admitted that in an ideal State every vote should be regarded as having the same value ; but in the course of a very elaborate speech he tried to show that that is impossible under existing circumstances. The clause allows the commissioner a very large margin to work upon, but permits him to avail himself of it only under exceptional circumstances. The honorable member for Gippsland, however, would allow him to use this margin at all times, according to his discretion. Therefore, in a State in which the quota was 12,000, it would be possible for him, at his own discretion, to give one division 9,000 and another 15,000 electors. Could there be a more tory system of representation than that ? If areas are to be represented rather than population, the people of Western Australia and of Queensland might fairly argue that, as the compact and closely populated State of Victoria is allowed six senators, they, as their States are very large and sparsely populated, should each be permitted to return more than six senators. The honorable member for Gippsland contended that the country districts would be swamped by the city electorates if the same quota were adopted throughout, but I would point out that in federal matters there should be no diversity of interest between people in the towns and those in the country. It is true that the Federal Parliament has the power to impose taxation, but the whole population, irrespective of location, has a common interest in legislation of this character. I have here a copy of an article which appeared in Temple Bar for February, 1902, upon the subject of “ The Value of a Vote,” and the arguments used by the writer are almost identical with those advanced by the honorable member for Corinella. This may be a mere coincidence, but the similarity of language is very remarkable.
Mr.McCay. - I did not know that there was such an article inTempleBar, a magazine which Ihave not seen for years.
– Amongst other things the writer referred to says -
What the single voters wanttodo is to alter this so that no special electoral privilege shall attach to any one class or individual. It is a pleasing politicaltheory that one man is as good as another, and as much entitled to a voice in the affairs of the State as another, provided he fulfils thestatutory requirements. Without quarrelling with the theory it may be admitted that the interests of all men are equal in good government, the maintenance of law and order, and the protection of life, health, and property.
After making a very similar proposition the honorable and learned member for Corinella urged that a different quota should be adopted for country, as compared with city, constituencies, but his arguments had no application to our circumstances. The margin of one-fourth allowed for variations from the standard quota is too large, and I suggest that it should be reduced to oneeighth. It has been pointed out that voters in the country have not the same facilities for enrolment, or for recording their votes, as have those in the city, but that is no reason why we should depart from the general principle of equality in the division of the electorates. The disadvantages under which country electors now labour may be removed by affording greater facilities for registration and for voting, and there are no difficulties in this regard that may not be easily overcome, if the electoral department is properly organized and administered.
– I presume that the honorable member for Gippsland desires that the electoral divisions in New South Wales and Victoria shall remain as at present, but some alterations will be necessary, because in the distribution of seats, the electoral commissioner will have to consider the effect of the extension of the franchise to women, and particularly the large accession of voting power thereby given to the city electorates. If the electoral divisions remain as at present the country electorates in Victoria will return a much larger proportion of representatives than will the city electorates. We find that the Victorian representatives in this Parliament are made up of eight city members, twelve country members, and three urban members. The urban electorates may be fairly regarded as in much the same category as the country electorates. For instance, the Attorney-General tells us that his constituency of Ballarat includes about 30 miles of rural country in the direction of Smythesdale. Under existing circumstances, it may be very properly urged that the electors in the city should have a larger proportion of representatives, because the representatives of the country electorates have exercised a stronger influence in passing taxation proposals than have honorable members returned bv city constituencies. There is no reason why the commissioner should not exercise the full discretion given to him by the clause as it stands, and I hope, therefore, that the committee will not accept the amendment.
– I recognise that this question has been almost threshed out, but I take it for granted that if the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland be carried, he will follow it up by further directions to the commissioner. I confess to a good deal of sentimental sympathy with my honorable friend, but I think it is too late in the day to adopt the principles which he enunciates. I fear that the logic of democracy has to be carried out. To my mind, the appointment of this commissioner does away with the possibility of dealing with the electorates in the manner proposed by the honorable member. If we wish to divide the districts in such a way as to give a preponderance of representation to the country his original proposal approximated more closely to what should have been done. What the honorable member wishes to do now is to introduce the political element into the consideration of this question by the commissioner. That is an element which ought not to be introduced. The moment we ask that officer to take up what is entirely a political work, he will find the task impossible. How is he to deal with a question of whether greater voting power ought to be given to any particular district because it has a larger country area ? I am perfectly certain that if the commissioner dealt with the matter upon the lines proposed by the honorable member, there would be interminable debate in this House. Therefore, it seems to me that we are absolutely confined to the principle laid down in the Bill. I think that the margin of 25 per cent, is too much and ought to be reduced. When one considers that by the adoption of the principle of adult suffrage we have doubled the number of voters in the New South Wales constituencies, it will be seen that the Bill provides for an enormous margin. At the present time the electorates in that State contain from 13,000 to 14,000 voters. Under adult suffrage they will comprise 26,000 electors. Does anybody mean to urge that a margin of 6,000 or 7,000 voters is a fair one in dealing with this matter’? I think it is too great. I have always felt that it is scarcely fair to great producing districts that a constituency containing 30,000 people, and scattered over an extensive area, should be placed in the same position as a city electorate. But we have proceeded too far toretrace our steps.
– At the present timethere is a discrepancy in every State of theCommonwealth.
– Yes ; but that discrepancy is a chance one. In New South Wales it has resulted from two causes. In the first place, it has arisen because of the great difficulty experienced in apportioning the “different electorates owing to physical conditions; and in the second place, because the town population in many instances has relatively increased much more than has the population of _ the country. Furthermore, there is an enormous nomadic population in each State. In support of my statement I may mention that in 1894 a general election took place in the State of New South Wales under the new system of single electorates. Another election followed in 1895, and although new rolls had been prepared in the previous year, it was found that 3,000 out of 150,000 electors were disfranchised because they had changed their domicile. I do not see that there is any possibility of the committee accepting the principle laid down by the honorable member for Gippsland.
– I have carefully followed the debate in the light of the additional information which I have been able to obtain from the electoral officer. That information shows that under the New South Wales law a considerable latitude is allowed to the commissioners. The exercise of that latitude to such an extent has been approved by Parliament, so that in looking at the list of constituencies, and the number of electors which they contain, I find that in the remoter country districts 9,000 voters have returned a federal member, whilst the more populous districts, such as Newcastle, consist of 15,000 electors. One electorate in Sydney contains 16,000 voters. These facts show that under the New South Wales Act the margin allowed to the commissioners has been employed under language closely resembling that which is employed in this Bill. Our whole experience in regard to this matter, as honorable members are aware, is derived from New South Wales, and the clauses in this Bill are supposed to be modelled upon the law of that State, but owing to their division, and the manner in which they are put, it is possible that there may be a difference in interpretation. As a compromise, I suggest that we should convert these two clauses into one so as to approach more closely, the exact language employed in the New South Wales Act. The language of that Act is -
In making any such distribution due consideration shall be given to the then existing boundaries of electoral districts, the community or diversity of interests, lines of communication and physical features, and the commissioners in assigning any such electoral districts shall be entitled to adopt a margin of allowance to be used wherever necessary by way of addition to or deduction from the number of persons enrolled in such district.
I suggest to the committee that, as we are adopting the New South Wales model, we should adhere to it still more closely. I think that we might make the clause read as follows : -
The commissioner, in making any distribution of States into divisions shall give due consideration to -
Community or diversity of interests.
Means of communication.
Existing boundaries of divisions.
And subject thereto, the quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution, and the commissioner may adopt a margin of allowance to be used whenever necessary ; but in no case shall such quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fourth more or one-fourth less.
– That does not go as far as I wish, but I am willing to accept it as a compromise. I therefore ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 18 -
In the distribution of States into divisions consideration shall be given to -
Community or diversity of interests.
Means of communication.
Amendment (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That all the words after “In” be omitted with a view to insert in lieuthereofthe following words : - “ makingany distribution of States into divisions, the commissioner shall give due consideration to - (a) Community or diversity of interests ; (b) Means of communication ; (c) Physical features; (d) Existing boundaries of divisions : and subject thereto the quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution, and the commissioner may adopta margin of allowance to be used whenever necessary, but in no case shall such quota be departed from toa greater extent than one-fourth more, or one-fourth less.”
– The objection that I see to the new clause is that it directs the commissioner, in the redistribution of seats, to pay some regard to the existing differential electorates in Victoria. If that be so we may have the old system of Victoria perpetuatedside by side with the present system in New South Wales, whereas I contend that there ought to be uniformity.
– The amendment follows more closely the New South Wales Act than did the original clause. It means that the commissioner is not to set about his business as if there were no boundaries in existence. He findscertain boundaries drawn, and to these he has to give due consideration ; if they fit in with the principle he has to observe, he retains them, but if not, he makes an alteration.
– But the commissioner may apply the margin to the differential principle in Victoria, and that is what we want to avoid.
– He could not do that, unless he thought it would give better effect to what ‘is now the New South Wales law.
– The amendment is a proposal to apply the New South Wales law to the whole of Australia.
– I understand that the commissioner is directed, when parcelling out Victoria, to pay regard to the old divisions, and I do not want to see a Federal Bill disfigured by such a pernicious system as that obtaining in that State. I move -
That the amendment be amended by the omission of the words “(d), existing boundaries of divisions.”
– The honorable member, if I may say so, is both right and wrong. He is right in saying that sub-clause (d) means that the commissioner is to have due regard to existing boundaries ; but that does not imply that the existing divisions are to be stereotyped. This sub-clause deals with -only one of the facts to which the commissioner has to pay regard. And in the practical application of any principle, new or old, no one would wish to introduce a revolutionary proposal which would ignore the divisions in every State, and start away as if there were no existing demarcation. If the commissioner were left to create constituencies of his own devising, which might in many cases not alter the number or character of the constituencies, it would have the decided disadvantage of being a plan which, though new, was no improvement. All the commissioner is told is that he must be governed by the quota. This pays no regard to any of the circumstances to which the honorable member for Parramatta objects. The quota is the basis of all the commissioner’s work, and having got that basis, he has to look at the various considerations, of which existing boundaries form only one. I take it that these words were included in the New South Wales Act to avoid unnecessary alterations, and they will have the same effect here.
– Even if the words were not in the clause, the commis’sioner would have regard to existing boundaries.
– Before the amendment was proposed, I interjected thatthe commissioner ought to take into account existing boundaries, which in Victoria are not merely federal creations, but are mainly boundaries following wellmarked State constituencies and municipal areas. These must be considered to a large extent by the commissioner as natural boundaries fixed by long experience, though he ma)7 add a little here and take away a little there. As population shifts, or increases faster in one place than in another, the federal conditions will be applied, until all constituencies are brought into line. This specific reference to existing boundaries does not go to nearly the length supposed by the honorable member for Parramatta, but is only one reasonable item amongst others which have to be considered by a practical man.
– I hope the amendment will not be pressed. It appears to me that the quota and the margin are ample safeguards against any great inequalities of misrepresentation. The anomalies created in New South Wales are just as great as those in Victoria. In some cases in New South Wales, 9,000 or 10,000 electors return a member, and in other cases the roll contains 15,000 or 16,000 names. The proposal of the Attorney-General is- no indorsement of the Victorian system.
– Or of any other system.
– We are laying down the safe principle that, as far as possible, existing electorates shall not be disturbed, unless to comply with the conditions of the law. I do not hold with the idea that the country should have any more representation than the city. I believe in one vote one value, and I think that principle is established in the Constitution itself, seeing that the number of representatives assigned to each State is based on population. In fixing the number of electors to each electorate, we ought to be guided by the spirit of the Constitution. At the same time, there will always be practical difficulties in arriving at anything like an equal number of electors for each electorate, and, the commissioner must pay regard to the considerations set forth in order- to arrive at a satisfactory division. We are not perpetuating the system established in Victoria, but if no greater anomalies have been created in that State than we find in New South Wales, we might safely respect the existing divisions, with the limitation that the commissioner is to be guided by the principle laid down - by the quota and the margin. Personally, I think that a margin of one-fifth would be preferable to one of one-fourth.
– One fifth is too large a margin.
– We shall find it necessary to continually re-arrange the boundaries of the electorates if we make the margin too narrow. In New South Wales, with a margin of 25 per cent., we found the electorates frequently getting beyond the number allowed by law. It seems to me that a margin of one-fifth would be sufficient.
– I do not think that there is as much reason for cavilling at this proposition as the honorable member for Parramatta seems to believe there is. But, no doubt, he was led away by the strong feeling shownby the honorable member for Gippsland, andjumped to the conclusion that when the honorable member accepted the amendment of the Attorney-General he was getting indirectly what he had previously asked for directly. To show, however, that the position of the honorable member for Gippsland in regard to this matter has been adopted only recently, I wish to quote the following extract from a speech which he delivered in the Victorian State Parliament in1980, and which occurs on page 622 of vol. 94 of the Victorian Hansard : -
The Federal Parliament was different alto- g ether to a local Parliament, where roads and ridges and local works of different kinds had to be dealt with. In the Federal Parliament national questions, which were remitted to that Parliament by the Commonwealth Constitution, would have to be discussed. It made very little difference in the Federal Parliament which sort of constituencies the members represented.
I sympathize with the desire of the honorable member for Parramatta to prevent us from getting back to the time when the representation of acres and gum trees was considered to be of more importance than the representation of human beings ; but as one who represents in this House a large country constituency, and who previously represented a large country electorate in the State Parliament, I do not think that the proposal of the Attorney-General is a departure from the democratic principle that every elector must have equal voting power. The basis upon which the quota is to be calculated recognises that principle, and a margin is provided to allow the commissioner to depart from the quota when compelled to do so by the natural features of the country, or other considerations.
– I should very much like to see the amendment of the AttorneyGeneral in, print, because it is not easy to grasp its full meaning by hearing it read. I understand that it gives effect to the provisions of clauses 17 and 18.
– It gives effect to those provisions as they stand in the New South Wales Act.
– I trust that the commissioner will make the electorates as nearly equal as possible. The basis of representation of the States in this House is a population basis, and I think that the same basis should be adhered to in connexion with the representation of the constituencies. The honorable member for Canobolas, who represents a very large country constituency, sees no objection to it, and I do not see why the country members from this State should object, as. their constituencies are very much smaller than are those of country members from other States. I think, however, that a margin of one-fourth is too large, and that a margin of one-eighth would be sufficient.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta). - It seems to me that all that has been said goes to show the non-necessity for this provision, which directs the commissioner to pay heed to the old boundaries. I take it that the old boundaries in Victoria were fixed upon an unequal basis as between country and city. If I am to believe what I have been told, there are some shocking divisions in Western Australia, and a complete remarking of boundaries is necessary over there. The honorable member for Bland has complained of the work of division in New South Wales being very badly done, and why should the commissioner be asked to take heed of existing boundaries which every one admits are faulty in the extreme ? Personally I have no grievance, because, so far as I know, my electorate has the quota, but it does seem to me that when we are going to re-arrange the whole of the boundaries of the Commonwealth electorates, and desire for the most part to upset the existing boundaries, this is an entirely unnecessary provision to insert in the Bill.
Amendment of the amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I think we might adopt the language suggested by the Acting Prime Minister.
Mr.Deakin. - It is the New South Wales language, and a New South Wales plan we are following.
– Thatdoesnot make it any better. The New South Wales example is not always a good one to follow, and if we do not have better commissioners than we had in New South Wales, the plan will not be found of much value. The margin is the main thing to be considered, and I am sorry to say that in New South Wales, in some instances, the margin was departed from to such an extent that there were nearly double the number of electors in one electorate that there were in another. I think the proposed margin of one-fourth is altogether too great. I have no objection to consideration being given to existing boundaries so long as the quota is adhered to to a reasonable extent. I believe that, with women included, the quota will be somewhere about 22,000 for the States in which members are to be elected according to population. A margin of one-fourth with a quota of 22,000 would allow of a total difference of 11,000. That is preposterous, and I am surprised at the Government proposing such a possible departure from the quota. It seems to me that a reasonable margin would be one-eighth.
SirWilliam McMillan. - Propose a margin of one-sixth, . and test the question.
– I am prepared to do that. I move -
Thatthe amendment be amended by the omission of the words “one-fourth,” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “one-sixth.”
That will allow of a total difference between highest and lowest of 7,300, and it should surely be a sufficient margin.
– At first sight it would seem as though the honorable member for Bland had suggested one-sixth as a half-way house between one-fourth and one-eighth, but, as a matter of fact, one-fifth would be more nearty the half-way house. One-fourth is 25 per cent. one-eighth is 12½ percent., and the half -way house would be13¾ per cent., which is almost exactly one-fifth. It must be remembered that when 7,300 is said to be the difference between the highest and the lowest, adult suffrage is assumed. As a matter of fact, most of us have been accustomed to think of manhood suffrage, and thinking only of manhood suffrage, this difference would be only 3,650. I venture to think that none of us would have thought that anything but an extremely small difference. A margin of one-fifth, speaking in terms of manhood suffrage, if I may use the phrase, would mean a difference of something like 4,400 between the highest and lowest.
Amendment of the amendment,byleave, withdrawn.
Amendment of the amendment (by Mr. McCay) agreed to -
That the words “one-fourth” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “onefifth.”
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I would ask honorable members to look at the next two or three clauses before we meet to-morrow. It seems to me that now that we have reduced the number of commissioners to one, the procedure that it was intended to follow under a board of three commissioners may be to a large extent dispensed with. It may be possible, therefore, to save a good deal of expense by striking out the next three clauses.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
In view of the proposed adjournment over the Coronation celebrations, the Treasurer will to-morrow ask for Supply. I hope that will not occupy very much time. The Supply is necessary because our financial year closes on 30th J une, and all past votes will be concluded. The Treasurer will therefore be powerless to spend any money afterwards unless Supply is voted for July and the period following. I hope afterwards to resume consideration of the Electoral Bill, and trust that honorable members will not shrink, under the circumstances, from sitting on to-morrow evening, and, if necessary, on Saturday, until the departure of the Inter-State trains. That will enable us to pass the greater part of this measure, and to present it in a revised shape after our month’s adjournment.
– I would ask the Attorney-General whether it would not be possible to permit honorable members to leave for their homes to-morrow afternoon ? Surely we could sit for an extra day after we come back from the holidays. The Bill cannot possibly be finally dealt with before the adjournment, even though we sit on Saturday, and therefore it will be better to dispense with the Saturday’s sitting rather than dislocate all the arrangements made by honorable members.
– I would join in asking the Attorney-General to endeavour to arrange for the adjournment of the House to-morrow. I know that several honorable members, relying on the statements published in the press, have made arrangements to proceed to their homes to-morrow evening. If the consideration of the Bill could be completed on Saturday, I should be content to make every possible effort to that end, but we know that it will be utterly impossible to finally deal with it until we come back.
– I think that the Attorney-General might pay some regard to the requests that have been made. I should be willing to come back a day earlier after the adjournment rather than proceed with the consideration of the Bill on Saturday. This would obviate any loss of time.
-Oneday now would be better than three days -when we come back.
– I am not too certain about that. I hope the Minister will see his way to obviate the upsetting of arrangements already made by honorable members.
– Iquite agree with the Attorney-General that we oughtto sit on Saturday, and also on Monday next if necessary, in order to complete our consideration of this measure. There has been too much regard shown for the convenience of those honorable members who live almost at the door of Parliament House. We desire to finish the business we have in hand before we leave for our homes.
– I wish to see the session brought to a close, and if we keep on adjourning as is now proposed, we shall never see the end of our work. Some honorable members say that they have made arrangements to get away to-morrow, but up till to-night I did not know that it was intended that the House should adjourn for a month. How could honorable members make arrangements to go away whilst so much uncertainty existed as to the term of our adjournment? It will take me ten days to reach my home, and ten days to come back, and even with a month’s adjournment I shall be able to spend but a short time with my family The House will be able to do more business in two hours this week than in two weeks after the adjournment. I therefore trust that the honorable and learned gentleman will stick to his guns, and, if necessary, keep the House sitting until Monday.
– As the true policy of a just Government should be always to follow the line of least resistance, I trust that the Government will meet the request that has been made and allow the House to adjourn at 4 o’clock to-morrow.
– It is to be hoped that the Minister representing the Prime Minister will not yield to the wishes of a minority at the expense of the convenience of the majority of honorable members. There are two or three of the Queensland members who cannot by any possibility get to their homes, and hence they want the House to be kept sitting while they remain in Melbourne. We are all anxious to finish the business, but there are no means of coercing the Senate, and the session cannot end until the Senate has dealt with the Tariff. The suggestion that we should adjourn to-morrow afternoon is a most reasonable one, and will facilitate instead, of retarding business.
– I trust that the Minister representing the Prime Minister will see his way clear to consent to an adjournment over the holidays to-morrow afternoon, in accordance with the usual custom. The Queensland members naturally complain of the length of the session, but so do we all. I shall always feel that I have a serious ground for complaint, considering that our remuneration was fixed at a rate sufficient for a session lasting a few months, whereas we have been sitting for fourteen months. I supposed that I should be required to sit for three or four months during the first session.
– And instead of that the honorable and learned member has been standing nearly all the time !
– I have not the slightest doubt that there will be plenty of time for dealing with the Electoral Bill when we return after the Coronation. It is so important a measure that there should be a full attendance of honorable members when it is dealt with, and it is certain that there will not be a full attendance if the House sits on Monday.
– I think that it will be better for the House to sit until the Inter-State trains leave on Saturday, than to ask honorable members to come back to Melbourne a week before the Tariff is finished by the Senate. We do not know when the Tariff will be sent back to this House. The Government may call us back in three or four weeks, thinking that the Tariff will be finished, but the Senate may be a much longer time in dealing with it. I should prefer, if my own convenience were consulted, that the Government should proceed with the Electoral Bill until it is finished, Coronation or no Coronation. We ought to conclude our business before we adjourn. Then we can take a holiday until the Senate is finished with the Tariff.
– The Acting Prime Minister will bewise if he considers seriously the point raised by some honorable members in the direction of reviewing his determination. Hitherto the arrangement has been for honorable members to leave Melbourne by Friday’s express. The senators for New South Wales and South Australia will, no doubt, leave to-morrow, and a number of the members of this House have also arranged to leave to-morrow, understanding that the adjournment would take place in the usual course. The AttorneyGeneral cannot shut his eyes to the fact that the nearness to the adjournment has meant that during the present week we have had nothing like our average attendance. We have been making history in the direction of sitting longer than any colonial Parliament, but I ask the honorable and learned gentleman to consider that if he persists in calling us together on Saturday he may lead us to make a departure from our history to this extent - that there may be a compulsory adjournment from the want of a quorum.
Mr. DEAKIN (Inreply). - I need scarcely assure honorable members that it is not for any personal gratification that I am urging them to sit a little longer. It is simply for the plain, practical reason that, if we deal with the great bulk of the Electoral Bill now, we shall be able to make’ a careful revision of it after we have had an indication of the committee’s determination as to the few important issues which remain to be settled. On their return they will have a completed measure, drafted on the lines of their instructions and harmonized throughout, to which they, can put a few finishing touches and dispose of it in a short time. Whereas if we leave any machinery clauses to be considered by honorable members who are fresh from a four weeks’ holiday, we know what that will mean in the way of occupying time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 June 1902, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020619_reps_1_10/>.