1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Breaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. KINGSTON presented a petition from the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures praying the House to restore the Bonuses foi- Manufactures Bill to its original form.
Petition received and read.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. . Sydney Smith) with concurrence -
That leave of absence for ona month be granted to Wi H. Wilks, Esq., tho honorable member for Bailey.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Deakin) with concurrence -
That leave of absence for the remainder of the session be granted to R. Harper, Esq., the honorable member for Mernda.
– 1 wish to know from the Acting Minister for Defence if the return .showing the cost per head in each State of despatching the several contingents which were sent’ to South Africa, and ordered on the motion of the honorable member for South Australia, Sir Langdon Bonython, is yet ready 1
– 1 will inquire from the military authorities. I think it should have been prepared before this, but I have no doubt that its preparation will not take long.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been called to the paragraphs which appear in both the Argus and the Age this morning, to the effect that one of the State Premiere has expressed the opinion that a certain clause of the Electoral Bill contravenes the provisions of the .Constitution, and is therefore ultra vires? Will he consider the point, and will he also ascertain whether State legislation upon similar lines is ultra vires 1
– If the clause referred tohad, in the opinion of the Government, been ultra vires, the attention of the committee would have been drawn to the fact. It is, of course, perfectly open to any StatePremier, or to any other .person, to express an opinion upon the question.
– I wish to know from the Acting Minister for Defence if he has read the speech delivered by the Minister for Defence in England, and whether he thinks there is any danger of the right honorable gentleman involving this country in war?
– Ido not know to what speech the honorable member refers. If he will send me a copy of it, I will give him a reply.
-I wish to know from the Acting Prime Minister it the Government are ready to push on with the painting work required in connexion with the Postal department. It is a matter of urgency to a number of men who are in need, not merely of work, but even of food.
– The honorable member called attention to the matter last week. Since then it has been brought under the notice of the Treasurer, who has made £500 available for the purpose.
– Does the Acting Minister for Defence intend to appoint a commission to inquire into the treatment which returning soldiers have received on their way back to Australia? Does he intend to take steps to ascertain the truth of the statements alleging scandalous treatment which daily appear in the newspapers?
– If the honorable member refers to the statement published concerning the treatment of the men on board the Drayton Grange, I may inform him that I have taken action to investigate the matter, and am having a detailed report prepared, so that if the allegations are true a communication may be sent to the proper quarters to prevent the repetition of similar occurrences.
asked the Minister re presenting the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether the return relating to patents, ordered by this House, has been prepared ?
– The formal answer to the honorable member’s question is “ No. At the present moment the Commonwealth Government does not control the patent offices, and the officer in Melbourne is very busy. He has, however, informed me that he hopes to supply the information within a fortnight.
In Committee : (Consideration of Senate’s requested amendments.)
– I shall ask the committee to decline to make the amendment requested in the first item.
– Does the Minister intend to make any general remarks?
– No ; I understood it was the wish of the honorable member that there should be no general debate.
– I may have told my right honorable friend that I did not intend to make any lengthy speech, but, although I am as anxious as any honorable member not to take up any unnecessary time, I think it is fair and reasonable for us, upon this very important occasion, to expect some general statement from the Minister in charge of the Bill. I desire to also say a few words myself, and I think that business generally will be facilitated if a certain degree of latitude is allowed to honorable members in the discussion of the first item.
– I shall be happy to oblige honorable members. I understood, whether rightly or wrongly, that the honorable member did not desire that there should be anything like a general debate on the first item, but I am prepared to consult the convenience and desire of the committee.
– I hope that we shall not have another second reading debate.
– No, nothing of the kind. No doubt we shall desire to dispose of the remaining stages of our connection with the Tariff with as much despatch as isconsistentwith due deliberation and proper regard to the requests received from the other Chamber. Here I do not hesitate to say that it seems to me that the Senate has every right to make these requests.
– Is it the pleasure of the committee that the Minister should be permitted to make a general statement regarding the requests received from the Senate ?
– I should like to know, Mr. Chairman, whether, in the event of the Minister being permitted to makea statement, other honorable members will have an opportunity to reply? It will be only fair to extend the same privilege to all honorable members.
– If the debate is to be of a general character, I object to permission being given to the Minister.
– Since an objection has been raised, I must ask the Minister to confine his remarks to the item under discussion.
– Upon an occasion like this, when a large number of requests have come from the other . Chamber, and the Government have deliberately decided to make certain amendments and to refuse to make others, I think we should not be called upon to deal with the requests item by item without having some general statement by the Government and a general debate. If ever there was an occasion upon which a general discussion was necessary, it is this. We are entering upon a stage of our constitutional history which is quite unique. As the Minister was about to declare, the other Chamber has the power under the Constitution to make these requests. No one denies that for a moment.
– Is that the case?
– The course to be taken afterwards regarding these requests is another matter. We are, however, bound to receive them and, in courtesy, to consider them. The Government have concurred in this view by agreeing to make some of the requested amendments, and I think it is only fair and reasonable that we should have an opportunity to consider them as a whole before we discuss particular items. I do not propose to make any long speech - I do not think I err very much in that respect - but I should like to make a few general remarks before we enter into details.
– If our real desire is to have the Tariff settled, we should avoid a great many possible dangers by dispensing with a general debate. If there is to be a general discussion, it is almost inevitable that questions will be raised in this Chamber - as, doubtless, they will also be raised subsequently in the other Chamber - that will not conduce to the early settlement of this important matter. Many honorable members are content to let sleeping dogs lie, but if some one starts to stir up these clogs or to express opinions as to their colour or character, those who think differently are bound to have something to say. It would conduce to an early settlement of the Tariff if we confined ourselves to discussing the requests as they come before us. A great many honorable members on this side of the Chamber, like honorable members opposite
– I must ask’ honorable members not to discuss the message further in general terms. I am entirely in the hands of the committee, and unless honorable members are agreeable that the standing orders shall be suspended in order that the Minister may be permitted to make a statement, my duty is perfect© clear. I must abide by the standing orders.
– I suggest that the honorable member for Bland should, withdraw his objection.
– If there is to be a general debate it will occupy a week.
– It is useless for the honorable member to utter any such platitude as a reason for his objection, because he knows very well that discussion cannot be prevented. The Chairman cannot prevent discussion. Upon a motion that we should make ‘ an amendment requested by another Chamber we could discuss the constitutional aspect of the whole of the requests. There is no use in talking about our foregoing our rights, because they are all preserved to us by the Constitution. I suggest, therefore, that the Minister should be permitted to make a general statement regarding the whole of the requests and the attitude of the Government with respect to them. My own impression is that this will result in shortening the discussion.
– I believe that we should save time if we were to -discuss the whole of the requests generally at one sitting, instead of discussing the general question upon each separate item.
– That is not possible, because the items have no necessary connexion with one another.
– Am I to understand, Mr. Chairman, that’ I am to be confined to the discussion of the first item, and that I am not to be permitted to make a’ statement that the concessions made by the Government are absolutely worthless, and do not touch the question of the Tariff as amended by the other Chamber 1 Am I to be prevented from saying that although the Government appear to agree to 50 of the 104 requested amendments received from the Senate-
– I am afraid that the honorable member is now making his speech under cover of a series of questions.
– I have already pointed out that I am bound by the standing orders, and that unless the committee agree to their suspension I shall be obliged to restrict the discussion to the request before the Chair. I have solicited the concurrence of the committee, and as that has been refused I must see that the standing orders are adhered to.
– I should like to know whether there is any standing order which lays down the practice to be followed in dealing with requests from the Senate. Could we not discuss the method according to which the requests should be dealt with % If we accept the requested amendments and proceed to deal with them item, by item we shall admit the right of the other Chamber to direct us in matters of taxation. In the Constitution a distinction is expressly made between taxation Bills and other measures.
– I am waiting for the honorable and learned member to submit his motion.
– I suggest that the committee take into consideration the question whether we are now in order in debating the requests received from the Senate - whether there is any provision in our standing orders for debating them in the form in which they are now brought forward.
– That point should have been raised upon the motion to go into committee.
– The honorable and learned member may be right, but it is important that we should discuss the point, because we are now proceeding to deal with the requests of the Senate in exactly the same way as if they were amendments. That is a very serious position to take up, because we shall be assenting to the right of the Senate-
– The honorable and learned member must confine himself to the subject before the Chair.
– I desire to’ know which standing order requires us to consider these requests item by item instead of dealing with them as a whole. I take it that the question before the Chair is that we should agree of disagree with a certain number of requested amendments, and surely upon a motion of that kind we can deal generally with the whole question before we enter into details.
– Thecommittee have received a direction from the House to consider the requests made by the Senate. These requests are printed in tabulated form, and we are bound by the standing orders relating to proceedings in committee to deal with them in the same way as with the clauses of a Bill, namely, to take them item by item. Beyond that the committee will have no power to go.
– Then I have no alternative but to move -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair.
We have been told by honorable members that the remarks which we now desire to make should have been made at an earlier stage. But if, by any oversight, we omitted to make them at the proper time, the least we might expect from honorable members upon the other side of the Chamber, who presumably form a majority, and possess a strength which ought not to be exercised except when absolutely necessary, is the courtesy of allowing a statement to be made from this side of the House.
– Members upon this side of the Chamber are always in their places, and are growing tired of this prolonged session.
– At any rate, I have endeavoured to act as courteously to all honorable members as circumstances, and perhaps my peculiar temperament, would allow. It must be recognised that honorable members upon this side of the Chamber, who have been engaged in an uphill battle, deserve some consideration in fighting for principles which are probably acceptable to the majority of the Australian people. I am indeed surprised that the Ministry have declined to allow a general debate upon this matter, seeing that they themselves must have put the whole of these requests through a crucible similar to that through which we desire they shall be put. Bid they discuss each item separately, without regard to its general effect upon the whole Tariff? After the Minister for Trade and Customs had placed his proposals before his colleagues, did not they examine them in the light of their effect upon the Bill in its entirety ? Whatever blame may attach to the Government or to either side of the House, for having extended the present session over a period of fifteen months we cannot alter matters now. But I say distinctly that if this session is prolonged, and if we are forced to engage in a struggle with the other Chamber, the responsibility will rest upon the heads of the Government, and chiefly upon that of the Minister for Trade and Customs. It does not require any great stretch of imagination to understand what took place in the triumvirate protectionist conference which met when this Bill was returned from the Senate. When that conference assembled in the midst of the ruins of its own handiwork, I can well imagine the Acting Prime Minister with his usual pliability urging the Minister for Trade and Customs to be a little moderate in his demands, and to concede sufficient to satisfy the honour and constitutional position of the other Chamber. I can also imagine the Treasurer saying “Hear hear” to that expression. But what has the right honorable gentleman yielded on behalf of the Government? I venture to say that in the whole of the document which I have in my hand, and which covers 104 items, practically no concession is made to the other Chamber. Can honorable members credit that statement in view of the fact that out of 104 requested amendments it is proposed that 50 shall be agreed to? But in these 50 items there are not more than seven which practically affect the position between the two Houses, and there is absolutely none which touches the principles of the Bill. I am perfectly alive to the responsibility of my position to-day, and I feel that no words should be uttered by me which would be in any way likely to kindle strife between two almost co-ordinate Chambers. Therefore, although honorable members upon this side of the House are not the authors of this Bill, we are determined as far as lies in our power to bring about a solution of the difficulty which exists as speedily as possible, so that we may go into recess. Honorable members must not imagine that we desire to foment trouble between the two Houses. Whilst we do not own this Tariff in any respect, still, for the sake of the country and of the commercial interests of Australia, we say that the sooner it is settled the better. We shall therefore do everything in our power to arrive at finality.
– Except be quiet.
– That is a very impertinent and unnecessary remark. When I am not quiet I am willing to weigh my remarks for intelligence and substance with those made by the honorable member. I am making a statement which I can prove. The Senate has made 104 requests. The Minister is willing to agree to 50 of the requested amendments, but insists upon disagreeing with 54. Ministers of the Crown - whatever honorable members may think - are, therefore, perfectly satisfied that the Senate has acted within its constitutional rights. Furthermore by signifying their willingness to make certain amendments requested by the other Chamber they have admitted that those requests are not merely idle words, that it is necessary to placate the other House and to recognise to some extent that it has a right to insist upon them. That is clear. If that right be allowed, do honorable members think that the Senate will be satisfied with the mere pretence of yielding on the part of this House? I shall read to honorable members the requested amendments of a substantial character to which the Government propose to agree. There are only seven of them. The duty upon arrowroot, as passed by this House, was1d. per lb. The Government now agree to reduce it to ½d. per lb. A 20 per cent. impost was levied on oilmen’s stores’ by this House, and the Senate has requested that that rate shall be reduced to 15 per cent., to which proposal the Government agree. The duty upon starch is to be reduced from 2d. per lb. to ½d. per lb.; that upon parasols from 30 per cent. to 20 per cent., and that upon mangles, axe-handles, and composition belting from 20 per cent. to 1 5 per cent. It is true that the adoption of one or two of these amendments will give a certain amount of relief to the consumer, but, taken as a whole, they are absolutely worthless as a concession. The other requested amendments of the Senate which the Government will make are either of such an unimportant character as to be practically valueless, or are such alterations as the protectionist side of this House would have agreed to under any circumstances for the purpose of improving the Bill. I shall read to honorable members a few of the amendments which the Government will ask us to make as a sample of the whole, and I ask any intelligent man in this Chamber whether those items affect the principles of the Bill in any way whatever ? Let us, for example, take the request by the Senate to omit from the special exemptions to item 36 of the Tariff the word “frozen,” and after “meat” to add the words “ preserved by cold process.” That is one of the proposals to which the Government intend to agree. Another is to add to the special exemptions to item 50, “ Seed, cotton,&c.” the words “for making methylated cotton-seed oil under departmental by-laws.” A third is to omit from item 55 the words “including sparklets,” and add “sparklets” to the special exemptions. Although upon the surface the Government agree to make 50 of the Senate’s requested amendments, only seven of them can be regarded as containing any real concession.
– Ifthe honorable member will move to retain these items at the old duties, I am prepared to assist him.
– I am perfectly certain that the honorable member is so steeped in his own fiscalism, and has so little regard for the manifesto of his chief or the election pledges of his party, that he would do anything in that direction. I repeat that out of the 50 requested amendments to which the Government propose to agree, there are only seven of any importance whatever. I hope that the honorable member understands that. Another request to which the Government propose to accede, is that all accoutrements, badges, buttons, braids, and lace for naval and military uniforms under departmental by-laws be added to the list of exemptions under item 58. They propose also to agree to add certain bags - with the exception of hessian flour bags - to the list of special exemptions to item 59. That is a very important concession. Again, we find the Government proposing to agree to the request of the Senate to add to the list of special exemptions under item 65, parasol, sunshade, and umbrella handles, sticks, and fit-ups, whether mounted or not. They propose to agree to the Senate’s request to add the word “ horse” before the words “haircloth,” in the list of special exemptions to item 66. That is a wonderful concession. They are also ready to adopt the Senate’s request to strike out the word “ canvas “ from the list of special exemptions to item 66, and substitute the words “ tent and sail canvas and.” Another great concession is the proposal to accept the Senate’s request to leave out the word “boot” before “cutters” in the special exemptions to item 78, and to insert “root.” The Government also propose to adopt the request -that after the word “ strawsonizers,” in the special exemptions to item 78, the words “and other fieldspraying machines “ be inserted.
– That is a substantial concession.
– Anything is substantial in the opinion of some of my honorable friends opposite. This is exactly the kind of work that would suit some of them. The Government are willing to adopt the Senate’s request that the word “ four “ before “ stitch “ in the list of special exemptions to item 78 should be omitted, and the word “ fair “ inserted ; while another request which the Government propose to accept is that a comma shall be inserted after the words “ steel tire mandrils, spreading “ in the same list.
– The Senate is getting, a bad start.
– That is not the point. The point is that if the Government and those who support them had any common honesty they would allow ari explanation showing the utterly unreliable character of their proposals. We come now to another request which the Government propose to adopt, and that is that after the words “12 superficial feet” in item 92, the words “per 100 superficial feet “ should be added. It is unnecessary for me to continue to quote these proposals. I desire to put forward the simple statement that the Government have made ‘no concession whatever to the Senate in regard to the main requests ; that so far as the people of Australia are concerned it matters little, if anything, whether the Tariff Bill is passed as it left this Chamber, or agreed to as proposed by the Government at this stage. I challenge any honorable member to show that any concession which the Government propose to make to another place would affect the principles of the Bill.
– What does the honorable member call “ the principles “ of the Bill?
– I refer to its protectionist principles, from which honorable members of the Opposition have dissented from the first. In relation to items upon which duties of 15, 20, 25, and up to 30 per cent, were placed by this Chamber, it will be found that scarcely any alteration is proposed by the Government. The Tariff remains exactly the same highly protective measure that it was when it left this Chamber. Certainly it is not as highly protective as it was when introduced, but practically we are asked now to enact a farce. It is proposed that we shall agree to amendments which it would not be creditable to us to reject. Many of the requested amendments to which the Government are willing to agree relate to omissions which would occur in any Bill, while others are so small that they do not affect the measure as a whole. The Senate has exerted its right to put these requests before us, and if we are to deal with it as being to a certain extent a co-ordinate branch of the Legislature, we ought certainly to receive its requests with courtesy. If we are going to compromise we ought to compromise substantially. No one anticipated for one moment that all the requests made by another place would have been absolutely accepted by the Government, but honorable members of the Opposition did expect that the Government would have made some substantial concession. The Opposition thought that the Government, knowing the strength of the Senate, knowing that, like this Chamber, it has the popular element at its back ; knowing that its members are not all fools, and will not be deluded into accepting what is apparently a concession, although in reality it is not, would have said : “ The present session has extended over fifteen months. We are faced with a state of commercial distress, accentuated by the drought, which has brought about a condition of affairs that must grow in intensity during the next two years, and the like -of which has never been experienced in Australia for the last twenty years, We cannot obtain everything. AVe are dealing with a giant in strength ; we are dealing with a Chamber which can force this House as well as itself to go to the country, and winch, if we do not concede a reasonable number of its requests, will be able to prolong the agony of this conflict and place upon our heads the responsibility.” My simple point is that if we are prepared to make a compromise for the sake of peace, for the sake of bringing this awful controversy to a finality, and for the sake of assisting the mercantile and other interests of Australia, that compromise ought to be fair, liberal, and substantial. It should not be practically a farce, as proposed by the Government.
– Will the honorable member point out the requested amendments to which we should agree in order to secure that compromise 1
– i shall suggest in detail several requested amendments which I think weought to make. But I desire to point out - and I cannot do so too strongly - that if we analyze the whole of the concessions proposed by the Government it will be found that, with the exception of seven, they are practically of no importance. The whole pith of the requests of the Senate’ are embodied in the other proposals to which the Government do not agree. Do we think that the members of another place are not of the same bone as we are ? They are parliamentarians who know what they are doing, and is it to be supposed that they will accept a stone when they ought to receive a substantial part of the loaf 1 They are reasonable men, and I believe that they are waiting for reasonable suggestions from us.
– Are we to make suggestions to them %
– I do not understand the honorable and learned member. Altogether 104 requests have been made. Out of that number the Government are prepared to accede to about 50, of which only seven are of any importance, and even those are not vital to the Bill. The remaining 54 of which the Government disapprove embody the substantial differences between the two Houses. Undoubtedly the Senate will fight for them if it had any reason for making them. Do honorable members think that members of the Senate will allow it to be placed on record that they attended in tile Senate day after day simply for the purpose of wasting the time of the country - that they made utter fools of themselves and did not intend to insist upon the acceptance of a reasonable number of their requests ? I do not desire to be forced into any struggle with another place. I do not wish to be forced into expressions of opinion as to what the Senate will do. But when the Government proposals - which, notwithstanding the jeers of honorable members opposite, give nothing, although on the surface they appear to concede a great deal - are placed before honorable members of another place, they will show at once that they are nob fools. No one knows better than does the . honorable and learned member for Indi, with whom I had the honour, of sitting in the Federal .Convention, that under the Constitution framed by that Convention the House with which we are now dealing is largely co-ordinate with this Chamber.
– Not in regard to matters of finance.
– One moment. No one knows better than does the honorable and learned member for Indi that financial measures must be initiated in. one House, and that we cannot have two Houses holding absolutely co-ordinate powers in regard to them. But we are not dealing now with the question of an Appropriation Bill, with which I think, save in extreme circumstances, the Senate should not interfere. We are dealing with the foundations of a Customs Tariff, which is a great taxing machine placed in the hands of the Commonwealth Parliament. We have agreed that the Senate has a perfect right to make requests for amendments in the Tariff, and we know that behind that power there is a power to make every honorable member of this House go to the country. There is behind it the great power of veto. If we recognise by our debate to-day that that power exists, surely in dealing with requests made by the Senate, whose members comprise probably some of the best men in the political life of this country-
– They are no better than members of this committee.
– We must assume that these requests have not been made simply as a matter of child’s play. We must assume that they have been made in a spirit of earnestness by honorable members of another place, knowing the giant power that they possess under the Constitution. The honorable and learned member for Indi may not have had time to closely investigate the details of, the Government proposals, but if he will study them for one hour it will be quite sufficient to enable him to grasp the position and to’ say whether there is any real concession made to the Senate in the Government proposals. I say that there is not, and that they constitute a piece of effrontery. 16 would have been far better for the Government to absolutely refuse to concede any of the requests made by another place, than, having considered them, to propose to give that House a stone.
– But this Chamber has done nothing yet in regard to the requests of another place.
– I am referring to the Government. Does not the honorable and learned member know that this is going to be made a party question? Does the honorable and learned member think for one moment that every honorable member behind the Government will not vote for almost everything suggested by the Government?
– A good many on the other side would do the same.
– That does not affect the position of the Government. The Government have made the position difficult for the Opposition and for their own supporters who have been loyal to them throughout the consideration of the Tariff. Their proposals are simply a farce. I blame my right honorable friend the Minister for Trade and Customs, for whom I have great respect, for having failed to deal with this matter in a broader and more statesmanlike spirit. The position now taken up by him is simply part and parcel of the difficulty with which we have had to contend from the first in dealing with the Tariff. I venture to say that if this Tariff had been treated in a more liberal spirit - in the spirit, indeed, in which we ought now to deal with the requests of the otherChamber - we should have been able to return to our homes long ago. I think I have shown myself to be a sufficiently moderate man to entitle me to say that, if the Tariff had been framed on the lines of the Maitland manifesto, I should have readily agreed to it. I would ask honorable members who may not have read this document very closely to analyze it, as I have done. If they consider the requests to which the Government propose to agree, they will find that out of 50 items, 40 deal with matters of no importance whatever. We may eleminate 40 item? from the 104 dealt with, and we shall have this position : that of the requests in connexion with 60 items of any substantial character, not more than 10 - I say not more than 7 - are agreed to by the Government, and those 7 are of very little importance. In the requests upon 50 items with which the Government propose to disagree thereis involved the whole question that has been raging between both sides of this
Chamber during the last nine months. If the Bill is to be altered in the direction of freedom, if it is to be brought back at all to conformity with Mr. Barton’s own celebrated saying, “ Revenue without destruction,” then these 50 requests embody all the items which affect the position.
Mr.Mauger. - Does the honorable gentleman agree with them all?
– I do not say that we should agree with them all. What I say is that it is a farce that in the case of these 50 items which have been dealt with by the other Chamber, and which embody all the matters upon which the battle has raged in this Chamber, not one of the Senate’s requests has been conceded by the Government.
– Were not many of them compromises in this House?
– There has been no concession. The Minister for Trade and Customs has studiously picked out everything that was absolutely of no importance, and has put it into this schedule. It goes forth to the public that out of 104 items upon which requests have been made by the Senate, the Government have conceded amendments in respect of 50. But I say that that is not the position at all. The position is, that of the requests affecting about 60 items of any importance, the Government have not conceded ten. Although I do not desire to say much with regard to the other Chamber or the future, from my point of view, if we do not radically alter the proposals of the Government, and if we do not concede a reasonable and sensible number of these requests, we shall be simply inviting a struggle of which no man can see the end. I do not think we should do that. I think it is the duty, even of honorable members on the other side, if they will allow me to say so, to give way somewhat in their own view, in order to secure peace and finality.
– Should not the other side give way also ?
– There is nothing upon which the other side have to give way.
– We have had to give way upon almost every item of the Tariff as at first introduced.
– Which shows what a botch it was.
– Apart from the heat of this controversy, I believe it -will be admitted by honorable members on both sides that if we can possibly agree to a certain number of these requested amendments will avoid a prolonged conflict with the other House, and we should be prepared to give way to a certain extent in order to avoid that. I believe we do not desire to bring about trouble. I am pointing out now, as I might have been allowed to do in the course of a general debate, without any necessity for moving the Chairman out of the chair, that honorable member should know the general effect of the proposals of the Government before they begin to debate the different items. They should know that there is really no actual concession worth talking about embodied in these proposals, and when we come to deal with the 50 different items in connexion with which the Government have decided to refuse to make the amendments requested by the Senate, we should consider them very carefully, and be prepared to yield as much as possible for the sake of peace and finality.
– Has the honorable gentleman considered the effect upon the finances of the smaller States ?
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- The point I desire to raise is somewhat different from that suggested by the honorable member for Wentworth. We all know that under section 53 of the Constitution, a difference is made between the reception by the House of Representatives of requests from the Senate and its reception of amendments. The section reads in this way-*
The Semite may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.
The Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting, by message, the omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein.
On the difference between the two, a very long debate took place in the Convention, as the honorable and learned member for Indi knows. I cannot do better than read some passages of the debate which took place at the time, which will put the point more fully than I could do at the present moment. We know that what was asked for on behalf of the Senate was that they should have the right to amend any proposed law. We know that in the convention the representatives of the smaller States pressed very strongly for that. At the time the representatives of the larger States could not see their way to give the Senate an equal power with the House of Representatives, but, as a compromise, they suggested that the Senate should be allowed to send down a message requesting amendments. The difference was very clearly put in these words by Sir John Forrest -
The right honorable member quoted Sir Samuel Griffith, to show that there was very little difference between the (rawer of suggestion, and the power of amendment. I, with the greatest respect to that authority, think that there is a very great difference between the two powers.
– I rise to order. I do not wish to interfere with the honorable and learned member in discussing this Constitutional point, but I should like to know whether you rule, now that the matter is put before you, that under cover of a motion that you do now leave the chair, we can discuss the Constitutional question as to the rights and powers of the Senate. I should be the last to do anything to curtail any honorable member’s light of speech, but I think that the proper way to discuss this question - apart from allowing the leader of the Opposition a right to discuss details touched upon by the right honorable gentleman in charge of the Bill - would be by a specific motion upon the matter, or under cover of a motion for adjournment. I do not think it can be held under any circumstances that under cover of a motion that you do now leave the chair it is competent to discuss the Constitutional question of whether the Senate has certain powers that are or are not set down in the Constitution. I therefore think it would be very much better, if you were in any doubt about the matter, to restrict the debate to the matter really before the chair, namely, the action of the Government iu this particular instance in submitting their proposals upon the requests’ sent down ‘ from the Senate.
– On the point of order, I should like to say that if we are to deal with these requests as we should deal with amendments - and that is what is now proposed - we should be at once sweeping away the constitutional difference between the two Houses, and that is a serious matter for consideration in connexion with the question whether the Chairman should leave the chair. Under these circumstances, I think I am quite within the motion proposed by the honorable member for Wentworth when
I suggest that a. different course must be adopted,’ and that the .Chairman should leave the chair in order that we may consider whether these proposals should not have been brought in in some other form.
– I cannot at present rule the honorable and learned member out “of order.
– I was saying that by treating these messages as amendments we are practically doing away with the difference set forth in section 53 of the Constitution. We are now deciding for all time - and that should not be forgotten - that there is practically no difference whatever between a message requesting amendments and amendments themselves. I very much doubt whether we ought to do that. The point I raise does not deal with the question of the Tariff coming before us, and at present I am entirely concerned with the way in which the Ministry have chosen to treat this message from the Senate. The difference to which I have referred has been so well put in the speech to which I have referred, that I crave the indulgence of honorable members to continue the quotation -
In the one case the Upper House merely sends back the Bill asking the lower House if it will be good enough to amend the Bill, but the lower House says, “No, we cannot do anything of the sort,” so that the responsibility of throwing out the Bill rests with the upper House. In the other case the upper House sends the Bill amended down to the lower House, and the responsibility of throwing out the Bill rests with the lower House.
Sir John Forrest went on to say that he thought there was a very marked difference between the two cases, and I am bound to say that I also think there is a very strong difference between them. Senator Walker, who was strongly in favour of the Senate having fairly large powers, said this -
If the Senate takes the responsibility of making suggestions, and the House of Representatives does not accept them, the Senate, of course, assumes the responsibility on its own shoulders should it throw out the Bill. My sympathies are very largely with those who wish to make the Senate u strong House.
I am one of those who do not wish to make the Senate a strong House.
– The honorable and learned member thinks that their suggestions should be rejected 1
– I think they should have been brought before us in a very different form. I think the Rill should have been recommitted upon each one of the items we have before us. We could then’ “have considered the requests, knowing what the Senate had to say, and we could have sent the measure back as our Bill to the other House.
– That would not be following the Constitution.
– I think that would be the proper course to adopt.
– That would not be constitutional.
– The section in the Constitution provides for the procedure.
– The section says that we may deal with the amendments. I think that if the course I suggest had been adopted, it would have got over the whole difficulty. I shall, of course, be very glad to listen to the honorable and learned members for Indi and Corinella upon a constitutional question like this.
– In South Australia these requests would be dealt with as separate messages.
– It seems to me that, by the course adopted, we are doing away with the difference between the two classes of messages from the Senate, and, whether we like it Or not, we shall be establishing, for all time, the position that there is practically no difference between a message requesting amendments and amendments themselves.
– May I suggest to the honorable and learned member that it is quite conceivable that the House may do so when it gets on to the work, but that at present we have established no precedent 1
– I complain that the Ministry have brought the business forward in such a form that they seem by escaping one difficulty to have plunged into another.
– Let us see what motion is proposed with regard to the first request, and then we shall know.
– It has been moved that the committee agree or disagree.
– No motion has been moved yet.
– The statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs is practically a motion. The very form of our procedure seems to show that we have entirely waived the objection, and that in time to come this- case will be quoted as an authority against us, fixing the procedure for all time.
– It is all hypothetical at present.
– I confess that I do not see that the Government have suggested that the proper form should be followed. In the absence of any standing order there is only one proper course to pursue, and that is for the Ministry to ask for the suspension of the standing orders, with a view to introducing a Bill, and allowing honorable members to deal with the items in which the Senate has requested amendments to be made. It is proposed to go into committee, and either to agree to or disagree with the amendments requested by the Senate.
– We are now considering the Bill with its requests.
Mi-. CONROY. - Here is a statement by Ministers, which, I take it, contains the requests to which they propose to ask us to agree or disagree.
– It is merely a short way of stating something. We are not bound by the wording of that document.
– By acting as we are we are determining for all time that there is no difference between a request for an amendment and an amendment.
– This document is merely in our possession by courtesy.
– By adopting this method of procedure, we are abolishing the difference that exists. However, if honorable members on that- side, or on this side, are quite prepared to waive that difference there is little more for me to say. I have entered my protest against the procedure, and I think that at no very distant time this difficulty may make itself very prominently felt, because on our action depends the question whether it is the Senate or this House that throws out a Bill. The responsibility must be- thrown on one House or the other. Are we or are we not going to accept our responsibility 1 That is the question, I think, for us to determine.
– I think that the honorable and learned member for Werriwa is mistaken. The Customs Tariff Bill is now properly before the committee. It was sent back by the Senate, with a message that contains .several requests, which we tire now considering. I do not see what else can be done under the Constitution, and I cannot see the point of my honorable and learned friend’s objection.
The small States are entitled to have the spirit and the letter of the Constitution carried out. I cannot see that there is anything irregular in the procedure. The honorable and learned member cannot point out that there is any other method of procedure to be adopted.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta.)- On’ the present occasion our course is comparatively simple, and I do not know that there need be very much said, although I cannot help feeling that the statement of the acting leader of the Opposition is a most appropriate one, having, regard to the importance of the question, and also to the absolute silence of the Government. There has been a change of attitude on the part of the Government. We were told by inspired paragraphs, in what are practically the Government organs, that we were to have a statement made by the Minister for Trade and Customs, together with all the information which the Government had collected, and that then there was to be an adjournment of the House, so as to give honorable members a chance to consider their proposals in connexion with’ that information. That was what ‘ we thought would be the order of procedure, whereas to-day the Minister comes’ down, and, when the House is formally moved into committee, proposes to go on with the Bill without making any statement on the constitutional aspect of the. Tariff question, without indicating what the relation of the Government to the Senate is to be, or without giving the committee the slightest lead in what is deemed to be a settlement of the relations of this. House to the other. This was an occasion when there might have been some statement on the part of responsible Ministers concerning their attitude to the Senate in regard to the taxation of the people. It was due to the House that they should have made their minds clear to us in some formal way. It was also due to the House that in the light of the Minister’s statement and in the light of the information which it ought to have contained regarding the operations of the Tariff,, and its modification by the Senate, to postpone the debate until to-morrow, when it could have been continued with better knowledge. However, the Minister has chosen to sit tight, and to remain dumb, too, and I cannot help feeling that, at this im- portant period of the history of the
Commonwealth, it is unfortunate that there should be a complete absence of light and leading on the part of the Government.
– The honorable member does not want them to lead the Chairman out of the chair 1
– The honorable and learned member knows that the Minister should have seized the first opportunity to make an elaborate statement of the whole case for the Government proposals. Instead of that it seems that we are to take the items seriatim, and that we shall get the Ministerial pronouncement in details. It will filter through, I presume, as the debate proceeds.
– But we wish to have a longer adjournment than four weeks next Christinas.
– May I remind the honorable and learned member that one result of this attitude of silence was the declaration, by the honorable and learned member for Ind i j just now that honorable members take’ no notice of what the Government do. He said triumphantly, in reply to the acting leader of the Opposition - “This House has not yet said what it is going to do.” Surely honorable members who sit behind the Government are going to support their policy in the main ! What does the honorable and learned member mean when he makes this declaration of independence on the part of honorable members who sit behind the Government? There is every reason why the Government should say what it is going to do. Are we to have repeated the spectacle, that we have so often seen during the already brief history of this Parliament, of honorable members on both sides repudiating the Government, and practically making them turn their proposals inside out ? Probably we shall see in this committee - as we have seen so many times before - Ministers completely abrogating their responsible functions, and consenting to be made the mere mouth-piece of the House, irrespective of which side happens’ to direct them at the moment. That is an unfortunate position, and it is one which ought not to exist in connexion with the important issue before the Chair. When we have the small details of their policy to consider - as to which it does not matter much what the opinion of the various sides of the House may be - we can understand some little pliability. But here is a matter which goes to the very vitals of their existence as a responsible Government. They ought to have taken the first opportunity of saying what their constitutional attitude as a Government is to be in relation to the Senate’s requests, and as to how they are to be dealt with. But we are to have nothing, it seems, except the policy of sitting tight. We are asked by honorable members on the other side whether we are going to champion the Senate in connexion with these taxation proposals. I do not see why that question should not be answered in the frankest way. I take it that we are going to champion the free - trade section of the Senate when we know them to be acting within the four corners of the Constitution. These requests from the Senate were carried by a section who believe in our views, and have striven honestly and constitutionally to give effect to them. When a request comes to me from honorable members in the Senate to follow a. course of action which I have been strenuously endeavouring to follow in this House, I should be recreant to my constituents, and to the principles I profess to advocate, if I did not cordially acquiesce in such request. Of course, what the attitude of the two Houses is to be in the main has to be settled. We are not asked by Ministers now to deal with the matter m t/lobo ; to make any declaration of our principles in relation to the Senate. The Minister for Trade and Customs invites us to deal with the items as they occur, and not in a form which would enable us to pronounce on their merits. I take it that; whenever a request is made to us which is in keeping with our own ideas, we shall not hesitate in the slightest degree as to the course we should follow. Honorable members on the other side, who see their policy being mauled about and whittled down until there is very little difference between their proposals and those of mere revenue tariffists, may try to get up this constitutional bogy if they like, but the time foi” raising that question is not now, and I have yet to learn that the Senate has done anything which it ought not to have done in making these requests.
– Do not raise that issue unless we have to.
– I do not desire to raise that issue, but honorable members on the other side appear to be wishful to do so.
– Surely the honorable member for Echuca asked us on this side whether we wanted to champion the Senate?We do wish to champion the free-traders in the Senate in their efforts to make the Tariff a more moderate one. I take it that they and we shall be acting within the four corners of the Constitution in taking up an attitude of that description.
-We want to champion the majority of the electors of the Commonwealth.
– Of course, that follows. Because I believe that the freetraders in the Senate, together with ourselves, do represent a majority of the people of the continent on this fiscal question, I shall the more cordially concur in any requests which they have made for the shearing down of the Tariff. There can be no doubt that there is clearly traceable throughout the Customs Tariff Bill an indication on the part of the Cabinet to adhere steadily to what they believe to be a moderate protective policy. Their handiwork can be clearly traced in this memorandu m before the House, and that is wh y those matters, where they agree with the Senate, are all matters of complete unsubstantiality. This shows that we ought to steadily adhere to the proposals of the Senate, which have for their object the shearing down of the protective incidence of the Tariff, to bring it more into accord with the wishes of the country.
– The situation in which we find ourselves thisafter- noon is altogether too serious for any exhibition of party feeling. I regard the moment at which we have now arrived as one of the gravest that has been reached in the history of this Parliament, because to-day we must ascertain the opinions of theGovernment and of the more reflective members of the House in regard to the relative rights of the two Chambers. Some honorable members, however, have treated the matter with a flippancy which is entirely unbecoming. The Ministry are called upon as a matter of duty toinform us as to their view of the powers of the Senate in regard to this Bill. Does the Minister for Trade and Customs suppose that he can take a vote on party lines upon each of the Senate’s requests, and escape the responsibility of giving an opinion upon the great constitutional issue which is involved? If he credits the members of the Senate with as much fixity of purpose as he possesses himself, what does he suppose will be the result of the flippant treatment of their requests? For my part, I fling aside all considerations of free-trade and protection in defiling with this matter. The issue is an infinitely more serious one than the fiscal question. I have heard honorable members speak of the Senate as if there were the closest analogy between its position and that of the Upper Houses of the States Parliaments. As one possessing some knowledge of constitutional law, I regard the term “ request “ as applied to the Senate’s action in regard to the provisions of a money Bill as an utter misnomer. The Senate possesses the constitutional right to amend money Bills as fully as that right could be given to it by any Constitution.
– Does the honorable and learned member say that the term “request” is synonymous with the term “amendment ?”
– I do. The Senate has, by reason of the stability of its constitutional foundation, as much power as this House possesses.
SirW illiam McMillan. - It possesses the power of veto.
– Yes. I am not concerned at this moment with what may have been the intention of the members of the Convention, nor with the literal meaning of the wording of the Constitution. It is an easy matter to invest a body with unlimited constitutional power, but unless in the last resort that body can depend upon the assistance of some physical force, its constitutional power is of no use to it. On the other hand, the most harmless words may have been placed inour Constitution, but if the second Chamber has been empowered to throw out measures sent to it by the House of Representatives, and to resist, except under certain circumstances, all attempts to dissolve it, the framers of the Constitution have done what is tantamount to giving it unlimited power. What is the position which we now have to face? Let us suppose that the Minister in charge of this measure is able to induce a majority of protectionists to agree to the more trivial requests of the Senate, and the measure is returned to that body with all its substantial requests disregarded. Does he think that he has to deal with an assembly of children, or of men of less strength of character than he himself possesses Is it not rather to be supposed that the members of the Senate will stand upon their constitutional rights, and exercise their powers to the fullest extent? They would be recreant to the trust placed in them, as the representatives of the States as separate entities, if they did not do so. This House represents the people of the Commonwealth on a proportional basis, but the representation of the Senate is upon a totally different foundation. Whereas Tasmania in this House has a representation in proportion to her population of. 160,000, the representatives of those people in the Senate are invested with exactly the same constitutional power as the representatives of the 1,350,000 people who constitute the population of New South Wales. Honorable members are reckoning without their host if they suppose that this question can be treated in a light-hearted way, merely because there is in this committee a majority favorable to protection. If the measure goes back to the Senate, and the members of that body choose, as I believe they will, to insist upon their requests–
– Why does the honorable arid learned member believe that they will insist upon them ?
– Because I credit the members of the Senate with being as thoughtful a body of men as we are, and with having the’ same strength of character, and I believe that the majority of them take the same view of their constitutional powers as I am expressing this afternoon.
– Is not the honorable and learned member inviting them to insist upon their requests’!
– My pride is not in being a member of the House of Repre-, sentatives, but in being a member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and therefore I am ready to vindicate the rights of the Senate as forcibly as I should vindicate those of this Chamber. Does it follow, because we are members of the House of Representatives, that we should champion the rights of this body at the expense of those of the Senate ?
– Surely the rights of the Senate have not been called into question ?
– If the trivial requests of the Senate are agreed to by a protectionist majority - it may be said that that would be an admission of the Senate’s right to amend the Bill, but that is a matter with which I am not concerned just now - and its substantial requests are wholly disregarded, the Senate will have a perfect right to throw out the measure.
– It. dare not.
– What could the House of Representatives do; or what could the Governor-General do, if the Senate threw out the Bill ? No constitutional power has been given to the GovernorGeneral which would enable him to send the members of the Senate to the country, or to interfere with any legislative act of that body. Then what would follow ? This House would have to be prorogued, and the measure’ would, have to be sent to the Senate again after an interval of three months. Is it to be supposed that the members of the Senate, most of ‘ them thoughtful men, and quite as well versed in constitutional law as we are, would then change their attitude? If they did not, what would happen ? By an almost automatic process both Houses would be dissolved and sent to the people. The members of the Senate would then have this justification for their action : That they represent the people as representatives of the States, and not upon a proportional basis, and, therefore they have a constitutional right to say, “We will not accept the measure, because there is not a majority of the States in favour of it.” I have no hesitation in saying that every free-trade senator who now represents New South Wales would in that case he re-elected, and that a sixth freetrader would be returned in place of the one protectionist who now holds a seat there.
– Is the honorable and learned member trying to intimidate us ?
– This House will not be deterred from doing its duty.
– I rose to . find fault with the Minister because, in moving that the House resolve itself into a committee of the whole to consider this Bill, he did not pay us the compliment to express his .opinion upon the grave constitutional issue which underlies the whole question, and which is infinitely more important than the framing of a Tariff. We are to-day laying the foundation-stone of our Constitution, and we ought not to take one side or the other upon an issue of so much importance, merely as we happen to hold views in favour of protection or of free-trade. There is no parallel between the position of the Senate and that of the Upper House of any State Parliament. In New South Wales it is a very easy matter, when the Legislative Council proves recalcitrant, for the Government to nominate half-a-dozen or a dozen new members ; and it is very easy in a State like Victoria to hold out the threat of an appeal to the Imperial Govern ment for constitutional reform.
– The Legislative Council ofVictoria is much more impregnable than the Senate, because it can send the members of the Legislative Assembly to the country without being itself dissolved ; whereas, if the Senate sends us to the country it must accompany us.
– It would be easier to move the Imperial Government to approve of a reform to make a certain political course practicable in Victoria, than to move them to interfere in regard to the Constitution of the Commonwealth.
– That has not been our experience.We fought for reform for years, but could not get the Imperial authorities to interfere.
– A former Premier of Victoria, Sir Graham Berry, once paid a visit to England in order to get an
Enabling Bill passed to alter the Constitution of Victoria, and he was told that so soon as he obtained an unmistakeable expression of opinion in favour of such an alteration from the people of Victoria, the Imperial Government would be prepared to help him. I ask honorable members whether they suppose that the Imperial Government would take up that attitude towards the Commonwealth of Australia.
– Surely that is looking a long way ahead.
– I think it is highly desirable that we should look a long way ahead when we are dealing with a question of this kind. There can be no harm, at least, in our looking four or six months ahead of us, and I am asking the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to consider what our present action may involve. I am merely contending that this question ought to be dealt with, not in the mere spirit of protection versus free-trade, but with full consideration of the graver issue between the two Houses. Honorable members may rely upon it that if we send back this measure in such a way as to show our determination to deny the rights of the other branch of the legislature to amend important items of this Bill-
– To “ request.”
– Yes, to “request.” Surely some honorable members are mere martyrs to words. I would ask the honorable and learned member for Indi what is the test of the meaning of a word ? That honorable and learned member is as competent as any other honorable member of the House to grasp the constitutional gravity of this question, and I would ask him what is the test of the meaning of the word “ request “ - what is the test of the power of the Senate ? Should we not judge it according to what could be done by the Senate in case of resistance?
– The meaning of the word is to be tested by the construction of the Constitution.
– How should any law be tested? No matter how lamb-like it may be in its phraseology, the force of a law is to be tested by the power at the back of it. I would ask the honorable and learned member to test the meaning of the word “ request,” by asking what is the power at the back of the Senate? Have they not the absolute power to throw out this measure? Could not they reject it a second time ; and would not the second rejection of the Bill be followed by a dissolution of both Houses of Parliament i Would not the members of the Senate then be able to go back to the States and contend that they had done their duty as representatives of the individual States - not as representatives of the people proportionately - in throwing out the measure.
– That is a very powerful process of suggestion surely.
– I know it is, but if the honorable member studies the history of the inclusion of the word “ request” in the Constitution, he would see that it was adopted owing to the constitutional arguments raised against the adoption of the term “amend.” It was inserted merely in order to placate those who had raised objections to the word “amend.” The meaning of a word is not to be tested by mere etymology, but by the constitutional power at the back of it.
– The honorable and learned member does not suggest that the Senate would abuse the power given to them by the Constitution.
– I know what I should do if I were a member of the Senate.
An Honorable Member. - That is (mother thing.
– It may be ; but I do not suppose I am a rara avis.
– The honorable and learned member is.
– I do not know whether the Minister intends to be complimentary or not, but I do not pretend to be sui generis. There are plenty of men in the Senate who are just as capable, who have just as much resolution, as much selfreliance, and as much constitutional knowledge as I have, and as much, or more, determination’ to uphold their rights than we have to uphold them for them.
– Does the honorable and learned member believe that the people of Australia would have accepted equal representation in the Senate, if they had known that the Senate would be regarded as possessing equal power with this House ?
– I do not intend to enter upon a fruitless inquiry as to what the people of Australia would or might have done. I contend, however, that if the smaller States had been told that whatever compromise was entered into between the two parties in the House of Representatives would be held to be binding upon them in the Senate, they would never have entered into the federal compact.
– The representatives in the Senate voted as individuals upon this question.
– Yes, they voted as individuals, no doubt, but as individuals representing States. The six members of the Senate for New South Wales had no greater voting power than had the six representatives from Tasmania.
– Quite so. But each representative voted as a separate individual. Mr. BRUCE SMITH. - Of course, unless we arrange to have automata in Parliament instead of men, we must have personal votes, but the question is : “ What is the representative value of each vote?” Here vrc have 26 members representing New South Wales, whilst for the State of Tasmania there are six. That is one way . in which we may test the value of the resolutions arrived at in this House in connexion with -the Tariff. The circumstances in the other Chamber are entirely different. The Tariff has not only to pass through a Chamber in which the people are proportionately represented, but through a House in which the States are equally represented. Are we now to turn round, and say that we intend to insist upon the Tariff, as it has been passed by the representatives of the people in a proportionate sense, and that we ignore the requests of the House in which the States are equally represented - that we deny the right of the States as represented in the Senate to exercise the power to throw out the measure if they do not approve of it ?
– When have we said that 1
– I admit that we have not said it yet, and I am urging the committee not to say it. I am not dealing with this matter in a party spirit, but I think I am logically finding fault with the course adopted by the Minister for Trade and Customs. The Minister is superintending the passage of a measure with which we have been occupied from October in one year until August in another, and which may possibly require two months’ further deliberation, and he approaches the committee at a time of crisis between the two
An Honorable Member. - Where is the crisis 1
– We have arrived at a stage at which we have to determine whether we intend to admit the right of the Senate to amend the Tariff or to deny that right, in a constitutional sense, and refuse to consider the requests.
– Is not the real question whether we are to make such alterations as we think right and just ? We are not ignoring any of the rights of the Senate, and we should not submit to have our rights ignored either.
– Of course, we should do nothing until the committee has actually voted. We usually talk over these matters before we arrive at a decision. Although my manner may appear a little emphatic and aggressive, I am endeavouring to add force to my arguments, in order that the committee may not ignore’ the issue before us. This is not merely a matter of free-trade and protection, but a serious constitutional juncture, and even honorable member had a perfect right to expect the Minister to indicate the attitude that the Government would take up.
– The honorable and learned member is asking the Government to state what they would do if certain events occurred.
– No. I ask nothing of the kind. Inasmuch as the Government have intimated to honorable members and to the country what they propose to do regarding every request of the Senate - not to ask the House to decide - they should have given us some indication as to the attitude they intended to assume. As the honorable member for W entworth has pointed out, they have practically ignored all the substantial requests of the Senate.
– Then why not raise objections to the Government proposals upon the items 1
– The honorable member was not here when I commenced to speak. I began by saying that I was a little surprised that the Minister in charge of the measure had not paid us the compliment of telling us why, at such a grave constitutional stage of our proceedings, the Government had rejected 50 or more, of the most substantial requests of the Senate, and had given way only upon the minor requests, beginning, as the honorable member for Wentworth said, with a comma.
– The Minister will be able to give the honorable and learned member the information he asks for on the individual items.
– Surely the honorable member does not consider that we should have been debarred from discussing the general question. I desire now to say a word or two with regard to the so-called compromises. This matter has not yet been mentioned in the debate, but I expect that a good deal will be said regarding, it. It is stated that compromises were arrived at with regard to certain items. But I would ask, by whom 1
– By the two parties in this House.
– The protectionists did not give away anything more than they could help.
– Nor did the other side.
– I have no sympathy whatever with the party view of this question, and I am endeavouring to avoid, making any remarks which might bear a party complexion. I was endeavouring to elicit some expression of opinion as to why the so-called compromises between the two parties in this Chamber should be regarded as binding upon the members of the Senate. No one had authority to bind the Senate in any way.
– There was no compromise even in this House.
– In my opinion, compromises were made in this Chamber.
– Then it must have been, between the honorable and learned member and two or three other honorable members on this side, and the Government on the other side. The members of the Opposition generally were no parties to any such compromises.
– My contention is that even supposing compromises were made in this Chamber - and my opinion is that they were - they had no binding effect upon the Senate. Who has the power to bind the Senate 1 Has the Minister for Trade and Customs the power to bind senators who support protectionist principles, or has the acting leader of the Opposition power to bind honorable senators who hold free-trade views ? Would not senators be utterly unfitted, for their positions if they gave up their rights as representing the States, because an agreement had been made between honorable members representing the people of Australia proportionately ? The idea of a compromise arrived at in this Chamber having any binding effect upon the Senate is ludicrous, and no one who had the slightest acquaintance with the elements of the Constitution would contend that ari agreement made in this Chamber, in which the States are proportionately represented, could be binding upon the Senate, which stands upon an entirely different footing. To me the present moment is pregnant with very important consequences, because unless this House is prepared to recognise the right of the Senate in its State representation to have an important voice in the framing of this Tariff we may depend upon it th,at we are in danger of a very grave crisis in the history of the Commonwealth. If we credit the members of the other branch of the Legislature with the same determination that we ourselves possess–
– It appears that we credit them with a great deal more.
-I do not know whether in the little visits which the honorable and learned member has made to the other Chamber he has been impressed with the fact that it possesses more determination than does this House.
– Evidently the honorable and learned member credits it with having a great deal more determination.
– Apparently we are to give way because the Senate will not do so.
– I am not proposing that this House should give way. First of all, I say that the Government ought to have explained to the committee why they have assented only to trivial requests made by the Senate, and ignored every one of its substantial requests. It was due to honorable members that they should have an opportunity of discussing the general constitutional question, but that opportunity would have been denied them had not the acting leader of the Opposition moved the Chairman out of the chair, which in itself was a very irregular proceeding. I would further point out that in discussing this matter the mere question of free-trade versus protection is not the only one to be considered. We must be prepared to compromise fairly with the Senate, and if we insist upon all the substantial duties agreed to in this committee, and give way only upon trivial matters, we shall be creating, consciously or unconsciously, all the elements of a grave constitutional crisis.
– I do not think that honorable members generally can accuse the Government of any disposition to flout the wishes of the committee. I told the acting leader of the Opposition yesterday that I was prepared upon the first item of the Senate’s requests to make a general statement, without introducing any unnecessary matter, but I understood that he did not desire that course to be adopted, and consequently I proceeded in the way I have.
– I did not desire any long speeches to be made.
– I took it that the honorable member did not desire any general debate upon the first request of the other Chamber. Having come down prepared to adopt a different course, I altered it to-day for the reasons I have mentioned. When early this afternoon the honorable member desired to change his mind, I rose for the purpose of complying with his request. What more could I do? I take no objection to what followed, because in a matter of this sort the general wish of the committee ought to prevail, and I do believe that wish is that we should deal with the urgent business demanding our attention without unnecessary talk, recognisingtwo things - first, that the requests of the Senate are entitled to every respectful consideration, and, secondly, that it is highly desirable - seeing the long period during which we have been engaged upon the fiscal debate - that this question should be concluded as soon as possible, in order that the commercial community may know where they really stand, and that business may proceed upon its ordinary lines. Now what is the position ? I am not going to introduce any unnecessary controversial matter. God forbid that anything of that sort should be introduced ! The public is crying out for a settlement of the terms of the Tariff, and the sooner finality is reached the better. He who, at this stage, introduces into the consideration of this question unnecessary controversial matters which may have the effect of disturbing a happy arrangement, and delaying its early settlement, will undoubtedly be blamable in the highest degree. We propose to do nothing of the sort. I do not propose to trespass in the slightest degree upon the question of what are the rights of the Senate. We have the requests of that Chamber before us, and it is for honorable members to indicate by their acts how they regard them. Weshallgive those requests every courteous attention and consideration, and where we believe that they constitute an improvement upon the Bill, shall adopt them ; but where we do not believe that, we shall refuse to agree to them. That is the simple question, and, it seems to me, the only question, which we have to consider.
– What does the Minister mean by “ an improvement in the Bill?”
– I mean an improvement - a better thing for the community. We stand here in the public interest. The Senate also believes that it is acting in the public interest. Under ordinary circumstances - if this were a case where the Senate had not the right of request, but of actual amendment - we should simply address ourselves to a consideration of the question whether the amendments made were right and proper. If they were we should adopt them, but if not, we should refuse to do so. Is the position in any way altered by the fact that in this particular instance some limitation attaches to the power of the Senate ? Certainly not ! It is true that the other Chamber cannot amend this Bill, but it can request us to. make amendments. But the fact that it has a more limited power in this connexion constitutes no reason why we should adopt any unusual course. When we receive amendments from the Senate, whether they be in the form of direct amendments or of requests for amend? ments, our course is perfectly plain. Letus consider them upon their merits and act accordingly. Where we are satisfied that requests ought to be complied with, we shall comply with them cheerfully and,gracefully ; but if we are not so satisfied we shall refuse to do so, trusting to the good, sense of the other House to see- which, is the better course. That is the practice which is adopted in the case ot direct amendments made by the Senate, and there is no reason whatever for departing from it in this particular instance. There may be some who desire to -see- a con’ flict between the two Houses. We are not in the slightest degree provoking it when we say that we shall adopt the usual course, and treat the requests of the other Chamber as though they were amendments. In acting thus we believe that we are doing that which will commend itself to the good sense of a majority of the Senate and of. the public generally. Why should we depart from what is fair and right? What does the acting leader of the Opposition say? He says that the Senate has made 100 requests and that we propose to agree to only about one-half of them. I do. not care whether there are 100 or 200 requests by the other Chamber. It is not a question of proportion, but of’ whether those requests commend themselves to. our good sense of what is proper under the circumstances. Did any honorable member ever hear any proposition so ridiculous as that laid down by the acting leader of the- Opposition ? In certain cases it might be too much to give way upon 10 pep,cent. of the Senate’s requests, whilst in others- it might not be too much to yield upon 90 per .cent.. We have to consider the merits of the requests before us. Let us- then address ourselves to the consideration of each and every one of them. For the acting leader of the Opposition to talk as he did was simply ludicrous. “Look,” he said, “ the Govern- ment- agree to this, that, and the other, which are only trivial Mattel’s.” What does he suggest that we ought to have done? Ought we, as regards trifling requests, to refuse to accede to them ? Nothing of the sort. lt is a mockery, a delusion, and a snare to point to a number of requests, and exclaim-“ The Government have assented to these, but as regards others they have done, nothing of the sort.” We did not introduce this comparison to the committee. It was reserved to the honorable member, with his arithmetical ability, to indulge-in such a farcical analysis. I hold that we ought not to be expected to examine these requests from the point, of. view of- the number of assents and dissents given to them. The question which- we have to consider is what is right, fair, and. proper, and. nothing else: This is a case which- is peculiar in itself, Many, a Bill would, pass through this House which would not be subject to half the keen scrutiny and criticism to which this Bill has been, subjected-. In an ordinary measure many things might have been overlooked, and many forgotten ; but this Bill has - been thrashed out with parties fairly represented, and I am inclined to think that a fair compromise was. arranged - a compromise with which the public would have been satisfied, and which would have been for the good of the community. There is not a line or letter in this measure which has not been practically voted upon by the whole of this committee. No item has been forgotten, because: there has been a settlement sometimes by & majority, but, in far more instances, by compromise .and agreement. This Bill was forwarded to the Senate with the imprimatur of: the House of Representatives upon it to a degree possessed by no other measure, when one reflects upon the keenness- of the criticism to which it was subjected. Now that it has been returned, to this Chamber what is the position 1 We have previously voted and agreed upon these items. But I say, -so far as that is concerned- i- “ Do not let us hesitate to further scrutinize the Bill, and every request proffered by the Senate.” If we find good, fair, honest reasons why we should reverse the decision at which we previously arrived, by all means let us- adopt that course. But having the Bill before us- as we had it previously, it is the1 duty of those who wish to secure an: alteration to establish their claim to i6- not by threat, because I deprecate threats being, indulged in either by this House or by the Senate - but by honest, fair argument, having in view the good of the community. If they can establish their claim, let us vote for the alteration suggested, bub do not let us, from any fear of consequences which might be inconvenient to ourselves, depart from any line- or letter of the Bill in which we believe we have honestly declared, for that which is wholly for the good of the community.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I have listened with attention to the speech made by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and I regret that when introducing the requests* made by the Senate,- he did not make a full explanation of the reasons which actuated the Government in proposing to reject some and to accept others. The right honorable gentleman, and some of those who support the Government, have endeavoured to show that when the Tariff was last before us honorable members of the Opposition accepted certain compromises.
– The Government was uncompromising.
– That is so ; ib was only when they were forced by the power of honorable members of the Opposition that they conceded certain proposals made by us. In many cases it was proposed from this side that articles upon which high duties had been imposed should be placed on the free list. When such a proposal was rejected, another amendment was moved that the duty should be reduced to 10 per cent., and if that proposal failed, a still further amendment was moved to reduce the duty to 15 per cent. In some of those cases we were successful, bub can it be said that because the Opposition used every constitutional means to secure a reduction of some of the iniquitous duties proposed by the Government, and were forced to accept a compromise, the Senate should be bound by those compromises ?
– Did not the Opposition accept some compromises without a division ?
– Even if that is so, it must be remembered that in those cases we had tried without success to remove the duties, and failing, that, to reduce them to 10 per cent.. la those circumstances we accepted a proposal that they should be reduced to 15 per cent., but we did nob surrender our desire that they should be remitted. 42 i.i 2
– Did not the honorable member accept those decisions as the determination of the committee ?
– I did so only because I was compelled, and not because I believed in them. I was hopeful that honorable members of the- Senate would be true to the people who had. sent them there, and that they would vote as they have voted in many cases, for a reduction of the duties.
– The honorable member should be true to- his own House.
– I have heard my honorable friends opposite contending months ago that the protectionists have a big majority in the Senate.
-. - Did I say so ?
– Honorable members behind the Government said so. When the leader of the Opposition referred upon one- occasion to the number of free-traders and protectionists in the two Houses of this Parliament, his contention was contradicted by honorable members behind the Government. It was only by a traitorous sacrifice of principle on the part of one or two- honorable members of the Senate that the Government were able to carry some of their proposals. The Minister for Trade and Customs has referred to what he calls a happy arrangement. Has he shown any disposition to arrive atany happy arrangement ? How many requests of any importance have the Government indicated bli eh” willingness bo accept ? Time after time reference has been made to the deplorable condition ofmany of the settlers in- the interior owing bo the drought, and appeals have been made to the Government to reduce the fodder duties or to suspend them for the time being. But the Government shirked their responsibility. They said - “ We have no constitutional, way of making any alteration of the duties on hay and straw and other agricultural products ; but the matter can be dealt with by the Governments of the States affected.” The Minister for Trade and’ Customs has a constitutional power to afford- some relief by accepting the requests made by the- Senate that certainagricultural products shall be free. Has he availed, himself of that power-? No ! Has he shown any. desire to help those unfortunate settlers, many of whom have been-, or- are being, ruined. by the drought? No-! Does- the- Tariff bear any evidence of sympathy on the part of the Government for the struggling farmers and settlers? It does not. When a moderate request is made by the Senate that the duty on mining and certain agricultural machinery shall be. reduced from 15 to 10 per cent, it is rejected with scorn by the Government. They do not desire to give any consideration to the mining and agricultural interests of Australia, but they are prepared to help manufacturers who have been protected in many cases to the extent of 35 per cent, under the Victorian Tariff for the last 30 years, by placing 20 per cent, and 25 per cent, duties upon the articles which they manufacture, and exempting their machinery and tools of trade. For the farmers who are struggling against the drought, and for the miners who have been struggling under a reduction in the price of metals and consequent depression, the Government have done nothing. What is a natural protection to the manufacturers of Victoria - the distance from foreign ports - is a natural drawback to the miners and agriculturists, who have to compete in the markets of the world. Has the right honorable gentleman brought forward any justification for the unfair treatment which he has meted out to the mining and agricultural industries ?
– The honorable member did not think of the primary producers when he voted for a grant of £10,000 to the Governor-General.
– I voted against the proposed allowance of £8,000 a year to the Governor-General, but I voted for the allowance of a lump sum of £10,000, because of an undertaking which had been made by the Government. I shall always be true to any undertaking made in a fair and honorable way. The. Votes and Proceedings will show that 80 per cent, of the honorable members of this House shared my view of the matter. The Government have endeavoured to show that a great loss of revenue would be likely to arise from the acceptance of the requests made by the Senate. They pointed out on a former occasion that by reducing various duties we should be placing the Commonwealth in what might be almost an insolvent condition. But I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that one of the supposed free-traders - one of those who received the support of the free-trade party because of his promise to uphold the principles of free-trade - agreed to a protectionist duty of 30 per cent, on boots.
– Is it fair to attack a member of another place 1
– We have been attacked by the very honorable member to whom I refer. That honorable gentleman attempted to justify the inconsistent and unjustifiable course of voting for a duty of 30 per cent, on boots because of the action of certain “ so-called free-traders “ - that was the way in which he referred to those who had voted for the remission of the duties on- tea and kerosene. I voted for and took an active part in the remission of those duties. Why did I do so? I explained my action at the time. Notwithstanding all the re,ductions we had previously made in the Tariff, and we were then nearly at the end of it and could make no further reductions of importance, the ‘ Treasurer came down with a statement in which he estimated that he would receive in a normal year nearly £500,000 more than he had previously anticipated and had estimated as necessary to balance the finances of the Commonwealth. I felt, therefore, that I was justified in voting against these duties, because there was then no justification for placing additional burdens upon the people. I, therefore, contend that the President of the Senate had no justification whatever for voting for a protective duty on’ boots, and then for giving as the excuse for his action that some free-trade members had voted against the imposition of the duties upon tea and kerosene. I do not propose to deal with the constitutional question. It is not the question at issue at the present time. When discussing the Commonwealth Bill I pointed out, as has been pointed out to-night by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, that if we were not very careful there might be some trouble between the two Houses. I am glad to say that, as the Senate is at present constituted, it is composed of a majority who think as I do upon the fiscal issue. The Government, by proposing to concede some of the requests made by the Senate, have admitted at once that that Chamber has power to make suggestions, and I therefore see no reason for raising the constitutional question at this stage. The complaint I have to make against the Government is that they have not shown the compromising spirit which many expected them to show in dealing with the various requests submitted by the Senate.
– The honorable member must nob forget that we have the power of nob accepting the requests from the Senate.
– I know we have; but what comes after?
– They have the last word.
– They have the last word, and where then is the power to which the honorable and learned member for Corinella refers ? In dealing with the Constitution in the first instance, all these matters were gone into and fully discussed, but we have the Act now as adopted by the people of Australia, and we have to be guided by it. The constitutional question is not raised, and, judging by the action of the Government, is not likely bo be raised ab this juncture, and I therefore fail to see any necessity for dealing with it. I referred just now to the treatment by the Government of the farmers and miners as compared with their treatment of the protected manufacturers of Victoria. We proposed to reduce the duties upon apparel, but we were unsuccessful. Honorable members opposite fixed the duties at 25 per cent. The Senate have made a request to reduce those duties, but have the Government agreed to that request ?
– As regards apparel the % Senate practically admit that they are wrong.
– I have not seen that admission yet. Here we have the Government proposing heavy duties upon’ the clothing required by the people, as though with the drought and other difficulties they have not already sufficient burdens to bear, W e have a proposal before Parliament at the present time to give a bonus to private individuals, plus protection. In view of the bonus proposals of the Government, the Senate have made requests for the reduction or abolition of certain customs duties proposed by the Government. The Government propose to disagree with those requests because they want to give the bonuses proposed, plus heavy protective duties. Is that the way in which requests submitted by the Senate should _ be met ? I think the honorable member for Wentworth was perfectly justified in taking the course he did in moving the Chairman out of the Chair. There was really no other course open to the honorable gentleman. In view of the fact that over 100 requests have been submitted by the Senate in connexion with the Tariff, and in view also of the fact that the Government have been engaged during the last fortnight in securing financial returns, bearing upon the Tariff items under discussion, we had a right to expect that members of this committee would be accorded the courtesy to which they are entitled, and that the Government would have submitted the information they have obtained as to the probable effect of the alterations of the Tariff involved in the requests submitted by the Senate. We had a right also to expect that the Government would lead the committee upon this question, and submit the reasons which actuate them in proposing to approve or disapprove of the Senate’s requests. Have we had any sign of leadership in connexion with this question ? We have found the Minister for Trade and Customs merely submitting a document showing that the Government propose to agree or disagree with the requests of the Senate. We have been furnished with no financial returns, and no explanation has been given to the committee or to. the country. The acting leader of the Opposition was forced to take the course he did in order to obtain information. It was only by determined action in forcing the Government to state their position that we were able to get any information from the Minister for Trade and Customs. Like other honorable members, I desire to shorten the session as much as possible. I do not think many honorable members wish to remain in Melbourne longer than they can help. It is only the duty which we owe to the people that com.pels us to stop here. I feel, however, that it is consistent with that duty to endeavour to bring about an early recess. But I fully expected that the Government would show a conciliatory spirit and a desire to compromise in connexion with the requests which have been made by the Senate. Have they done so ? As has been pointed out by the acting leader of the Opposition, they propose to agree with very few of the requests which have been submitted, and they give no consideration whatever to the great primary producers of this country. I feel, that it will be our duty, even at great personal inconvenience and sacrifice, to endeavour to secure a larger measure of justice than is proposed by the Government for the interests to which I have referred. I have spoken warmly, because I believe that the Government have not treated honorable members and the country in a fair spirit.
I do not intend to debate the general question further, but it will be our duty later
On to state our reasons for disagreeing with the course suggested by the Government. There is no necessity to introduce personal matter into the debate. Though we have had a big fight, and have sometimes said hardthings, I hope we shall always conduct our debates as gentlemen should. If we are defeated in the fight we must accept our defeat, so far as this Parliament isconcerned, and reserve to ourselves the right to fight the question in the country, when I hope our strength will be so augmented that we shall be enabled to carry on the contest more successfully than we have been able to do in the past.
– I was surprised that the Minister for Trade and Customs, although so very vigorously repudiating what the honorable and learned member for Parkes had said in some respects, should altogetherhave ignored his principal contention with regard to the relative positions of the two Houses in dealing with this Tariff. The Government is not asked to consider a possible situation. What is desired is that some consideration should be given to circumstances which haveactually occurred - to the requests which have been made by the other Chamber in connexion with particular items in the Tariff.It is idle to argue that these requests can be dealt with in the off-hand manner suggested by the Minister for Trade and Customs. Although theyare called “requests,” we must all recognise that they are defacto amendments; that if it comes to a struggle between this and the other Chamber, the last word is to be said by the other Chamber, and we are, therefore, in duty bound to consider our attitude towards their requests in view of a possible constitutional crisis. I am one of those who, takingthe cuef rom the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs, declared on the hustings in favour of a compromise between the two existing fiscal systems. When the Tariff was brought down I was extremely sorry to find that no attempt had been made by the Government to carry out that compromise, and accordingly I was obliged to fight for what I considered a fair compromise in the circumstances. I regret very much that the Government are still taking up this extreme attitude. I had hoped that the majority of the House, as led by the Government, would have given some consideration to therequests of the majority of the members of the Senate. That, I take it, is not only a sensible course, but is evidently in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution. I am again reduced to the necessity - an unpleasant necessity in some respects - of doing what I can to bring the schedule into accordance with the principles of compromise which I enunciated on the hustings, and which I believe the Government should have attempted to put in practice. I may be told that I have a duty to this House to perform, but I have a higher duty still, and that is to the people who sent me here. While the Government are talcing on their shoulders a responsibility which, to my mind, is a very serious one, I shall have no hesitation in endeavouring, so far as lies within my power, to make the schedule approximate to the compromise which the people of the Commonwealth were repeatedly promised.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs spoke of the Senate’s requests for the amendment of the Tariff as being entitled to respectful consideration, and further on he showed the respectful consideration which he is prepared to give to those requests by intimating that this House must show that it will adhere to its own ideas, and that each request must be dealt with on its merits. There can be no objection to dealing with the requests on their merits, but, at the same time, there must be a spirit of compromise enteringinto their consideration if we are to arrive at anything like finality in our dealings with the Senate. The Minister must recognise that, if we have rights to uphold, if we have the duty cast upon us of vindicating our own opinions, equally that responsibility belongs to the members of the Senate. The senators must be expected to hold their opinions with some degree of sincerity, and with some tenacity of purpose, and we cannot reasonably expect that we shallbe able to get all our own, way, andthat those whodiffer from us will merely recognise our superior wisdom or our superiornumbers, or perhaps recognise, what some honorable members may consider our superior position in the Constitution. We have reached a stage when a great deal of cautious statesmanship is required in managing the business of this House, and I do not think that the Government have shown any particular statesmanship in bringing matters forward for our consideration to-day. Of .course, I agree with the acting “leader of the Opposition that it -would be preposterous to expect the Government, as leaders of the House, to give all their opinions >away, to practically give the -Senate its own way in dealing with the Tariff, and they cannot be blamed for attempting to effect a compromise with that body. But the course they have followed has not been in the direction of compromise at all. As has been pointed out by one speaker after .another, the concessions which ‘are ‘to be made are ‘not real concessions. They -represent nothing very substantial, either in the way of revenue or in the way of consideration, from a fiscal point of view. On the ‘Contrary, it would appear as if the document which has been circulated had -been framed almost with a view to misleading the House and the country into tire belief that the Government are conceding -a great deal, while really they are conceding nothing. I -do not mean to insinuate that there is any deep-laid scheme of concealment, because such a thing could not be attempted on an intelligent public or on an intelligent Parliament, but it bears on its face the impress, at least, of having been framed for the purpose of making somebody believe that great concessions are being made when substantially none are made. We labour under a considerable disadvantage in speaking on such a motion as the acting leader of the Opposition has been forced to move, because it is hardly possible now to do justice ‘to a great subject of this kind. ‘It is a pity ‘that any objection was taken to a ministerial statement being made in an earlier part ;of the sitting, in which the Minister could have fairly indicated the policy of the .Government, and the reasons which had led to its- adoption. It would have contributed to the orderly discussion of a very grave subject if it had been introduced by a ministerial utterance which would have covered the whole ground of the proposals to be made to the committee, and which would have given us clear reasons for the course which the Government propose ‘to take. I do not intend to enter into any ‘discussion of the constitutional right of the Senate to make these requests, or of the constitutional right of this House to resist those requests, or to endeavour to obtain as much of its own way as it is possible to get. It is a good thing in .many respects that the Constitution permitted the rights of some of the States being maintained as .they have been by their representatives in the Senate. I have only to instance the very large and important St ite of Western Australia, with a gigantic industry on which its welfare depends. It is represented in this House by five members, and in the Senate, half the size of this one, by six members. In the Senate it was possible at least for the-industries and the welfare of the people of that great State to be adequately voiced by its representatives. Certainly the representatives of the State in this House ably championed the rights of its people. Four of its five representatives were able to speak with no uncertain sound as to thestate of public opinion. But, of course, four men could not be heard here with the same effect as a similar number could be heard in the House which represents the States as States. When a question so important to the interests of Western Australia as the proposed duty on mining machinery was discussed here, there was almost an unanimity of opinion on the part of its representatives. as to the objectionableness of that duty. But although there was practically that unanimity of opinion on their part, they were overborne b)7 numbers, who showed a disregard of the interests of a great State. In the Senate, however, they were able to have their views more emphatically voiced, and it is due to the Senate that its requests on behalf of the States it represents should be considered by this House not only respectfully, but very seriously.
– Let us get to the consideration of them.-
– I have no doubt that the honorable member is in a great hurry. It is a most remarkable thing that j all the talk from the other side to-night j comes by way of interjection. It has been almost impossible to break up the conspiracy ! of silence which has existed on the other i side during the afternoon. All we can get j are interjections. Indeed, for two hours this ! afternoon we could not get an indication cf ! the Government policy except by way of interjection. After half-a-dozen honorable members had spoken from the Opposition benches, the Minister for Trade and Customs did condescend to/make a few remarks, but they can hardly be called a Ministerial utterance. I do not think that he attempted for a moment to give anything like a clear and lucid statement of the Government policy. I was pointing out one of the advantages which accrued from having a representation of the States as States in one House. I am not going to defend the principle of equal representation in the Senate. Nor am I inclined to go to the length to which the honorable and learned member for Parkes did in his championing of the rights of the Senate. But at the same time I submit, as one of the advantages in connexion with this form of Constitution, that a great State, which had an important industry at stake, was able in a most effective” way to have its interests represented in one House, while those interests, though ably represented here, were overborne by numbers and opinion. I think that we all came into this Parliament imbued with the idea that we have to consider the interests of all the States. This is not merely a Commonwealth, but a union of the States, and one of the great services that the Senate has been able to render to the Commonwealth in this very early stage of its existence, has been to prevent a ruthless disregard of the interests of the various States. Having put in that chock, and prevented this House by its majority from ruthlessly disregarding the interests of some of the component parts of the union, I submit that we ought not only respectfully, but very seriously, to consider the Senate’s recommendations before we send them back as the Minister proposes to do. We shall have frequent opportunities of referring to some of these requests, and to some of the proposals of the Minister as the business proceeds. I hope that the committee will take the Senate’s recommendations into its very serious consideration, remembering that the Commonwealth exists for the purpose of promoting the interests of every State in the union.
Division I. - Stimulants.
Item 1, Ale,porter …. in bottle, per gallon,1s. 6d.
Request.- That the duty be reduced to1s. 3d.
– I move-
That the amendment requested be not made.
The proposed reduction of the duty upon ale, porter, and other similar commodities, was a matter to which we gave a good deal of consideration upon a former occasion, and there was then a substantial majority in favour of retaining the rates proposed by the Government. I do not know any good reason for reducing those rates. We want revenue, and beer made abroad is a fair subject upon which to levy an import duty. The rates existing in the Tariff are not in excess of those which obtain in a number of the States Tariffs. We are satisfied that if they are reduced the Commonwealth will lose a considerable amount of revenue. It is difficult to calculate exactly what that loss will be, but I think that we are justified in putting it at about £20,000. At the same time the consumer is not likely to benefit by the reduction of the duty. There might be a larger consumption of imported beer if the duty were reduced, but it would not make up for the loss of revenue which will be created by reducing our present receipts by one-sixth. Furthermore, an increase in the consumption of imported beer would probably affect in some degree the consumption of locally-made beer, though, as a general rule, the two articles do not compete against each other.
– I do not propose to deal with the Senate’s requests on party lines. I think that we should do all we can to get our proposals accepted by the other Chamber, and then stand or fall by them. I propose, wherever a compromise is necessary, to agree to it, with a reasonable hope that we may be able to agree to a sufficient number of requests to be able to carry the measure through the. other House.
– I agree with the acting leader of the Opposition that any objections which we have to make to the course suggested by the Government should be stated as briefly and as concisely as possible, because I desire to see the termination of this Tariff question. When the question was before us on a former occasion, I desired to obtain the reduction of the duties upon ale and beer,and failed to do so. But results which we could only foretell then arc now appreciable, and I am about to place before the committee figures which show that, so far as New South Wales is concerned, the heavy’ rates which have been adopted have tended to reduce importation, and thus to diminish revenue. It may be said by some that if the importation of beer were reduced Australian brewers would benefit by the larger consumption of the locally-brewed beer.
But one of the largest of our brewers has informed me that he has no objection to the reduction of the import duty, because . it would not affect in the least degree the consumption of the locally-brewed, imported beer and locally-brewed beer being ! consumed by different classes of persons. From the 9th October, 1901, to date, 270,000 gallons of beer in bottles, and 263,000 gallons in bulk have been imported into New South Wales. It would not be fair to compare the importations for that period with the importations between October, 1900, and July, 1901, because the latter, were unusually heavy, in anticipation of an alteration of duties; but I find that between 9th October, 1899, and 28th July, 1900, when there was no disturbing fiscal question to affect importations, the quantity of bottled beer imported was 445,000 gallons, and of bulk beer 348,000 gallons.
– What was the importation for the intervening period ? The loading up which occured then may account for the discrepancy.
– The importations show a deficiency compared with a normal year of 173,000 gallons of bottled beer, and 85,000 gallons of bulk beer during the 41 weeks under the new Tariff conditions. As regards bulk beer, it must be remembered that importations are never made largely ahead of demand, because of the liability of the beer to lose condition if kept in stock for any time. Therefore large stocks of bulk beer are never held. The bonded stocks amount to 221,000 gallons of bottled beer, and 193,000 gallons of bulk beer, which is practically a six months’ supply, showing that the consumption has been much less than the importers anticipated. An import duty affects the consumption of the article on which it is imposed, in proportion to its percentage upon the original cost, and where a duty has been imposed for protective reasons, we must consider whether the rate is not unnecessarily high, even on that ground. Now the selling price of bottled beer in Sydney is lis. per dozen, and, deducting 3s. for the duty, 3s. 2d. for the freight, insurances, import, landing, and delivery charges, and ls. 3d. for packing, the net return to the shipper is 3s. 7d. a dozen. By the same method of calculation the net return to the shipper for bulk beer can be shown to be £1 17s. per hogshead of 50 gallons.
The rate of duty now in force is equivalent to 3s. per dozen bottles - the contents being two gallons - or S4 per cent. on bottled beer, and on bulk beer it is ls. per gallon, or 133 per cent. Those are enormously high ad valorem duties, and I feel sure that if they were reduced to the rates requested by the ‘Senate an amount of revenue as large as, and possibly larger, than that now obtained would be produced without injuring the local brewers. I see no good reason why we should refuse to comply with the request, and I must therefore oppose the motion.
– Whilst my sympathies are generally very much in the direction of the requests made by the Senate, I intend to vote against them when they conflict with my judgment. I regard ale and porter as fair subjects of taxation, and think that the duty should be fixed at the rate which will yield the largest amount of revenue. Generally speaking, when taxes are reduced they afford relief to the consumer, but I believe that, in this instance, the merchant will derive the largest amount of benefit from any reduction that may be made, and that, except in very few instances, the actual consumer will derive little or no advantage. I do not regard the requests of the Senate from the point of view of protection or free-trade, but with a strong desire to see the Tariff controversy brought to a close as soon as .possible I hope that a reasonable spirit of compromise will be displayed on both sides of the Chamber, and that in cases where the judgment of honorable members may be in the balance, they will cast their votes in favour of acceding to the requests of the Senate, It is desirable that we should dispose of the Tariff as speedily as possible, so that the trading public throughout the Commonwealth may once again be able to pursue their .business free from the harassing influences of constant changes in duties. I feel compelled to support the Government in this case, because I do not think that the public interest would be served by the reduction of the duty.
-The question we have to consider is what rate of duty will yield the maximum amount of revenue, and I think that the import returns show that, as a result of the high duty imposed by the Tariff, importations of beer, and particularly of lager beer, have been materially reduced. It is true that this has led to an increasein the consumption of locallybrewed beer; but as the excise duty is only 2d. or 3d. per gallon as compared with the import duty of1s. 6d. per gallon, the revenue has suffered to the extent of something like 2d. for every bottle of the imported article displaced by locally-produced beer. By unduly encouraging the production of the local article wehave led thepublic to consume less imported beer, and the revenue has diminished accordingly.If the excise duty were raised I should not object to retain the import duty at1s.6d. per gallon, but until the Government assure us that they propose to act in this direction, we should impose a moderate duty which would yield the maximum amount of revenue. This duty was discussed in the Senate purely from the point of view of revenue, and it was considered that the reduction to1s. 3d. per gallon would lead to an increase in the receipts from this source. A large quantity of lager beer brewed in Melbourne, is exported to South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania, and those States are credited only with the excise duty of 2d. or 3d. per gallon, as compared with the duty Of 1s. 6d. per gallon on imported beer. This will make a very considerable difference to the smaller States. Unless we are prepared to throw away a large amount of revenueandto unduly foster the lager beer industry, we should accede to the request of the Senate. The local brewers do not require protection, because the Poster BrewingCompany report that they are exporting largely to South Africa, in competition with the brewers of America and Europe.
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- The honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Hartnoll, said that the consumer would not be benefited by the reduction of the duty, but I would point out that the consumer has been affected exactly to theextent towhich the duty has been increased.
Mr.Watson. - He is not affected to anything like the extent of the duty.
– Those who sell bottled beer by the dozen have raised their prices exactly to the extent to which the duty has increased the cost to them.
– I can buy McEwan’s ale in Sydney at1s. per bottle.
– Those who retail bottled, beer by the dozen have altered their prices to the extent of the increase in the duty, and I am informed that some, at least, of the hotel proprietors have also raised their tariff. No doubt, if the duty is reduced, a corresponding reduction will be made in the prices charged to the consumers, but, in any case, a duty which amounts to from 84 to 130 per cent. might very well be reduced to ‘the extent required by theSenate.
– I do not regard this duty from a protectionist stand-point because I do not believe that the local ‘product has supplanted the imported articleto any appreciable extent. Those who drink English beer will not drink the colonial product while the English beer is available. The locally-brewedlager beer might, to some extent, displace the imported article, but unfortunatelyfor the health of our people, no very strong disposition has been shown by them to substitute lager for the heavier English beers. I believe that the revenue derived Prom the higher duty will be larger than that from the reduced impost.
Mr.Kingston. - All the experts agree on that point.
– The revenue derived from the beer duty in Tasmania was less by onefourth than the amount estimated.
– The Tasmanian brewers are in a better positionto compete with the English brewers than are those in any other State in the Commonwealth, because the water and climate in Tasmania offerspecial facilities for producing a beer closely approaching that brewed in the old country. It is estimated that a reduction of 3d. per gallon would involve a loss of revenue amounting to between £22,000 and £23,000 per annum. Those who desire English beer will not be deterredfrom obtaining it by a slight increase in the price, and, further, it must be rememberedthat by far the larger quantityof English beer consumed in Australia is drawn from the cask, and is not the subject of any increased charge to the consumer. Several of thelarger hotels in Sydney have not increased the price of bottled beer to the consumer, but probably in stores where it is sold by the dozen the full amount of the duty has been added. To those, however,who merely purchase a bottle of beer or a glass of beer the price has not been enhanced. I think that we are likely to derive more revenue from a duty of1s. 6d. per gallon than from a rate of1s. 3d. per gallon and therefore I shall support the Government in refusing to make theamendment requested by the Senate.
– I agree with those who believe that a reduction in this rate will be productive >of more revenue. In support of my contention I may mention that in 1 900 the duty upon bottled beer in Victoria -was ls. 3d. per gallon, and upon bulk lOd.per gallon. I find that in that yean” the- quantity imported in bulk -was 74,700 gallons, whilst ‘that imported in bottle was 523,952 gallons. In addition, 19,84.1 gallons of.sugar beer were imported, or .a total, after allowing for re-exports, of 547,-33S gallons, which produced a revenue of £31,959.
– During ‘the past nine months the revenue collected upon ale and porter .in Victoria amounts ‘to £33,000.
– And that despite the stocking-up which took place in anticipation of increased duties.
– In New South Wales, where “the duties were 9d. -per gallon upon bottled beer, and 6d. per gallon upon bulk, or slightly more than half those of Victoria, the total -quantity of beer imported, after allowing for re-exports, was 1,298,000 gallons, which produced a revenue of £46,000. It will therefore take a lot to convince me thata high duty would not reduce the consumption of imported beer. I would further point out that upon every gallon of colonial beer which is consumed in lieu of the imported -article we get very little revenue. I am confident that the imposition of a .higher rate of duty will, to some extent, increase the consumption of colonial beer, and, therefore, decrease that of the imported. It stands to reason that it must reduce the revenue derivable from this source. I shall, therefore, vote in favour of the acceptance of the Senate’s request.
Sir WILLIAM MCMILLAN (Wentworth). - I am satisfied that if we compare the duties which formerly operated upon ale and porter in the various -States and strike an average, it will be found that we have imposed a very :high rate indeed. Of course, this is purely a question of revenue, and I hold that if we impose a duty which is unduly high, its operation must either increase the price of the article or reduce its consumption. In respect of this line upon the Tariff, the Government have taken about the highest scale of duties to be found in any of the States as their basis. I think, from a revenue and financial point of view, we ought to make the amendment requested by the Senate.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).I listened carefully to the arguments advanced by the honorable member for North Sydney, and I do not think he succeeded in making out a case in favour of acceding to the Senate’s request. -Of course he showed that there ‘has been a falling off in the consumption of imported beer during a certain period in New South “Wales, if not in other states, and he has also told me privately that an increase, has taken place in the price of bottled beer to customers who purchase it by the dozen. We have, further, the assurance of many honorable members that the cost has not been increased to the great bulk of the consumers. In some hotels there has been no increase in the price of imported beer retailed over the counter. It appears to me that, as a result of “the operation of this duty, persons who are well able to pay, have had to contribute a little more to ‘the revenue, which is exactly what we should strive to -bring about. From stimulants I think we should raise as much revenue as possible, and especially so in the impecunious States, where -revenue is needed. I am inclined to think that there is no truth in the statement that persons who are in the habit df purchasing bottled beer by the dozen are likely to drink colonial beer in preference to imported, if the price of the latter were increased by the amount of the duty imposed. The Customs experts affirm ‘that the-acceptance of the Senate’s request would result in the sacrifice of a large amount of revenue, and I shall therefore support the Government in this matter. This is not a party question.
– - I -do not agree with the view taken by ‘the honorable member for North Sydney, who urges that the duties proposed by the Government represent 80 per cent, in one case and over 100 per cent, in the other. I estimate - and I am fortified in my judgment by a -reference to the value of imported bottled beer and beer in bulk, given in connexion with our ordinary statistics - that a gallon in bottle is -worth about 3s. -6d., so that the honorable ‘member is inaccurate when he asserts that a duty of ls. 6d. is-equivalent to 80 per cent, ad valorem. Similarly the price of draught beer is 2s. per gallon, and of course it cannot be urged that a duty of ls. per gallon upon that article represents 100 per cent, on its cost price. Our experts advise that the suggested alteration would mean a considerable loss of revenue. Mr. Lockyer estimates that it would represent £8,000 in the case of New South Wales, or about £24,000 throughout the Commonwealth. Of course we do not propose to throw away that amount in connexion with a duty which is so easily collected.
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney). - I would point out to the Minister that it is an undisputed fact - as can be seen by reference to any current price list - thatbottled beer is sold, duty paid, at lis. per dozen. A dozen bottles contain 2 gallons, the duty upon which is 3s. That reduces the price to 8s. per dozen. Any one who has a knowledge of the subject will admit that 3s. 2d. is not an extraordinary sum to allow for import, freight, landing, and delivery charges. That brings down the price to 4s. lOd. per dozen bottles f.o.b.
– Twelve shillings and sixpence a case is fairly heavy.
– I shall follow out the figures, and the honorable member will be able to see how they correspond. A further deduction of ls. 3d. has to be made in respect of the cost of picking, reducing the price of the beer in bottles to 3s. 7d oils. 9^-d. per gallon. From 50 gallons of bulk beer the net return is £1 17s., the selling price being £7 duty paid. The two things therefore correspond. The original cost of bulk beer cannot be as dear as the Minister says it is, having regard to the price at which it is sold. For instance, he tells us that it costs 2s. per’ gallon. Fifty gallons are sold duty paid at £7. The cost of tha’t quantity at 2s. per gallon would be £5, or duty paid £7 10s., without the freight charges. .Yet the Minister says that the original cost is 2s. per gallon. His own figures are absolutely disputed by the fact. I do not wish to -allow my figures to be impugned without showing their correctness.
– I regard this question from only a revenue point of view, and I think it is the duty of the Government to collect as much revenue as possible from an article of luxury such as English beer. .To reduce the duty to ls. 3d. per gallon would .be to throw away money. The price of English beer sold over the counter would be 6d. per glass whatever the duty might be. I do not believe that if the duty were doubled the importation of
English beer would be diminished by one bottle. A man who is accustomed to drinking English beer will not touch the colonial article. That is one reason why I oppose the request for a reduction. Another is that I have given up beer drinking, and as a realty modern practical, up-to-date socialist, I- want the other man to pay the extra duty. I shall therefore vote for the retention of the rate of ls. 6d. per gallon.
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- When this item was previously before us a division took place on an amendment to’ re’duce the duty 3d. per gallon, and I notice that some of those who now say they are against a reduction, and who give such excellent reasons for voting against it, voted for that amendment. I refer to the honorable member for Robertson and the honorable member for Capricornia.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The honorable member for North Sydney is quite within his rights in making it clear that he has been unable to convince me, as the result of some months’ experience of the working of the Tariff, that the revenue from imported beer has been reduced in consequence of the duty imposed. I think I have proved that, while upon his own showing the honorable member has had to pay more for bottled beer, that has not been the experience of the poor man who occasionally buys a glass over the counter.
– I have not had’ to pay more, because I do not buy it.
– In that case there is no evidence that the price of imported beer has been increased ; there is no evidence, however, that for the last ten months the revenue has exceeded the Government estimate. After some months’ experience’ of the working of the duty of ls. 6d per gallon we cannot get away from that fact. I am a reasonable man, and I have been convinced by the statement of the officers of the Customs. The Government have produced evidence that the rate of ls. 6d. per gallon will produce more revenue than would a duty of ls. 3d. per gallon. I believe that a good revenue should be raised from stimulants and narcotics in the smaller States, and I shall certainly accept the assurance of the Minister for Trade and Customs, who has informed us that the statement made by him is based upon the deliberate opinion given by the experts of the department.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - In my opinion the Ministry have not properly considered this request ; and I think we are likely to lose a certain amount of revenue by refusing to accede to it. Having placed that statement on record, I have only to add that, in my opinion, the experience of another year or two will show that the Ministry know to-day just as little of this matter as we could expect them to know.
Question - That the amendment requested be not made - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Item I, Ale, porter . . . . Other, per gallon,1s.
Request. - Thatthe duty be reduced to10d.
Motion (by Mr. Kingston) proposed -
That the amendment requested be not made.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I think it would be better for the revenue if the duty in this case were reduced as requested, but as I believe the honorable member for Wentworth has expressed the opinion that it is not necessary to divide upon this item, I shall make no further remarks upon it.
Motion agreed to.
Item 2, Spirits, viz. . . . Bitters, essences, fluid extracts, sarsaparilla. . . .
Request. - That “ ginger wine” be inserted after “ sarsaparilla.”
Motion (by Mr. Kingston) agreed to -
That the amendment requested be made.
Division II. - Narcotics.
Item 5, Tobacco, viz….. Cigars, including thew eight of bands and other attachments, per lb., 6s. 3d. and 15 per cent.
Request. - That the duty be afixed rate of 7s.
That the amendment requested be not made.
This motion is, of course, in. support of the previous decision affirmed by a very considerable majority in the House of Representatives. At this moment I know of no reason which has not been considered by this House why we should in any way alter our previous decision. If we were to agree to make the amendment as requested the result would be this : At present we impose a duty of 6s. 3d. and 15 per cent. on cigars. The cheaper cigars, which are sold at about 3d. each, pay duty at the rate of about 6s. 8d. per lb. Honorable members know the extent to which cigars vary in value, and upon those which are sold at about 18s. per lb. we collect duty at the rate of about 8s. 6d. It seems to me fair that the more valuable cigar should pay duty according to its value to some extent. The Senate requests that instead of the duty of 6s. 3d. and 15 per cent. at present proposed, there should be a uniform fixed dutyof 7s. imposed upon cigars. Honorable members will see that that would result in the cheaper cigars being hit harder than under the present proposal, and as regards the much more valuable cigars, it would reduce the possibility of getting a fair duty in respect of them, and would let them in much cheaper. I put it to honorable members that we cannot justify a proposal to raise the rate as regards the cheaper and morecommonly-used cigar, and to let the more valuable cigar in at a lower rate. This increase in the charge upon the cheaper cigar was, I believe, in the Senate intended to be accompanied by an increased excise charge, or else, of course, there would have been additional protection given, which was not asked for as regards the manufacture of the cheaper cigar. There are two objections to the Senate’s proposal - one that it proposes unfair treatment of the cheaper article, and unnecessary advantage in respect of the dearer article ; the other, that the scheme of the Senate in the- matter has failed. I. therefore ask honorable members to adhere to the duty as previously imposed by this House. I remind the? committee that a provision of this sort -was shown to be unjustifiable by the acting leader of the Opposition, when the matter was previously under consideration here. The honorable gentleman, in suggesting that the duties should be 7s., instead of fis. 3d. and 15 per cent, as proposed, confined his proposal to cigars other than Havanas, and as regards Havanas, the. most valuable cigars, he was prepared, to fix the duty upon them at a rate other than that here proposed:. If we adhere to the- duties upon which we previously decided, we shall treat all lands of cigars fairly, according’ to value, while if we.make the amendment re1quested the- result will be that which I have stated.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - The light honorable, gentleman has stated only one part of the: case. I should like honorable members to. recollect the history of these composite duties.’ This was, I think, the: first composite- duty dis* cussed in this Chamber. As time went- on and honorable members grasped more completely the character of the Tariff, there was a decided desire- expressed, to. abolish this system of composite duties, and the result was that, with the exception- of this one item, every composite duty disappeared from the Tariff.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I think that, in a matter like this, where the Senate has expressed the opinion that we ought to do away with composite duties, thecommittee should pay some attention to that opinion. Ifthe debate in the Senate is read, itwill be found that it waspractically settled on that ground. So far, we have not treated any request by the Senate with any consideration. If it is thought that an import duty of 7s. per lb. is too high the rate might be lowered. I think it is a little too high, though, possibly, the Senate might have intended to increase the excise duty. I ask the committee whether it intends to retain the last of the composite duties. Honorable members who have a practical knowledge of the working of the Tariff haveshown that a composite duty is rather a hardship to traders. It is well-known that many objections have beenurged against the principle by business men. They do not care what rate is adopted, but they do suggest that the duty should be specific, not specific and ad valorem. Is it not worth while for us to meet the view of the other Housewhere the composite duty was disapproved by a majority of sixteen to twelve ? I am quite willing to support the Ministry in fixing the duty at 6s. 6d. or 6s. per lb., or whatever may be determined to be the equivalent of the composite duty. I trust that there will be some discussion if only to show that we. are prepared to meet the Senate as far as we possibly can.
– If we had not recommitted this item at the end of our consideration of the Tariff, the argument used by the last two speakers would have been pertinent, but it was recommitted, and the committeere-affirmed its decision. Thehonorable member for Robertson moved that the duty should be 6s. 6d. per lb. on Manila cigars, and 8s. 6d. per- lb. on Havana cigars, so as to have a double rate.
– It was the honorable memberfor Wentworth who made that proposal.
– I know that the honorable member for Robertson spoke in favour of the proposal. If we agree to the suggestion of the honorable member for Wentworth, we shall be decreasing the duty on the expensive cigar and increasing, the duty on the common cigar. He has stated that in all probability there is as great a difference in the value of cigars as in the value of tobacco. I feel confident that any one in the trade will tell him: that cigars vary in value from 25s. to £18 per 1,000. He will not find that tobacco increases- in value to the same extent.
– I did not say that it varies as much, but that it varies considerably.
-It does not vary more than 100 per cent.
– I know that sometimes tobacco varies 300 per cent. in value.
– The value of tobacco does notvary to anything like the same extent as does the value of cigars. I trust that the committee will adhere to its decision.
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- I do not think that if the committee appreciated the effect of this composite duty on trade it would insist upon its retention. It has always been the custom to sell cigars in bond. No drawback is given on cigars, consequently importers or holders deal with them in bond, so that they can either pay the duty or export them. If they pay the duty they cannot export the cigars, because no drawback is given. What has been the effect of the imposition of the composite duty ? When a buyer sends round to a holder of cigars for a quotation he must ascertain the cost price. He can only know what duty he will have to pay by ascertaining when the quotation is given what the cigars cost the holder. Many firms, in Sydney at any rate, refuse to quote for cigars in bond, and only quote for cigars duty paid. It is hampering the export trade, which is altogether undesirable. It is not the duty, but the system of duty, which is hampering business. Is it the intention of the committee to prevent the growth of the export trade?
– It is not intended to cultivate an import trade for the purpose of exporting.
– Does the honorable member know that imported articles are largely exported ? Why should not passenger boats and others get their cigars in Australia as well as in Great Britain or America ?
– Surely that would mean very little compared with the great bulk of the trade.
– I have heard the honorable member talk in the aggregate for weeks in favour of small industries which did not amount to very much in the total, and yet he is now turning round and ignoring a trade, which, at any rate, is larger than many of those industries. There has been an export trade in cigars to New Zealand, and a considerable trade in supplying cigars to strips^ for stores and the use -of passengers, but every difficulty is being placed by the Government in the way of this business. Do honorable members think that business can be done easily where values have in all cases to be declared?
– The biggest tobacco business in the world is conducted in America, under the system of composite duties.
– Business cannot be conducted under a system like this without being hampered. I think we might well accept the Senate’s request.
– As this is purely a revenue duty, I desire to know from the Minister how the revenue would be affected if the Senate’s request were adopted ?
– So far as the revenue is concerned, it seems to be six of one and half-a-dozen of the other.
– Then why fight the Senate on the question ?
– We think that we ought to affirm the principle so often affirmed before, that it is desirable to levy’ duties according to the value of the goods, instead of imposing upon the cheaper cigars a duty proportionately higher than that upon the dearer cigars.
– We are hearing a great deal about high-priced cigars, but, as a matter, of fact, few of the cigars imported into Australia are worth more than from 3d. to 4d. apiece. Very few high-priced cigars are smoked in Melbourne. If the principle which the Minister wishes to affirm had been applied to goods like silks and satins, I should not object to its application to cigars, but under existing’ circumstances, I do not think there should be a specific duty and an ad valorem duty as well.
Sir WILLIAM MCMILLAN (Went-, worth). - I wish to point out that it is absolutely inconsistent to impose an ad valorem duty upon cigars in order that, the consumer may contribute to the revenue in proportion to his ability to purchase, and at the same time admit, by imposing a fixed duty, the impossibility of achieving .that object. This is an instance in which the common sense of the other Chamber should prevail. The Minister has told us that the adoption of the Senate’s request would practically make no difference to the revenue.
– I look upon a cigar smoked either by a rich man or by a poor man as a luxury, but I do not think the man who smokes a cigar worth ls. should escape with the payment of the same amount of duty as must be paid by the man who smokes a cheap Manilla. This matter has already been debated very fully. I have read carefully the report of the Senate debate, and the arguments used there were the same as those which have been used in this Chamber. As upon a second consideration of the question, the committee decided . by a large majority that the composite duty should stand, I think we should’ abide by that decision. This is one of the fairest duties in the Tariff. I know a man on a Queensland station who is in the habit of receiving every year a box of cigars as a Christmas present. They are sent to him from the old country, and whereas formerly he has had to pay only 1 8s. in duty, last year when he presented his invoice he was charged about £2.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The honorable member for Yarra said that as this matter had been fully considered by the committee before, we should adhere to our original decision. But we must make some compromise with the Senate, and this is a line upon which we might very well give way. The Government have told us that they would lose no revenue by agreeing to the amendment suggested by the Senate. The imposition of fixed duties upon cigars is always in favour of honest importers. The honorable member for Maranoa has just shown us that the honest importer who produces a bonâ fide invoice has under the present system of duties to pay very heavily upon his cigars, but unscrupulous men; are tempted to produce manipulated invoices, and to thus defraud the Customs. The system which the Government wish us to adopt offers a premium to dishonesty,’ because honorable members must remember that it is very difficult for any but experts to determine the value of cigars.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- The honorable member for Yarra opposes the request of the Senate, upon the ground that the smoker of cheap cigars should not be compelled to contribute to the Customs at a higher rate than that on which the smoker of high-priced cigars has to pay. But I would point out to him that, estimating Manilla cigars to be worth 30s. per 1,000, and Havannah cigarsto be worth £12 per 1,000, under the present duty the smoker of Manillas would be charged about 265 per cent., and the smoker of Havannahs about 60 per cent.
– If the request of the Senate were agreed to the smoker of Manillas would, have to pay still more.
– It is the opinion of men in the tobacco trade that composite duties are bad, and it cannot be urged in favor of the Government proposals that they put the smoker of cheap cigars upon an equality with the smoker of dear cigars. I agree with the Treasurer, that it is necessary to have a heavy specific duty, because it is very difficult to determine the value of cigars apart from their brand. I should not object if the duty were fixed as high as 7s. per lb., because most of the cheap cigars are manufactured locally.
– No. In New South Wales they formerly manufactured only 5,000 lbs. and imported 232,000 lbs. of cigars, and at the present time they do not make a fifth of the total consumption.
– The acceptance of the Senate’s request will not affect the revenue, and where we can give way without losing anything, I think we might very well do so.
Mr. HARTNOLL (Tasmania).- I think that, in the interests of trade, this composite duty upon cigars, which is the last of these objectionable and restrictive duties, should be removed. It has not been the policy of the Government to adopt discriminating ad valorem duties. They proposed a fixed duty upon tea of all kinds, from the cheapest to the most expensive ; and the excise duty is the same upon the commonest beer as upon the best ale. The man whosmokes even the cheapest cigaris a person of luxurious habits, and he should pay for the gratification of his pernicious tastes. If there is any desire on the part of the Government to meet the request of the Senate, they might very well give way in a case of this kind, because the alteration in the duty will not affect the revenue.
Question- That the amendment requested be not made - put. The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Item 5, . . . Cigarettes …. per lb.,6s.6d.
Request. - That the duty be increased to 7s.
That the amendment requested be not made.
It was the intention of the Senate to increase the excise duty, as well as the import duty, but they did not succeed in doing so. The only effect of acceding to their request would be to increase the protection to the local manufacturer.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I agree with the honorable member for Wentworth, but I desire to again record my protest against the action of the Government, whoare trying to involve us in trouble with the Senate.
Motion agreed to.
Division IV. - Agricultural products and groceries.
Item 9, Arrowroot per lb.,1d.
Request. - That arrowroot be added to the special exemptions.
– The duty on arrowroot was originally fixed at1d. per lb., and the Senate now desire that the article shall be added to the list of special exemptions. The imports of arrowroot are very small indeed, and the revenue derived, during the nine months from 9th October, 1901 to 30th June, 1902, is returned at £29. Whilst we do not desire to impose a high duty, we think that in view of the fact that the production of arrowroot has assumed considerable dimensions in Queensland it would not be wise to admit the. article free of duty. At the same time we are anxious, if we possibly can, to meet the views of the Senate, and we think that we might reduce the duty to ½d. per lb. without endangering the local industry. I therefore move -
That the amendment requested be not made, but that the duty be reduced to½d. per lb.
– I do not think that the request ofthe Senate should be acceded to, and I also disagree with the compromise suggested by the Treasurer. I shall therefore move -
That the motion be amended by the omission of the words,” but that the duty be reduced to½d. per lb. “
The production of arrowroot is an important industry in Queensland, and as the duty of1d. per lb. does not impose any heavy burden upon the consumers, it might very well be retained. The industry has assumed considerable magnitude in Queensland, largely owing to the aid afforded by the duty of1d. per lb., imposed prior to the introduction of the Tariff. I find that in 1900 there were thirteen arrowroot mills in Queensland, and that the area of land under cultivation of this crop was 700 acres. In the same year the northern State manufactured 772,282 lbs. of arrowroot, of which she exported 463,617 lbs. In the cultivation of arrowroot, none but white labour is employed. That ought to be an inducement to the committee to support the retention of the present duty. When this item was previously under discussion in this Chamber, I ascertained that various growers in the northern part of Queensland contemplated erecting a number of additional mills upon the Johnstone River, but that their action was entirely dependent upon the continuance of the duty of1d. per lb. If that duty be reduced, I venture to say that the industry in Queensland will absolutely disappear. At the present time it employs about 400 white people, and with the encouragement afforded by the retention of the existing duty it is destined to become in the near future one of the largest industries in Australia. I should not be discharging my duty to the people who are interested in it if I did not read to the committee a communication which reached me only last month. It comes from men who have a practical knowledge of the subject of which it treats. It reads as follows : -
We, the undersigned arrowroot manufacturers of Queensland, desire to draw your attention to the result that will follow the recent action of the Senate in proposing to remove the duty from arrowroot imported into Australia.. Owing to a succession of bad seasons, culminating in the present disastrous drought, our crops of arrowroot for the past two years have been the lightest ever known in the history of Queensland Previous to federation, with our usual rainfall, the crops were good, but our market was handicapped by import duties of the other States, and consequently prices to the grower ruled low, never exceeding £12 per ton in bulk. With the advent of intercolonial free-trade, our surplus stocks found a market in the southern States, and large quantities were exported at the rates above quoted. When the House of Representatives imposed a duty of1d. per lb. prices firmed, and we have since been enabled, in some measure, to recoup ourselves for the very low rates of selling for the last five years previous to federation. With the protection afforded us by the import duty passed by the House of Representatives the industry recovered, fresh areas were cleared and planted, and we looked forward to recoup ourselves for the low prices prevailing for some years. The effects of the present drought in Queensland are too well known to reiterate here, but this we would emphasize -
That letter is signed by eleven cultivators of Arrowroot. I sincerely hope that the committee will do nothing which will tend to destroy the industry.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- In reply to the remarks of the previous speaker I desire to point out that, according to the StatisticalRegister, Queensland exported in 1900, without the aid of any duty, -463,617 lbs. of arrowroot, valued at £3,534. Therefore, the long explanation into which he entered is scarcely worthy of consideration. The production of arrowroot in Australia is practically confined to Queensland, which in 1900 exported “190,942 lbs. to New South Wales, 35,125 to the United Kingdom, 39,328 to New Zealand, 92,599 lbs. to Cape Colony, and 3,248 lbs. to British Columbia. Seeing that it is possible for Queensland to export to outside countries, there is no necessity for the imposition of any duty upon this particular article. At any rate, we might well accept the proposal of the Government.
Mr. F. E. McLEAN (Lang).- When honorable members find the Minister for Trade and Customs in a compromising mood, they ought to accept his offer. Apparently the honorable member for Oxley has omitted to take into consideration the fact that from the 9th October, 1901, to the 30th June, 1902, only about 3 tons of arrowroot were imported into the Commonwealth. Only £29 was paid in duty upon that commodity, half of which was collected in New South Wales. This item, therefore, seems to be a very paltry one to discuss, and as the Government are apparently in the humour to compromise, I think we should meet them in that very excellent spirit. Evidently the duty of1d. per lb. is a prohibitive one, as the small importations into the Commonwealth prove.
Mr. MACDONALD-PATERSON (Brisbane). As the last speaker referred to the past history of this product, I wish to point out that we are not legislating for the past, but for the future. Moreover, our population requires to be educated regarding the uses of arrowroot. There are tens of thousands of people in Australia who have no idea of its qualities as a food. It is a nutritious article of diet, which can be advantageously used from childhood to old age. I want to see the 400 or 600 men engaged in this industry protected.
– What wages are they paid ?
– The lowest wage paid by Mr. Grimes is £40 a year, with food and quarters. Is not that a good wage for the very simple work required in the cultivation of arrowroot? Certainly it is far better than the £12 per year paid to the ploughmen of Ireland and Wales. But I would ask if it is not possible by common consent to take a “ yes “ or “no” upon every request made by the Senate, without indulging in any comment whatever ?
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the motion - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I desire to point out that it will only be necessary for those who desire that arrowroot should be free, as proposed by the Senate, to voteagainst the motion. I propose to vote against it.
Motion agreed to.
Item 10, Bacon and hams, partly or wholly cured, per lb. 3d. ,
Request. - That the duty be reduced to 2d.
That the amendment requested be not made.
This item affects a very large industry amongst our people. The duty originally proposed was 3d., and that was adopted by the House of Representatives. We have now been requested to reduce the duty to 2d. per lb., and the Government think that reduction ought not to be made. Even with a duty of 3d. per lb., we are collecting revenue at the rate of £6,000 per annum, which shows that there is still a very large import of these articles.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - The vote taken upon arrowroot, and the motion now proposed, judging by the expressions of opinion we have heard, show very clearly that the spirit of compromise, and the desire to put aside the fiscal question, is not going to be adhered to in this discussion.
Mr. MACDONALD-PATERSON (Brisbane). - I rise to say that I am a pig-breeder, and that the honorable member for Wentworth does not inderstand pig-breeding. The duty has no effect on the price of pork, and the honorable member cannot tell me when there was a side of bacon, introduced into Australia from any country outside New Zealand. The duty is collected on the hams. Those who like to enjoy York hams should pay a little extra for them. No one could obtain a York ham in Melbourne to-morrow if he tried. As a pigbreeder, I can say that the industry is flourishing, and that the drier the season is the better the pigs do, because they bore into the earth with their snouts and eat all the roots as the moisture retires from the shores of the swamps. A drought only affects country where pigs never have been or will be. Where the pure merino wool grows, pigs do not flourish. I, was surprised to hear my soft-goods friend giving himself away on pork when he knows very well that he should hold his tongue and leave the discussion of the question to specialists like myself and the honorable member for Maranoa, who know where pigs do flourish.
Mr. F. E. McLEAN (Lang).- I do not happen to be a pig-breeder, but at the same time I think that the honorable and learned member for Brisbane has not enlightened the committee very much as to whether this duty should be reduced or not. He appears to be doing very well, but I submit that the amendment is a fair and reasonable one. If we agree to a duty of 2d. per lb. on these articles we shall give a very substantial measure of protection to the industry. In suggesting that the duty be reduced to 2d. per lb. the Senate has not taken an extreme course. It is not free-trade run mad, nor is it likely to be seriously destructive of revenue. It comes to us as a reasonable’ and proper compromise, and it ought to be met by the committee in that spirit. With reference to the remarks of the last speaker about a want of knowledge on this subject in certain quarters, I may say that the acting leader of the Opposition has a very much larger commercial interest in colonial industry in this respect than has any honorable member, and perhaps as large an interest as has any man in Australia. It is altogether out of place for an honorable member to throw such a suggestion across the Chamber. Everybody knows that the honorable member for Wentworth is very largely interested in the disposal of this kind of produce, and stands behind one of the greatest concerns representing the farmers of this country. I resent any suggestion that because an honorable member is largely engaged in the soft goods trade he knows nothing about the pastoral or agricultural industry. In this case the shot has missed the mark, because the honorable member at whom it was aimed happens to be perhaps more largely interested in the industry than is any man in the chamber.
– If there is any one product that we should be able to produce sufficiently to meet our own requirements it is that of the pig industry. If the duty were 6d. per lb., it would not add one fraction to the price. On the contrary, a fairly substantial duty will have the effect of inducing more people to go into the industry, and the more people it employs the cheaper the product will ultimately become. When it suits my honorable friends on the other side they preach the cause of the primary producers ; but I notice that when a division is taken on a question affecting their interests, they invariably, like city men in another place, vote against them. In a few instances, the Senate offers a compromise in respect of the duties on primary products, but in most eases it proposes to abolish the duties. I hope that the committee will have a sufficient sense of fair play, although I know that the country element is very small here, to allow a reasonable amount of protection when it is quite patent that the duty cannot increase the price to the consumer.
Mr. HARTNOLL (Tasmania).- As one who is closely identified with the farming interest, I rise to offer a few remarks in contradistinction to those which have just been uttered by an honorable member who also represents the agricultural interest. I am aware of the struggles and the hardships which the agriculturists have continually to endure ; but I also know that there is a large class of breadwinners outside the agricultural interest who must be studied. I am confident that a duty of 2d. per lb. on hams and bacon would be an ample protection to the great struggling class of farmers throughout the Commonwealth. I desire in every instance to encourage settlement on the land, and when we reach another item I shall in all probability give instances which will be against some of the free-trade advocates on this side, because I can speak from a practical knowledge of the subject. I am confident that the agriculturists throughout the Commonwealth can produce pork and bacon in sufficient quantities to meet the requirements of all the States, and that they will be well protected by a duty of 2d. per lb. I hope that those honorable members on the other side who are closely identified with the agricultural interest will rise to the occasion and say that they want a fair measure of protection, if they choose to call it by that term, but that they do not require any extravagant protection.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).Whenever honorable members on this side take exception to anything which the honorable member for Gippsland says, his invariable reply is - “Oh, those honorable members are city men.”I imagine that he lives in the city, and I believe that he does his business in the city, too. Whence does he derive his claim to be called a country member?
– The honorable member knows nothing about the honorable member, or he would not say that.
– We know that he was a great upholder of the stock tax which weighed more heavily on Victorian consumers than did anything else. There are many honorable members on this side of the Chamber who represent country constituencies which are much further away from any metropolis than is the Gippsland constituency, and in which there are more farmers than there are in Gippsland. If the honorable member for Gippsland believes that the higher the duty is made the lower the price becomes, why does he not move to increase this duty to 6d? But the fallacy of his contention is shown by the fact that in New South Wales the prices of bacon and hams have been higher since the duties were imposed ; und honorable gentlemen opposite tell us that the drought has not lessened supplies.
– In Sydney they put up the price of firewood because of the Tariff.
– The honorable member has not bought any there. Why do we require prohibitive duties upon bacon and hams ? Are honorable gentlemen afraid that we cannot compete against the productions of New Zealand? Do they consider them pauper productions ?
– We should treat the primary producers in the same way as we have treated the manufacturers.
– Why did not the honorable member say that when we were dealing with machinery?
– I want to give them control of their own market.
– They have control of the local market now, because hardly anything besides York hams is imported. The duties are practically prohibitive now, und if honorable gentlemen are not satisfied, it seems to me that they ought to carry their policy to its logical conclusion, and introduce a measure making it penal to import foodstuffs or eatables. I think that the Government might readily lend an ear to the moderate voice of the Senate. A duty of 2d. per lb. is ample protection, and will make it possible for consumers to obtain supplies at reasonable prices in times of scarcity.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The proposal of the Senate is most reasonable. The duty is an unnecessary tax upon the consumers of bacon and hams. The industry requires no protection. I represent a’ country constituency, and am very largely interested in the primary industries of Australia. I have had practical experience in pig raising in a large way, and I know that if the honorable member for Brisbane forces his pigs to subsist upon the roots which they are able to obtain in dried-up swamps, he is not engaged in the bacon industry. All he can keep are store pigs. To make good bacon and hams, the pigs must be fattened on the best food available. In New South Wales they are very largely fattened upon corn and peas’, and farmers at a distance from railway stations increase the value of their corn by turning it into bacon, and sending it to market in that form. All that the producers of ham and bacon require is a fair field and no favour ; they do not fear the competition of the people of other countries. In my opinion, the Senate might, in the interest of consumers, reasonably have asked that the duty be remitted altogether, and I hope that their moderate request for a reduction will be agreed. to.
– I hope that the Minister will not agree to the Senate’s request. The acting leader of the Opposition said on a former occasion that there is no bacon or ham to be found in Australia which is superior to that produced in Queensland, and his statement wasborne out by the fact that at the last show of the Royal Agricultural Society, in Sydney, nearly all the prizes for bacon and ham were taken by exhibits from Queensland. That state of things is due to the operation of the Queensland State duty of 3d. per lb. upon bacon and ham, which has made it profitable to introduce good breeds of pigs, and to establish factories for the proper curing of bacon. This has also reduced the prices of bacon and ham to the consumers. I attribute the high prices now prevailing in Sydney largely to the drought. I know that Queensland bacon, which can be bought in Melbourne for lOd. per lb., costs ls. Id. in Sydney, although the cost of freight is less. Although the honorable member for Brisbane talks about keeping pigs in swamps, the)’ are reared most profitably in country where lucerne, maize, and pumpkins can be grown to fatten them. In the northern parts of New South Wales and the southern parts of Queensland, they are now importing fodder, and even maize, from the Argentine, to improve the condition of their pigs, notwithstanding the existence of the fodder duties ; and the price of pork has gone up in consequence.
– And because of the scarcity of beef and mutton. There has been no falling off in the production of pork.
– I think that there has. At any rate, very little locally grown fodder has been procurable, even in districts which have hitherto done well in times of drought. I do not think the consumer will suffer owing to the imposition of this duty, because we shall shortly produce enough bacon and hams to meet all the requirements of the Commonwealth, and probably be able also to export large quantities. Some free-traders urge that as soon as an industry readies the exporting stage . there is no further need for protection, but the duties which assist local producers to secure their own market enable them to eventually export their surplus supplies,and thus developed the industry. I think, therefore, that the protection which has helped the industry up to the present time should be continued.
Mr. A. PATERSON (Capricornia). - I am almost ashamed to confess that I also have an interest in this industry. I have reared and cured pigs, and during the land boom in Melbourne I used to sell the output of one of the largest bacon and ham factories in Victoria. The demand for bacon and hams is largely a question of taste. There is one factory in Ballarat which produces bacon of such high quality that it sells at better prices than those realized for English bacon. Those who make good bacon do not need protection ; only those who turn out a bad article require any such adventitious aid. I agree with the honorable member for Lang, who spoke very temperately, that it would be -most unreasonable to refuse the request of the Senate, which errs on the side of moderation. The senators must have been in a particularly happymood when they discussed this’ duty, otherwise they would have suggested a further reduction. I hope we shall not make a laughing-stock of the Commonwealth by imposing such a high duty as 3d. per lb. upon a primary product which does not require it.
– This is one of the duties which operate only when the community can least afford to bear the burden imposed upon them. Whilst it is intended to confer benefit upon the producer it does not operate in that direction under normal circumstances. I do not agree with the honorable member foi1 Gippsland that by raising the duty we shall cheapen the commodity to the consumer, and I do not know how the honorable member can consier that by cheapening the article he will advance the interests of the farmer, whose profit depends upon the enhanced price he is enabled to secure owing to the duty. According to the return supplied by the Treasurer, it appears that the duty collected upon bacon and hams in New South Wales between the 9th October, 1901, and 30th June last amounted to £1,020. Victoria realised only £119 ; Queensland, £74 ; South Australia, £657 ; Western Australia - under the uniform Tariff - £2,573 ; and Tasmania, £33 ; the total amount being £4,476. According to Coghlan,, the imports of bacon and ham into New South Wales from the other States during 1901 amounted to 1,216,688 lbs. Victoria supplied 208,000 lbs., Queensland 616,000 lbs., South Australia 391,000 lbs., and Tasmania 75 lbs. There was also imported from New Zealand 384,000 lbs., from the United Kingdom 95,000 lbs., and from the United States 91,000 lbs. The importations from other places were very small. The total importations into New South Wales from all sources amounted to 1,790,747 lbs., of an estimated value of £58,095. During the same year New South Wales exported to the other States 453,971 lbs. of bacon and hams. To Victoria she sent 22,000 lbs. ; to Queensland, 1,000 lbs.; to South Australia, 70,000 lbs.; and to Western Australia, 333,990 lbs.
– The bacon exported to South Australia was intended for Broken Hill.
– New South Wale’s also exported to New Caledonia 34,000 lbs. ; to the’ Philippine Islands, 19,000 lbs. ; and to New Guinea, 20,000 lbs. ; making a total exportation of 549,637 lbs. In the previous year the exports amounted to 1,167,254 lbs., and in 1899 they reached the large total of 1,290,200 lbs. During the three or four years prior to 1901, New South Wales exported, upon the average, over 1,000,000 lbs. of bacon and hams per annum, whereas, during last year, the exports fell to a little over 500,000 lbs.
– New South Wales imported about 1,000,000 lbs. per annum, and had a balance of imports against her.
– The imports into New South Wales have stood at very much the same -figure for some years, and the volume of exports has been fairly maintained prior to 1901.
– For the greater portion of which period the Tariff was not in operation.
– The honorable and learned member appears to think that my argument is based on the fact that the Tariff has brought about a decrease in the exports, but I do not wish to advance any such proposition What I contend is that the large reduction in the supply of meat foods brought about by the drought has increased the demand for bacon and hams for local consumption. The New South Wales Government have recently supplemented their railway concessions to residents in the country who have been suffering from the drought, by reducing the freight upon food supplies, including bacon and hams, which are required to meet the demand hitherto supplied by locally-grown live stock. Under abnormal conditions, such as those now existing in that State, the whole community is being placed at a great disad vantage by the operation of the Tariff, because the price of food is increased by the imposition of the high duties. On the other hand, under normal circumstances, the producers, whom the duty is intended to benefit, do not reap any advantage from it, because it ceases to operate.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I had hoped that Ministers would show us that they were prepared to adopt some of the requested amendments of the other branch of the Legislature. Prior to the accomplishment of federation I find that the duty upon bacon and hams in Queensland and South Australia was 3d. per lb., in New South Wales they were admitted free, whilst in the other States the duty ranged from1d. to 2d. per lb. The Senate has now asked this Chamber to agree to an impost of 2d. per lb. - a course to which we might very well assent. Before the advent of federation Victoria was annually exporting 2,250,000 lbs. of bacon and hams, so that it cannot be urged that the imposition of any duty is really necessary. I would further point out that during a period of nine months the total imports in this line amount in value to only £4,476, and I doubt whether even that quantity would have been imported had it not been for the disastrous drought through which we are passing. Under ordinary circumstances the demand is not quite so large, and, therefore, local consumption would not have overtaken our production as it seems to have done during the past seven or eight months. I am surprised at the attitude which the Government have assumed upon this question. Do not honorable members see that if all the requests of the other Chamber are to be treated as though they are of no account, we shall create a spirit of antagonism there whichwill bode very ill for the future of theCommonwealth? Owing to the bad administration which has taken place, general dissatisfaction and disappointment are experienced in connexion with federation. I have no doubt that if Australia were polled to-morrow, a majority of the people would vote against the federal union. I wish to avoid anything that is calculated to lead to a collision between the two Houses. If there is a collision upon what I regard as merely a second-rate matter, and a vote is taken upon it in New South Wales and Queensland, we shall have a dissolution of the union. This matter is a most important one, and I hope that Ministers will reconsider their decision. I regret that they have not manifested any spirit of fair dealing in connexion with the requests of theother Chamber. Under the bi-cameral system this House alone cannot expect to lay down the principles of government. If honorable members think that no consideration should be given to these requests, there must be an end to the bicameral system. Where we can make a satisfactory arrangement with the Senate, we should do so. This is a request which we can accept without causing any destruction of an industry, even from the most rabid protectionist point of view. Even Victoria, in the height of her protectionist fury, did not dream of imposing more than a duty of 2d. per lb. on bacon and hams. In New South Wales there was no duty. In Queensland there was a higher rate than that now proposed ; but the export of bacon and hams from that State was so large that it showed the duty to be inoperative. Some honorable members have denounced importations from foreign countries, but in this case New Zealand is the chief exporter. The very fact that honorable members opposite show no desire to consider these requests, indicates how incapable they are of joining in the government of a country.
Question - That the amendment requested be not made - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Item 14, Butterand cheese, per lb., 3d.
Request. - That the duty be reduced to 2d.
That the amendment requested be not made.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - I do not intend to repeat the arguments used in regard to the request that the duty on bacon and hams should be reduced, and which apply with equal force to the proposal now before us. The price of butter ranges from 8d. to1s. per lb., while the price of cheese is only about 4d. per lb. ; yet we have the same duty on both articles. I agree with the honorable member for Canobolas that ingood times these duties are absolutely inoperative, and that in bad times it is a positive cruelty to the consumers to impose them. They increase the price of the article. I have some knowledge of this matter. So far as cheese is concerned the duty has been ingeniously put at the prohibitive point. When the duty is added to the cost price of4d. per lb., together with freight and other charges, the point of prohibition is absolutely touched. At a time like this, however, these goods must be imported, no matter what the price may be, because of their scarcity in Australia. Although many of these duties are presumably placed in the Tariff to protect the primary producers, we have this peculiar position : That in a time ofdrought, such as we are experiencing in many parts of Australia, these very primary producers are willing to have the duties removed. To me, as acting leader of the Opposition, it is really a question of whether there is anything to be gained by discussing these requests in view of the attitude of the Government. As far as I can understand, the Government have determined not to give way unless forced to do so by a vote of the committee, and honorable members opposite intend to confirm everything proposed by the Government. I presume that honorable members of the Opposition have to do their duty to the country and give their reasons for disagreeing with the Government proposals ; but I do not intend to make any long speeches. I intend to assist in getting a vote taken as quickly as possible, and I shall do my utmost to have what is, to a large extent, practically a farce, brought to a close during the current week.
– I quite agree that there ought not to be any discussion unless some new facts can be brought to bear on any of the questions before us. I think that in the return which has been supplied to honorable members, showing the Customs and excise revenue for the past eight months, or a little less than nine months, there is a new fact which was not presented to us when we last considered this item. Upon that occasion we had before us an estimate of the revenue for the twelve months,showing that it was anticipated that the total revenue to be derived during the year from a duty of 3d. per lb. on butter and cheese would be slightly over £4,000. But from the 9th October, 1901, to the 30th June last, the total revenue collected from this item was no less than £57,975. That is a considerable advance upon the estimate of revenue to. be collected from this particular duty.
– Nearly the whole of it has been collected during the last three months.
– At any rate the tax upon the consumers is shown to be considerably greater than it was anticipated it would be at the time this matter was previously before the committee. I may refer to another point, though it may be considered that I am dealing with the matter from a parochial stand-point. There are those in this committee who consider the interests of their own States before the interests of the whole Commonwealth, and there are those who are continually talking of the necessitous States and their need for money. Whilst some States are necessitous from want of money, others are necessitous because they are being overtaxed. They are taxed too much, and their necessity is that they should not be taxed to that extent. If the whole Commonwealth were taxed to the same extent as Western Australia, this Tariff would yield more than £20,000,000 per annum. I call the attention of the Government to the fact that of the total revenue of £57,975 collected during the nine months under the Federal Tariff from this item, no less than £22,592 was collected in Western Australia.
– That will soon drop off when, the special Tariff in that State ceases to operate.
– I am referring to revenue collected under the uniform Tariff of the Commonwealth. According to the return supplied, the revenue collected in Western Australia from butter and cheese, under the special Tariff in force in that State, was £14,551.
– That is for six months only.
– But the revenue is from this item alone, and the total amount collected from Western Australia is nearly one-half of the total collected from the whole of the Commonwealth, though the population of Western Australia is only something like one-twentieth of the populalation of the Commonwealth. In connexion with this and half-a-dozen other items, notably spirits and narcotics, the taxation in Western Australia is altogether out of proportion to the population of that State. Under these circumstances, I would ask that some consideration should be paid to that State. Honorable members are continually talking of the needs of Tasmania, Queensland, and South Australia, because of thenrevenue requirements, but some consideration ought to be paid to the fact that certain of the States of the Commonwealth are over-burdened with taxation.
– In connexion with these very articles, butter and cheese, Western Australia is making Australia pay over £500 a. week.
– That matter is continually referred to whenever the members from Western Australia speak upon the Tariff. I believe that every member in this House representing Western Australia, with the exception of the Minister for Defence, has stated that the people of Western Australia never desired the local Tariff, and are not now in favour of it. I remind the committee that there is at the present time a motion under consideration in the State Parliament of Western Australia for the abolition of the sliding scale of local Customs duties, and I have no doubt that if the matter were submitted to a referendum of the people of Western Australia, those duties would be abolished by a two to one majority.
– On which side of the House has the motion, to which the honorable member refers, been proposed.
– It has been proposed by the leader of the labour party, and there is a prospect of it being carried. I know that if the State Parliament represented the people of the States it would be carried by an overwhelming majority. I hope that some consideration will be given toWestern Australia in this matter, and if honorable members will only consider the position of that State in connexion with this particular item they will be prepared to concede the request of the Senate. Another point to which I should like to refer is that the request of the Senate in connexion with this item was carried both as regards butter and cheese by very substantial majorities. The proposal to reduce the duty upon butter was carried by sixteen votes to twelve, a majority of four, and the proposal to reduce the duty upon cheese was carried by seventeen votes to eleven, a majority of six. These are very substantial majorities, in favour of the request made upon each of these items, and I hope the committee will hesitatebefore they treat this request of the Senate with that discourtesy with which the requests of that Chamber have been treated up to the present.
– There is no question of discourtesy ; we simply do not see eye to eye.
Question - That the amendment requested be not made - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to say a word or two with respect to a matter upon which I have asked two or three questions within the past few days. I refer to the recent appointment of ten drill instructors to South Australia. The appointments have excited considerable feeling and much indignation in that State, especially in military circles. The grievance is that local men who have done the work for years past- and done it most efficiently - have been passed over, and that men from outside have been appointed at a cost to South Australia of over £1,600 per annum. At the outset, I would like to say that I do not wish to utter one word against the men who have been appointed. I imagine that they are good men, and I have no reason to suppose that they are not. But I am sure that they have not beenappointed on the ground of any special efficiency, but simply because they were retrenched in other States, and it has been found convenient to send them to South Australia. I think honorable members will agree with me that what has been done is most unfair to the local men. In order that the House may be in a position to form an opinion on the merits of the matter, I shall state a few facts. About eighteen months ago the military forces of the State consisted of 3,000 men -the largest number for many years. The instruction was imparted by four drillinstructors, whose salaries aggregated the annual sum of £690. In this work they were assisted by men who received the special pay of 3s. 9d. per night as militia drill-instructors.From the hands of these instructors have gone forth men who on the battle-fields of South Africa have done credit to South Australia, and on the parade-grounds of Melbourne and Sydney have presented a most satisfactory appearance.
– How much did these special men earn per annum?
– I cannot give the exact amount, but it is no considerable sum, although the men were very efficient instructors. At the present moment the forces number about 2,200 men, and a fortnight ago there were only two drill instructors, receiving together the annual sum of about £210.
– Where have the other two gone?
– I am not quite certain, but I think that they went to South Africa. Under the circumstances, as may be imagined, it came as a great surprise to find that ten men from New South Wales and Queensland had been appointed to act as drill instructors in South Australia. The case for the noncommissioned officers has been well put by one of themselves. This is what he says -
We consider that to appoint outsiders without first giving us an opportunity to compete for the positions is a great injustice. We are not afraid to compare our qualifications with those of any non-coms. from the other States, and leading officers have remarked that the South Australian forces in point of drill and discipline compare with any troops within the Commonwealth. Thousands of men have passed through our hands, and so far we have not been told that the result of our instruction has not been satisfactory. We have been completely passed over, and the sting is in the fact that we Were not given the slightest hint that permanent instructors were to be appointed. If we had known that we would have sent in applications. The pay of a sergeant is £1 7s. 6d. a quarter, and those who have acted as instructors have received 3s.9d. extra for every night they were engaged in instructing. The whole of the forces have been trained by us, and while we have done the work for a few shillings a week the new men will get over £3. After all we have done, is it too much for us to expect to be allowed to compete for. the permanent positions?
The non-commissioned officer I am quoting puts the case very fairly indeed, when he says that he thought, not that the South
Australians should have been appointed, but that they should have been on an equality with others in applying for the positions. As some one may say that this statement is prejudiced, I now quote the South Australian Register, which may be regarded as impartial. That journal states the case in this way -
The point argued is that sergeants not on the permanent staff, but in thepartially paid regiments, have for the last ten years done practically the wholeof the instruction work, and should have been given the option of competing for the new permanent positions that are to be filled. In the ‘public functions of the last few years South Australian troops have won encomiums both on their own ground and in parades in Victoria and England, as the result of the training given by non-commissioned officers of their own regiments, and Colonel. Taunton only this year expressed in general orders surprise at their efficiency in manvres in the Easter camp. Local officerscontend that their hard work, against great disadvantages, and with little remuneration, in maintaining the forces in their present efficiency, entitles them to some consideration, as well as does the fact that the South Australian contingents that have done such good service in South Africa were trained by local men. They point out further that some of those who have handled troops on hostile fields will as the result of their’ devotion to the country’s service find themselves out of employment, and would, therefore, be glad to continue a military career. It can hardly be contended, either, that the imported officers will be more efficient, for the whole routine of drill is changed by the drill text books just issued, and. the local men would have as good opportunities of mastering the novel technique as they. Lastly, when the State has to suffer by the retrenchment of men from some departments, it is only fair that it should benefit by increases that must be made in others.
Last week, in answer to a question I put, the Acting Minister for Defence said -
As there are instructors in excess of numbers at present required in New South Wales and Queensland, some are being transferred to South Australia, instead of otherwise either increasing the total number of permanently-employed instructors under the Commonwealth, or of dismissing instructors who are qualified from other States in order to make fresh appointments in South. Australia.
Technically the appointment of local men would be “ fresh appointments,” but fair play would say that the men who had done the work in the past should be continued in their employment, and not be made to suffer because in their State rigid economy had been practised. Last week the Adelaide press published a report which purported to be a defence by the Commandant.From this statement it would appear that military instruction in South Australia has been very seriously neglected in all arms of the forces, due to a want of efficient instruction ; that it is necessary to increase the instructional staff of South Australia, so as to bring its forces up to the same level as those in the larger States ; and that there are no qualified instructors in South Australia who will satisfy the conditions. When that statement was read it created great astonishment. The result was that a well-known Adelaide officer was interviewed, and this is what he said -
I should like to ask on whose authority the Commandant condemns us. He cannot know anything about the efficiency and discipline of the troops from personal knowledge, and it is impossible to believe that the late Commandant of this State could have so libelled us. In fact, Brigadier-General Gordon has always spoken in complimentary terms of this command. If the Commandant had acted on the report of Colonel Taunton - whom he specially sent here to inspect and watch the troops at work during the last Easter manoevres - he would not have sent a single instructor from the eastern States. No officer could have spoken in more glowing and complimentary terms about M-hat he saw, and on the top of such a report, how can any one sneer <it the efficiency of the men? The “neglect” which is spoken of is positively not due “ to a want of efficient instructors,” for fully-qualified non-commissioned officers have always been available when there were recruits to be drilled and trained. One fact that should not be lost sight of. is that before any non-commissioned officer can be appointed to take charge of a squad he has to pass a stiff examination. Most of them went through the ordeal with flying colours. I admit that the local instructors are not equal to training nien for the crack Imperial regiments, but Australia does not want and does not require troops educated in all the ceremonial drill and frippery which characterize many of the regiments in the old country.
I will supplement this with the remarks of another officer -
I see the Commandant wants to bring the forces :ii.) “to the same level “us those in the other States? All I can say is that, notwithstanding all the advantages in the way of musketry and gunnery schools, our forces compared favorably with those of the other States during the Sydney and Melbourne demonstrations. In drill and discipline when on parade, and in general soldierly bearing when off duty, our troops were not one whit behind the others.
I dare say that some curiosity is felt by honorable members as to what it was that Colonel Taunton did and said. I may explain that he was sent to South Australia last Easter by the Commandant to watch the troops during the encampment manoeuvres and that he reported that he thought the mounted rifles were as good troops as he had seen in Australia, well turned out, well mounted, and steady on parade. But that is not all. The Commandant himself comes into the matter. In sending on Colonel Taunton’s remarks to Colonel Rowell, MajorGeneral Hutton made this statement -
The General Officer Commanding further expresses the greatest pleasure at the satisfactory result achieved at the Easter encampments by the troops, and at the operations generally.
There is nothing said there about inefficiency. Taking all the facts into consideration, I think the House will agree with me that it is not surprising that indignation prevails in South Australia, and that the local taxpayer resents being called upon to pay ±’1,600 per annum when a very much less sum would have met all the requirements of the case.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I wish to support the statements of the last speaker, who has put the case so exceedingly well that very little more needs to be said. I look at these appointments from two points of view - first, that the expenditure is unnecessary ; and, secondly, that injustice has been done to the local men, who have been performing these duties for so many years. Does any honorable member believe that there are no qualified men in South Australia to do this work ? The work of our drill instructors has been placed alongside that of the men who are supplanting them and has compared favorably with theirs, and to say that there are no qualified instructors in the State is, to my mind, most ridiculous. A special reason why it cannot be so is furnished by the verv action of the Commandant in selecting for promotion, to the very much higher position of Commandant of the Victorian forces,. Brigadier-General Gordon, who for many years was Commandant of the South Australian forces, and who primarily must be held responsible if, as is stated, there are no drill instructors in the State. When the Estimates were under consideration the Government promised to reduce the military expenditure by the sum of £130,000. Yet, in the face of that promise, they have appointed ten instructors to a very small force in a State where there are no recruits, and where there can be precious little work for drill instructors to do. It would seem that the only reason for appointing these instructors was to find billets for men who would otherwise have had to be retrenched. This House has decided that the military expenditure of the Commonwealth should be out down to the lowest limit consistent with efficiency, and therefore it was an entirely wrong thing to increase the military expenditure of South Australia by £1,600 a year in themanner to which the honorable member, Sir Langdon Bonython, has rightly called attention.
– I care not who is responsible for the grave injustice which has been done to the men who have been acting as drill instructors in South Australia for years ; I regard the action of the military authorities as a downright insult to the State. It would seem on the face of it that their desire has been to find billets for officers from other States.
– Was not the South Australian Commandant brought to Melbourne, and put over the heads of other officers? Was that an insult to Victoria?
– That has nothing to do with the question which I am discussing. The officer to whom the honorable member refers would seem to be responsible for the inefficiency, according to the latest reports, of the South Australian forces. No opportunities were given to our local drill instructors to show that they are competent to do the work. Men have been sent from New South Wales to perform duties which were being performed by fully competent men for a few shillings a week, and South Australia will be called upon to pay their salaries. I do not thinksomuchof thatasof theinsultwhich has been put upon our officers. This is not the only instance in which the action of the Government has tended to render federation nauseous to the people of the Commonwealth. Some one has bungled, and we should have an explanation on the subject from the Minister. The reports upon the drill and movements gone through by the forces at Easter time were satisfactory, and therefore we should know why a change has been made.
– The case put forward by the representatives of South Australia demands explanation. I do not know, now that the States are federated, that exception can be taken merely to the transfer of officers from one State to another, but I fail to see why highly-paid officers should be sent from another State to do work which has previously been done efficiently at low rates by local men. I wish to remind the Minister, while we are discussing military matters, that the House was promised an explanation in regard to the retirement of Colonel Templeton.
– I did not promise an explanation.
– I thought that the Minister did. The retirement of that officer is still creating a ferment in this State. The case furnishes another instance in which economy and efficiency have been disregarded.
– That is not correct. A saving of £1,000 has been brought about by the change.
– I fail to see how any saving can have been effected, since Colonel Templeton was not paid. The serious aspect of the question is this : That the 23,000 men who belong to our rifle clubs are deeply dissatisfied, and, as we must regard them as the nucleus of any force which may be required to defend our shores, such a state of affairs should not be allowed to exist without some attempt being made to remedy it. I hope that the Minister will reconsider the position, and allay their dissatisfaction.
– The facts brought forward by the representatives of South Australia are worthy of the consideration of the Minister. They suggest that he should carefully scrutinise the recommendations of the military officials, however high in rank those officials may be, especially as, in the absence of aFederal Defence Act, it cannot be said that the Australian forces have, strictly speaking, been federalized. As a matter of fact, all the State laws relating to defence are still in force, and it is open to very grave doubt whether the military authorities have power to transfer men who have taken service under the laws of one State to serve in another State. It would be interesting to know under what authority these drill instructors have been transferred. In any case, the representatives of South Australia made out a strong case why they should not have been transferred. It does not appear that fresh appointments were necessary, because the old arrangements for the training and drilling of the South Australian forces could have been carried out without the assistance of officers from another State, since temporary men paid by the night could have been employed. In my opinion, the rights of South Australia and of the military officers there have been unnecessarilyinterfered with. It would also appear from Major -General Hutton’s report with regard to thelast
Easter manoeuvres in South Australia that the forces of that. State were very well organized and trained, and in a high state of efficiency. Therefore, there could hardly have been any occasion for a special inundation of ten additional instructors, and an increased expenditure of £1,600. I think the Minister would do well, not only to protect the interests of the temporary instructors, but to prevent the burdens of the State from being unnecessarily increased. I join in the hope expressed by the honorable member for Echuca, that the case of Colonel Templeton will be reconsidered. I understand that his retirement has been decided upon on the ground that his ageexceeds the limit mentioned in the regulations. I would, however, remind the Minister that when Colonel Templeton was appointed to the command of the Victorian Rifle Clubs a regulation was passed by the Victorian Government especially exempting the commanding officer of the rifle clubs from the operation of the age - limit provision. Therefore, Colonel Templeton could not be dismissed on account of his having exceeded the age limit. No ‘doubt the power of the GovernorGeneral in Council is supreme, but the Victorian law is still in force and is ap7plicable to the rifle clubs of Victoria. Therefore, the Victorian Government, and consequently the Federal Government have no legal right to dispense with the services of Colonel Templeton on the ground that he exceeds the age limit I respectfully invite the Minister to consider whether the decision relating to Colonel Templeton cannot be reversed.
– I cannot say that I regret that this subject has been brought forward, but I am sorry that after this House has directed the Minister for Defence to reduce the expenditure in his department, certain honorable members should endeavour to influence the House against effecting retrenchments upon information from those concerned.
– We desire to see retrenchment effected.
– I am referring to matters other than that mentioned by the honorable member. I must ask honorable members after what has taken place with reference to the military estimates, not to press for a re-appointment or a readjustment in every case where it has been found necessary to retire officers and men on the score of retrenchment. I first heard of the matter to which the honorable member for South Australia, Sir Langdon Bonython, has referred when a question was asked in the House with regard to a paragraph published in one of the newspapers. On inquiry I found that the appointment of the additional drill -instructors was decided upon by the general officer commanding. I do not think that it is within the province of the Minister to make himself acquainted with details regarding the appointment and distribution of officers and men, unless his attention is specially directed to cases. I would point out that the military administration for the whole of Australia is being conducted from one centre, and not in the interests of any special State.
– Each of the States has to foot its own bill.
– I shall have occasion to refer to the pay of the men in South Australia, and. the trouble’ which that question is now giving me. Although each State may have to pay its own bill, the Defence administration must be of a general character, or it cannot be successfully carried out. Honorable members must expect officers and men to be moved from State to State, as occasion may require. When the appointment of additional drill-instructors in South Australia was brought under my notice, I ascertained that the matter had not been brought before me for approval in a formal way. It was a case in which the general officer commanding had, in the redistribution of the staff, decided to send additional men to South Australia. In reply to a telephone message sent by me, the general officer commanding reports as follows -
In reply to a telephone message that the Minister desired particulars regarding the appointment oE permanent instructors to the Commonwealth forces of South Australia, I would observe as follows in continuation of my minute, on the same subject, dated 31st ultimo.
In the past there were only two permanent instructors in South Australia, and it was deemed necessary to bring the instructional staff in South Australia to the same level as that in the larger States. Theestablishmen . of the instructional staff in that State was therefore increased from two to twelve by the transfer of seven permanent instructors from New South Wales and three from the permanent staff in Queensland.
No additional cost was involved by these transfers in the estimates for the instructional staff’ of the military forces of the Commonwealth.
– But it will involve a considerable increase to South Australia.
– Itwill be quite impossible to keep the expenditure upon the South Australian defences at as low a figure as it stands at present.
– Then, because we have been conducting our affairs upon an economical basis, we ore to be forced now to adopt the extravagant basis of the other States ?
– That is not so.
– It would seem that it is so.
– The expenditure upon defences in all the States has been very much reduced. The general officer commanding continues -
There are no instructors on the permanent staff
Available in South Australia, nor are there any men who have the matured experience and requisite knowledge to enable them to fulfil the responsible duties of staff sergeants upon the instructional staff of the Commonwealth.
– The whole of that turns upon the word “ permanent.”
– The report proceeds
In the event of the ten instructors now transferred to the State of South Australia being replacedbyunqualified and inexperienced from South Australia or elsewhere, these ten deserving staff sergeants will have to be discharged, as no provision has been made for them in the States from which they are transfered in consequence of the retrenchment order.
In addition to that, I have a report stating that 40 staff instructors have already been discharged from the various staffs - not in South Australia - and that therefore a great reduction has been made. In Queensland over 1,000 men have been retrenched, and in Now South Wales very large reductions have been made. These reductions have necessitated a decrease in the instructional staff, and the transfer of instructors has not involved increased expenditure to the Commonwealth as a whole. Honorable members declare that there is efficiency here and efficiency there ; but though I have had considerable experience in investigating these matters, I do not pretend to say where there is efficiency and where there is not. If any persons ought to be able to determine that question, it is those who have charge of this matter, and who are responsible.
– We quoted them.
– The honorable member has quoted a fairly wellmanufactured interview in both cases. I saw that interview in the newspapers this morning, and therefore knew what was coming when the honorable member read it this afternoon.
– The words of General Hutton were quoted.
– I know that, and I do not wish it to be inferred that I hold that the South Australian drill instructors are not efficient. But the Commandant there controlled them for a long period, and I suppose that he is being consulted by General Hutton. Who is better qualified to judge of their efficiency 1 I may tell honorable members that I have had to undertake a very difficult task in discharging a great many officers and men. I am determined, however, that the men shall not be retrenched without officers being similarly treated - that there shall not be a large number of men discharged and no officers. Upon all hands I am now being asked to reinstate officers who have received notice that they will be retired under the age limit to which reference has been made. I had no hand in fixing that limit, hut I have not varied it in one single instance. The moment I do, Ishall receive a shoal of applications to reinstate men who have received notice that they are to be retired. Moreover, the enforcement of the age limit relieves me of a very heavy responsibility. I have no desire to discharge either officers or men, but I have to perform a very thankless and disagreeable duty. As regards Colonel Templeton he is above the age limit.
– It does not apply to him.
– I have made inquiries upon that point, and I am informed that if it does not apply to him it is not applicable to anybody.
– Here are the regulations, which state that he shall be exempt from the general rule relating to the age of retirement.
– I am informed that that regulation, under present management, is not in force. However, that is a technical point upon which I do not intend to offer an opinion at the present time. I wish, however, to express the hope that each State is not going to “get its back up “ because this or that man is interfered with. The States must view this military question from a Commonwealth stand-point. The rate of payment to the men in New South Wales and Victoria is higher than that in any other State. I think that South Australia pays its men the lowest rate, and the great difficulty which I have to face is how to make the payment uniform. I am not going to attempt to reduce the payment made in New South Wales and Victoria to the level of that in South Australia, and I cannot very well increase the rate paid in South Australia to the average of the other States.
– That £1,600 a year would have helped considerably.
– The general officer commanding says that there is no efficient instruction in South Australia.
– He has discovered that since last Easter.
– I shall ask why - that statement was made, and under what circumstances, and I have not the slightest doubt that I shall receive a satisfactory answer. I repeat that the question of the payment to be made is the most difficult problem with which I have to deal. I have already announced that the pay of the Naval Brigade in Sydney is to be reduced from £10 to £8 10s. per annum, and there must be some reduction in the rates received by the men in the highly-paid States. I will not reduce them very much if lean possibly avoid doing so. At the same time, I cannot increase the payment made in South Australia to the rate in vogue in the other States until that course can be adopted, without incurring very much additional expense. The recommendation of the general officer commanding is that we should have a uniform payment throughout the States, but it is impossible to give effect to that recommendation, and at the same time to conform to the direction of the House to the extent desired. lit connexion with this matter, I hope that reason will prevail, and that no hysterical agitation will be promoted in South- Australia or any other State. In New South Wales there is a stronger feeling of antagonism in military circles against the Government proposals than there is in South Australia, but it has not found expression in this Parliament, despite the fact that there has been- greater retrenchment in that State than in all the others combined as far as officers are affected. When the time comes for me to explain the whole of this scheme of defence retrenchment, both as regards the military and naval forces, honorable members will see that the Statements which ‘have appeared in the Melbourne press to the effect that great reductions are being made in Victoria, but not elsewhere, are absolutely without foundation. In New South Wales a greater number of officers have been retrenched than in any other State, and a large proportion of them are under the age limit. I think, Mr. Speaker, that it is unnecessary for me to say more. I ask honorable members not to allow themselves to be carried away, as some appear to have been, by the agitation of the military and other persons’ interested in South Australia. The. statements of interested persons, such as the military officer to whom reference has been made, must be discounted. I do not know who the officer is, but he has criticised the general officer commanding, and I should say that is rather a serious offence. I think that the general officer commanding will take that view of tho case.’ If officers criticise acts of their general officer commanding, we shall have no military discipline. Such conduct is very much to be deprecated. I shall have a further conversation with the General in order that I may obtain fuller information. I have endeavoured to secure all the information available, but if I am satisfied - and I shall have to be satisfied personally - that there are tpo many of these instructors sent over, and that there is no work for them, the only thing for me to do will be to discharge some or all of them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 August 1902, viewed 7 November 2016, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020806_reps_1_11/>.