1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
” SEVEN COLONIES OF AUSTRALASIA.”
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS. - I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister if his attention has been drawn to the hitch in the publication of the Seven Colonies of Australasia, and if the Government will take steps to continue the issue of that publication pending the establishment of a statisticial department by the Commonwealth ?
Mr. DEAKlN. - I have heard nothing official, and have noticed only one newspaper statement to the effect referred to by the honorable member. I undertand from the Treasurer that our contribution was made available for the purpose by special advance ; consequently the blame faiths non-publication does not lie with us. I shall make inquiry into the matter.
– Referring to the rush of emigrants from Australia to South Africa, I wish to know whether the attention of the Acting Prime Minister has been directed to the following letter from Mr. P. Whiteside, general secretary of the Transvaal Enginedrivers and Boiler-attendants’ Association, dated at Johannesburg on 11th July, and published in the Western Australian press : -
I have every reason to believe that the Government mining engineer intends to recommend that no engine-driver on direct winding engines shall be allowed to work more than eight hours per clay. But that will probably arouse Severe opposition from the capitalistic section, and I can assure you that they have power here : but, should it ‘pass, I think you will agree with me that it is the germ of an eight-hours law, and will be a substantial gain. I would like to say a word as to the labour market here at present. It is foolish in the extreme for men of the labouring class to come here, as there is no scope for them, and the market for skilled labour is greatly overstocked at present, through the disbanding of so many irregulars.
In view of many similar communications, and the fact that miners in Johannesburg are getting only 5s. per day, will the honorable and learned gentleman endeavour to obtain official information as to the conditions of labour and the rates of wages in South Africa, so that persons may not leave Australia undera misapprehension? Some inquiries are being made by the Government of Western Australia, and the Commonwealth Government might act in conjunction with them, so that the information received might be disseminated.
– I am in possession of similar information from various parts of South Africa. Certainly this Government has been no party to encouraging any emigration from Australia. The inquiry to which the honorable member refers may be made, but the Government will need to select its agents in order that the replies may be thoroughly satisfactory. I shall see if anything of that kind can be done.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister, first, if his attention has been drawn to a telegram which appeared in the morning press of Friday last, and in which the Queensland Minister for Railways is reported to have told a deputation of unemployed that the scarcity of work was largely owing to the action of the Federal Government, which had promised to undertake public works in Queensland, and failed to carry them out; secondly, has the Government promised to construct any public works in Queensland ; and, thirdly, if so, what were the works, and their estimated cost?
– The statement to which the honorable member referred escaped my attention. I cannot believe that any Minister in Queensland would have made it. I feel sure that it must be a misreport. So far as I am aware no public works of any importance have been delayed in Queensland, with the exception of the
Brisbane Post-office, which, I think, was provided for on the loan Estimates. Of course there are repairs, additions, and overhauls proceeding continually in that State as elsewhere. The only work that I know of which has been mentioned, and which has not yet been authorized by this House, is the Brisbane Post-office.- The remarks of the Minister for Railways must have been misreported. There is no foundation for any such statement.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether he has obtained any information in answer to the important question I asked him about two months ago, as to what preferential railway rates are supposed by his officers to exist, and which should be prohibited ?
– Speaking from memory, at the time when the honorable and learned member asked the questions, I think certain inquiries had been made from the commissioners or Ministers in Victoria, in South Australia, - and in other States, but the particular case to which he referred was as between Victoria and South Australia.
– I referred to all the States, including New South Wales.
– The Minister for Railways or Works in each State was applied I.V. The replies are not satisfactory ; generally it is that no action would be taken. Since then I have moved the Acting Prime Minister to communicate with the State Premiers to see whether it is not possible to get some alteration of the rates. The replies are not to hand at present.
– Will they be received before the session ends ?
– I hope so : I do not know why I have not received them, but I should think that they will come to hand within a few days or a week.
– It was stated in the House last week that .the Government intended to call for a report from Major-General Hutton with reference to the drill instructors appointed to South Australia. I would ask the Acting Minister for Defence whether such a report has been received, and whether the Government have arrived at any decision respecting it ?
– I have not taken any active measures with reference to the drill instructors in South. Australia. I received a report from the general officer commanding, and put to him certain queries the replies to which will give me an. opportunity of knowing what and how much work these men are doing. The reports, so far, I think, are to the effect that the instructors are very necessary. But that matter will be decided after the replies are given to my questions. There is no desire to force on South Australia further instruction in military matters, though it is reported that the state of the forces is very much below the standard. If it is shown that these instructors are required, of course they will be kept there ; but if it is shown that there are too many of them, they will be taken away or dismissed.
– What means does the Acting Minister for Defence propose to take in order to ascertain whether the drill instructors are necessary or not, and when is he likely to give his decision in the matter?
– Until I get from the general officer commanding the replies to my questions, which are very pertinent, I really do not know where I am. The question of the appointment of drill instructors, which seems to be a very burning one in South Australia, will be attended to in due course. If they are shown to be required, they will be kept there; but if it seems to the Government that they are not required, then some of them will be dismissed. Already 42 instructors have been discharged. There are twelve back from South Africa who are seeking employment ; and as their positions,I believe, are filled, they will have to be discharged, or others will have to be dismissed to make room for them. This is not a very easy matter to deal with.
– That is not a sufficient reason for putting them on to South Australia.
– There is a reason. I do not wish to divulge any reports which I think should not be made public at the present time ; but I know that the MajorGeneral commanding is acting on advice from those who are supposed to know, and not on his own initiative.
– Who are they?
– At the proper time I may answer that question. There seems to be some feeling that the general officer commanding has acted of his own accord, without taking any advice; but I have a report which conclusively proves that he has not. If those who are supposed to know the state of drill of the men in South Australia report certain matters to the Major-General, he is bound to act upon their reports ; and I know that he has so acted in this case.
Mr.V. L. SOLOMON.- Referring to the statement by the Acting Minister for Defence, that the efficiency of the forces in South Australia was so poor that it was absolutely necessary that additional drill instructors should be employed, I ask him to say on what authority he asserts that the efficiency of the volunteer and militia forces in that State is lower than that of the forces in other States.
– That question is easily replied to, because it is made on the report of the general officer commanding, to whom it was reported by those who have been more intimately connected with the forces in South Australia than he has.
– Has that report been placed upon the table of the House, and, if not, will the Minister lay it on the table?
– The report has not been placed on the table of the House. When the Defence Estimates are under consideration, all matters relating to the appointment of these instructors will be submitted.
– Will the honorable gentleman at an early date, without waiting for the consideration ofthe Estimates, bring down the report in order that we may learn on what authority he has made such a statement to the House?
– I shall bring down the statement at the proper time, and I am not prepared to make any promise to present it before. This is purely a matter of administration, and seems to have created a stir that is quite unaccountable.
– We shall take steps to make the Minister bring the report down a little earlier than he contemplates.
– I desire to know whether the Minister will obtain a report as to the reasons why the late commandant of the South Australian forces, who is responsible for their alleged inefficiency, has been selected for promotion ?
– I shall supply honorable members with all the information I possibly can.
– I should like to know from the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral why certain small sums, due to contractors who have been performing work for the Post and Telegraph department, have not yet been paid ? Some time ago I mentioned two instances to the Minister, and I should like to know what is to prevent the Treasurer from making an advance, such as would permit of the payment of these men. I understand that the delay has been caused by the fact that the money will have to be paid out of loan funds.
– The honorable member recently made an inquiry with reference to payments to contractors who had done some unimportant work for the Post and Telegraph department in Sydney. I immediately referred the matter to the Postmaster-General, and I had hoped to receive a reply before this. I understood the Postmaster-General to say that there was no occasion for any delay. The money is not payable out of loan funds, but out of annual votes.
– It is now eight weeks since I brought the matter under the Minister’s notice, and the contractors have not yet been paid.
– I shall pursue my inquiries, and inform the honorable member of the result at the earliest possible moment.
– I desire to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The question of the efficiency of the South Australian military forces.”
Five members having risen in their places,
– I do not care to delay the ordinary course of business by moving motions of this kind, and this is the first occasion since the House commenced its sittings on which I have done so. After the curious, sneering, grinning replies of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence-
– Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I ask whether the honorable member is in order in describing my replies in that manner ?
– I must ask the honorable member to withdraw his remarks.
Mr.V. L. SOLOMON. - What remarks?
– The remarks referring to the nasty, sneering replies of the Minister.
Mr.V. L. SOLOMON. - I say the reply of the Minister was a sneering reply, and I do not think that is unparliamentary.
– Order. I must ask the honorable member to abstain from personal remarks of that kind.
– The manner of the Minister’s reply has led me to take the course I am now adopting.
-Order. I trust that the honorable member will withdraw.
– If it is necessary to withdraw the truthful statement that the Minister made a nasty, sneering reply, I shall do so.
– Order. The honorable member must withdraw his statement without any qualification.
Mr.V. L. SOLOMON.- I withdraw the statement that the Minister gave me a sneering, grinning reply ; but I say that his replies were given in such a manner as not to convey information to those who were respectfully asking for it, and in such a way as to irritate and insult the questioners. There is not an honorable member on this side of the chamber who noticed the manner of the Minister who will not agree that he was absolutely and grossly offensive. In reply to a question asked by an honorable member on the Government side of the House as to the reason for appointing a large number of drill instructors to the South Australian forces, and as to whether MajorGeneral Hutton had been requested to give his reasons for this action - an action which has been described as resulting in economy in New South Wales at the expense of South Australia, and which most of the military authorities of South Australia declare to have been absolutely unnecessary - the only satisfaction afforded was that at some future date, when the military Estimates are under consideration, we shall have laid before us the report which is said to have justified the grossly insulting and libellous statement that the forces of South
Australia are inefficient. I say most emphatically, and with all due consideration that that is a grossly insulting and libellous statement, and that, in spite of all the authorities say, it is untrue.
– I must ask the honorable member to whose statement he is referring ?
– I am referring to the military authorities, who stated that the South Australian defence forces were inefficient, and not to the source through which that statement has filtered. Those who had an opportunity of seeing the behaviour of the forces selected from South Australia to visit Victoria to take part in the Commonwealth celebrations in that State during the visit of their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York, and those who know of their behaviour in the field in South Africa, or who have seen them upon other occasions of military display, admit that they compare favorably with any of the forces of the other States. This is the first time, I venture to think, that South Australia has had a slur of this kind cast upon her military forces. This is the first time we have ever had a hint given - as it was by the Minister, with a self-satisfied- smirk - that the inefficiency of the South Australian forces was the reason for the appointment of these drill instructors, and that the increase in the staff was not due to the fact that New South Wales and Queensland wished to get rid of a certain number of officers and make them a charge upon South Australia. If the forces in South Australia are inefficient, as stated, at whose door should the blame be placed but that of Brigadier-General Gordon, who has been in charge of the forces for many years and who has recently been selected to command the Victorian forces? Was the fact that the forces under BrigadierGeneral Gordon’s control for many years are inefficient regarded as a recommendation for his appointment to command the defence forces of Victoria 1 The statement made by the military authorities bears the stamp of utter incorrectness - I will not say absolute untruthfulness. I have no hesitation in saying that the forces in South Australia in every essential will compare favorably with those of Victoria and New South Wales, and I challenge the Minister to produce the report which justified the statement as to the inefficiency of the South Australian forces. To’ wait until the
Defence Estimates are before us might be a fair course to adopt if this were a. mere trifle, but it is more than a mere trifle to cast a slur upon the defence forces of South Australia, which have worked hard and well for much smaller pay than that which has been granted to the members of the forces inNew South Wales and Victoria. Such a statement demands either an absolute withdrawal or the production of the report which justified it.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I join with the honorable member in asking the Minister to bring down the report to which he has referred. The Minister has stated that there seems to be a considerable amount of stir with regard to a purely departmental matter, but he must not forget that portions of the report which he read on a former occasion contained most offensive - I will not say insulting - remarks with reference to the South Australian forces. The idea conveyed by that report was that the forces were quite inefficient. Does the Minister think it likely that if the defence forces of New South Wales were referred to in similar* terms he would be prepared to sit down quietly and allow the matter to pass?
– We should not.
– I do not think the Minister would. Does he not think that it would create a stir in New SouthWales if it were stated that the military forces in that State were quite inefficient, and that drill instructors were to be transferred from South Australia in order to put them right? Honorable members are entitled to see the report upon which action has been taken. I havemy own opinion as to the source from which it emanates.
– From whom does the honorable member think it emanates?
– If the Minister will state whether I am correct or not, I will name the person from whom the report emanated. The people of South Australia are much concerned, because a gross charge has been made against the efficiency of their defence forces. This is quite apart from the question of the extra expenditure which has been thrown upon South Australia because the defence forces in some of the other States appear to have been overmanned. That, however, is not the worst objection. The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V.L.Solomon, is perfectlyaccuratein describing the statement which has been made as a gross libel not only upon the men, but also upon the officer who has been in charge of the military forces of that State for so many years. Certainly, during his term as commandant in South Australia, that officer never suggested that those forces were so inefficient that they required the services of imported drill instructors. Such a suggestion constitutes a gross reflection upon the gallant officer in question. In order to clear his character, and to remove the stigma which at present rests upon the South Australian forces, the Government should produce the report to which reference has been made. I hope that the Minister will accede to the request, and place the document upon the table of the House for the perusal of honorable members.
– I am just as anxious as are my fellow members from South Australia to see the report upon which the action of the Government has been based, and upon which South Australia has received ten drill instructors from the other States. Under similar circumstances, I am quite certain that each State in the Commonwealth would resent that action quite as much as does South Australia. It has been suggested that the forces of that State are inefficient. I claim, however, that that suggestion is merely an after-thought. So recently as last Easter no such statement would have been made, because, as I pointed out the other evening, the report of Colonel Taunton, who was sent to investigate the condition of affairs there, in connexion with the Easter manoeuvres, was entirely favorable. Moreover, that report, when sent forward, was accompanied by remarks by Major-General Hutton, which were highly eulogistic. Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that the people of South Australia resent the action of the Government in sending to that State ten drill instructors upon the ground of alleged inefficiency of the troops. But the matter does not end there. There is also another aspect of the question in regard to which the people of South Australia feel very keenly. At the present moment everything possible is being done in that State to effect economy, and yet they are asked to submit toan additional expenditure of over £1,600 for the services of drill instructors, who are absolutely not required. We are all extremely anxious to know whose report is responsible for the despatch of these instructors, and the people of South Australia will regard it as a favour if that report be laid upon the table of the House.
– Not as a favour, but as a right.
– I think with my honorable colleague that, under the circumstances, we may well demand the production of the document in question as a right.
– I am glad that an opportunity has been afforded honorable members to discuss the military Estimates in connexion with the State of South Australia, because the position revealed is rather an ominous one in the light of a resolution which has already been adopted by this House. Honorable members must recollect that those Estimates were submitted in the final month of the financial year, and the House then determined to reduce them by something like £130,000. It was clearly a matter to which Ministers themselves ought to have attended, because before even a vote was taken upon the subject–
– I would point out to the honorable and learned member that the statement handed in by the mover of the motion for adjournment is as follows : - “ To discuss the question of the efficiency of the South Australian military forces.” It will, therefore, not be competent for any honorable member to go beyond the ambit of that statement.
– I was pointing out that the vote in connexion with the Defence department included the expenditure upon the South Australian forces, and as we decided to cut down that vote, no doubt those forces must be reduced pro rata. But to honorable members the alarming feature is that, despite the reduction resolved upon, the military expenditure in South Australia has actually been increased to the extent of £2,000 annually.
– No, £1,600.
– That additional expenditure is apparently in connexion with only one branch of the Defence department. It is only because that branch happened to come under the notice of some honorable members that we have heard anything about it. We do not know in how many other branches increased expenditure may have been incurred. If the Estimates are to be submitted during the last month of the present financial year, any discussion upon them will be absolutely futile. I am glad that the honorable member for South Australia has brought this matter forward, because it has given honorable members who are interested in seeing that the military vote is kept down to the lowest possible amount an opportunity to carefully watch the actions of the Government.
– I think the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Solomon, is amply justified in raising this issue, because when the Estimates are under discussion we are always confronted with the position that the money has been spent. It is also to the credit of South Australian representatives that this matter was brought forward immediately their attention was directed to it. The reports of those responsible for the condition of the troops in that State are to the effect that those troops are as efficient as are the forces in the other States, notwithstanding which ten drill instructors have been appointed, involving an expenditure of £1,600 a year in excess of that of previous years, in order that the troops may be rendered efficient. I understand that similar conditions obtain right throughout the service. It seems to me that we are fast losing all check upon the expenditure in the various departments. In the Defence department particularly, instead of considering efficiency, the chief consideration appears to be the uniform of the officers. There has been some trouble in respect of different branches of the defence forces other than those of South Australia. I am entirely in sympathy with those who have brought this matter under the notice of the House, and I think that honorable members are entitled to see the report upon which the action of the Government has been based. The production of that document should not be delayed until the Estimates are submitted, because when that time arrives, honorable members will be told that certain appointments have been made, that expenditure has been incurred, and that perforce we must vote the money. That is not a position in which honorable members ought to be placed. As soon as the report has been obtained it should be submitted to the House in order that honorable members may know the reasons for the increased expenditure. I am in entire sympathy with those who have moved to obtain the fullest information in connexion with this matter.
– I think that the House is under a debt of gratitude to the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, for calling attention to this question. At the recent review we all saw the members of the South Australian militia ; and can any honorable member say that the troops from Victoria or New South Wales were more proficient 1 Not a bit of it. I hold that, if the South Australian militia is inefficient, General Gordon is incompetent to hold the position which he at present occupies. The inefficiency of the South Australian troops would constitute an everlasting testimony to his incompetence, and it would be the duty of this House to call upon him to resign.
– I do not desire to say much regarding the elegant language which the honorable member for South Australia has employed in submitting this motion. To my mind it was quite uncalled for. As far as I am personally concerned, there was not the slighest intention in my reply to cast a slur upon any one, or to do any of the dreadful things of which he accused me. At the same time, I cannot resist the temptation to look back at the number of questions relating to this matter with which I have been bombarded during the past fortnight. I think that the honorable members from South Australia, who have put those questions, cannot quite conceive the altered conditions under which the military are now placed, as compared with those which prevailed prior to the accomplishment of federation. If, in the future, the military forces are to be efficiently controlled there must be a levelling up and down throughout the Commonwealth, without any regard being paid to particular States. The reports in my possession concerning the military forces of South Australia constitute the greatest bar to that “levelling up.” No increased military expenditure has taken place in South Australia, because 4’2 drill instruc-.tors throughout the Commonwealth have been retrenched. But it so happens that of the balance ten instructors have been sent to South Australia.
– The retrenchment has been at the expense of South Australia.
– And it must be so until the expiration of a certain period. That is the great difficulty which I experience in carrying out the equalizing process in regard to the Commonwealth military forces.
– In South Australia the military authorities declare that these men are not required.
– The honorable member may be a military gentleman or a commander-in-chief, but I have no such lofty pretensions. I have never been even an ordinary trooper, and, to a very large extent, I have to accept the recommendations of responsible officers in dealing with military matters. Unless personally aware of certain inequalities, I do not think I should be doing my duty if I rode roughshod over those who ought to know the facts, and who have reported to me.
– The officers in South Australia say the contrary.
– The officers should speak to the commanding officer, and not to the press.
– The officers speak with one voice.
– The press speaks with one voice, but I do not know that that is so as to the officers.
– The South Australian officers speak with one voice.
– That has to be discovered. There is no intention or desire on the part of any of the officers of the department, and certainly no desire on my part, to cast anything approaching a slur on the military in South Australia. But the questions were put before me, or to me, in such a pertinent and concise manner that I had to refer to the reports. Yet that is regarded as a slur cast on certain officers or men in South Australia.
– It is just an excuse for a mistake.
– I do not pretend to discuss the origin of this report, though the honorable member seems to have made up his mind that it came from a certain source.
– The Minister does not deny it.
– I have stated the position in South Australia at the present time, and it is a position which arises from the fact that we cannot deal with the whole of Australia without affecting individual States.
– Was the report verbal or in writing?
– In writing, but I shall not lay it on the table at the present time.
-Is it General Gordon’s report ?
– I shall not lay the report on the table at the present time, but I can inform honorable members that a few minutes ago I sent a telephone message asking for a copy of the questions which I have put to the general officer commanding on the report presented to me. Speaking from memory, I think I asked the number of men who are being instructed in South Australia, the number at each station, and the attendance, the number of drills given by these instructors during the week, and other particulars. Before I receive replies to those questions I am not prepared to submit the report to the House. The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, appears to blame me because these instructors were appointed by an act of administration. I have, of course, to take responsibility for that act.
– Was it an act of administration, or was it not really a matter of convenience ?
– I do not think there is any truth in the statement that these men were appointed because of a desire to get rid of them in New South Wales. In view of the reduction in the number of instructors throughout the whole of Australia, honorable members will easily understand that there would have been no difficulty in retrenching an additional eight or ten. These appointments have not been made in consequence of any personal or private feeling on the part of officers : and seeing that 47 have been retrenched, it would have been, as I say, a very simple matter, if these men were not required in South Australia, to dispense with their services. I do not think the accusation or insinuation that these appointments were made in order to lighten the burden of paying officers in New South Wales or Queensland has the slightest foundation in fact.
– In South Australia there were four non-commissioned drill instructors, and now we have twelve.
– And there were twice as many men for the four drill instructors.
– I do not want to do more than repeat information which has been given to me by military officers who ought to know the facts and circumstances. It is reported to me that the drill instructors and the military generally in South Australia are reduced to a lower level than is the ease in any other State.
– That report ought not to be private ; it should be placed before Parliament.
– I cannot lay the report before Parliament before I have received replies to the questions I have indicated. I will not be forced to lay the report on the table without due consideration, or in the absence of adequate information ; it would be unfair to ask me to take such a course. Before the report was obtained or anything was done, the appointments were made, and it was only when the question was asked me in Parliament that I knew the appointments had been made. It was an act of administration in dealing with’ the whole of the Commonwealth, and not with one particular State. In consequence of the questions asked me in Parliament I communicated with the general officer commanding, and hence the report on which I have asked further questions.
– The appointments were made on the strength of the report.
– The appointments were made before the report was asked for.
– Meanwhile the officers »nd men of South Australia remain under an accusation.
– They will not remain under an accusation any longer than is absolutely necessary. I must really ask Honorable members to be a little more considerate in dealing with a question affecting the whole of Australia. It would be a different matter if we were dealing only with a particular State. Honorable members, I am sure, scarcely recognise the difficulties of the position. A question has been asked, to which I shall reply to-day, showing that the number of military men in South Australia is very small compared with the number in any other part of Australia.
– There has been a reduction of about 40 per cent, since the inauguration of the Commonwealth.
– I have now in my hand the further questions- which I sent to the general officer commanding, regarding the appointment of drill instructors in South Australia. The questions are as follow : -
How many men do these instructors in South Australia instruct ?
How many each instructor ?
How many days or evenings a week ure the)’ each actually employed instructing ?
What is the average attendance upon instruction days ?
I then go on to say that I quite agree that the instructors should be the best qualified men obtainable, but that it is of “ no use keeping those who have but little work to do, if such be the case.” To these questions I have as yet no replies, and until the matter is fully dealt with there is no necessity for the heat which has been displayed. The report will be dealt with in due course, and there is no desire on the part of the Government to send to any State drill instructors or other military men who are not required. As to the statement by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa that there has been an increase instead of a decrease in the expenditure, I can say that, though there may be no decrease in South Australia, the military Estimates have practically been reduced by the amount required by this Chamber.
– That is by £200,000?
– By £131,000. At the present time the Estimates’ have been reduced by that amount, within, I think, £1,000, and there is no necessity for the insinuation that in a sneaking way the Government are increasing the expenditure in a small State where there ought to be a decrease. I have other suggestions before me, and there may be a little further reduction ; but I must say that this task is a very difficult and heart-rending one. It is exceedingly painful to effect retrenchment of this nature, and it is a business I do not like. But it has to be done, and, therefore, I am doing it as well as I possibly can. The House will see, however, that the next military Estimates will show a reduction of £131,000.
– Five years ago the Estimates were very much less.
– The honorable and learned member is absolutely wrong. Before the first contingent was sent to South Africa, the military Estimates were practically the same as they are this year.
I had a full comparison made, and the reply to the first question I asked was as I have stated.
– Not in South Australia.
– I do not know as to South Australia ; I am talking of the Commonwealth as a whole.
– In 1897 the Estimates were £598,000.
– And now the amount is £600,000.
– It is £800,000 now.
– I think it is £600,000 for the same services. There are outside matters, but I think I am correct in saying that the amount was £597,000 - not £598,000 - the year before the first contingent was sent to South Africa.
– Is that naval and military expenditure together ?
– I think that is so.
Mr.V. L. Solomon. - The expenditure is £800,000 for the two.
– The expenditure does not include the subsidy paid to the Imperial Government.
– The figures before the Federal Convention included the subsidy.
– I think I shall be able to show honorable members when the Estimates are submitted, that for the same military and naval services, without including the contribution to the Imperial Navy or outside matters of that kind, the expenditure is practically the same as it was in 1900.
– But the whole expenditure in 1897 was £597,000.
– I have said as much us I can, and perhaps more than I was called upon to say. I wish to show that there is no necessity for the heat which has been displayed. I am dealing with the question in a judicial way, and I shall not hesitate,if it seems to me that there are too many inspectors in South Australia, to deal with the matter. But I cannot go absolutely in opposition to the reports made to me unless I am quite satisfied that I am thus taking a proper course. Honorable members will, I think, see I am endeavouring to act fairly, in view of the questions which I have submitted to the general officer commanding, and I shall deal with the matter as soon aspossible after I get replies.
– Then I understand that the Minister still has the matter under consideration ?
– I think that is shown by the fact that I yesterday sent the questions whichI have read to the general officer commanding, in order to elicit what seem to me the crucial points. My recent information is to the effect that there are very few military men in South Australia, and I want to know what drill instructors are required there. If those drill instructors are not engaged fairly and reasonably, they can be dealt with accordingly.
Mr.V. L. SOLOMON (South Australia). - I am pleased indeed to know that what I mistook for a satirical sneer on the part of the Ministerwas only an ordinary smile. The honorable gentleman has given us much information, in which, however, there is precious little. He has told us, first of all, in reply to questions to-day and previously, that the necessity for the appointment of these drill instructors was the inefficiency of the military forces in South Australia. We are now told, however, that these ten men were appointed before any report was received.
– I wish to correct the honorable member.
– Order ! Does the Minister for Home Affairs desire to make a personal explanation ?
– I do not wish the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, to say that I made a statement which I did not make.
Mr.V. L. SOLOMON.- I took the honorable gentleman’s words down a few moments ago to the effect that these instructors were sent to South Australia before the report was received. How does that accord with previous statements of the Minister? Representatives of South Australia specially take exception to the statement that these ten additional drill instructors were sent to South Australia owing to the fact that a report had been received showing inefficiency on the part of the military forces of that State.
– The honorable member has taken it up in the wrong way.
Mr.V. L. SOLOMON.- I have no desire to misrepresent the honorable gentleman. It appeared to me that the reply which he made to the honorable members for South
Australia, Sir Langdon Bonython and Mr. Batchelor, was to the effect that these additional instructors were appointed because of the extreme inefficiency of the South Australian forces, and that there was a report to that effect. Subsequently, the honorable gentleman said that he did not receive that report until after the appointments had been made. What I desire to know is whether the report was received prior to or after the Appointment of these men.
– I shall explain that matter.
– I am giving the honorable member an opportunity to say “ yes “ or “no,” andas he will not answer ray question, it seems to me that there can be no excuse for saying that the instructors were appointed because of the inefficiency of the military forces in South Australia.
– I did not say that.
– Their appointment was a matter of expendiency. There was a desire to get rid of these ten men, and to shelve them on to South Australia. The Minister says that he will lay the report on the table of the House when he chooses. I take it that the Government will recognise that common decency and justice demand that when such a statement is made regarding the military force of any State,’ it is only fair that the report, upon which the assertion is based, should be laid upon the table of the House. If such a statement were made about the military forces in Victoria, I am satisfied that the Minister, having a large number of honorable members from Victoria sitting behind him-
Mr.Mauger. - Is that fair?
– It is perfectly fair. There are only seven representatives of South Australia in this House, while there are 23 honorable members representing Victoria. If such a report were made as to the inefficiency of the defence forces in Victoria I am satisfied that the Minister would lay it on the table of the House within 24 hours after it had reached him. If this report is not forthcoming, I hope that some honorable members opposite, who have a reasonable idea of what is the proper course to take when a slur such as this is oast upon a big body of men, will cross the floor of the House, and allow Ministers to see that Parliament is supreme.
– The honorable member would not turn out a Government on such a question ?
– If a slur were cast upon a few factory hands, the honorable member would very quickly resent it ; but because this is a question which affects only some 2,000 or 3,000 military men in a sister State, represented by a small number of honorable members, the Minister thinks that he is at liberty to say, “ I shall bring forward the report when I please.” I trust that, upon. consideration, the Minister, will see that, as he has made this assertion upon what he says is a report received from the paid military servants of the. Commonwealth, he should give us an opportunity of considering that report at the earliest possible moment.
– By way of explanation, Mr. Speaker, I desire to say that the honorable member has entirely misconstrued the statement that I made. In answer to an interjection, I said that the appointments were made before the report was placed in my hands. When a question was asked in the House in regard to the subject, I interrogated the general officer commanding, and it was then- and not till then - that he placed the report in my hands. It will be seen, therefore, that the honorable member is in error. It was because I asked a question in regard to the appointments that I obtained the report The appointments were made as an actof administration, in regard to which it was thought to be unnecessary to consultthe Minister.
Question resolved in the negative.
The Clerk laid upon the table
Printing for Parliament and new Commonwealth departments - Part Return to Orderof 18th April, 1902.
asked the Acting Prim) Minister,upon notice -
In the event of the necessity arising, is itthe intention of the Government to take the requisite steps for the establishment of the constitutional principlethata State cannot taxa Federal office; for his office or its emoluments, as laid down it 1.842 by the Supreme Court of the United State) of America, in the ease of Dobbinv. TheCommis sioner of Erie County, as follows : - “Thecompen sation of an officer of the United States is fixedby lawmade by Congress. It is in its exclusive discretion to determine what shall be given. It exercises the discretion and fixes the amount, and confers upon the officer the right to receive it when it has been earned. Does not a tax, then, by a State upon the office, diminishing the recompense, conflict with the law of the United States, which secures it to the officer in its entireness ? It certainly has such an effect ; and any law of a State imposing such a tax cannot be constitutional, because it conflicts with a law of Congress made in pursuance of the Constitution, and which makes it the supreme law of the land?”
– The necessity has not yet arisen. If it does arise, it will be in consequence of a judgment of the High Court, or of the Privy Council, declaring that the Constitution does not contain such a power. In my opinion, it already contains such a power, but, if it does not, it will certainly be necessary to provide a reciprocal immunity which will protect the officers of a State from the legislation of the Commonwealth and the officers of the Commonwealth from any legislation of a State.
asked the Treasurer,upon notice -
Whether he will furnish, in regard to each of the other live States, the information given by him on Tuesday last (in reply to Question No. 1 of that date) in reference to Victoria ?
SirGEORGE TURNER.- I propose to give the information in question, as well as a great many other details of a similar nature, as part of the Budget statement.
– When shall we have it?
– As soon as I can get to it.
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, 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 : -
In Committee. Second recommittal. - (Consideration resumed from 5th August, vide page 14883.)
Clause 152. - (Contingent vote.)
Upon which Mr. Sydney Smith had moved, by way of amendment -
That the words “In the case of the Senate the voters shall vote for the full number of candidates to be elected, and “ be inserted at the commencement of the clause.
– I hope that these words will be restored. We desire above all things that our representation shall be as democratic as we can make it, and that we should represent the votes and the voices of the people as effec- tively as possible. By the introduction of the system of plumping we shall obtain exactly the converse result. We shall place more and more power in the hands of the purse-holder, and enable those with wealth behind them to carry elections which otherwise they could not hope to win. If we could have had that proportional system of voting which gives in its truest possible shape a reflex of the opinions of the people from one end of the country to the other, all would have been well. There is nothing in that system which is tainted in any way with the wretched practice of plumping. I do not desire to labour this question, but I would say that in the true interests of democracy - in the interests of true representation - and in the interests of the Senate itself, it would be well for us to restore these words. As I have said before, we have a right to consider the form of election of honorable members to another place, just as they have a right to consider the form of our election ; but as this is a matter dealing exclusively with representation in that House, I think we should be chary of interfering with what they have done.We might very well adopt what they have done in good faith, and, I hope, with every intention to insist upon it.
– I agree with the right honorable member who has just resumed his seat, that we ought to be slow to interfere with what the Senate has done in a matter affecting that Chamber. But there are other and strong reasons why we should vote against the system of plumping. When I was a candidate for the Federal Parliament I was asked at several meetings whether I favoured the system of plumping, and I said that I would vote against it. It is very difficult to understand the position of several honorable members, who have always been distinguished for their democratic views, and who yet favour a system of plumping at elections.
– What is there that is undemocratic about that attitude?
– The system of plumping infringes the democratic principle of “ one vote one value,” by giving one man more voting power than another. I fail to see how the supporters of the principle of “ one man one value “ can reconcile their opinions with their support of the principle of plumping.
Mr.Watson.- Why ?
-Because the vote of the man who plumps is of more value than the votes of the man who does not. If there be on election for the Senate, and three candidates are to be returned, and if a man votes for only one of. those candidates, whereas he has the right to vote for three, his vote for one makes that vote far more valuable than are three votes of a man who exercises his privilege to the fullest extent. Plumping is an infringement of a democratic principle, inasmuch as the vote of the man who plumps is more valuable to the individual for whom he votes than is the vote of a man who uses his full voting power. I shall therefore have much pleasure in supporting the abolition of the system of plumping.
– I cannot quite follow the honorable member who has just resumed his seat in the reasoning by which he arrives at the conclusion that plumping, as it is popularly called, is undemocratic. Evidently the honorable member has in his mind the idea of plumping as it was originally understood in England and many other places, where a man was allowed, if he had three votes, to give the whole of them to one candidate. But that is not what is intended in this instance. It is simply proposed that if an elector cares to limit his voting power, and to give one vote instead of three, he may do so. The object is to relieve an elector from the obligation of voting for a candidate for whom he does not care, or who, in his opinion, may be absolutely worthless.
– Can he not express his preferences ?
Mr.WATSON. - We have not got the proportional system of representation, or the Hare system, embodied in this Bill, with the result that a man cannot express his preferences so far as they concern the qualifications of the various candidates. There is nothing essentially democratic or undemocratic in allowing an elector to give less than the full number of votes. The principle of democracy is not affected one way or the other. But, from the point of view of expediency, it is going on wrong and foolish lines to compel a man, willy-nilly, to vote tor individuals with whom he may not have the slightest sympathy.
– An elector must have some choice, even though it be the lesser of two evils.
– I presume that if an elector knew each of the candidates thoroughly there would be a possibility of choice in his case. ‘ But the honorable member must recollect that a considerable portion of the population is scattered over large areas, and it is almost impossible for the average elector to know more than one or two of the candidates.
– The electors will know their views.
– They may or may not. If an elector relies on the newspapers, he may go very far wrong, because it is not the custom of the newspapers to give any accurate account of the speeches of men with whom they do not agree. The newspapers do not insert election addresses unless they are ‘ paid for, and it is not likely that a candidate will pay for the insertion of his address in all the newspapers, no matter how wealthy he may be. It is difficult to say how electors would exercise the opportunity of choice as between individuals whom they did not thoroughly know. Free-trade versus protection would be the most important issue to some electors ; others would not care a snap of the finger for the fiscal issue, and would put prohibition or some other question first. If it were proposed, as was suggested some time ago by the honorable member for Grampians, to create the various States into electorates, I could not advocate anything in the nature of plumping. In smaller electorates there would be some chance of the people having a knowledge of the views of the various candidates before them, but except in the smallest of the States, if it were one electorate, there would be no such opportunity. Therefore, partly from that point of view and partly because the elector should have an opportunity of pleasing himself whether he votes for one or for more of the candidates, I think the committee will do well to maintain the clause in its present form. So far as concerns the argument that -we should not interfere with the proposals of the Senate, I am aware that when this question was discussed, the Minister stated, as a reason for agreeing to the’ clause as it came from another place, that he did not think it right to interfere with what the Senate had done in respect to its own elections. I altogether dissent from that view. The Senate interferes with the position so far as this Chamber is concerned. They carried an amendment in an earlier part of the Bill providing that the divisions of the House of Representatives in the various States should come before the Senate for consideration. I did not object to that. As a component part of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, the Senate has a right to be consulted in any matter concerning any portion of the Parliament, whether affecting itself or this House.
– We have altered that.
– I was under the impression that that provision had not been interfered with, but even if so, it does not alter my argument in the slightest degree. We, as representatives of the people in the Commonwealth Parliament, have a right to require that everything concerning either House of the Parliament shall come before us for our approval before it becomes law. We can easily imagine a set of circumstances, when the proposal put forward tentatively by the Minister, and since by some other honorable members, might lead us into a very curious fix indeed. If, for instance, the Senate desired to put some disqualification in the way of candidates standing for the Senate, or some obstacle in the way of people recording their votes for that Chamber - I presume that some honorable members would take up the stand that we ought to allow the Senate to please itself. I say, on the contrary, that as to everything concerning elections, whether for this House or for the Senate, we have a right to express an opinion. I trust that, in view of the fact that proportional voting is not provided for in this measure, we shall allow every freedom of choice to the elector to vote for one, two, or three candidates. Three would be the maximum under ordinary circumstances; but in the case of a penal dissolution, the electors would have six candidates to vote for, and my idea is that they should be allowed to vote for as few or as many as they pleased. We cannot compel them to vote, and therefore if they are disposed to exercise only a portion of their privileges or rights, why should we compel them to vote for three candidates or for none at all?
– Why should one vote have more value than another ?
– I say that one vote will not have more than one value under this measure.
– The vote of the elector who plumps is of more value to a candidate than are the votes of an elector who votes for the full number of candidates to be elected.
– No, the honorable member is mistaken, because if an elector plumps, and the candidate for whom he votes gets in, he only helps to get one man in, whereas the elector who votes for three candidates, if they are successful, helps to get three men in. I think the voter should be allowed to do exactly as he chooses in this respect. The argument as to making one vote of more value than another does not bear examination, because by voting for one candidate only the elector will simply reduce his voting power to the extent of the number of candidates for whom he refuses to vote.
– The honorable member for Bland has given his case away when he says that as the proportionate vote, as originally proposed, is not in existence, he is in favour of resorting to the practice of plumping. I think the committee is desirous of securing the very best representation of the people possible. We ought to have the widest range of selection, and the best way of securing that end is for the elector to be asked to pick out the three best men amongst the candidates, and vote for them. There ought always to be a sufficient number of candidates at an election, and it would be a bad look out for the Commonwealth if an elector could not find three in each State for whom he was willing to vote. The electors should have no difficulty whatever in selecting the full number of candidates who represent their views, and, having selected them, the majority should rule.
– The honorable member would not give the minority any power whatever.
– The principle of minority representation was struck out of the Bill, but it is now sought by a side issue to secure minority rule. The principle of democracy is that the majority should rule, and if some members believe in minority representation, let them bring in a bill especially to provide for it.
The principle of democracy is that the majority shall rule, or, as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie put it, “one vote, one value.” It was applied to the first referendum, and adopted in Victoria by the Legislative Assembly by ‘23 votes to 6, and it was lost here the other evening by 19 votes to 16. In nearly all the State Legislatures the principle has been adopted by large majorities. In the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales a proposal, by Mr. Meagher, to introduce the principle into a Bill was rejected. In the Legislative Council, however, the provision was inserted, and when the Bill was returned, my honorable friend, Sir William Lyne, proposed the acceptance of the amendment, and it was acceptedby a majority of 44 to 16 as a compromise. I am only desirous of testing the feeling of the committee on a principle which underlies all democracy - one vote, one value.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Macquarie has ventured to indulge in what I cannot help calling cant. He said that the majority must rule. Does anybody suppose for one minute that the party in this House which is recognised as the representatives of democracy is likely to oppose majority rule, to begin with ? Suppose that six senators were to be returned by New South Wales, and that there were 99,999 voters on the rolls, does the honorable member wish to contend that 50,000 electors who desired to get a particular brand of senator were to secure all the representation in the Senate, and the 49,999 voters were to have none? Is that the majority rule of which- the honorable member speaks? It would be an atrocious injustice to give all the representation to the 50,000 voters. Every State contains a considerable minority who attach a particular value to some
Cry or question, and if they are sufficiently numerous, they ought to be allowed to return a man who is able to voice their views in Parliament. Suppose that in New South Wales 15,000 or 16,000 electors took the same view on the fiscal question as does the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and wished to close the ports of Australia, would it be fair to deny them all representation in this Parliament ? The honorable member has not touched the fringe of the most important point at stake, and that is whether it is just or fair that no representation should be given to a minority in a State, no matter how powerful or numerous it may be.
– Why not propose a system of proportional representation ?
– I have no responsibility for the framing of the Bill. I am trying to get as near as I can to’ what is fair, and that is to give an opportunity to a man to utilize his vote as he thinks fit. My honorable friend says that an elector should have the right to vote for the three best men. If I approve of only one of three candidates, why should I be compelled either to refrain from voting at all or- to vote for men in whom I do not believe ? All the argument is in favour of retaining the clause. The honorable member has said that an elector has an opportunity to put forward his own candidates. What chance is given to an isolated voter to nominate candidates 1 Nobody knows who are to be the candidates until the nominations are made, and the only opportunity which an elector has of exercising influence at all is when he goes into the polling booth to vote, and he may not find on the ballot-paper three names of which he approves. Why should a man be compelled to vote for a candidate he does not wish to see elected ? What does this talk about one vote one value mean ? If I go into a polling booth with a friend, and he votes for the three candidates on the ballot-paper, and I vote for only one of them, does he not put his three men as far forward as I put mine ? If I choose to plump for my man, what does it amount to ? It is not as if I were able to give three votes to one man. I have the right to vote for three candidates, and if I choose to vote for only one of them, what has Parliament to do with that exercise of my right ? Why should it attempt to regulate what I am to do with my vote? Supposing that this Bill contained a provision for compulsory voting, and that it became law, an elector would be driven to the ballot-box to- vote for candidates whom he did not approve of, and did not wish to see in Parliament. If the electors are not allowed to plump, they will obtain their object in another way. Bogus candidates will be nominated, and the electors will vote for the bogus candidates as well as the man for whom they desire to plump, and at times they may elect a man who should not be returned. We have no right to prevent an elector from doing what he likes with his vote. If he chooses to vote for three men, well and good ; but if he prefers to vote for only one candidate, in what way does he imperil the Constitution ? Why should he be deprived of the liberty of voting for only one candidate if he disapproves of the other names on the. ballot-paper? I hope that the committee will stand by the clause.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).When I submitted this proposal, in the firstinstance, to the committee, I said that I saw no reason why a man should be compelled practically to vote against the dictates of his conscience. I pointed out that if a man were compelled to vote for candidateswhom he did not desire to see in Parliament, he might be the means of bringing about the defeat of his own candidate. We are told that we are undemocratic in endeavouring to introduce this provision into the Bill, and the honorable member for Macquarie has defined democracy to be the rule of the majority. I have never heard it stated ‘as part of a democratic system that the majority are to compel the minority to do things which, perhaps, in their consciences, they cannot approve of. As a rule in a democracy there is a desire to give every liberty and every freedom for expression of opinion ; but when it conies to deciding what law should govern that democracy, then the opinion of the majority, as expressed through proper constitutional agents, should prevail. But the suggestion now made is that the individual elector shall not have that liberty. He has not the chance of nominating his candidate. All he can do is to. vote for the candidates who arenominated. He may not be a member of the great political organizations which toa certain extent control the nomination of candidates, yet if the idea of the honorable member for Macquarie were carried out,, either he would have to vote for a man whom he did not desire to see in Parliament, or refrain from voting. Instead of giving all votes one value, we should be absolutely silencing many electors. If electors wereentitled to vote for only one candidate, their votes would not have any increased value except so far as they might tend to secure minority representation. This would not be opposed to the democratic principle that the will of the majority shall prevail. I only desire to restore the clause to the form in which it was originally introduced by the Government in the Senate.
– Honorable members havetold us a good deal about “ onemanonevote,” and “ one-vote-one-value,” but they are not so much moved by these considerations as by the manner in which party influence may be increased by a particular method of voting. If we studied the electors we should fight for proportional representation. This provision would not operate in that direction, but it would secure to the dominant party the full force of its voting powers. In New South Wales the free-trade party is undoubtedly dominant, and I shall not be a party to introducing any system which would have the effect of preventing it from securing full representation in t.he Legislature. Some honorable members tell us that they are guided by sound political principles, but each party is fighting for its own interests, and the honorable member for Bland entirely gave the position away when he said that, if the States were divided into single electorates, he would no longer be in favour of plumping, because the candidates would have better opportunities of becoming known to the electors whose suffrages they were seeking. The honorable member for Bland knows well that under the block system of voting the labour party have no chance; and the Minister for Home Affairs also knows that it places the protectionist party in New South Wales at a great disadvantage. I do not pretend that I am guided by any bogus ideas about democracy, but I am fighting for my own party. We are not studying the convenience of the electors, but we are fighting for the interests of our respective parties. When proportional represensation is brought about, it will be better for the elector, and worse for the party. A debate of this character and a decision against plumping willmake many honorable members fight more vigorously for the principle of proportional representation.
– It seems to me that the fault lies in the system that we have adopted. When I recently proposed that the States should be divided into single electorates, I pointed out that whilst they were polled as one electorate the dominant party was bound to secure an undue proportion of representation. Butwe have adopted the block system of voting, and I do not see how we can make any other provision than that now proposed. The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs has based his objection on the high ground of conscience, but under a system by which the States are polled as one electorate, the electors are called upon to vote - not for one man - but for three or six men, as the case may be, and it is a matter of duty on their part to select the best three or six of the candidates.
– Country representatives will stand a very poor show.
– I know that, and for that reason I took action with a view to dividing the States into single electorates. I still hope that, in the Senate, some effort may be made to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Bland with reference to the division of the States, because that is the only real way out of the difficulty. I admit the weight of many of the arguments which have been advanced in favour of plumping, because I believe that that is the only way in which the majority representation can be secured under the system of polling adopted.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 178 consequentially amended and agreed to.
Clause 197 (Method of disputing elections) negatived.
Clause 197 a - . . . (3. ) Every member who becomes a party to any petition complaining of an undue election or return, or respecting whose return qualification or disqualification an inquiry is pending, shall for the time be disqualified to serve on the committee, and the President or Speaker, as the case may be, shall name another member in his stead.
Amendments (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the words “ to act” be inserted after the word “member,” line 7; and that the words “ until the petition is finally dealt with “ be inserted after the word “ stead.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 197e -
The President or Speaker shall appoint the time and place ofthe first meeting of the committee, and the committee shall meet at the time and place so appointed, but no member shall act upon the committee until he has been sworn at the table of the House by the Clerk well and truly to try and determine the matter of any petition or other question referred to the committee, and a true judgment to give according to the evidence, and truly and faithfully to perform the duties appertaining to a member of the committee to the best of his ability without fear or favour.
Amendments by (Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the words “been sworn,” lines 5 and 6, be omitted, witha view to the insertion in lieu thereof of the words” taken an oath or made an affirmation “ ; that the word “by,” line 6, be omitted, and that the word “before “be inserted in lieu thereof ; and that the following sub-clause be added : - “ (2) The committee shall not be competent to transact any business unless a quorum of not less than four members be present.”
– I do not agree with the idea that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, or the President of the Senate, should alone be vested with power to nominate the members who are to constitute the Committee of Elections and Qualifications. I think we should provide that, in the event of the House disapproving of any member so nominated, it should be in a position to nominate another member. It seems to me that the procedure laid down in this provision, under which the Speaker might continue to nominate sets of seven members of whom the House might disapprove, would result in a great deal of delay, and place us in the invidious position of having practically to pass a vote of censure on the Speaker. I do not think that that is a desirable position.
– I would point out to the honorable member that we are now discussing paragraph (e) of the clause.
– I was under the impression that we were considering paragraph (b). Of course, in the circumstances my remarks will not apply.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).When the committee allowed the clauses relating to the Court of Disputed Returns to be passed pro formâ, I understood that the Minister intended to recommit the whole of them.I would point out that these clauses are quite different from the original provisions of the Bill. I had hoped that the Minister would be able to adopt a modification of the old clauses, which are certainly much clearer than are the new provisions. The latter appear to me to be a blot upon the Bill. The old clauses were certainly much clearer and briefer.
– It is necessary to provide machinery in connexion with the committee, but it is not necessary to do so in the case of the court. The latter already has its own machinery.
– I am not quite sure of the composition of the Western Australian court, but in South Australia that tribunal consists of a Supreme Court Judge and of members of the House. The South Australian Act provides the necessary machinery in very much terser language. I ask the Minister whether, in accordance with his promise, any opportunity will be given to honorable members to consider these clauses?
– I have no desire to unduly restrict the consideration of any clauses, and when I recommitted the Bill I asked honorable members to indicate those which they desired to recommit. Certain clauses were mebntioned, and these were recommitted. For instance, clauses 197, 197a, 197e, 197f, and 197q were recommitted. No one asked that a similar course should be adopted with regard to other clauses. Indeed, the consensus of opinion seemed to be that the committee would have to accept the principle of those clauses. But I would point out to the honorable member that this question was fully discussed when the first proposals of the Government were submitted. The committee then agreed to give the House power to deal with this matter, and, in giving effect to that decision, I thought it advisable to adopt the provisions which have been in force for several years in the various States. In South Australia they have a combined court, consisting of a Judge and certain members from each side of the House.
Mr.V. L. Solomon. - The members are elected by ballot.
– It is almost impossible to dovetail amendments in order to deal with this question with any degree of certainty. The clauses are practically taken from the Acts in force in Victoria and New South Wales, and as they have stood the test of time, not much harm is likely to arise from their adoption. The honorable member for Bland and myself have had experience of the plan of nomination by the Speaker, and if his suggestion were carried out there would be an inducement to test the validity of almost every nomination. My experience in New South Wales shows me that if the Speaker made what he conceived to be a mistake, and an opinion was expressed against any particular nomination, the mistake would be willingly rectified in order to secure an appointment acceptable to the House.
– Does the Minister not remember when the Speaker’s nomination of Mr. Molesworth in New South Wales was challenged, and the name of that gentleman was removed from the Elections and Qualifications Committee?
– I do not remember that case. We must have confidence in the Speaker, and ought not, except in very extreme cases, to object to any nominations. My experience leads me to believe that the Speaker will, as a rule, take any but a party view in nominating the members of the committee. It is usual to take an even number of members from various sections of the House, and, as a rule, we find the best men on the committee. Individuals may differ as to who is the best man, and party feeling thus be roused ; and under the circumstances the Speaker is the best person to make the nominations. I hope that no amendment will be pressed with a view to taking away from the Speaker a responsibility which, I am sure, will always be exercised in a way satisfactory to the House.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- Of course’ I do not for a moment wish to imply any reflection on the present very respected occupant of the office of Speaker, or on the holder of the office of President in the other branch of the Legislature. But I object to the whole system of politically adjudicating on these questions.
– I am with the honorable member in that, but the House decided against us.
– If we are to have a committee, I should like to see it as free as possible from party bias, though I fear that cannot be hoped for. If the Speaker were to nominate five Government supporters and only two members of the Opposition, he would have a nest of hornets about his ears at once ; and if he took the opposite course, he would have an equally bad time when he laid his warrant on the table. A Speaker can hardly avoid paying some attention to the constitution of parties in making the nominations, and it is idle to say that the party element will not enter into the composition of the committee. In New South Wales, on one occasion, the Speaker deliberately overlooked the existence of parties, and the House resented his action to the extent of removing one of his nominations, although there was . no exception taken personally to the gentleman who, I am sorry to say, was made the scape-goat. This led to a little unpleasant- ! ness, and it was the next session, or the ‘ next Parliament, before anything like a proper understanding of the position was arrived at. I do not want to see anything of that kind occur here. I should have preferred to see the House given an opportunity to alter the constitution of the committee if we so desired ; I am at raid the present system will lead to a great deal more friction than otherwise would be the case.
– The somewhat new system proposed in the Bill places both the Speaker and the House in an invidious position.
– I may have allowed previous speakers a little more latitude than I should have done, but I did so under a misapprehension. The question before the committee is only clause 197e, which deals with the time and place of meeting, and it is not in order to discuss the whole question.
– As the previous speakers have been allowed to discuss the question, I may, perhaps, refer to one or two rather important points. In South Australia, the Elections and -Qualifications Committee is appointed by the House, and presided over by a Judge of the Supreme Court, and that plan has worked very well, without any complaint. The constitution of the committee has always been free from party bias ; I do not know of an instance in which party has been made an element in the nomination of the Elections and Qualifications Committee in South Australia.
– Are not the members of the committee nominated almost equally from each party?
– Fairly equally, as a matter of agreement between the Government and the Opposition. As a rule the committee consists of four or five of the oldest and most respected members of the House who are not very prominent party fighters, and whose sense of justice can be thoroughly relied upon.
– But the Government side is generally represented by one more member.
– Surely we do not imagine that party warfare will become so acute that the question of free-trade or protection will influence the Elections and Qualifications Committee? I have a much higher opinion than that of the sense of J justice on the part of the members of this I Parliament.
– Does the honorable member not allow for natural bias?
– I do not allow for bias of any kind. Members of the House are supposed to be men of honour and integrity, many of whom hold His Majesty’s commission of J ustices of the Peace ; and surely they may be trusted to deal with challenged elections. I cannot believe that political party warfare has reached such a terribly low standard that we must declare within the four corners of a statute that we cannot trust one another. I suggest that the Minister should reconsider these clauses. I am quite satisfied to trust the Speaker, but if his warrant is to be challengeable, he is placed in a very delicate position. Opportunity is given for, may be, a spiteful party attack on members of the House who may be nominated, and, in my opinion, it would be far better to adopt the South Australian system.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause1 97f. - Thecommitteeshall have power . . . . to regulate the form and manner of its own proceedings….. Whenever the votes are equal the chairman shall have a casting vote.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That after the word “a,” line4, the words ‘ second or “ be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 197q. - The parties to any such reference made any time after presentation of the petition so referred to may conjointly or severally withdraw their support or opposition, as the case may be … .
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the word “made,” line 2, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof “may at.”
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).Will the Minister cause to be inserted a provision, such as is found in force in other States and in the old country, to the effect that, in case of a petition being withdrawn, another petition may be substituted? Only a certain time is allowed in which a petition can be presented, and an amendment of the kind suggested is necessary in order to prevent collusive petitions.
– I shall inquire into the matter, though I do not think it necessary to make such an amendment before sending the Bill on to the Senate.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause further amended verbally, and agreed to.
Clause 213 agreed to.
Schedule - Form K -
Application for a Postal Vote Certificate . . .
N.B. - To be signed in the presence of a returning officer, electoral registrar, justice of the peace, school teacher, or a postmaster.
The grounds on which a postal vote certificate may be issued are -
– I think it would be desirable to omit the words “justice of the peace “ in the footnote to this form.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the words “justice of the peace, school teacher, or a postmaster” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “such postmaster, magistrate, or head master, or other person as aforesaid.”
Mr.V. L. SOLOMON.- There is no previous allusion in the form to any of the officers named in the amendment, and therefore the words “as aforesaid” are not requisite. In my opinion there is no necessity to make this alteration. It is merely a question of who shall witness an application for a postal vote certificate.
– A somewhat similar amendment has been made in Form N, relative to the witnessing of the signature of the voter on the counterfoil of the certificate.
Mr.V. L. SOLOMON. - That form deals with the actual witnessing of the signature of the voter when he records his vote. That is of very much greater importance than the mere witnessing of the signature of an applicant for a certificate.
– They are not on the same footing.
Mr.V. L. SOLOMON.- Certainly not. The wider we make this provision the better it will be as long as we take care that every application shall be witnessed by some responsible person - such as a justice of the peace, a postmaster, or a head teacher - who knows that the applicant is entitled to vote. It is necessary that an application should be witnessed by some responsible person, for a man might apply for a postal vote certificate in the name of some deceased person.
– That is what we desire to prevent.
– Then I do not see that we can improve upon the footnote.
-I think that the honorable member is correct. As he has said, the footnote in this case relates only to an application for a postal vote certificate, and it is not necessary that the instruction should be the same as in the next form. All that we desire to do is to take care that applications are signed. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I am glad to see that the Minister and the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Solomon, are in complete harmony. While there is a strong objection to a justice of the peace witnessingthesignature of a voteronthe counterfoil of the postal vote certificate by which he has actually recorded his vote, I see no objection to a justice of the peace acting as a witness in connexion with an application for a postal vote certificate.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the words “ (a) that the applicant lives more than 5 miles from the polling place at which he is entitled to vote, or,” be omitted.
Form, as amended, agreed to.
Form M -
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the “Instructions” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words - “ Instructions. - In the presence only of an authorized witness the voter must mark his vote, close up the ballot-paper, and then sign his name on the counterfoil. The authorized witness must not look at the vote, but will witness the signature without unfastening the ballot-paper, and return it to the voter. The voter must then insert it in the envelope addressed to the returning officer, close and fasten the envelope, and hand it at once to the authorized witness who must immediately post it.” “Any one of the following persons is an authorized witness, namely: - A postmaster on the permanent classified list, a police, stipendiary, or special magistrate, a head master of a State school, or a person employed in the public service of the Commonwealth or a State who is appointed under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902 by the Governor-General to witness postal ballot-papers.”
Form further consequentially amended and agreed to.
Form N consequentially amended.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I wish the Minister to agree to remove the squares, which are to be printed opposite the names of candidates, from the left-hand side of the ballot-paper to the right-hand side. The practice of having the squares printed on the right-hand side of the paper has been pursued in South Australia for a great many years. I believe that State is the only part of Australia where the practice of putting a cross within a square has been adopted. It has been the practice in South Australia for nearly half-a-century. The reason for having the square on the right-hand side of the paper is that most people, who are right-handed, can put the cross in the square without covering up any name. If, however, the square is on the left-hand side of the paper, they are liable to cover up the name, and are compelled to remove their hand from the paper to see which name comes next. This practice renders it much more likely for mistakes to occur. There is no other State in which this practice has been consistently followed except South Australia, where there has been a very small percentage of informal votes. But there may be a large number of such votes if the existing practice in that State with which the people are now very familiaris departed from.
– The question raised by the honorable member is a very small one, and is of so little importance that I think it better to give way.
Form amended accordingly, and agreed to.
Form R consequentially amended, and agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted : - 19a. Before reporting on the distribution of any State into divisions, the commissioner shall cause a map of each proposed division to be exhibited at post-offices in the proposed division, and shall invite public attention thereto by advertisement in the Gazette.
Bill reported, with further amendments.
– Can the report of the committee be adopted now, sir, with concurrence? It is rather important that it should be adopted now, because I wish the measure, if possible, to go back to the Senate to-morrow.
– The Senate has its hands full with the Tariff.
– It is not going to deal with the Tariff to-morrow, I understand.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the Minister have leave to move the motion ?
Mr.HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).May I ask whether it is the intention of the Minister to recommit the Bill, with the view to deal with that clause which excludes members of State Parliaments from being candidates for a seat in either House of the Federal Parliament ?
– I have no intention of recommitting the Bill.
– The refusal of the Minister to recommit the Bill places me in a very awkward position. I have given notice of my intention to move for a recommittal of the Bill, for the purpose of adding a proviso to clause 98a. I am quite willing to submit to the opinion of the House, but I do not wish to give up my right to move for a recommittal. I think that, in ordinary courtesy, the Minister, if he is permitted to take a course which is outside the regular procedure, might give me a promise that I shall have an opportunity of moving for a recommittal.
– If the House grants leave for a motion that the report be now adopted to be moved by the Minister for Home Affairs, it will be competent for an honorable member to move as an amendment that the Bill be recommitted.
– I move-
That the Bill be now again recommitted to a Committee of the whole House for the reconsideration of clause 98a.
After very careful consideration, it seems to me that in inserting that clause we made a reprisal on the State Legislatures for imposing a similar disability on the members of the Federal Parliament. I must confess, that to some extent, I had a hand in the framing of the South Australian law, which was imitated blindfold by other States. In the motion which I brought before the House of Assembly, I merely sought to introduce the principle that no man should hold a seat in both the Federal Parliament and the State Parliament. The motion was carried, and subsequently a Bill was drafted to carry out its intention, but it went a great deal further than I intended, when it imposed upon members of the Federal Parliament a disability in regard to nomination and candidature. I do not wish to excuse myself from the amount of blame I deserve for having carelessly allowed the Bill to pass with a provision which I never intended that it should contain. That Bill was copied, letter for letter I think, by nearly all the States Parliaments which have legislated in this direction against members of the Federal Parliament, and the result now is that many honorable members consider that the Federal Parliament is equally justified in imposing upon the members of States Parliaments a disability similar to that which has “been imposed on its members, and this seems a perfectly fair and reasonable thing. In some States they have arrived at the conclusion that they made a mistake in passing such legislation, that their action has to some extent narrowed down the choice of the electors as regards their State members, and undoubtedly in clause 98a we have narrowed down the choice of the electors of a State to persons other than the members of the State Parliament. I had not an opportunity of discussing the clause, because unfortunately I was absent owing to ill-health, but I do put it to honorable members whether it is fair that we should narrow down the choice of the electors of a State by preventing the men who have served an apprenticeship to political life in the State Parliament from being nominated for election to a seat in the Federal Parliament?
-We do not prevent them.
– I do not wish to split hairs. We do not prevent them, but we say to a member of a State Parliament, “ unless you are prepared to resign your seat you shall not be a candidate for a seat in the Federal Parliament.”
– We make the same provision with regard to civil servants.
– I do not think the two cases are on all fours. The electors in the different States have shown a strong disposition to elect as Federal representatives members of the States Legislatures who have earned their confidence, and whose views on political questions are well known. In passing this clause I think we have somewhat belittled ourselves as a Parliament. I am in favour of omittingit altogether, and of giving the electors a perfectly free hand in their choice of candidates ; but I am somewhat doubtful of success in that direction, and I have therefore framed a proviso which will limit the operation of the clause to members of the Parliaments of such States as impose a similar disability upon members of this Legislature in relation to candidature for the local Parliaments.
– That makes it plain that we are retaliating.
– Is not the honorable member prepared to make plain the absolute truth?
– But that is not true.
– The honorable member is the last one from whom such an objection should come. However we may try to disguise the fact, it is patent that the object of this clause is retaliation.
– No, no !
– Yes, yes ! Perhaps that object has not been very clearly expressed on the floor of this Chamber, but there is no doubt that a great many members have been influenced to support this clause by the disabilities imposed upon members of this Parliament by the States Legislatures. If it were not for the action of the States in this direction would honorable members have thought for one instant of supporting such a provision ? I think I may take the silence with which my question is received as amounting to an affirmative answer. There may be other reasons as well, but I cannot conceive of any argument that would be nearly as forcible as this one. It is one which, if used towards members of the State Parliament, mustbe unanswerable. It might very well be said - “You have imposed disabilities on members of the Federal Parliament, although you are on the spot and have the advantage of continuous association with the electors, whilst Federal representatives are absent from their States for very long periods. Therefore, we have a right to impose a similar disability upon you.” In South Australia there is a feeling strongly in favour of repealing the State legislation upon this point. Already the question has been mooted in the local Legislature, the members of which confess that a mistake has been made.
– Why should they display such sudden anxiety in the matter ? Why were they not moved to repeal their legislation before thisclause was passed ?
– I have already explained that the Act containing the provision referred to was passed in a hurry. It was understood by nearly every member of the Legislature in’ South Australia that the provision merely provided that no one should be permitted to sit as a member of the State Legislature and as a Federal representative at the same time. The Act was passed in less than six minutes. It was introduced, read a second time, and passed through committee. The standing orders were then suspended, and the Bill was read a third time. All this was done within six or seven minutes, and the report of the proceedings relating to the passing of the measure did not occupy more than 6 inches of space in Hansard.
An Honorable Member. - That was hasty legislation.
– Are there not two Chambers in the South Australian Legislature ?
– Yes, we have two Chambers, but the Bill was passed at the end of the session with very little or no comment. I admit that it was hasty legislation, and that many of us were guilty of great negligence and carelessness in allowing the measure to pass.
– Why are the members of the South Australian Legislature suddenly so anxious to repeal the law?
Mr.V. L. SOLOMON.- I am not acquainted with the reasons which actuate those who are moving in this matter. I am glad to welcome reform on the part of the State Legislature ; and when it is admitted that a mistake has been made, I should be the last one to ask querulously why it is desired to alter the law. I wish to see the law altered in South Australia, and I should like to see the other States follow the example of that State. I propose that the following proviso should be added to clause 98-
Provided always that this section shall only apply to members of the Parliament of any State in which any law imposes any disability upon any members of the Federal Parliament inrelation to candidature, nomination, or sitting in theParliament of such State.
I hope that the Minister will see the fairness and wisdom of recommitting the clause. I am sure that he does not wish to take any unfair advantage of those who are opposed to it.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I support the motion. I was not aware until to-day that the honorable member intended to take action, but I have felt from the first that clause 98a was scarcely a credit to this Parliament. Certainly, I think that it is not in the interests of the country. I judge from the division which took place on this clause that it is not likely that it will be omitted, but I think it is my duty to enter my protest against what I consider to be a grave mistake. At the inception of the Commonwealth it is important that we should maintain good relations with the members of the States Parliaments, and endeavour to work fully in harmony with them. The difficulty of doing this will probably increase year by year until certain problems have been solved. The effect of the law as it stands, apart from clause 98a, is that no man can sit as a member of a State Parliament, and also as a member of the Federal Parliament, and surely that is a sufficient restriction.
– Under the Constitution, could not a member of a State Parliament also be a member of this Parliament ?
Mr.HIGGINS. - Perhaps so. But the Victorian law, and I believe the law in other States also, precludes any member of the Federal Parliament from holding a seat in the State Legislature. It is not our own personal interests, but the interests of the country as a whole, that we have to consider. I do not believe that clause 98a would have been passed but for the fact that a similar disability had been imposed upon members of this Parliament by State legislation. I think that the action of the States Legislatures has been unwise, uncharitable, and imprudent, and I grant that it is only natural that honorable members of this House should resent it. We were not the first to strike, but having been attacked, we are trying to strike back. For my own part, I think that to strike back and make a reprisal under these circumstances is unworthy of this House, and of the reputation which it hopes to gain. It has been urged that there is a legislative provision which prevents public servants from becoming candidates for election. In their case, however, the position is quite different. The public servant devotes substantially his whole life to that service, and the two functions of candidate and public servant areinconsistent. Butthereis nothing inconsistentin a member of a State Parliament becoming a candidate for this Parliament. Indeed, inthe United States, the States Parliaments constitute a training ground for Congress, and many a man who aspires to enter Congress goes through a preliminary course there. The experience thus gained has been found to be very useful. The practice has the effect of securing the return to Congress of men who are trained in the ways of debate, and who are used to parliamentary procedure. What a calamity it would be if a State member who sacrificed his parliamentary position to become a candidate for this House, and who was defeated, found that although he was still capable of rendering useful public service he was prevented from so doing ! From the point of view of the interests of the people, this House should not be the first to attempt to impose restrictions upon candidates.
– But a State member can resign.
– I do not see why a State member should be compelled to resign. By insisting upon this provision we shall be eliminating from the list of candidates our most likely opponents.
– How is that possible, seeing that any man can become a candidate by resigning his seat?
– I do not see why he should resign ; it is a powerful deterrent against becoming a candidate.
– The honorable and learned member thinks that a man should be able to hold both positions up to a certain stage.
– No; what I say is that the moment a candidate is elected to this Parliament he ceases to, be a member of the State Legislature. In the Victorian Parliament I went so far as to vote for a proposal that during the first few years following the accomplishment of federation a man should be eligible to sit in both the Federal and State Legislatures, for the reason that at such a critical time of change it was exceedingly important that the country in both Parliaments should have the benefit of the services of the most experienced members. There is no doubt that a serious gap has been made in State politics by reason of ex-Premiers and ex-Ministers relinquishing the State House and entering the federal arena. But the only question which is now at issue is whether we shall compel a man to resign his seat in the State Parliament, when he is in a position to render good service there, before he can become a candidate for this Parliament. I have much pleasure in supporting the proposal of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, for recommittal ; but it seems to me that such a proviso as he suggests is unconstitutional. I do not think that we can enact one electoral law for a particular State and another for other States. At the same time
I am glad to have an opportunity to enter my protest against the provision imposing the disqualification to which I have referred.
– When this clause was previously under consideration I spoke in opposition to it, and therefore I do not intend to detain the committee at any length upon the present occasion. So far as New South Wales is concerned, I can at least corroborate a portion of the remarks of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Solomon. I was a member of the State Parliament at the time the Bill which prevents federal members from contesting seats for the State Legislature was passed. But though I was in Parliament, I was under the impression - as I did not pay very much attention to it, and was rather busy with local matters - that the Bill would simply prevent honorable members from holding seats in the two Parliaments, and I think that was the impression entertained by a number of honorable members. I regret to find that its effect is absolutely to debar federal members from contesting seats for the States Parliaments, and I can quite understand the desire of some members of the States Legislatures to repeal such a measure at the earliest opportunity. But irrespective of whether or not it is repealed, I hold that we should not necessarily follow a bad example If a mistake was made by the parliaments of the States in enacting such legislation - and I think it was - that does not excuse us for adopting a similar course. It seems to me that this particular provision will restrict the choice of. the electors of the various States.
– Only by the consent of the members.
– Quite so ; but the honorable and learned member knows that it is against human nature to expect a Minister of the Crown in any State Parliament, or even a private member of it, to relinquish his position upon the chance that he will be elected to the Federal Parliament. Then again, some electors might take umbrage at his action in becoming a candidate for the national Legislature.’ Take the case of a man who is popular in his own electorate. If he resigns his seat to contest a Federal seat, the State electors may be so incensed by his action that they may refuse to support him. It seems to me to be very unwise to place any bar in the way of the electors securing the services of the best men. The work of this Parliament is sufficiently important to warrant us in insisting that the electors shall have the widest possible choice. Regarding the argument that members of the States Parliaments will obtain the “ inside running “ as against Federal members, I would point out that we always incur that risk. When honorable members are continuously absent from the electorates which they represent they simply have to trust to their legislative record as a justification for their re-election. Without desiring to unduly waste time, I trust that the House will recognise the wisdom of omitting this clause.
– I am bound to confess that the wording of the measure dealing with this matter, which was introduced by the “Victorian Government of which I was a member, is identical with that of the Act passed in South Australia. There was a serious diversity of opinion in. Cabinet concerning the advisableness of enacting such legislation. However, the Bill was introduced and passed, with a perfect knowledge of what its effect would be. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, who was a member of the State Parliament at the time, was one of those who believed that it was inadvisable to pass such an Act, especially at the inception of the Commonwealth. But all who remember the federal campaign in Victoria must have been struck by the cry on the part of private citizens, who were candidates for seats in this Parliament, that they were unfairly handicapped as compared with members of the State Parliament. It was pointed out that State members possessed free railway passes, a more perfect knowledge of the constituencies, and greater experience in electoral work, and that, therefore, the choice of the electors was not a free one. It was largely hampered by the conditions under which the campaign was conducted. To a very large extent I agree with those who urge that the free choice of the electors should not be interfered with. But, after all, is it a free choice which they make 1 Is it not a fact that all sorts of influences are brought to bear upon men who have no decided opinions upon political questions, and that at genera] elections votes are cast in a very haphazard way ? If we were sure that the’ choice of the electors would be absolutely free, we should not be justified in placing any impediment in the way of their exercising that choice.
– Because it is not free, the honorable member would make it less so.
– The honorable and learned member is misinterpreting what I desire to convey. Seeing that the choice of the electors is not free, we should not confer an undue advantage upon any person, and, under the proposal of the honorable member for South Australia, such an advantage would be given to members of the States Parliaments, as against exFederal members. The latter have only their legislative record upon which to fall back. As a member of the Victorian Parliament at the time, I frankly acknowledge that, during the federal campaign, the man who risked nothing occupied a very much better position than did the private citizen who risked losing the whole of his election expenses. I was one of those who was extremely anxious to place the private citizen upon the same footing as members of the State Parliament. I did not desire to enjoy any undue advantage over my opponents, and therefore I asked the Government - although they did not agree to the proposal - to grant free railway passes to all those who desired to canvass the constituencies in connexion with that election.
– There would be a good crop of candidates then?
– I believe that. But I am anxious to see everybody placed on the same footing, and it is not at all unfair to ask a member of a State Parliament to put himself in exactly the same position as an ex-member of the Federal Parliament. I do not believe in a man who belongs to a political section having a State seat to fall back upon.
– A lot of the present members of the Federal Parliament were in that position at the federal election.
– I may point out that a few weeks ago there was an earnest desire on the part of a large number of members of a State Parliament to obtain the services of a member of this Parliament. The matter was very freely debated in the press, and urgent representations were made to this gentleman ; but he found that he would have to resign his seat in the Federal Parliament before he could be nominated for the State Parliament. I feel sure that State members are fully seized of the disabilities under which they have placed the States by refusing to allow federal members to be nominated for the States Parliaments. But I believe the time is not far distant when the whole of the States will see fit to repeal that prohibition. I agree with the provision which prevents a man sitting in two Parliaments ; and the labour party, who have shown themselves most anxious to see the clause omitted, and who believe in “ one man one billet,” will support me in that view. I do not think that anything unfair or improper has been clone by the vote which was recently carried, nor do I think that vote was in the nature of a reprisal. It is very unfair of the honorable member for South Australia and the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne to state that the action of this House was a reprisal engendered by any feeling of antagonism on the part of the States Parliaments. But I would far sooner be accused of doing an improper, than unfairly accused of doing an ungenerous, act, and I am therefore prepared to do what I have very rarely done in my political life, namely, to reconsider a previous vote. Though I maintain that my attitude, and the attitude of those who voted with me on the previous occasion, was one of absolute fairness and equity, and that no disability was placed on any member of the States Parliaments other than that placed on members of this Parliament, I am prepared to support the recommittal of the clause.
– I need scarcely say that the Government will oppose the recommittal. This clause has already been twice discussed. It was discussed when it was introduced, and on recommittal, in order to alter the wording, it was again discussed, . and passed as it stands at present. I must take exception to the statement of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, that the clause was passed as a reprisal. There was no such thought in my mind when I introduced the clause. Indeed, I may say that I was the means of inserting a similar clause in a Bill in New South Wales, and for the same reasons which now actuate me. I admit that it is not proper for a man to hold his position as a member of the Federal Parliament and to stand for election to a State Parliament, and vice versâ. I wish, there fore, to disabuse the minds of any members of the States Parliaments, or of the Federal
Parliament, of the idea that in introducing the clause there was anyintention of reprisal. There is one point to which I should like to draw the attention of honorable members. In all the States Electoral Acts there is a strong clause regarding the expenditure of public money during an election. In one State, and I believe in others, there have been at every election accusations made to the effect that large sums of public money are spent by those in authority, this expenditure, it is said, having an effect on the voting in favour of the individual on whose behalf it is made. In New South Wales, perhaps more than any other State, members of the local Parliament have to deal with the expenditure of money for a variety of purposes, there being in that State few municipalities of any size; and the same accusations that are now made in regard to State elections would be made against State members who stood for election for the Federal Parliament. In this respect the Federal members would be placed under a disability.
– Will that not be a very rare case?
– It has come to my knowledge since this clause was introduced that a large number of State members intend to stand for the Federal Parliament.
– But they cannot get much money behind them ; only Ministers control the money.
– I have been in public life a long time, and I know that such accusations are made at every election. Large sums of money have been expended, and in connexion with the federal elections it would be better to make such accusations impossible. Let all be placed on an equal footing when contesting federal electorates. One federal electorate may embrace half a dozen State electorates, and it will be a very great disadvantage to the public and to the federal candidate if he had to contest a seat against others who have been and are closely connected with the States Parliaments. It has been urged that the fullest scope should be given to the electors ; and there is nothing to prevent a State member resigning his seat if he desires to enter the Federal Parliament. It might be that a State member, when elected for both Parliaments, would resign his seat in the Federal Parliament, and remain a member for the State.
– That would mean a heavy expense.
– But such a position is possible under the proposal now before the House. I quite admit that the Federal Parliament and Federal members should, as far as possible, show due deference to the expressions of opinion of State members and State Ministers ; but there is a limit to the distance which State members ought to go. I hope the States will not adopt - as some recent expressions of opinion would indicate they are prepared to adopt - a spirit of antagonism against Federal members.
– In what State has that been done?
– I am not going to mention any State, but what I have said is well known to be true by honorable members who are listening to me. There should be absolute harmony between State members and Federal members, and I should be. very sorry to do anything to unduly create friction. This clause was introduced not for the purpose of retaliation, but because it was deemed proper for various reasons. The States, however, turn round and say, “ We will withdraw our clause if you will withdraw yours.” That is not the proper way in which to place the case.
– That would be admitting retaliation.
– Quite so.
– It is retaliation.
– No, it is not. I am responsible for the clause, and undoubtedly it is not introduced as a measure of retaliation.
– The clause was not in the Bill originally.
– No, it was introduced in committee, but it is very un fair to say that it was proposed in a spirit of retaliation.
– It gets rid of our most dangerous opponents.
– If I were in a State Parliament and wished to stand for the Federal Parliament, I should resign my seat so as to be on equal terms with other candidates.
– Then it would be said that such a man was working under a handicap, and he would get the sympathy of the people.
– There may be something in that view, but, though the honorable member for Dalley might take advantage of the circumstance I should not do so. I hope the motion for recommittal will not be adopted. As the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne says, the proposed amendment may be out of order. A recommittal could only be with a view to negativing the clause, and I hope, therefore, the motion will not be agreed to.
– In view of the attitude which I have taken up from the very outset, I need scarcely say that I support the motion of the honorable member for South Australia for the recommittal of this clause. At the same time, I cannot see my way to adopt his proposal that we should legislate to meet only the case of members of States Parliaments that are prepared to fall into line with his desire. In connexion with this matter we are not called upon to seriously consider the attitude of any of the States Legislatures; we have to consider what is right in the interests of the electors of the Commonwealth. If it is right, as the Minister contends, that the embargo contained in the clause should be placed upon members of States Parliaments desiring to enter this Legislature, the clause should be carried; but if it is wrong, as I contend it is, then, irrespective of any action which may have been taken by the States Legislatures, we should not agree to it. It is for that reason that I shall support the recommittal of the clause in the hope that it will be eliminated. The Minister in charge of the Bill informed the House that the clause was not submitted by him in any. spirit of retaliation for the action taken by some of the States Legislatures. I shall not dispute that statement, but members of the States Legislatures, as well as the electors, to a very large extent, consider that the clause is something in the nature of retaliation, and that if the States Parliaments had not led the way in this direction, the strong probabilities are that such a provision would not have found a place in the Bill. I may be wrong, but I consider there is a good deal in that contention. Notwithstanding that the States Parliaments have legislated in this direction, and in doing so have not only created a precedent, but made it very difficult for those honorable members who wish to secure the larger franchise, to fight this proposal, I believe that the question affects the electors more intimately than it affects honorable members of the Commonwealth Legislature or the States Parliaments. As to the contention that the clause would purify elections by making it impossible for members of States Houses to trade upon the amount of Government moneys that they had caused to be expended in their electorates, and in that way gain support which they would not otherwise obtain, I am prepared to admit that the electors might be fooled to a certain extent by such tactics. Still, I have such faith in the electors generally, that I do not believe the mere expenditure of money upon public works in the different electorates would considerably influence the result of an election. I should like to point out to the Minister that, assuming there is something in this contention, the clause does not wholly get over the difficulty. If. a State member desires to contest aseat in the Federal Parliament, he can avail himself of his opportunities during the greater part of the three years that usually intervene between one election and another. All that the clause provides is that a member of a State Parliament who desires to become a candidate at a Federal election, shall resign his seat at a certain date prior to the issue of the writs. The general experience is that while sometimes the expenditure of money on Government works is indulged in by Ministers, and to a lesser degree by Parliamentarians generally, because ordinary members have not the same power to endeavour to gain favour with the average voter in that way, the electors are able to size them up at their true value. I had some experience of this matter at the last election, when I had to fight one of the strongest members of the State Government of which the Minister in charge of the Bill was the leader. During the contest a great many public works that I could not cause to be carried out were authorized in the electorate, and have since been executed. The result was, however, that when the votes came to be counted up, I was on top. I do not think there is any reason to fear any serious vitiation of an election in this direction, and I fail to see that the difficulty, if it really exists, is met by the clause. If such a provision as this had been in existence at the time of the first federal elections, what would have been the result ? I think I may reasonably suggest that a number of honorable members of this Legislature would not have contested the elections if they had been required to resign their seats in the States Houses before doing so. Many of them would have been called upon to make much greater sacrifices than those made by an ordinary honorable member. “When the Federal Government was formed, its members were drawn from the States Ministries. Most of the members of the Government were leaders of their respective parties in the States Legislatures ; they had occupied office for a number of years, and had secured a much stronger position there than they can hope to attain for some time to come in this Legislature. It would be unreasonable to say that those gentlemen should have resigned their positions prior to entering this Parliament. I believe the absence of a provision such as that contained in this clause is responsible for the very high standard that we may claim for the first Federal Parliament.
– But are not horses handicapped for the Melbourne Cup 1
– We do not run the federal elections on the lines of the Melbourne Cup. According to general report, many racing events are decided before the horses start, and while the starters for the Melbourne Cup run in the interests of the few, candidates for seats in the Federal Legislature run in the interests of the electors who return them. The clause would considerably limit the choice of the electors. The results of the first federal elections clearly prove that it would have such an effect, inasmuch as the majority of honorable members of this House were drawn from the States Parliaments. The probabilities are that if an enactment such as that provided in this clause had existed prior to the inauguration of the Commonwealth, this Legislature would not have contained anything like the present representation’ drawn from the States Parliaments. We must remember that a federal election is different from’ a State election. In the case of che Senate each State is polled as one electorate - an electorate of such vast dimensions that no matter how able or wealthy a man may be, it is practically impossible for him to make himself known throughout it, between the date of nomination and the day of election, if he is not in public life, or does not have very extensive newspaper support. It follows largely that in their own interests the electors must draw from the States Legislatures for their representation in the Senate. In a lesser degree the same remark applies to the House of Representatives. In most of the States the electorates for the House of Representatives are very extensive. I understand that in Western Australia and Queensland, some of the electorates for this House are as large as some of the smaller States, and in such cases it is only by drawing upon the States Houses that the electors are able to obtain representatives about whom they know anything. Another reason why we should not debar the members of the States Parliaments from having a reasonable opportunity of taking part in these contests is that in the interests of the . federal movement and of good government we should endeavour to create an harmonious spirit between the Federal and the States Parliaments. Is this proposal in that direction ? Does not the legislation that has been passed by the different States give to the members of the Federal Parliament the feeling that there is a certain prejudice against them on the part of the State members who have been responsible for that legislation % Does not that feeling operate similarly with respect to the States Parliaments, the members of which will know that the Federal Parliament proposes similar legislation t Will not that legislation be regarded as being of a retaliatory nature, and in the same very ignoble direction, and will it not give State members and Ministers a feeling that their position is being slighted and that certain obstacles are being placed in the way of any desire they may have to enter a contest for a seat in this House 1 Does not all this tend in the direction of creating friction between the two governing bodies, when it is desirable that every effort should be made to bring about an harmonious understanding in the interests of both ? Such being the case, I trust that, as a result of fuller consideration the House will see its way to reject the obnoxious clause. It is undoubtedly obnoxious to State members, and will be more so to the voters, in the near future, when they fully realize to what an extent it hampers and limits their right of choice. There may possibly be some who hold that it is undesirable to allow State members to enter into these contests, because they can use influence amongst the voters. But, as I said before, I do not object to that. I -think that the elector in general is too keen not to see through any effort of the kind. On the other hand, in my opinion at least, we ought not to look upon this House, or upon any House of Parliament, as the particular preserve of the members of it. “We are only here with the consent of the electors, and for the purpose of conserving their best interests. If the electors wish to replace us by better men, it is their undoubted right to do so, and I should be the last person to place anything of an obstructive nature in their way. As far as concerns advancing my own interests, I feel that I should be better off outside Parliament than in it, and if the electors do not want my services here, I am quite willing to face the position. The matter appeals ‘to me strongly, as being one in which an attempt is made to limit the choice of the electors, and to create friction between the governing machines of Australia. I therefore hope that the House will see its way not to amend the clause in question in the direction indicated by the ‘honorable member who has moved for its recommittal, but to strike it out- altogether.
– In one respect I agree with my honorable friend who has just spoken. I think that we should undoubtedly take up an erroneous position if we were to attempt to pass any such amendment as -has been suggested by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Solomon. I have no doubt in my own mind that such a proposal would be quite unconstitutional, because it would destroy uniformity of qualification throughout the Commonwealth. It would also be a clear indication that this Parliament regarded the whole question as one of retaliation. That, I venture to state, in spite of all that has been uttered on the subject, is not the sentiment that has animated any of the members of this House in agreeing to the clause as it stands. I should be extremely sorry to think that either House of the Federal Parliament would descend to frame its measures in any spirit of retaliation in consideration of anything that the States Parliaments have done; and I should strongly oppose any procedure on our part from which any one could draw the conclusion that such was our motive. The State legislation on the subject is, however, an evidence of a feeling that has spread oyer Australia that a man should be “ off with the old love before he is on with the new.”’ It is an evidence that the feeling- the proper feeling, as I venture to term it - that has governed the speeches and votes of those who are supporting the Government in this matter is shared in by, and has been embodied previously in legislation at the instance of, the members of the Parliaments of the various States of what is now the Australian union. If that was the Australian feeling before, when there was no spirit or sentiment of the retaliation - if that was the idea of the States Parliaments then - must there not have been some strong reason for it 1 I do not attribute to them - nor would any honorable member do so - any idea of casting any reflection on a future Federal Parliament, or the members of it ; but there must have been some strong sentiment which made the members of the States Parliaments feel that it was not right that any man should fill for any considerable time a position in one Parliament with a view, possibly, to obtaining a position in another. The -circumstances of the first Federal Parliament are no guide for the permanent rule that is sought to be established, because, in the first place, the Federal Parliament had not come into existence at the time of the State legislation, and there was no competition between the two bodies ; and, in the second place, the period was so short that allowed of the nomination of a member of the State Parliament for membership of the Federal Parliament that the considerations that are now appealing to us could not possibly have existed. At the same time I have no doubt that many of us must have felt that our position in the States Parliaments - some as private members, some as Ministers - was no disadvantage whatever in the contest in which we had to take part. My honorable friend, the member for Canobolas, has given to-night in his speech very cogent evidence indeed in support of the position now taken up by the Government, because he has proved out of his own mouth that it was possible - not only possible, but was actually done in his own case - for a member of a State Parliament and a Minister in a State Government to use very persuasive means indeed to gain the seat that my honorable friend now occupies. That is very strong evidence of the most direct kind in support of the clause which the Government have brought forward.
– But the result showed that the influence was of no value.
– Fortunately for’ my honorable friend, the member for Canobolas, the efforts which were made failed to turn the scale against kim.
– They were intended to have an effect.
– Yes, and they must have had some effect upon the position. The fact upon which my honorable friend can congratulate himself is that what was done was not enough to spoil his ultimate chances. I think we are justified in considering this question, and many other questions that concern us, in the light of the new conditions that surround us. We are accustomed to look at these matters from our own particular State stand-point, and, speaking for myself, if this were simply a question affecting Victoria, with a limited area, where the circumstances are entirely different from those affecting a huge federated Australia, I should be very sorry to pass any such clause. I was no party to the passing of the section which appears in the Victorian Act. I do not think I was in Victoria at the time it was passed. But at the same time I cannot help seeing the difference between the position of various members of the Federal Parliament, and the position as far as we Victorians are concerned. To the Victorians, such a provision as this would be of no importance whatever. A Victorian member is living upon the spot, near to his constituency. Most of us are within a few hours’ distance of the places we represent. We can go there, if we so desire, with a small expense of “time and trouble. We can keep in touch with our constituents in a way that our brethren from the distant States are utterly unable to do. While this matter was previously under discussion, I spoke about it with many of my honorable friends who are members of this House, and who represent distant States, and they convinced me absolutely that while they were here attending to their parliamentary work, while they were doing their duty in this House - arid doing it well, if I may be permitted to say so - there was no doubt whatever that, in many instances, State members in those distant constituencies, in close touch with the electors, were paving the way for future electoral contests. Not only were statements made to me, but facts were related to me by those honorable members which convinced me that there was strong ground for the statements. I felt then, as I feel now, that we ought not to deal with this question in the same way, and by the same standards, as we should deal with it if it were merely a matter affecting our own State. That is the point of view that should weigh well with us. When I regard the question of the public welfare or the public advantage, I consider that the scale does not turn in the way in which some honorable members who are supporting the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, would have us believe. It has been said that we should be guided in this matter by a principle which comes down to this - that we ought not to restrict the choice of the voters. That position has been emphasized. If it is said that the voters ought to have a free and unrestricted choice, I ask, whose fault is it if they do not have that choice ? Is it the fault of the Federal members, who go to the constituencies as candidates and candidates only, or is it the fault of the State member, who says - “ I refuse to give the voters of my constituency a free andunrestricted choice, because I refuse to relinquish the position I fill in the State Parliament until I can get something else?” Who limits the freedom and choice of the elector - the Federal member, or the man who clings to the position he occupies in the State Parliament, during which time he is strengthening his chances, and paving the way, and who refuses to get off one horse until he has got on the other, if honorablemembers can imagine such a position? It strikes me that the weight of the argument is entirely in the opposite direction fromthat put by the honorable member for Canobolas. If I could convince myself that we were in danger of restricting the choice of the electors, I should give my vote in the other direction. But it is not so. If the welfare of the electors is to be considered, the State member can say, “ I think I should give the people the opportunity of electing me,” and he can resign his seat in the State Parliament. If he says “No-, I care less for the freedom of choice of the electors than I do for my own position,” who is toblame? Let the State member and the federal member stand on the same footing. Let them both go to the electorates as candidates. Do not handicap the federal member. Do not put the State member or the State Minister, able to retain his position in the State Parliament for three years at least. and able to use those persuasive arguments which the honorable member for Canobolas has evidenced here to-night, in a position which no federal member can possibly occupy. Federal Ministers do by force of necessity occupy Ministerial office, but the bulk of the federal members do not occupy that position. In the various States we have an infinitely greater number both of members and of Ministers, and the restriction of freedom of choice, if it comes from anywhere, does not come from the Federal Parliament. That is the key-note to the opposition to the Ministerial proposal, and I think there is nothing in it for the reasons I have given. I submit that the public welfare will best be served by saying to the federal member as the States have done - I do not complain of it - “ You are to have no inducements to cling to your position in the Federal Parliament and try, while holding, that position, to oust a State member,” and on the other hand to say with equal justice, and with equal force to the State member - “ You are under no personal disability. You have the same right and the same freedom to offer your services to the federal electors as any one else has.” All we say is that the size of Aus.tralia is such and the circumstances are such, that many federal members cannot often visit their electorates during a session, and they are placed in a most unfair position by being handicapped in the way they are, according to the testimony which has been given to me. We are not taking a wrong .step, but a right step, in supporting the Government, and I hope that this clause, which has been passed twice by the House - first by so overwhelming a number that its opponents would not take a division, and secondly by a very large majority indeed - will be indorsed to-night by the vote we shall have.
-The honorable and learned member for Indi has said that this question has been before the House on two occasions - first, when apparently no division was called foB, and, secondly, when it was carried by an overwhelming number. I regret that I was not present when it was under consideration, because I should have voted on the side of the minority - that is, against the imposition of a disability on State members. I am not considering whether a State member has a better chance of being elected to this Parliament by the embargo being taken ‘ off. I prefer to take the arguments which the last speaker has presented to the House for our guidance and direction in dealing with this question. I am with the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Solomon, in his proposal that the clause should be recommitted, but any bargaining with the States I am absolutely opposed to. I donot think that the House should bargain with the States as to electoral conditions. We possess certain rights and powers ; we frame our electoral law and present to the electors of Australia the conditions under which they shall vote. The honorable and learned member has said that, so far as Victoria is concerned, he is not inclined to raise any embargo or place any disability on a State member. That is very gracious on his part. I could turn round and say in the same tone that, as a representative of New South Wales, I have no interest in placing an embargo on any one. But he says - “ Look at the other States.” It is indeed marvellous how concerned some honorable members are at certain times for the distant States, whilst during two-thirds of their time apparently they have very little concern for the smaller States. It is ‘indeed remarkable that, as regards electoral provisions, the honorable and learned member for Indi, so powerful and so strong in Victoria, is not concerned for that State, but has a keen regard for the distant electorates, presumably in Western Australia and Queensland. He says, that honorable members are placed at a disadvantage. We will consider thedisadvantage. First of all, he took from the honorable’ member for Canobolas theidea that a State member can abuse his position. The honorable member -for Canobolas has shown that in the pre-federal days he had to meet a powerful Minister in the person of the Attorney-General of New South Wales, who, he alleged, did use his powers, by the expenditure of certain sums of public money in the electorate, for the purpose of buttressing his position. That was done when the electors were new to the conditions of federal life - when they were accustomed to the expenditure of large sums of public money by Ministers to secure their re-election, or to promote the election of candidates. But even then the electors refused to be cajoled or influenced by the expenditure of public money in the electorate, and the position of the Attorney-General was not buttressed at all. If it was weak in those day, it is much weaker to-day. If a representative in this House has either strengthened his position or weakened it, it has not been done by neglecting the expenditure of public money or by the expenditure of public money, but by following a certain course of political action here. In outlying districts - those districts with which it is so hard and difficult to keep in touch - the electors will know whether a federal member has thoroughly carried out in this House the promises which he made on the hustings. On nearly all occasions a federal member will return to his electors a stronger man than he was when he was elected. Taking the average group of five or six State electorates in a federal electorate, a State member could only nobble the electorate which he represented. It would be impossible for him to nobble the other electorates, which would be governed by political principles.
– A Minister could do so.
– That is said now ; but I take it that any blandishments as to the expenditure of public money by the Commonwealth will be of very little avail with the electors. The honorable and learned member foi” Indi made a very pat statement when he said that it was well for a man to be “ off with the old love before he was on with the new love.” In the law reports in the press I have read that skilled practitioners have said in the courts that it is only possible for a man to get on with the new love when the old love is not aware of the alliance with the new love. An electorate does not break off with the old love and take on with the new love in secret. The electors are thorough/ aware whether A, who is a State member, is simply undermining B, who is a federal member, or whether he is performing his duties as a State -representative. They are not so foolish as not to recognise that A, as a State member, is doing certain things for the purpose of undermining B, the federal member. Again, the same arguments may apply to the candidature of a civilian in distant electorates. The honorable and learned member said that in the more populous electorates, and those which are near at hand, there is really no danger, but in the outlying districts - in which he is so much interested - a civilian, according to his argument, would have a greater chance with the electors than would a State member. The mayor or aldermen of a town, who is aspiring to a public position, may use blandishments equally as strong as those which he suggested for the purpose of undermining the federal member. We are not here to take precautions against such things being done. We are not here to legislate with a view to prevent opposition, or to place obstacles in the way of any man standing for a seat in the Federal Parliament. Take the high office which you, sir, hold with the respect of honorable members, and which, I trust, you will occupy for many years. Supposing that a friend of yours were to suggest that a disability should be placed on the members of this House occupying that office except they had served here for ten or twenty years, what an outcry would be raised ! There would be no arguments offered about undermining’ electorates, and the fact that one man had larger means for entertaining people than had another would be no obstacle to his attaining to the position. You, sir, hold the office on your own merits, and we are all pleased to see you in the Chair. So it will be in regard to federal matters. I certainly think that this clause is a backward step, and below the character of a Federal Parliament. Many State members, I frankly admit, do not, and will not, exhibit the Commonwealth Parliament in the best light. But that is ordinary human nature. It is their business, if they are anxious to obtain a seat in this House, to decry this institution, but I take no notice of them. In the words of the old ballad, “let them all come,” and let the electors decide. This idea of placing a disability on candidates, whether State members or ordinary civilians, is unreasonable. No embargo should be placed on a State member. The honorable and learned member for Indi cleverly said that a State member by not resigning his seat refuses to give a free and unrestricted choice to the electors. He argued that it was not the federal member who by passing this clause, but the State member who, by retaining his seat, prevents the free and unrestricted choice of the electors. To my mind, that is very peculiar reasoning. If a State member clings to his position, how powerfully can that fact be used against him by the federal member when he is seeking re-election 1 The electors are not so foolish as not to see that the argument cuts both ways. If it is correct that the attitude of the State member does interfere with the free choice of the electors then all the federal member has to say to the electors when he is seeking his reelection is - “The State member, by not resigning his seat, has restricted your choice.” If a State member did not resign, the handicap would be placed upon him, because the Federal member might very fairly argue that if the State member were defeated he could return to his seat in the local Legislature. If the State member’s affection for his new love were unrequited, the electors whom he represented might regard him as having been discredited, and as being under some reproach for returning to his old love. If a member of the State Legislature were allowed to retain his seat he would not be placed in a position of any particular advantage in regard to the expenditure of public money. If he were compelled to resign in order to qualify himself as a federal candidate, he would be robbed of his influence in regard to State expenditure for only a fortnight prior to the election, and he would have his activity during the whole period of his existence as a member of the State Legislature to count against this short term. There would be some force in the argument based on this ground if it were required that members of the State Legislature should resign their seats twelve months before the date of the federal election, in order to qualify them as candidates. I hope that honorable members will not persist in retaining this clause, but that they will give the electors the freest choice in the selection of candidates. It is not fair to place the members of States Parliaments under the same disabilities as lunatics. By restricting the choice of candidates we should punish not only the State members but also the electors. It might be urged by private citizens who were submitting themselves as candidates that the former members of the Federal Parliament would stand at a great advantage over them, and that the disability which it is now sought to impose upon members of the State Legislature should also be extended to members of this Parliament, A great number of honorable members have been selected from the States Legislatures, and we should offer the electors the best and broadest field for the selection of their representatives. Amongst the members of the States Parliaments there will always be found a number of men who would make welcome recruits to our legislative ranks, and I hope that honorable members will not allow it to be supposed that they are more anxious for their own preservation than for the best interests of the electors.
– I wa.s not present when the division was taken upon clause 98a, but I expressed myself with sufficient clearness to show that I was opposed to the provision imposing a special disability upon the members of States Legislatures. I hope that the clause will be omitted, because I am perfectly sure that it can do no good to the Federal Parliament. The honorable and learned member for Indi urged that it was necessary to insert a provision of this kind, because the States Legislatures had imposed a similar disability upon members of this Parliament ; but we have the authority of former members of the States Parliaments of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia for saying that they had not the slightest idea that the provision in the State Acts went so far as to prohibit members of this Parliament from offering themselves as candidates for election to the States Legislatures. In each case the law was passed under a misapprehension, and I have not the slightest doubt that if we set a good example the States Parliaments will at once follow it. I cannot support the honorable member for South Australia in inserting the proviso of which he has given notice, because I think that we should omit the clause altogether. I was rather surprised to hear the honorable and learned member for Indi express himself as unfavorable to allowing members of the States Parliaments to become candidates for election to this Parliament. When the honorable and learned member offered himself as a candidate for the Federal Parliament, he was not only a member of the State Parliament of Victoria, but a member of the State Ministry : and many other honorable members also had the influence of their State membership behind them when they became candidates. Now they urge that no member of a State Parliament should be permitted to oppose them, and that seems to be an unfair way of dealing with the question. I contend that the choice of the electors’ should be unhampered, and that any suitable men, whether they be in the States Parliaments or not, should have a perfect right to contest seats in this House. There is no doubt that the members of the States Legislatures would have an advantage if, as the Minister for Home Affairs has suggested, our railway passes were taken from us.
– I did not say that thev would be taken away.
– No ; but the Minister said that we might not be permitted to use them.. The difficulty, however, would be to recover the passes from honorable members, because I do not suppose that they would give them up whilst an election was taking place. Even supposing, however, that the members of this Parliament were to be deprived of their railway passes, and compelled to pay their railway fares, the expense involved would not be very serious. I was one of those unlucky individuals who had no railway pass during the last election, and my fares cost me about £25. It is contended that it would be very unfair to federal representatives of the distant States to allow members of the States Legislatures to oppose them, but I hope that the Federal Parliament will not always be in session as hitherto, and that honorable members generally will be able to return home, and live among their constituents, and thus place themselves on an equality in this respect with members of the States Legislatures. I trust that the House will decide to give the electors the right to choose the best men. We must not look upon membership of this House as our own special preserve, and we must not prevent the electors from selecting members of the States Legislatures who might be considered as better representatives than ourselves.
Question - That the Bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 98a - put.
The House divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the standing orders be suspended to enable the Bill to be read a third time this day.
Mr. V. L. SOLOMON (South Australia). - I fail to discern any reason for violent hurry in connexion with the passage of this measure. The standing orders should be suspended only in cases of real urgency, and if we adopt the proposal of the Minister we shall be surrendering the opportunity which we ought to have during the next 24 hours, of carefully perusing a clean print of the Bill in the form in which it leaves this committee. To-day we have amended more than a dozen different clauses, and we are certainly entitled upon a Bill of such importance to understand the effect of those amendments. I do not think that the Senate is starving for work.
Mr. BROWN (Canobolas).- The standing orders are designed to insure the proper conduct of business, and to safeguard alike the interests of honorable members and of the electors. They should be suspended only in cases of extreme urgency, and it does not appear to me that this is one of thosecases, If we are to suspend the standing orders in connexion with proposals of this sort, we shall soon have to entirely abrogate them, and adopt a go-as-you-please method of transacting business. Whilst there may be something in the contention of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Solomon, I intend to oppose this motion on the ground that it is undesirable, in the public interest, that the standing orders should be suspended upon every trivial occasion.
– I desire to assure honorable members that there is a reason for the course which has been adopted -a reason which arose before this debate took place, and which has no connexion with it whatever. As honorable members are aware, the Customs Tariff Bill has been returned to the Senate, but although it is likely that it will be laid before members of that Chamber to-morrow evening, I understand that they may desire a day or two in which to consider it. Under these circumstances, it is desirable that this measure should be submitted for their consideration.
– More radical alterations have been made in this Bill than in the Tariff.
– That is altogether beside this particular issue. When members of the Senate have travelled long distances to attend to parliamentary business, it is our duty to see that they have ample material to engage their attention. If, as I understand, there is a disinclination on the part of senators to deal with the Tariff tomorrow, this is the only Bill which can occupy their consideration.
– Why cannot the Senate deal with the Tariff to-morrow ? The results of our work have been before its members for some days.
– If the other Chamber chooses to deal with the Tariff, I do not object ; but if its members ask for time the Government must concede it, and I understand that time is to be asked for.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral expect the Senate to deal with this Bill to-morrow?
– It can commence to deal with it. It is for the purely practical purpose which I have stated that I ask honorable members not to oppose the motion.
– It seems to me that this Bill should be passed immediately. I would point out that Tasmania has to be subdivided into five districts in time for the next federal elections, a work which will necessarily occupy some time. I hope that the honorable member for Conobolas will not oppose the motion.
Mr. WILKS (Dalley).- The AttorneyGeneral has declared that the only reason for the suspension of the standing orders is that another place, where he expects the Tariff will get a warm reception, will not be able to proceed with certain work. Consequently this Bill is to be handed over as a sort of relief work for the unemployed. I have never before heard a responsible Minister ask for the suspension of the standing orders upon the ground that the other Chamber has no work with which it could proceed. I oppose the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 14th August(vide page 15123), on motion by Sir Philip fysh -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I commence by complaining that, although we were told that this Bill would not be taken this week, we are now called upon at an hour’s notice to resume the debate. That does not give honorable members a chance of making the preparationthey would like in order to adequately deal with the measure.However, I moved the adjournment the other night, and it follows that I must, at great disadvantage to myself; continue the debate. I had not the privilege of hearing all that was said the other day by the honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Philip Fysh - who represents the Postmaster-General in this House - when the second reading was moved ; but the portion of the speech which I did’ hear struck me as being particularly lucid. When that honorable member makes as second-reading speech he generally does credit to his subject by giving a clear and interesting statement, and I fully and cheerfully pay him the tribute of saying that his address the other day was no exception to the rule. My only regret is that that honorable member has been so frequently absent from the table. It is a pity he has not been here a little oftener during the passage of the Tariff Bill, in order that, with his large mercantile experience, he might have been at the elbow of the Minister for Trade and .Customs. That, however, is by the way. I do not find myself able to agree with the proposals of the Government, as embodied in this Bill, which is the complement of the main measure passed some time ago. We have now to deal with the practical part of the postal proposals. There is not much poetry connected with proposals of the kind, but this is a measure of much importance, inasmuch as it deeply and vitally affects every member of the’ community in his everyday work and life. There may not be much to appeal to the imagination, or to excite poetic instincts - if there be any in this Chamber - but the proposals bespeak the keen interest and scrutiny of all. When we were discussing the advantages of federation before the electorates of Australia, we were wont to say that union would bring many advantages, and amongst these was one which we always emphasized, namely, that to be derived from a Federal Post-office. Up to date, however, I am afraid that in these anticipations we have been doomed to keen disappointment. We were told, for instance, that federation would give increased efficiency in the Post-office: that it would give greater cheapness in the service, and do away with the irritating border regulations. But none of these anticipations have been realized. On the contrary, the irritation continues, and is, in many instances, proposed to be continued,” under the Bill. The only effect of the centralized control has been to give less efficiency so far as administration is concerned, and the proposals of the Government certainly do not give a cheaper service. The Bill, on the face of it, proposes to give cheaper telegrams, but I hope to show, before I sit down, that the effect is to increase the total telegraphic charges throughout Australia. I apprehend that there is no quarrel as to the clauses in the Bill. We are really discussing the schedule, the Bill itself being comparatively unimportant, except in so far as it relates to that schedule. In passing, I may say that an amendment appears to be necessary in clause 8, by the addition of some words to provide for porterage on letters as well as on telegrams. That is provided for in the
Bill we have already passed, but in the measure before us letters are not included as subject to porterage. This, however, is a comparatively unimportant point ; the schedule is practically the Bill. In the first place, it is proposed to make uniform a practice, which now exists in three States, of charging for. the conveyance through the post of newspapers which are published in those States. I do not defend the previous practice in the States where the postage of locally-published newspapers was free. I apprehend that no difficulty will be raised on that score. The newspaper proprietors concerned, like the rest of their fellows propose, to cheerfully pay up. But in New South Wales a very peculiar practice has been adopted by the Federal Government. In that State newspapers were carried by certain trains, though not by a particular train, as stated the other day by the Acting Prime Minister. The honorable gentleman was quite wide of the mark when he said that newspapers were carried in New South Wales by particular trains for a sum aggregating £2,500 per annum - that, in addition to the ordinary mail trains which cany letters and postal articles generally, special trains were run for the special benefit of the newspaper proprietors. I do not defend the practice of paying the extra £2,500, but it is only just that this House should know the facts. The newspaper trains were not special trains in any sense of the word, but ordinary goods trains by any of which the newspapers were carried. There was not allocated a special train paid for by a special contribution. The practice of carrying newspapers by these trains has been followed in New South Wales for many years, the only alteration being that of running the trains at a later hour in order to suit the convenience of the newspaper proprietors.
– There has been an alteration of the time-table only 1
– That is all. I should like further to say, that in the evidence given before the committee now sitting in New South Wales, it has been shown very clearly that, so far from these trains being run at a loss, every one of them paid. That is more than can be said of the’ ordinary trains, and that the newspaper trains were remunerative is shown in the fact that their earnings amounted to the enormous sum of 10s. per train mile, as compared with the average cost throughout the State of 3s. 9d. per train mile.- The. following is a portion of the evidence given by Mr. McLachlan before the Parliamentary Committee in New South Wales -
How long has it been in existence? - I went buck 30 years ; it has been in existence since that time, and I did not think it necessary to go further back than that.
This sum of £2,500 per annum which the commissioners were paid by the Postal department, was it for the carriage of the whole of the newspapers of all denominations? - Yes.
All over the lines ? - Yes ; that is what we understood.
What consideration did the commissioners receive for running what are called the newspaper trains ? - We did not run any newspaper trains purely as such.
But they did run them ? - We never ran newspaper trains ; we never ran trains for newspapers alone,, but trains which conveyed goods and passengers. Furthermore, wo never ran these trains at a loss. The trains which conveyed the newspapers earned a considerable profit.
At all times ? - Yes ; I think so. As a.matter of fact, when we took out the returns for the month of November, we found that the average earnings of the so-called newspaper trains was 10s. per mile. If we could run all our trains with the same margin of profit we should retire shortly.
You say definitely that none of these train’s are run at a loss ? - No ; the average return is 10s. per mile, which is an excellent return. Of course, as I said just now, we do not run newspaper trains, but trains which convey goods and which convey newspapers ; they are goods trains which the newspaper proprietors avail themselves of as a matter of convenience, and they carry passengers iis well. The average return from those trains is 10s. per mile…… For some time, until the year .1880, 1 believe, the amount contributed was ill ,800 per annum, but late on–
Was that the amount at which you estimated the value of the service rendered ? - We used originally to charge for each parcel separately.
That evidence goes to show that the arrangement was in existence for many years, and that it was not an arrangement under which a special rate was paid for a particular train. The payment was for carrying the newspapers indiscriminately by any of the trains which the newspaper proprietors desired to use. These goods trains have been and are now run early in the morning, but not for the purpose of carrying newspapers. Originally the commissioners ran a train at 3 o’clock in the morning, but they agreed to run it later for the purpose of falling in with the wishes of the newspaper proprietors. That is a special train for carrying perishable goods into the country, and it is also one of the best passenger trains. When I lived in Lithgow, before coming to reside in Sydney, the newspaper train was of the most advantage to passengers, living on the Blue Mountains, as it is, I believe, to-day. It is not fair, therefore, to say that the people of New South Wales have subsidized the newspaper proprietors by running a special train for their special benefit. There is also .the other aspect, that the early delivery of newspapers is not all for the benefit of the newspaper proprietors. Honorable members who have lived in the country know what the early delivery of newspapers means. In Lithgow, we used to get the newspapers a little after 9 o’clock in the morning, instead of waiting, as previously, until after 4 o’clock in the afternoon; so that there is something to be said on this matter from the public point of view. I only mention these facts now to dissipate the idea that there is a special early train run for the benefit of the newspaper proprietors. I believe that early trains are run for a similar purpose in the other States. I am told that in Victoria, for instance, the money paid to the commissioners on this account corresponds very nearly to the amount paid in New South Wales.
– But here the newspaper proprietors pay.
– I believe that the newspaper proprietors are going to pay in New South Wales. But are all the newspaper proprietors of the different States going to do so ? That is what we are anxious to know. Are the newspapers of Tasmania and Western Australia going to pay ? I think there is some ground for complaint as to the way in which this has been done. It seems to me that the moment it was discovered that New South Wales had this concession on our railways the Government made a bee-line to strike it out. They never inquired about the other States. The Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral could not tell us the other day what was going on in Western Australia ; nor could he give us any clear and definite story of what was going on in Tasmania. I submit that the moment this matter came before the Postmaster-General he ought to have called for a report in regard to the practice in all the States. That is the course which he generally adopts in regard to other matters. In this case, however, he did not follow the ordinary course ; he did not obtain a report showing how the privilege was being abused in all the States. He came to the conclusion that’ New South Wales was obtaining, an advantage that she ought not to possess, and he instantly determined to strike away that advantage. Side by side with this proposal we have an attempt to continue the practice in the other States. At all events, the assumption is that the Government would have continued it if a reference had not been made to it in this chamber. We have a right to complain of the way in which New South Wales has been singled out.
– New South Wales was the only State of which the Post-office complained.
– That is to say, New South Wales is the only State in which this system has been carried on honestly and above board. The money paid has been lumped together with other things in other States, and no notice has been taken of it. The New South Wales Commissioners made the fair arrangement that they should obtain special payment for sending newspapers indiscriminately by goods trains, and because New South Wales has acted openly and honestly in this matter she is made to suffer.
– There was no binding arrangement - -no contract.
– Neither is there any binding arrangement in Tasmania.
– Yes, they are carried in Tasmania under a contract, which we are bound to observe.
– Are the railways in Tasmania under a binding contract to run these early trains 1
– They carry the newspapers as they do by arrangement with the Postoffice, but there was no such contract in New South Wales.
– Then either the honorable and learned member has innocently stated what is incorrect, or the general manager of the railways has made an inaccurate statement. In the statement to which the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral referred the other day, he pointed out that they carried on this system out of compliment to the newspapers, having regard to the fact that the policy of the country was free newspaper postage.
– It is not done under any arrangement with the Post-office, or for any payment by the Post-office.
– I am not inquiring how the arrangement has been made. Does not the honorable and learned gentleman see that the same thing could have been done just as easily in New South Wales ? Instead of receiving separate payment, the New South Wales Railways Commissioners could easily have said - “ We will charge you ls. a mile extra for carrying these newspapers on the ordinary express trains, but we will carry “-
– There was a binding contract in the other States from which we could not escape, but there was no such contract in New South Wales, and therefore we were not justified in paying
– Then the Government are “ sticking “ at what is purely a technical matter, because substantially the same practice is being followed in the other States, save that in the case of’ NewSouth Wales it was honest and above board. The general manager of the railways .in Tasmania said that the binding contract was to perform the ordinary postal services by the ordinary express trains, and that the special trains were run out of compliment to the newspapers.
– There is no special train run out of compliment to the newspapers. The papers were carried in bulk by the railways out of compliment to them.
– Yes j having regard to the policy of the country, which was that of free newspaper postage. I think that that complimentary business should have been the first to be attacked. There was no complimentary- arrangement in New South Wales.
– We. do not mind what the railways do, as long as we have not to pay for it.
– Does not the honorable and learned gentleman think that the Government might have allowed the matter to rest until they were able to deal with it comprehensively ?
– We were asked to pay in New South Wales, but they could not show us any contract binding us to pay.
– They showed the Government a custom extending back over many years - a custom which between honorable men in that State has evidently been as binding as a legal contract. The Government might have respected that custom instead of pouncing down upon New South Wales and treating her in the anomalous way they have done. One cannot resist the feeling that there has been some influence at work over here to endeavour to stop, the early trains in New South Wales. After all, the public themselves gain by the early morning delivery of newspapers in all the States. There is another point to be considered. I believe there is a postal regulation in connexion with the carriage of ordinary postal matter, that if there is, a plethora of mail matter newspapers ma)’ be left behind. In that case they are all taken to the postoffice, and sent in the ordinary way. That is a means of insuring their regular despatch at any hour of the day it is desired to send them, provided that there is a train running. It is not wise to look only at the newspaper proprietor aspect of the matter. It is just as well to study to some extent the public convenience. I do not object to what the Federal Government have done, but to the way in which they have gone about it. It is not fair to single out one State in this way, leaving other States in the enjoyment of precisely the same privilege. According to the Minister’s own statement, the only reason that New South Wales was seized upon in this way was because she had made an honest bargain, while the other two States had not. In debating this matter it is often asked, “Why should the press obtain all these concessions ?” That- is a very pertinent question, but if honorable members will look a little below the surface they will find that after straightening out all these anomalies, the Government still provide prominently in the J3ill for the continuance of special concessions to the press. We have one example, for instance, in reference to telegraphic messages. It is proposed in the Bill that a 50-words press message shall be carried for 9d. ; while a private individual will be charged 2s. 3d. for a message of the same length. All through the piece honorable members will find that special provision is made for the newspapers, and I fail to see why there should bean outcry only because of this special payment in respect of the early morning train service in New South Wales. In my judgment the Federal Government have gone out of their way to have a cut at the Sydney newspapers, and I think they have done it in a very mean and underhand way. Leaving that aspect of the question, I see that the Minister estimates that there will be a loss of £40,000 per annum from the telegraphic arrangements proposed in the Bill.
How he makes up the loss I am utterly unable to comprehend, because it is unquestionable that the working of these rates so far shows that there will be an increase in the revenue, assuming that the volume of business remains as before. There is no escape from that position, and how the £40,000 loss is to be made up I do not know, unless the department estimates that the”re will be a shrinkage in business. That, I think, is very probable, having regard to the increased charges proposed in the Bill. Of course, all criticism of the schedule of telegraph rates centres round the question of the payment for signatures and addresses. That is the whole bone of contention. It is the key to the trouble which the community is experiencing at the present moment. The Government profess to be following the precedent set them by the world in proposing to charge for the names and addresses on telegraph messages. They forget when they make that assertion that the postal department in Canada does not make such a charge; that there the public are allowed, just as we have been allowed in Australia, to send their messages without any charge for the names and addresses of the senders and the persons to whom they are sent. The same practice operates throughout the United States of America.
– Has the honorable member taken into consideration the very much higher rates paid for all messages in Canada and the United States of America’?
-I believe they are a little higher in the United States of America ; but there the lines are in private hands, and run solely to make profit.
– Nearly double.
– In Canada the rates are not very much higher. There,. I believe, there is a uniform charge of ls. all over the Dominion. I know that they have no local or special city rate, and, whatever it is, no charge is made for sending names and addresses. It occurs to me that this proposal is a retrograde step. It has been our custom to send names and addresses free of charge, and I do not know that any great inconvenience has resulted. It may have involved, now and again, the sending of one or two additional words in connexion with a message, but the practice has not hurt the senders of the message, it has not hurt the officers, nor has it injured the wires. On the contrary, it has been a great convenience to those who use the service. I hope the Minister will not take up the attitude that the service ought to be made the means’ of obtaining as much as possible from the people who use it, but rather that a fair and reasonable charge should be made for the services rendered, having regard to the cost of laying down the lines. There are many inconveniences which will arise’ if addresses ‘are curtailed. In the first place, I think the proposal is anti-federal. It has not hitherto been known in Australia, and therefore, it should not have been introduced in this Bill. It will unquestionably encourage insufficient addressing, and I venture to say that it will lead ultimately to greater expense in delivery, owing to the confusion which will arise, from the efforts of senders to shorten addresses. It will probably lead to the creation of code addresses, with, I presume, registration, and a translation of those code addresses,- with the possibility of further mistakes. It will be another disturbing element, and an addition to the annoyance which federation has caused, both in respect of our offices and generally in regard to our services. It is unnecessary, and it could have been avoided without loss of revenue. I earnestly hope that the House will insist that, .-while we ought to give the Minister the privilege of limiting the addresses of the telegrams, there should be an address sent free plus the actual message. I believe the average address is about eight words, and I think it would be a fair thing to limit to that extent the addresses to be sent free. If that is done no one will be able to complain. I know that some people send very long addresses, extending in some cases to twelve, thirteen, and fourteen words. When they go to such inordinate lengths, possibly they should be made to pay a little more ; but it would be a fair thing to insert a provision in the Bill allowing the average number of words in an addressnamely, eight - to be sent free of charge. This Bill purports to contain a proposal for a reduction in the telegraphic rate, but in reality it amounts to an increase. It increases the limit from ten words to twelve, but when you take eight words for the address out of the twelve, it leaves the sender an effective telegram of four words. The Bill, therefore, proposes an increase rather than a decrease in the cost. I need hardly refer to the statements issued by the stock exchanges of the two cities of Melbourne and Sydney, but they are worthy of consideration. The stock exchanges are big customers of the department - perhaps they are amongst the best customers.
– Does the honorable member notice that the largest customer in Sydney agrees with the proposal of the Bill?
– Does he? I should like to know who that customer is. The statement of the Melbourne Stock Exchange is that, taking their estimated business, they expect that the rates proposed by the Bill will mean an increase of £l.,S0O per annum on £12,000 worth of business above what they pay now. That means an increase of 15 per cent, on the totality of their business. They have got out a statement showing what the effect will be upon 100 telegrams sent to places within States, to suburban places, and to Inter-State places. It works out in this way - that whereas under the present rate they will for sending 100 telegrams pay £5 0s. l£d., under the proposed rates they will pay £5 16s. 10 Ad. That is an increase of 16s. 9d. on 100 messages. The increase on the suburban messages amounts to about 50 per cent. In the face of these facts, they say very pertinently that sixpenny telegrams are a misnomer. The Stock Exchange of Sydney has made a similar calculation with regard to 100 messages. There the difference is between £6 5s. which they pay at present, and £7 5s. 3d. which the charges of the Bill will necessitate - an increase of £1 0s. 3d. over and above the old rates. Yet these are supposed to be concessions to the public by means of which the department is going to lose £40,000. We are told by gentlemen who have large practical daily experience of the working of the telegraph rates, that the Bill will mean an increase in the charges for their business. . They go into particulars, and show how it works out in individual messages. In- New South Wales there is a sixpenny rate for town and suburban messages. The proposed rate will mean 9d. for ten words, plus eight words for the name and address. In Victoria the city rate will remain about the same, but the country rate will be altered very materially. There will be an increase in South Australia from Gd. a message to 9d. in the city. In Queensland the increase will be from 6d. to 9d., and in Western Australia there will be a slight increase. I cannot help making the remark that in connexion with all these Federal arrangements New South Wales seems to be adversely affected to a greater degree than any other State. Even in regard to the two statements which I have quoted from the Stock Exchanges, the difference is only 16s. 9d. upon 100 messages in the case of Melbourne, whilst it is £1 0s. 3d. in New South Wales. So that not only are the Governmentincreasing the postal payments of New South Wales by £27,000, which is the amount estimated to be derived from the carriage of newspapers, but, in addition, the people of that State are to be charged higher telegraph rates than before. But we are told that there is to be a reduction from1s. to 9d. per message for telegrams within the State. It will work out in this way - that a tenword message sent into the country in New South Wales or Victoria, with eight words for the name and address, will come to 1s.1½d. instead of1s. which was the previous rate. The city and suburban rate is raised to 9d., where it used to be 6d., and the within State rate is raised to1s.1½d. instead of1s ; yet, in the face of those facts, wo are told that the people are going to get great concessions.
– Directly you get to the larger number of words you get the benefit of the great concessions.
– Do we? We will take the statement of the Minister. I have here the result of an actual day’s working in the Sydney Telegraph office. These are figures supplied by the department showing the telegraph operations in Sydney for a day. The number of city and suburban messages was 1,026. They would be charged for at present rates at 28 13s. 9d. Under the rates proposed by this Bill, the cost would be £3711s. 6d. That is an increased cost to the sender of 31 per cent. on the day’s business in Sydney. I have also an analysis of the messages sent. Messages containing eighteen words and upwards will cost less than formerly. These are 3 per cent. of the whole. Messages containing one to four words and sixteen to seventeen words will cost the same. These are 5 per cent. of the whole. Messages containing five to fifteen words - which I submit are the ordinary messages - will cost more. These are 92 per cent, of the whole. It is, therefore, all very well for the honorable gentleman to say that when there are a larger number of words in a telegram the rate is a little cheaper. The messages upon which there will be no reduction amount to 92 per cent. of the total, and the effect upon the whole is an increased cost to the sender on 1,026 messages of 31 per cent., or the difference between £28 and £37.
– Is the honorable member going to follow up that statement by showing how the department will lose on the universal rate throughout the States ?
– I make this remark about that : I do not know that the people will altogether appreciate this uniform shillingfederal rate when they knowtheyhave to put their hands in their pockets and pay for it. I am not complaining of the federal rate. I believe it to be an excellent proposal. With the shilling Inter-State rate I have no quarrel. But I do submit that the people within the States ought not to be made to suffer an increased cost upon their telegraphic business. The Government should look to the increase in the InterState business to recoup the loss resulting from this Inter-State concession. If it does not pay for itself it should be taken over as a debit by the department To the ordinary man within a State, these Inter-State concessions mean but little. It is the big users of the telegraph lines - the Stock Exchange people, the speculators and the large business men - who will take advantage of the Inter-State rate, and then the advantage is confined to one or two of the smaller States. It will be of very little advantage to the ordinary man whose business is confined to modest proportions, and there will be no advantage that I know of to the ordinary artisan resulting from the federal rate. I think it is an excellent proposal in the Bill, but the Government ought not to ask people who rarely take advantage of the Inter-State rate to put their hands in their pockets and pay for it. Rather than that, the department should adopt some special means to recoup itself. It may be that there will be a great advantage resulting from the InterState rate. I believe there will be. It is a federal proposal, for which I have the heartiest commendation. My only objection is that I do not think the department should make the people within the States pay the cost.
– The honorable member’s proposal is to make a bigger loss upon the working of the Post and Telegraph department.
– I assure the honorable gentleman that it is not so. But if the Government are going to make one State help another, then, at least within States, the people might be allowed to help each other. That brings me to another point. I say that the time has come for a bold and determined move in connexion with these telegraph rates throughout Australia. At the beginning of this federal arrangement there was an opportunityfor a bold proposal on the part of the Government. I believe that such a bold proposal as I contemplate would ultimately be found to be also a prudent and paying proposal, us it has been wherever it has been tried. My own idea is that we should not have a differential rate within the States. Treat them all alike, and bring them all down to the sixpenny rate within a State. Then we should have a uniform Inter-State rate of1s., as well as a uniform rate of 6d. within a State. In other words we should have a uniform rate in a State as well as without a State. We should then have federal rates running from the unit to the furthermost extent of the continent. The Minister says that it appears to him that I want to make a greater loss on the working of the Postal department. As to that, I should like to quote a report which I cut from the Age newspaper this morning on the subject of the Post and Telegraph department of New Zealand. It is always well, I apprehend, where it can be done, to follow the teachings of experience, because they are worth any amount of theorizing on a question. Says the Age : -
The report of the New Zealand Post and Telegraph department for the year ended March, 1902, is a most noteworthy document.
It is noteworthy for a table of figures which immediately follows. In New Zealand, as the Minister in charge of the Bill knows, the sixpenny telegram is universal. In 1895-6 when the rate was reduced, they sent 1,899,632 telegrams, and their value was £92,289. Last year they sent 3,850,391 telegrams, and their value was £141,581. The table shows a steady increase year by year ; in seven years the business has increased by over 100 per cent., and the department is making a profit. I remember that the same forebodings were indulged in there that are indulged in here. But all the experience in New Zealand has gone contrary to the prognostications, for the business has increased by over 100 per cent, in seven years, and the department has recouped itself. In the first year there was a revenueof £ 9 2, 289, while last year there was a revenue of £141,581. Since the telegraphic rates were fixed for Australia, the telephonic rates have been cut down by 50 per cent. Can it be wondered at that there has been a decrease in the telegraphing work of Australia comparatively, when we have been giving a cheaper means of communication in another way ? I submit that where we bring down our telephonic rates to a point when they compete with the telegraphic branch, it is a safe thing to bring down the telegraphic rates, particularly as the telephonic rates have been found to pay. I do not think there is a case in all the States where a reduction in the telephonic rates has not resulted in a handsome success from a financial point of view. There is no reason to apprehend that a bold policy in regard to telegraphic rates would not result in a similar financial success. In my judgment, the time has come when the telegraphic rates ought to be cut down to the extent I have suggested. The honorable member in charge of the Bill may not approve of this course being taken, because of the consequences he fears to the revenue. But the experience of New Zealand is of a contrary character. I apprehend that a bold policy at the beginning of our Commonwealth transactions would bring about the same uniformly good results as have occurred there. Ministers are missing the chance of making to the people of the Commonwealth a present such as would be worth having to compensate them for all the annoyances incident to the federal union. They were always the loudest in proclaiming the advantages of union in pre-federation times. They were always the loudest in saying what immense advantages would be given to the people telegraphically and postally. The net result in New South Wales to-day is that the people have to pay £27,000 morein postage on newspapers, and the Government propose to make the telegraphic rates higher than they have been.
SirPilipFysh - That is not a fairway of putting it when we are going to lose £40,000 on the telegrams.
– I have stated the actualworking of the proposal, and if the honorable gentleman can show where my figures are fallacious there may be something in his statement that the department is going to lose £40,000. Against his bald statement I put this return of the business done in Sydney on an ordinary day, showing that there is an increase of 31 per cent. in the total telegraphic charge. On that basis the increased cost in telegraphic charges in New South Wales will amount to £10,536. For instance, the increased cost of State messages will be 6 per cent. on £117,476 worth of business, amounting to £7,048 ; while the increased cost of messages to Queensland and Victoria, taking them to average from one to two words longer than the State telegrams, will be 12 per cent. on £27,000 worth of business, amounting to £3,488. There would be some decreases. For instance, the messages to Western Australia would result in a total loss of £4,476. Deducting the losses from the gains, there remains a total extra charge of £6,060 on all the business in New South Wales. How the Minister makes up his estimate of a supposed loss of £40,000 from the application of these rates I am at a loss to understand. I submit that the rates are not what they appear to be on the surface, that while they pretend to give concessions to the people of Australia they are in reality taking away advantages which are now enjoyed. My advice to the Minister is to strike out for once in his life, and I undertake to say that Parliament will back himup if he will make a bold move in the reduction of the rates to the extent I have named. I wish we could discuss the question of postage rates. I should have liked to see some departure in that direction also. There might have been a little loss initially, but my opinion is that the States could stand the loss. No matter what honorable members may say to the contrary, the States, particularly New South Wales, could stand the loss. Ministers are starting the Commonwealth with a continuance of anomalous postal rates. The very first plank of the advocates of federation was that we should have a uniform postage rate. We are not going to have it.
– In time.
– We were not to have everything in the first year.
– I expected a Victorian who had already secured penny postage to make that remark. It is so cheap and so easy for a Victorian to ask other people to wait awhile in those circumstances.
– The Victorians are paying for it.
– Let the AttorneyGeneral provide for penny postage in New South Wales, and the people will willingly pay for the advantage. I wish to know why New South Wales may not have this privilege as well as Victoria ?
– Because the Commonwealth Parliament cannot legislate for one State only.
– I admit the difficulty. It would have been a less anomaly than to continue the rates as they are. The very idea in taking over these services was to treat the people equally, but the Government are not doing so at the present time. In Victoria, the postage on a letter is1d., while in the country districts of New South Wales it is 2d. That is unfederal. In the first Post and Telegraph Bill which was to be put through this Parliament, we expected and the people of the States expected all these anomalies to be rectified, rather than continued.
– I am sure that Tasmania and Queensland would not talk about having penny postage. We should lose £20,000 a year by it in Tasmania at first.
– The Government propose to tax the Tasmanian newspapers to the extent of £10,000. I venture to say that if the honorable gentleman were to ask the people of the State whether they would have penny postage at a loss of £10,000 they would take it.
– The weaker States cannot stand what New South Wales can.
– Why cannot they stand it? We are taxing the people in Tasmania, I suppose, £100,000 less than they were taxed by the State Parliament. I cannot see how dire ruin is coming to the people of Tasmania by this simple process of leaving money in their pockets. At any rate, I do not think that such considerations should stand in the way of the concessions I speak of being granted. It will be much more difficult to grant the concessions later on thanit is now, because sentiment may not be so keen then as it is to-day, and the disposition of Federal
Ministers from time to time may not be that which we hope it is to-day. At any rate, in New South Wales, since the people are being taxed to the tune of £1,000,000 extra, in consequence of federation, they are waiting to hear of just one little thing that is coming back to them advantageously, and they are waiting in vain, as yet. Here are proposals made to increase the charges over there, and to take away facilities from them. It is about time that Ministers stopped this kind of federal annoyance, and they may take it from me that the irritation which is constantly going on in connexion with the federal services throughout Australia is a very much more important thing than even a temporary deficit in a Budget would be. This is a time when the Government might take a course which I submit would not lead to a deficit. The experience in other States has been that as the charge was decreased the business was correspondingly increased. The figures I have given tell their own tale with regard to telegraph rates in New Zealand, and the same thing has happened with regard to postage rates. There was a’ temporary falling-off, but the loss has now been recouped, and the service is paying handsomely. There may be a loss of £40,000, but if there is it will be due to the increased charges leading to a decrease in the business transacted. I submit, therefore, that the bold course of reducing the rates would ultimately lead to an access of business which would more than recoup any apparent loss. The great fault of the Bill is that it is not. honest. It pretends to give the people something that it does not confer upon them. It pretends to provide for sixpenny telegrams, but we know that the public will not be able to send sixpenny telegrams as before. A telegram such as has hitherto been sent for 6d. in Sydney will now cost 9d., and a ninepenny telegram ls. Hd. This should be all clearly shown on the face of the Bill. The margin for telegraph messages is apparently raised, but if we grant the public a twelve-word margin, and count eight words for the names and addresses, we shall reduce the actual message to four words, and charge for those four words as much as has been formerly paid for a ten-word message, exclusive of names and addresses. In the country a ten-word message will cost ls. lid., whereas formerly the charge was ls. It is idle to say that the Ministry will lose money by these proposals - that they are making concessions for which they are going to pay by imposing postage upon newspapers. That is the statement that is being put forward. The Minister says that we shall lose £40,000 by these telegraphic concessions, and that this loss will be recouped by the revenue derived from the postage upon newspapers. The Government will lose nothing by the telegraph rates unless they lead to a decline of business, and the £40,000 derived from the newspaper postage will represent a surplus. I appeal to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to take a liberal view of this matter, and nob to be afraid of the Estimates. If he assumes a courageous attitude with regard to the postal and telegraph rates he will do infinite credit to the Commonwealth, and confer advantages which will be appreciated in every household and in every business establishment in the Commonwealth.
– It is now twelve months since I objected to the Post and Telegraph department being taken over by the Commonwealth, because I considered that, owing to the financial clauses of the Constitution Act, various difficulties would arise. We are now face to face with these difficulties, and Ministers have shown us that they recognise this in one way by refusing to deal with the question of the postage on letters. On the other hand they have decided to impose postage on newspapers in those States in which they have hitherto been carried free. One of the first duties of the Federal Government is to avoid all points of friction with the States, because, after all, government is only the reconcilement of the conflicting opinions of the people, and it is necessary for the welfare of federation itself that at the outset we should create as little disturbance as possible. Yet in this Bill it is proposed to upset the arrangements which have been in existence in three of the States where there has been no postage on newspapers. I am not’ at present questioning whether the rate is a good or bad one, but I am dealing with the matter from the point of view of the friction which this change will inevitably create. The postage on newspapers will not fall upon the people in the cities, but upon the residents in the country districts. The people who reside in the cities have had brought home to them some of the disadvantages’ connected with federation by the administration of the Customs department, and now we are proposing to place disabilities upon the whole of the country people in at least three of the States by imposing postage upon newspapers. It is urged that it is necessary to bring into line the conditions relating to newspaper postage in all the States. But why should we not also bring into line the conditions relating to postage on letters 1 Ministers have not proposed to deal with this matter.
– For the sake of the States.
– For the sake of the States, no doubt, but for the sake of the States and for the sake of the Commonwealth itself, would it not have been as well to postpone the introduction of a Bill such as this, because .friction must inevitably arise under it 1 It is proposed to add to the friction in New South Wales, which represents one-third of the people of the Commonwealth, and in Tasmania and Western Australia as well.
– We cannot secure uniformity without creating some friction.
– No doubt, but there, is enough friction already without adding to it, and while the financial clauses of the Constitution continue to operate, we might leave a great many matters as they now stand, or, at the most, proceed to make changes very slowly. The increased tax upon the people of New South Wales, represented by the postage on newspapers and the increased telegraph rates, will be£35,000 oi- £40,000 per annum.
– How does the honorable and learned member make that out ?
– The increased rates that will have to be paid by the public of New South Wales, owing to the alterations in the telegraph rates and the imposition of the postage on newspapers, will represent very little less than £35,000 to £40,000 per annum. It will certainly amount to this if postage is paid . upon newspapers which might, as an alternative, be carried on the railways at parcel rates. Of course, if the newspaper proprietors do not send their papers through the post the revenue derived by the Post and Telegraph department will not be quite so great, and it is not unreasonable to expect that the Government will not receive the whole of the extra rate. In Victoria we find that 75 per cent, of the newspapers distributed throughout the country districts are carried under an arrangement quite outside the post-office. This shows that the rate charged by the department must be far too high.
– The honorable and learned member is relying upon the statement issued by the Metropolitan Press Association.
– Yes, and I believe that that is a truthful statement. No doubt, it was issued by persons who had an interest in opposing the new rates, but I do not believe that they have gone the length of falsifying the accounts. When we remember that the Post and Telegraph department in New South Wales during the year just closed - without any postage on newspapers - contributed £50,000 of revenue in excess of the expenditure, surely it is unreasonable to ask the people of that State to bear an extra tax of £30,000 or £40,000. We might very well allow this matter to stand over until we are in a position to deal with the who 3 of the other questions relating to the department. It would be better to avoid all points of difficulty rather than seek to add to the causes of friction which already exist. If I were a Ministerial supporter I should urge that the proposals of the Government would impose disabilities upon the whole of the country residents in New South Wales, because they would have to directly pay the postage upon newspapers. This would be an added burden from the outset, because many of the country newspaper proprietors are sending out their papers from quarter to quarter with a notice stating that postage will be charged immediately it is imposed by the Federal Government. Under these circumstances I strongly urge that this Bill should be allowed to stand over for another session. For the sake of the Ministry, and of peace and harmony, I suggest that this Bill be postponed until we are unhampered by the financial clauses of the Constitution. It seems almost as if it were intended that the extra sum which the people of New South Wales will have to contribute is required to cover the. loss upon the lower rates charged in some of the States. The best course to adopt would be to reduce the rates in all the States, instead of piling up the taxation to the highest possible point. We should not take the case of the most highly-taxed State as a basis for any reform, but endeavour to reduce the rates to the level of the least-burdened of the States. If only on account of the friction that the provisions of this measure are likely to create, I intend to vote against the second reading. In the case of New South Wales it is manifest that there will be a very large increase in the taxation imposed, and upon this ground alone all. the representatives of that State should vote against the Bill, and discountenance any action such as that now contemplated until we are free from the operation of the financial clauses of the Constitution.
– I think that this is essentially a committee Bill, and that the discussion upon it will be largely centred upon the schedule. There is, however, one point upon which the Bill is open to a general objection, and that is that it is anti-federal in its character. Whilst it pro.fesses to deal with a Commonwealth department for the whole of the Commonwealth, it really perpetuates the State divisions, which should be ignored in the administration of the Post and Telegraph department. It continues that system of border barbarisms which was so much complained of before we entered into the Federation. For instance, why should a resident of Wodonga pay the same charge upon a telegram to Albury as upon a message to Melbourne or to the most distant point in Victorian territory ? Again, why should a resident of Portland pay the same rate for a message to Mount Gambier, in South Australia, a distance of only 30 miles, as for a message to Bairnsdale, in Victoria, a distance of 400 miles ? I do not think that the Minister should have approved of this system when he framed the Bill. When we consider that the Post and Telegraph department is an Australian, and not a State department, we should not make the distinctions between the various States provided for in the schedule relating to telegraph rates. If honorable members will look at the Bill they will see that the rate charged in Victoria is eight times that levied in Queensland, simply because in the latter State a person can send a telegram eight times as far for the same money. Similarly, the rate in Tasmania is twenty times that in Western Australia. I regret to see that, under this Bill, State boundaries are still recognised. Personally, I think’ there is quite enough in the Constitution regarding such boundaries. Indeed it is a pity that honorable members are returned to this
House to represent divisions of distinct States. This is not a States House, and certainly I repudiate the idea that I am in any sense a Victorian member. I am the representative of Corio, Australia, and not in anyway of Corio, Victoria. In a Bill of this sort we should endeavour as far as possible to rise to the federal atmosphere and to entirely abolish State boundaries. I notice that the Minister has applied that principle to newspapers, and I think it should also have been applied to telegrams. I would suggest to the Minister in this connexion that it would be wise to establish the zone system. For a distance of 500 miles something like the existing rate should be charged, but beyond that there should be a rate for the whole of the Commonwealth. Why should a Tasmanian be able to send a telegram only 150 or 200 miles for the same price that a Victorian can wire 300 miles, or a Western Australian 800 or 1,000 miles 1 The zone system has been applied very successfully to the railways in Austria and Hungary, and I think that it might with advantage to the telegraph system be adopted here. In every telegraphoffice a list should be posted of the towns within the 500 miles radius, to which the public should be at liberty to send messages at the reduced rate. Beyond that distance the Commonwealth rate should prevail. The adoption of that system would wipe out the State distinctions contained in this Bill, which, to my mind, are exceedingly objectionable. In another way the zone system for a smaller area could successfully be applied. I represent a country constituency. Under this measure probably Melbourne and the suburbs within a 20- mile radius will enjoy the advantage of a town rate. Why should a country resident not enjoy a similar privilege? I’ would suggest that within a radius of 20 miles, starting from every centre in the Commonwealth, a town rate should be charged, whilst for a distance of 500 miles a zone rate, equal to the proposed State rate, should be levied. I regard this Bill as an honest attempt to deal with present difficulties. In my judgment, the criticism which has been levelled against the Postal department is quite unwarranted. The Postmaster-General has dealt with the difficulties which confront him in a way which commands my warm sympathy and hearty appreciation. I am glad that the measure has been brought forward. I think that its consideration has been delayed too long. At the same time, I should like the Minister to regard it as a Commonwealth measure and to abolish the State distinctions, which, in my opinion, constitute a serious blot upon it.
– I am more than disappointed to find that I am not in accord with the honorable member for Parramatta, who has had such a large experience in connexion with postal matters. He gives unstinted praise to that portion of the Bill which relates to telegraph rates, and which, to my mind, constitutes a blot upon it. I had hoped that in the matter of posts and telegraphs - so clearly and distinctly a federal one - we should have had presented to us something like a national scheme.
– We have not a national financial scheme yet.
– I am aware that difficulties are constantly cropping up under the bookkeeping clauses. At the same lime, the measure which is now presented for our consideration is very provincial in conception. Instead of a mind picture of a federated continent, honorable members have put before them six separate States. Under the schedule it is proposed to charge three different rates - a sixpenny rate, which is based simply upon density of poputation ; a uniform State rate of 9d ; and a third rate of Is. The last-named seems practically to impose a penalty upon persons who have Inter-State business relations. The Inter-State charge is levied, not for any service rendered, but simply because the messages pass from one State into another. They have to pay a toll merely because they are Inter-State messages. The extra charge, therefore, falls upon a very small section of the community, and it is exceedingly unfair that it should be so. A telegram from Wolesley to Serviceton would be charged the Inter-State rate, so also would a message from Albury to Wodonga. Why should the additional charge be imposed ?
– We will obviate that to a certain extent in committee.
– When the honorable and learned member for Bendigo was speaking, the Minister interjected that he proposed to overcome that difficulty ; but he gave no indication as to how he intended to accomplish his purpose.
– The amendments are now in print.
– I have had some discussion with one of the heads of the department in relation to this matter, and I understand that a proposal has been made to establish a hundredmile zone system upon the boundaries of the various States, I think I can show the Minister that if he does so, he will still be impaled upon the horns of a dilemma. For instance, under such a system a telegram could be sent from Melbourne to within 25 miles, of Hay for 9d., but that amount would only cover the cost of a return wire to Kyneton. Similarly, a ninepenny telegram from Moama would only reach Kyneton. Let us take the other line. A message could be transmitted from Melbourne to Wagga for 9d., but that rate would only cover the cost of a telegram from Albury to a place 25 miles upon the otherside of Seymour. Having looked into the matter very carefully, I am convinced that if we adopt any zone system it should be a complete one. There would be no difficulty in drawing up a plan which would make every telegraph office in the Commonwealth the centre of such a system. Mr. Scott, the Deputy Postmaster-General, of Victoria, informs me that there are 2,708 telegraph offices upon the continent. There would be no difficulty whatever in preparing a map which would entirely ignore State boundaries. Indeed, I should like to see the word “ States “ absolutely removed from the map. Amap could be drawn showing the zone from each post-office in the Commonwealth, and that plan would work just as simply as any Inter-State system.
– How could the operator remember all the different charges and regulations?’
– An operator would have less difficulty in remembering the charges than a railway booking clerk . has now in issuing tickets for stations in every part of the Commonwealth. The map showing thezones would be before both the operator and sender, and there would be no difficulty. At first blush I thought there might be some trouble in such a system, but I have since thoroughly considered the matter. When I first saw the Bill I took a dislike to it on the ground that it was not of a federal character. We are really going back to the old system of reckoning by States. If Melbourne were made the centre of a 600 mile zone, it would embrace Adelaide and Sydney, and inside of that there might be a 300-mile zone. If Sydney were made a similar centre, it would include Brisbane, Melbourne, and the more populous places along the coast.
– Sydney and Melbourne would each be able to communicate with two capitals, but Brisbane could communicate with only one.
– The distance could be extended. I am now merely throwing out the idea, and the great advantage would be that the person who paid the higher rate would get a greater service, inasmuch as his message would be carried a greater distance. My personal opinion, however, is that it is not worth while going to the trouble of establishing a zone system, but that the more convenient way would be to have a uniform rate for the Commonwealth. To charge the higher rate simply to those who are using Inter-State telegrams is to gain revenue from only a portion of the people.
– But those people get the benefit.
– They pay much less than they did before.
– I do not see how the people on the border get any benefit.
– That is to be provided for.
– The only provision which can be made is a 100-mile zone, and even that does not meet all the circumstances, because, again, the people just immediately beyond the zone suffer. With the lower charge to produce the same revenue there would have to be four telegrams at 9d., instead of three at1s. ; but with the great advantage, which would be given to the commercial world, the probability is that there would not be much loss of revenue.
– In my opinion there would be no loss.
-I do not think there would : but even if there were it would be far better to make it up out of the general revenue than to leave it to be borne by the people who use Inter-State telegrams. Unless I hear some strong argument to the contrary, I intend to move in committee that a uniform rate be established for the whole Commonwealth. The long telegraph lines, such as those from Adelaide to Port Darwin, and from Western Australia to South Australia, are more or less national ; and if a certain portion of their cost has to be taken out of the general revenue, that is for the benefit of the whole Commonwealth. I urge the Minister not to dock the country people of their newspapers. One disappointment in federation is that it seems to mean retrogression and loss to the country people at every point.
– Levelling the charges up, and levelling the facilities down.
– There is a sort of whittling away of advantages which have hitherto been enjoyed. People in the country very often arrange to take different newspapers and exchange, and though the newspaper proprietors may not approve, there is not a weekly newspaper which comes to my house but is passed on to some one else. I am quite in accord with the honorable member for Parramatta in regard to the charge for addresses on telegrams. In that respect the Bill is another retrogressive movement which serves to discredit federation. I hope that the system of sixpenny telegrams will be considerably extended. In Melbourne and other similar places all messages have to be delivered, and in centres of dense population nothing is thought of spending money in insuring good delivery. In the country, however, we appear to be deprived of all similar advantages. A little while ago a person addressing a telegram in the country could add after the name of the station the word “ Post,” but a regulation was brought in by which that word was charged for, although the department was put to no expense for delivery. I ask the Minister in charge of the Bill to consider my suggestion as to the zone system, which I have discussed with the Deputy PostmasterGeneral.
-Does he approve of it?
– I do not know that he does, but I left my suggestions and maps with him, and I think the Minister would be able to organize a workable system.
Debate (on motion by Mr. L. E. Groom) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 August 1902, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020819_reps_1_11/>.