1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Royal Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Post and TelegraphRates Bill.
Royal Commissions Bill.
– In giving notice that on Tuesday, 23rd September, I intend to move that the standing orders be suspended to enable all necessary steps to be taken to obtain Supply, I may mention that I hope to be able to deliver my Budget speech on that date.
Resolved (on motion by Sir William McMillan) -
That one month’s leave of absence be granted to the honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward
Braddon ; to the honorable and learned member forParkes ; and to the honorable and learned member for East Sydney.
– In to-day’s newspapers it is stated that the expenditure involved in raising the minimum pay of public servants per annum to £1 10is to be regarded as new expenditure, which will be distributed pro ratâ amongst the various States. It was also mentioned a few days ago that the Minister for Home Affairs had stated that £10,000 per annum would be required to bring the rates paid to the South Australian military forces into line with those obtaining in the other States, and that this would be regarded as transferred expenditure. I should like to know if the Treasurer could make some clear and definite statement on the matter.
– The honorable member has given me rather a hard nut to crack, because it is impossible to lay down any hard-and-fast rule. My honorable friend must not believe all that he. sees in the newspapers. I had not seen the paragraph with reference to increments to public servants being treated as new expenditure, and, so far as I am at present advised, I think they form part of the ordinary expenditure involved in carrying on the departments, and that they should be treated in just the same way as annual increments. Ican assure the honorable member that the amounts which I shall place on the Estimates - unless I see some strong reason for adopting a different course - will in all cases be treated as the ordinary expenditure of the departments.
– As it is exceedingly improbable that the Defence Bill will be proceeded with this session, I desire to ask the Acting Minister for Defence whether he proposes that any arrangements that he may make in connexion with the defence forces shall be of a tentative character, or whether he proposes to take such action as may be irrevocable, even though at a later stage the Defence Bill may provide for an entirely different condition of affairs.
– I have guarded myself against any such contingency as that referred to by making provisional appointments in most cases. If they had been made permanent,no doubt certain rights would have accrued.
– I would like to know whether that policy is thoroughly understood by the Commandant, and whether he is not now carrying out certain arrangements, and completing certain details, which will make it practically impossible to regard the action now being taken by the Minister as provisional.
– I do not know that the Commandant is doing anything except to carry out the temporary arrangements I have indicated. The commandant thoroughly understandsthat the appointments are provisional.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Home Affairs, without notice, whether he is aware -
– I had forwarded to me, I presume by courtesy of the honorable member, a copy of the questions which he intended to ask. Before replying generally, I should like to say that I can scarcely answer the fifth question. The State must consider for itself whether it should deal with waters in which perhaps three or four different States are interested. I may point out that the only question that can be dealt with by the Commonwealth Government is that of navigation. If the action of the State interferes with the navigation of the river, the Commonwealth Government can step in. The construction of a reservoir for the conservation of water is, however, purely a State matter. No action can be taken in view of the Royal commission now sitting, until the report be received, so long as nothing is done by any State to interfere with navigation. I also wish to say that this is a matter which can be dealt with by the Commonwealth only on the application of a State or States, so that at the present time we are not in a position to interfere.
– If one State robs another, who is to settle the matter?
– If navigation is allowed to remain intact, the States must settle the matter for themselves.
-It is a pity that we did not take care to safeguard the interests of the various States when we framed the Constitution.
– That is not my fault. As matters stand at present we shall have to leave the matter to be dealt with by the States. I may point out that New South Wales is taking certain action with regard to some of the rivers within her territory. A Bill is now before the State Legislature, or has already been passed, with a view to enable the Government to deal with the question of water conservation. This is one of those matters which might very reasonably be dealt with by the Inter-State Commission, if that body were appointed, and honorable members know that it is due to no fault of the Government that an Act constituting the Inter-State Commission has not been passed. I hope it will be clear, not only to honorable members, but to the whole of the community, that it will be necessary to provide for the appointment of an Inter-State Commission during the ensuing session of Parliament.
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions I have to state -
No determination has been arrived at; but due consideration will be given to the matter in connexion with any proposed reorganization.
Debate resumed (from 19th July, 1901 vide page 2823), on motion by Mr. O’Malley -
That in the opinion of this House it is desirable in the interest of human progress that the Government secure as Federal territory an area of not less than 1,000 square miles of land in a good, healthy, and fertile situation, the freehold of which shall for ever remain the property of the Commonwealth ; the ground only to be let on building or other leases to utilizers ; all buildings to be erected under strict Government regulations, with due regard to public health and architectural beauty.
Upon which Sir Edmund Barton had moved, by way of amendment : -
That the words “not less than 1,000 square miles of land in a good, healthy, and fertile situation, the freehold of which shall for ever remain,” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “land well watered, healthily situated, and large enough to fully meet all probable requirements, and secure to the Commonwealth the benefits to accrue from the position of the capital, such area, when secured, to remain for ever”; also, that the words “on building or other leases “ be omitted, and that the word “Government,” line 9, be omitted.
Amendments agreed to.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (from 5th July, 1901 vide page 2157), on motion by Mr. V. L. Solomon -
That in the opinion of this House it is advisable that the complete control and jurisdiction over the Northern Territory of South Australia be acquired by the Commonwealth, and that the Federal Government should at once enter into negotiations for that purpose with the Government of the State of South Australia.
Upon which Mr. Ewing had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “is,” line 1, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the words “desirable that the Government should, as speedily as possible, inquire into the advisability of taking over the Northern Territory of South Australia.”
– With the permission of the House, I desire to withdraw the motion.
– I object.
– As the honorable member for Bland objects to the withdrawal of the motion, the debate must proceed.
– I fail to see that any good result can be achieved by discussing this motion at the present time, in view of the attitude which has recently been adopted by the South Australian Parliament. Both in the Legislative Council and in the House of Assembly of that State a resolution has been carried which, if it does not altogether repudiate the offer made on behalf of that State by you, sir, when you were Premier, certainly approaches very closely to it.
– The people of South Australia ought to know what is the opinion of this Parliament upon the matter.
– I am in thorough sympathy with the motion, and do not agree with the action of the South Australian Parliament, which, it appears to me, has done more than repudiate the offer to which I have referred. The Government of that State have agreed to introduce a Bill within a fortnight, which will provide for the construction of a railway upon the land grant system, connecting the two lines which at present have their termini at Oodnadatta and Pine Creek respectively. Consequently, the mover of this motion had no alternative but to attempt to withdraw it. As one of the representatives of South Australia, I certainly think that the South Australian Legislature has gone so far that every self-respecting representative of. that State in this House is bound to abandon this proposal. At the same time, I hold that the Northern Territory ought to be transferred to the control of the Commonwealth. That territory is endowed with great possibilities ; but those possibilities will never be properly developed under South Australian control, or under the control of any one State. Another reason why the Northern Territory should be transferred to the control of the Commonwealth is to be found in its proximity to the great hordes of coloured aliens, who are a menace to the Commonwealth, and it is not a fair thing that a small State like South Australia should have to bear the whole burden imposed by legislation which this Parliament has enacted.
– What is the annual deficiency upon the Northern Territory - £60,000?
– I think that it is between £70,000 and £80,000. But I would point out that when Senator Playford was acting as Agent-General for South Australia, he could, upon numerous occasions, have disposed of the territory for its whole cost to that State.
– How long ago is that ?
– It is about four or five years ago. As a matter of fact several syndicates in London offered, if the territory were handed over to them, to bear the whole of its debts and also to reimburse the Government of South Australia by payment of the full amount it had expended in connexion therewith.
– Did they actually offer to do that ?
– I am perfectly satisfied that Mr. Playford will confirm my statement. These syndicates, however, stipulated that in the development of the Territory they should be allowed to use whatever class of labour they chose. The South Australian Government refused to grant that concession. The State Parliament believed that it held the key to the situation in regard to the influx of alien labour, and it also realized that whatever affected South Australia affected Australia as a whole. Without the slightest trouble South Australia could dispose of the Northern Territory, which is too great a concern for so small a State to manage. For years past, however, the South Australian Government have absolutely refused to entertain any proposition which might involve an influx of alien labour into the territory. The position today is that the Commonwealth has decided - and the territory is included in the area governed by the Commonwealth - that no coloured aliens can be employed in the development of tropical industries in Australia. That is another reason why this Parliament should take over the control of the Northern Territory. I do not think that it is necessary for me to reply to the caustic criticisms of the territory which were indulged in by the honorable member for Richmond, because he admitted that he has never visited it, which fact I presume, is the chief reason, why he is so well qualified to instruct others who have, as to its possibilities. But even he acknowledged that, as .the Commonwealth has adopted the policy of a white Australia, it is unfair to expect South Australia to bear the whole cost of carrying out that policy in respect to the Northern Territory, and in his closing remarks he agreed to support this proposition. I repeat that the Territory has great possibilities. I had collected a number of figures bearing upon that aspect of the matter, and, had I anticipated that any objection would be taken to the withdrawal of the motion, I should have had them in my possession to-day, and been prepared to justify my opinion. But, having regard to the resolution which has recently been carried in both branches of the- South Australian Parliament demanding terms very different from those which you, sir, as Premier of that State, submitted to the Commonwealth, I hold that the mover of the motion has no alternative but to withdraw it. “Undoubtedly South Australia has repudiated the offer then made, and is attempting to dictate terms which were never mentioned when this proposal was before the State Legislature some years ago. If the motion be pressed to a division, I shall support it, but, at the same time, I believe that the proper course for this House to adopt is to permit the order of the day to be discharged.
– I objected to the withdrawal of the motion, because I cannot conceive of any reason why the action of the South Australian Parliament should -be allowed to influence the action of this -Parliament. If the members of this Parliament consider that there is abundant justification for the Commonwealth taking over the territory, from the point of view of the general welfare of Australia, whether the Parliament of South Australia agrees with our action or does not, we have a right to express our opinion so that the people of South Australia may have some idea of what the Commonwealth thinks on the subject.
– Ought we not rather to find out the exact position of affairs 1
– The question of the honorable and learned member may show a reason why we should not carry the motion in its present shape, but rather as amended in the way suggested by the honorable member for Richmond. Personally, I, in common with other honorable members, am at a disadvantage as to the exact knowledge which we ought to possess before entering into an expenditure of nearly £2,000,000, as asked some time ago by the South Australian Government. But, at the least, we all have some general idea of the value or otherwise of this territory to the Commonwealth. It has always seemed to me that one of the first functions of any Federal Government which might be created would be to take in hand the problem of getting control of all Australia at the earliest possible opportunity. I may. say that I think very little of the latest project of the South Australian Government in connexion with this territory ; but, whatever one may think in this connexion, credit must be given to the various Governments of South Australia in the past who have held this territory practically free from incursions by neighbouring Asiatics, and who have held it free at a cost, to their small population, of something like £2,000,000. The people of Australia owe a debt of gratitude to the citizens of South Australia for assuming this responsibility and carrying the load on their shoulders all these years, when, by giving in to the designs of various speculating syndicates, they might have evaded all the expenditure. That evasion would, perhaps, have been at immense cost to the people of Australia as >n whole, and to the millions whom we expect to inhabit this continent in the future. Holding these opinions, T am quite prepared to vote for the motion as it is, notwith- standing my lack of detailed knowledge on the subject. I am quite prepared to say, -even if the assumption of the control of the territory does mean to the Commonwealth £1,000,000 of unproductive expenditure, that that is -more than justified when the whole of the circumstances are taken into consideration. I quite agree with the honorable member for South A ustralia, Mr. Poynton, that unless the Commonwealth gets control of this territory, or, at any rate, unless effective control is exercised over the whole of Australia, ti conveuient opening is presented for the influx of people from the adjoining -portions of the Eastern Archipelago. Such sin influx would be a calamity, at any rate from the point of view of those who favour a white Australia. As to the terms on which the territory should be taken over, that is a matter for the Government who have data at their command to determine; it is for the Government to formulate conditions, and make such reservations as seem to be justified by the circumstances. But this House cannot too early arrive at an expression of opinion. There is a movement afoot now in South Australia which seems to me to be the Teal reason why this offer of the Northern Territory was withdrawn some little time ago. Some people in the Parliament of South Australia seem anxious to keep control of the Northern Territory until they have put “their little private - enterprise schemes through. As soon as those plans are consummated these people are, I suppose, willing that the Commonwealth shall take over the territory with what, from a national point of view, would bc the incubus of their schemes in active operation. If any body of powerful syndicators get control of a large portion of this area, it will be a perpetual menace to the policy - which the Commonwealth has unanimously decided on - of excluding coloured aliens. These people, having all their interests there, will be running another “ underground railway,” such as we know was in existence years ago in the United States, although with an exactly opposite object in view. That could be done just as efficiently in favour of these people if they were the whole dominating force in the territory ; and I see no other result if the present schemes are allowed to mature. It is imperative from the national stand-point that this Parliament should give an expression of opinion so as to enable the people of South Australia to see how far they are justified in going to the extremes proposed by some of their parliamentarians. We can quite understand that if this motion is withdrawn, or if no decision is come to by this House, it will be urged by those who. are pushing forward the schemes to which I have referred, that the Commonwealth Parliament is not prepared to take over the territory - that this Parliament will not even discuss the matter, and has no intention of dealing with it ; and that, therefore, the best thing for South Australia to do is to make whatever terms are possible with any set of syndicators who come along. I can venture to say that that will be the position unless this Parliament takes definite action one way or the other. Believing, as I do, that there is a majority in this Parliament who, generally speaking, are in favour of taking over this territory, I have adopted what is, perhaps, the extreme course of objecting to the withdrawal of the motion. I do not impugn, for .a moment, the intentions of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon. I know that that honorable member has gone to considerable trouble in an endeavour to put this matter properly and distinctly before honorable members ; but he would unwittingly, to my mind, be working against the very object he set out to serve if he withdraws- the motion. Under the Constitution the Commonwealth Parliament is given power to acquire territories of this description, with the consent, of course, of the States affected. I do not suggest for a moment that under present conditions, or under the conditions which may obtain for, the. next generation, it would be a proper thing to attempt to admit this territory ae an integral State of the union, but that is a question of small moment. We are acquiring territories at vast annual expense outside the boundaries of the Commonwealth. New Guinea is a territory beyond our control, or at any rate beyond our boundaries, and its acquisition involves increased expense every year. The amount to -which we are so far pledged in connexion with New Guinea represents the interest on about £750,000.
– It is £20,000 per annum.
– That is the interest on about £750,000.
– We must not forget that there will be the power of imposing customs taxation in New Guinea.
– That applies also to the Northern Territory. Very probably an intelligent administration by the Commonwealth Government, with a greater recognition of the possibilities of the Territory, and perhaps, later on, the construction of a railway through a large area of what I am assured is valuable country, will have an influence in minimising, if not of. wiping out, the present annual deficit. But I draw attention to the fact that in the beginning, and not in eventuality, we are incurring new expenditure in connexion with New Guinea - an annual expenditure which, capl talized, represents nearly one-half of what was asked by South Australia for the Northern Territory. This Government are prepared to assume responsibility for a territory outside the boundaries of the Commonwealth, a territory not nearly so closely associated with our general well-being, while there does not seem any desire to come to a decision with regard to a territory which impinges all round on the various States of the union, and from which the people from Asiatic centres can easily filter through to those States. I am not particular whether the motion or the amendment be adopted, but some such proposition should be assented to by this Chamber at the earliest possible date. I do not want to see the matter postponed indefinitely, because postponement might be made use of as an argument to the effect that the national Government of Australia are not prepared to assume any responsibility, and that it, therefore, lies with the politicians of South Australia to make the best possible terms with a view to meeting the deficit which faces them at the present time.
– I desire to add my tribute of praise to the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, for the very exhaustive and interesting account which he gave us of the conditions at present existing in the Northern Territory. I can assure the honorable member that his words on this question has been read very widely by people outside this Chamber who are vitally interested, and in order that the speech shall not be robbed of its value by the withdrawal of the motion, I suggest that the honorable member should agree to accept the amendment which appears on the notice-paper ; and I feel sure that the motion would then be carried unanimously. Although the information given is valuable, I feel that we require further facts before coming to a definite conclusion such as that to which the motion would commit us. Like the honorable member for Bland, I regard the Northern Territory as virtually the back-door of Australia. It is from that quarter we may expect the greatest dangers - dangers which we have by legislation during this session been endeavouring to eliminate. That legislation will be brought to nought, and our intentions frustrated if we do not take steps to control that entrance to Australia, which, at the present time is almost unguarded. As an Australian ‘ I wish to impress upon the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, the inadvisability of withdrawing his motion at this or any stage. This is a question on which, I believe, there are not two opinions throughout the Commonwealth. We desire to keep ourselves untainted by eastern admixtures ; and to assume control of the Northern Territory is perhaps the most complete way in which we can. obtain that very rauch to be desired end. Under the circumstances I urge on the honorable member the desirableness of refraining from his intention to withdraw the motion. If he feels that the motion is too strong, and that the conditions have altered, I ask him to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Richmond.
– I did not expect we should have been called on to-day to decide a definite proposal on so important a matter. These are proposals which certainly ought to come from the Government and not from a private member, and I take it that the motion before us was submitted with a view of ventilating the subject and giving rise to a certain interest in it. I hold that if every honorable member in the Chamber were perfectly satisfied in his own mind that we ought to take over the Northern Territory, it would be wrong at the present time to pass a definite vote as to the expediency of doing so. In this early stage of our Commonwealth life we ought not to undertake a step of this kind without the fullest possible official information from the Government. In my opinion, this matter should come before the House in a definite shape, upon the authority and responsibility of the Government. I believe that we are practically all agreed upon the desirability of acquiring the Northern Territory, but I think it will be better to adopt the motion as the honorable member for Richmond proposes to amend* it. That, I think, would answer the purpose which the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, has in view. It would allow the subject to be ventilated, and would prevent the Government from overlooking it. I think that the matter is one which should be investigated by the Government during the coming recess, so that a concrete proposal may be put before us next session.
– It is a proper subject for the investigation of a Royal Commission.
– The Government could appoint a Royal Commission to investigate it. It must be remembered that we are only beginning our Commonwealth existence, and during the past sixteen months we have been so much engaged in laying the foundations of our Commonwealth legislation that few of us, except those who are specially interested, have had time to give this subject the careful and exhaustive consideration which it deserves. While I wish to see the acquirement of the Northern Territory by the Commonwealth, I do not think this House should pledge itself to any definite policy in regard to the matter until official information on the subject has been given to it under the responsibility of Ministers of the Crown.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).Although the motion under discussion has been moved by a private member, it deals with one of the largest national questions which we have to face. I do not think that the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, desires to tie the hands of the Government in regard to the matter, but it would be an embarrassment if, before entering into . a bargain, they were absolutely bound to certain conditions. I can see the force of the objection raised on that ground by the acting leader of the Opposition. But what I understand the honorable member for South Australia wishes to do is to enable the Government to obtain from this House a plain indication that it has no intention to allow the Northern Territory of South Australia to pass into alien hands, to be exploited by foreign syndicates, or to be under any but Commonwealth control. For that reason, I ask honorable members to consider whether the amendment of the honorable member for Richmond may not, if carried, throw cold water upon the proposal. It will be said that there was a motion in favour of the acquirement by the Commonwealth of the Northern Territory of South Australia before the House of Representatives, but that it was not carried, the House coming to the determination that the matter must be inquired into first. I am perfectly willing that there should be an inquiry as to terms and conditions, but I should like a distinct statement of our opinion that it would be in the interests of Australia for the Commonwealth to acquire the Northern Territory of South Australia if it can be obtained on reasonable terms. The Northern Territory cannot be acquired by the Commonwealth without the consent of South Australia, and therefore that State is in the position of a vendor with whom we shall have to bargain. I do not think it would be worthy of the Commonwealth to haggle over a question of a few pounds. So long as the territory can be obtained upon reasonable terms, I think it is our duty to acquire it.
– If we affirm that it is desirable to enquire into the advisability of acquiring the Northern Territory, is not that to a large extent equivalent to saying that we are favorable to its acquirement ?
– It may be said by the enemies of the movement that a motion for the acquirement of the Northern Territory was supplanted by another motion for an enquiry. T admit that every enquiry should be made, and every care taken before agreeing to the terms of acquirement, but I think that this House should say before any enquiry is made that, if the terms are found to be reasonable, it is desirable to acquire the Northern Territory.
– The inquiry can be made during the period of negotiation.
– Quite so. I do not want to tie the hands of the purchasing Government, but I want them to know that this House thinks that it is expedient to acquire the Northern Territory, if it can be obtained on reasonable terms. I suggest that in place of agreeing to the amendment, it would be better to agree to a motion in these terms : -
That in the opinion of this House it is advisable that the complete control and jurisdiction over the Northern Territory of South Australia be acquired by the Commonwealth, if it can be acquired on reasonable terms.
The feeling of the House upon the subject could be tested by an amendment for the omission of the words -
And that the Federal Government should at once enter into negotiations for that purpose with the Government of the State of South Australia.
If amotion were carried in the terms which I have suggested, we should have placed on record during our first session the deliberate statement that we regard the acquirement of the Northern Territory as of too great importance to be exposed to the risks to which it has been exposed during the last few years. Most honorable members know that within the last ten or twenty years negotiations have taken place which, if successful, would have been most prejudicial to the future of Australia.
– South Australia has always refused to entertain them.
– The people of South Australia have done good service for the Commonwealth in keeping ward and watch over the Northern Territory. That State has sacrificed revenue in acting as the wise guardian of that territory, and, in doing so, has been a benef actor to the whole Commonwealth. I recognise the efforts which have been made by those in political life in South Australia - some of whom are now members of this House - to prevent the temporary needs of State Treasurers from injuring the true policy of Australia as a whole. It may be said that the acquirement of the Northern Territory by the Commonwealth is not an urgent matter now. If that is so, we should be able to acquire it on better terms than if it were urgent. We have no right to wait until the matter becomes urgent, when we might be forced to accept terms which we should not accept. The time for acquiring the territory is now, before there are further negotiations in regard to it on the part of other people, and before the deficit in respect to its administration increases. I feel that the Government can be trusted to negotiate in this matter if they choose to do so. I do not want to compel them to open negotiations, but I have no doubt that they will find means to communicate the terms of any resolution to which we may agree to the Government of South Australia, and that negotiations can then be quietly opened up. The Commonwealth Parliament has passed laws for the restriction of alien immigration, but it will be impossible for us to properly administer them, unless we obtain control of the Northern Territory.
– I think it a matter of regret that the honorable member for South Australia was not permitted to give the reasons which prompted him in desiring to withdraw this motion. Apparently, his reasons are to be found in some action taken by the South Australian Parliament. On the 18th April, 1901, you, Mr. Speaker, as Premier of South Australia, offered to the Commonwealth Government the privilege of taking over the Northern Territory of South Australia, in the following terms : -
I have now to intimate that the Government of South Australia is prepared to take the necessary steps to offer to the Federal Government the territory known as the Northern Territory, including; the railways and all other assets, on the Federal Government also assuming the liabilities of the territory.
The document from which that communication is taken gives the productions, receipts, and indebtedness of the Northern Territory. It seems to me that this is an offer which should not have been withdrawn or modified by a succeeding Govemment without communicating with the Commonwealth Government, to whom it was made. But from what I have learned from representatives of South Australia the offer has been modified to this extent : That the Commonwealth is asked to saddle itself with an undertaking to construct a railway over 1,000 miles in length, from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, and with the reservation of certain blocks of land along that line.
– For whose benefit ?
– I presume that the reservations are to be in favour of certain syndicates who are to build the line.
– The Bill is notyet before the South Australian Parliament, though it is promised.
– It seems to me that it approaches a breach of faith for the South Australian Government to depart from the conditions which it laid down a little more than a year ago, and communicated to the Commonwealth Government through its then Premier. When we enter into negotiations for the acquirement of the Northern Territory, as I hope we shall, I trust that no such condition as that to which I have just referred will be accepted by the Commonwealth Government. As every one who knows anything about the central part of South Australia is aware, a railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek would pass through an absolute desert.
– What about the McDonnell Ranges?
– So far, they have not been productive of much wealth.
– The gold mines there have been the most consistent in Australia during the last two years.
– I have not heard of any great yields from the mines there ; if what the honorable member says be correct, the fact has been kept remarkably quiet. I repeat that for the greater part of the way the railway would pass through an absolute desert.
– Nonsense !
– If that is not so, the reports which Mr. Gillen, Professor Spencer, and other authorities who have been through the country have given are scarcely to be relied upon.
– They do not say that the country is an absolute desert.
– If it is not an absolute desert, why is it that settlement has not approached even the fringe of it yet 1
– Because there has been no railway communication.
– Settlement does not always wait for railway communication.
– Could we not say the same thing about the country between Tarcoola and Coolgardie 1
– We are not at present discussing the character of the country between Tarcoola and Coolgardie. The Government of South Australia has loaded its offer of the Northern Territory with a new condition, which, in view of the loss that the construction of the proposed railway would inevitably entail, the Commonwealth Government cannot accept. The honorable member for Bland, who seems to take great interest in this matter, says that he is not in favour of the Northern Territory being elevated into the position of a State.
– I said, not at present.
– I did not hear the qualification. Any one who looks at the map of Australia must see that the time is not very far distant when the Northern Territory, and the north-western portion of Western Australia, will have to be erected into the position of a separate State. Remember that Western Australia has carried this vast tract of country upon her back for many years, and the administration of the law alone has involved very heavy expenditure. I may remind honorable members who are giving due credit to South Australia for having preserved the Northern Territory for white people that some praise is also due to the Government of Western Australia for having prevented their North- Western territory from being overrun by coloured aliens. The Western Australian law provides that no Asiatics shall be allowed to come beyond a certain parallel of south latitude. When we approach questions fraught with enormous possibilities in the future, we should look at them from a broad stand-point, and in this case Ave have to consider the necessity that will probably arise for forming these two vast areas in the northern part of the continent into a compact State that some day will be qualified for admission into the union. J hope that the resolution will be adopted in its original form. I agree with the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, that if we accept the amendment, we shall probably ‘lead those who are opposed to our dealing with the Northern Territory to believe that the movement is hanging fire, because it would be purely within the discretion of the Government whether they pursued inquiries or not. If, on the other hand, the motion is carried in its original form, it will commit the Commonwealth to taking the steps necessary to secure the control of the Northern Territory. That will be far more satisfactory than an order directing a vague inquiry which might or might not be followed up with practical results.
– It will be sufficient if the Government give us their assurance that an inquiry will be made.
-^-1 have not heard of any such assurance having been given. I regret that the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Solomon, has not been able to explain his reasons for wishing to withdraw the motion. If it is submitted to the vote, I shall vote for it in its original form.
– I join with the honorable member for Coolgardie in expressing regret that the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Solomon, should not have had an opportunity of explaining his reasons for wishing to withdraw his motion. I believe that the Northern Territory, instead of being the back door of Australia - as it has been described - will be the front door. Apart from the possibilities of Port Darwin as the main port of entry into Australia from the old world, I believe that the Northern Territory possesses resources which may be developed with much advantage. The whole of the country lying between the Gulf of Carpentaria and Port Darwin is admirably adapted for cattle raising. For at least 100 miles from the coast, the country has a greater rainfall than has the larger part of the southern and eastern portions of the Commonwealth. If it were not for the restrictions with regard to the introduction of cattle into the southern and. eastern portions of Australia from tick-infested country, sufficient stock could be brought from the Northern Territory and North-Western Queensland to satisfy all our meat requirements at the present time. It is also well known that the Northern Territory embraces thousands of square miles of highlyauriferous country, which should, in the very near future, be capable of profitable development. It would appear, from recent press reports, that the South Australian Government desires to hand over a large area of the Northern Territory to a railway syndicate. This would appear to be the reason underlying the withdrawal of the offer that was made on a former occasion to the Commonwealth Government. It is stated that the Premier of South Australia has promised Mr. J. L. Parsons, who represents the syndicate, that the AttorneyGeneral shall introduce during the current week a Bill providing for grants of certain land to the syndicate upon the construction of a railway. Whatever concessions may be made would hamper the Commonwealth when the territory was taken over, because any bargains entered into between the State Government and the syndicate would have to be respected, and heavy compensation would probably have to be paid. This would place us in a most unenviable position, and the matter is one which requires prompt attention.
– We could not take over the Northern Territory except with the consent of the State Government.
– I realize that. If the motion were withdrawn, it would give colour to the idea that theFederal Government were not disposed to take over the control of the Northern Territory, because they feared that it would become a burden to them. On the other hand, if the motion is carried, it will go a long way towards assuring the South Australian Government that we recognise the importance of the Territory, and that we are in earnest in our desire to assume control over it.
– It is painfully evident that there is a desire to postpone this motion for a sufficient length of time to enable certain syndicates to exploit the Northern Territory, and acquire everything that is of any value. If the syndicates obtain possession of the Territory they will be able to make their own terms with us under the threat that, if we do not comply with their demands, they will make it a Chinese or Japanese headquarters in Australia. The Northern Territory is the key to the whole Commonwealth, and it is our duty to assume control of it before any injury can be done by neglect or want of consideration on the part of the State Parliament. I think that under section 109 of the Constitution we could assume control over the Northern Territory whether South Australia liked it or not. The Northern Territory was handed over to South Australia conditionally, and that State has no specific title to it. When I was a member of the State Legislature, it was proposed that the Crown should be asked to take the Northern Territory back again. If South Australia had actually owned it, there would have been no suggestion of that kind. Section 109 of the Constitution provides that -
When the law of a State is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth, thelatter shall prevail, and the former shall to the extent of the inconsistency be invalid.
Under this provision it would be reasonable for us to put a stop to the operation of any legislation passed by a State if we considered that it would prove injurious to the other States. It will be as well for us .to settle this matter at once, instead of allowing the South Australian Government to make the Northern Territory an asylum for hordes of coloured aliens.
– If the South Australian Parliament decided to hand the Northern Territory back to Great Britain, the Immigration Restriction Bill would no longer have effect in that part of Australia, nor could we prevent syndicates from carrying on their operations there.
– The Northern Territory is specially included in South Australia under the terms of the Constitution.
– But if the South Australian Government were to hand- the territory back to the Crown, it would be no longer Commonwealth territory, and we should have no control over it. I should like the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, to answer that question.
– I did not hear it.
– Assuming that the South Australian Parliament transferred the control of the Northern Territory to the Imperial authorities, and the latter administered it as a British Crown colony, would the Federal Government, under the Constitution, have any power to exclude aliens from it ?
– That is a very difficult question to answer, but I should think that it would. The British Government would have to take over the territory subject to our Constitution, which includes that territory.
– If I were sure of that, I should not be so much concerned about the matter.
– At the beginning of the session I made my position in reference to the Northern Territory quite clear to this House. But I should like to ask honorable members whether we are altogether studying our self-respect by proceeding with the discussion of this matter ? It is true that the offer made by you, sir, as Premier of South Australia, has not actually been withdrawn, but practically it has been withdrawn. That is proved, I think, by the action which has recently been taken by both Houses of the South Australian Legislature. Under these circumstances, I am not at all sure that it is wise for this House to further debate the question. I think that the whole of Australia is very much indebted to South Australia for its past action in relation to the Northern Territory. At different times we have been told that it has been a burden upon us, and that we have been piling up liabilities. All that is true, but so far as South Australia is concerned it need nut have been true. As my colleague, Mr. Poynton has pointed out, when Senator Playford, was acting as Agent-General in London for that State, he received an offer which, had it been accepted by the Government of South Australia, would have freed that State from all liability in respect of the Northern Territory. But the acceptance of that offer meant that the company winch made it was to have a free hand in regard to the class of labour which it employed in the “development of the Territory. This, the Ministry of South Australia would never consent to give. Consequently the Territory is held as it, is at the present moment. As I have said, South Australia is entitled to the thanks of the whole Commonwealth for the position in which things are to-day. In reply to the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, I think there is no doubt that whatever may happen in the future in regard to the Territory, that portion of the Continent must be bound by the legislation of the Commonwealth. It is part of the Commonwealth, and of course cannot escape from any legislation which may be adopted bv this Parliament.
– I am inclined to think that the last speaker has laid his finger upon one of the most important conditions connected with this proposal, to which we will do well to give full prominence. Whether the territory remains a portion of South Australia, or is dealt with as a special territory of the Commonwealth, it must equally remain under the general control of Commonwealth laws. Of course, the effect of its transference would be that we should require to provide for it all that jurisdiction which appertains to a State. The lands - or such as were still vested in the Crown - would pass to us, also the mines, and the necessity of providing land, mining; and educational laws, and of constructing railways - if any were deemed desirable: - would devolve upon us.
– I fear that we might have to carry out a contract for the construction of the trans-continental railway.
– The first important matter is to recollect the additional burden of legislation and administration which would be cast upon the Commonwealth - a burden which 1 think we should be well able to bear in time - and then to recall the fact that we are not now powerless in regard to what, with many honorable members, is the chief point of interest in connexion with this question, namely, the control of the influx of coloured people to the territory Indeed, the utilization of the greater part of it by South Australia - if that State retains control - must be very largely governed by the legislation of which this Parliament approves in respect to the introduction of aliens, or to the conditions which it may think fit to impose upon people of any special race who have become denizens of the Commonwealth. In both these ways the Commonwealth has just as firm a hold upon the Northern Territory as it has upon any other part of the continent. One of the strongest equitable reasons which those in South Australia who favour its transfer could urge upon us, is, that as a matter of fact we are now very largely the governing power of the Northern Territory, and that as we have it in our control to lay down the conditions - so far as coloured labour is concerned - upon which it shall be developed, we are already owners in a special sense of all the northern coasts of Australia. Therefore, an equitable demand might not unreasonably be made that as we hold the key of the position we ought to assume responsibility for the whole of its administration.
– Then we can practically dictate to South Australia the terms upon which the territory shall be taken over.
– These are considerations not to be ignored. The whole question appears to me appropriate to this Parliament and to this session. We have been brought face to face by legislation already enacted with the triple problems involved in this instance - as in some others - the tropical problem, the racial problem, and the financial problem. These three are interrelated and mutually dependent. In dealing with them we are confronted - as we were in the case of our proposals in regard tq the introduction of Pacific Islanders - with the question of the disposal of those lands in the extreme north of this continent, which are gifted with an enormous rainfall - such as- many other parts of the continent require, but do not receive ; which are fertile in soil, but are alleged to require for their cultivation the services of alien races if they are to produce the amount of wealth which is yielded elsewhere in similar climates and under similar conditions. Then, if the policy adopted by this House is that none save white labour is to be tolerated in any part of this continent, we necessarily limit the possibilities of production throughout all the tropical areas of Australia, of which Port Darwin undoubtedly is one.
– The House has already taken up that position.
– I am merely pointing out that fact. The racial question arises in this connexion, and a further matter, to which the honorable member for Coolgardie has called attention by a motion which appears upon the business-paper, but which it would not be proper for me to discuss The Northern Territory, and the northwestern portion of Western Australia, have a very much larger proportion of aboriginal inhabitants than the rest of the continent. Among the desirable features connected with this proposal is that it might give the Commonwealth an opportunity of dealing with those races.
– We should have to deal with them within the territory
– The honorable member for Coolgardie has alluded to the possibility that hereafter the northern part of Western Australia may be grouped with the Northern Territory. Climatically they may be so grouped, and also as to their . aboriginal population. The interests of the two areas are very much the same, and they could well be dealt with together. One of the reasons why they should be specially treated is that the Commonwealth Government, dealing with these areas in a perfectly independent fashion, might be able to secure to the last remnants of the aboriginal races that better treatment which every civilized people must feel is part of the “ white man’s burden “ cast upon us when we exploit the lands of native people. To the other difficulties with which we are confronted the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, has called attention. But, I doubt whether the public at large yet realize that the Commonwealth Government moves in financial shackles, and must continue to do so for the next five years, and that any proposal of this sort requires to be considered not only as raising the question of tropical cultivation and the racial problem, but also our financial limitations. How is the Commonwealth qualified to face an annual additional expenditure of £S0,000 - for that is the interest upon the capital of £2,000,000, which South Australia has invested in the Northern Territory ? By way of comparison, the honorable member for Bland called attention to the action of the Government in reference to New Guinea. But, the very fact which he emphasized, namely, that New Guinea was separated from the mainland of Australia - although it is more densely peopled than any part of this continent- is one of the chief reasons why it is more easily dealt with, than the Northern Territory. New Guineais never likely to be made a front or back door entrance to Australia, and it affords to the Commonwealth an opportunity of relaxing the stringency of the conditions which are imposed upon tropical cultivation elsewhere - a course that it might be extremely perilous to attempt in the Northern Territory, which is an inherent part of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Bland called attention to the fact that the annual cost of administering New Guinea was £20,000. That statement is correct. But why have we to contribute £20,000 a year in the case of New Guinea? Because its administrators, and the Administrators of the Commonwealth, have firmly set their faces against its development by projects upon a large scale proposed by private capitalists.
– The same argument applies with greater force to the Northern Territory.
– The honorable member has missed some of the arguments to which I have been addressing myself. The reason why there is a loss of £20,000 annually upon New Guinea is because of the racial problem, because the Australian States, even when it was not under their control, were unwilling to allow large areas to be transferred to private capitalists, and worked by black labour. In the course of his speech the honorable member for Bland declared that the same limitations must apply to the Northern Territory, not only in regard to tropical cultivation, but also to proposals which have been submitted to South Australia for the construction of a land grant railway. What does that mean ? It means that just as we have had to pay £20,000 in connexion with the administration of New Guinea, we should have to pay at least £80,000 on behalf of the Northern Territory.
– Besides any loss incurred upon the railway.
– Yes. The position, therefore, from a financial stand-point is this : In the Northern Territory we have, at the very outset, the lessons of experience gained by South Australia. As the honorable member for Coolgardie points out, £2,114,000 has been borrowed, and there is cash due to South Australia to the amount of £738,000 more. That is to say, there is nearly £3,000,000 invested in the Northern Territory, upon which sum we should have to find interest.
– No; the amount is only £2,000,000.
– I am speaking from the figures before me in the printed paper, but do not desire to labour the point. What the House has to realize is that if we take over the Northern Territory we shall have to face at least £100,000 a year as interest on expenditure already incurred, and also the cost of working the Territory under the same restrictions that we work New Guinea. In addition, when the Federal Government becomes responsible, we may well believe that there will be a strong movement for a more rapid opening up of the country, which can be accomplished only by the free expenditure of money. Consequently £100,000, or perhaps £200,000, a year will scarcely represent the liability we must assume when we take over the territory. It is only fair that the House should face these facts, which it is the duty of the Government to place before honorable members. Ministers cannot shelter themselves from the responsibility of a debate of this kind, introduced as it has been by the honorable member for South Australia, in the most exhaustive manner, with knowledge drawn from his own personal experience, as well as from the literature on the subject, with which latter the rest of us have perforce to be content. The taking over of the Northern Territory is not so simple or inexpensive as might besupposed. It really implies the acceptance of a great burden of legislation and administration, and also a great demand on our straitened financial resources.
– It must be admitted that the Commonwealth could bear that strain better than can South Australia.
– The honorable member for Bland may draw comparisons between the capacity of the Commonwealth and the capacity of a State, and show that the advantage lies with the Commonwealth, if he neglects the bookkeeping sections of the Constitution, under which for the next five or ten years our hands are tied very much more than are those of any State. Each State has within its range far greater freedom and elasticity for that period than has the Commonwealth.
– This would be a new expenditure borne per head of the population.
– It would be borne by the whole of the States of the Commonwealth, but it would necessitate raising four times the amount by means of customs and excise, or the early introduction of direct taxation. The honorable member appears to infer that because, in the discharge of my duty, I call attention to these possibilities I am, therefore, opposing the motion. I am not opposing the motion, because, in my opinion, at an early date if possible, but sooner or later in any case, the necessities of the Australian situation will force on the Commonwealth the control of this territory. What we have to do, however, is to take care that in admitting the necessities of the situation we do not ignore financial and other obligations. If we take a leap, we do so with our eyes open. But as amatter of fact, it is not possible for us to take the leap without the consent of South Australia ; and by the kindness of the honorable member in charge of the motion, I have had the opportunity of reading the resolutions recently carried in either House of the Parliament of that State. The first resolution says practically that the offer which you, Mr. Speaker, made, when Premier of South Australia, shall be considered as practically withdrawn.
– Is there power to withdraw the offer ?
– Undoubtedly there is both legal and constitutional power to withdraw it. The second resolution says that not only shall that offer be withdrawn, but that it is only by assuming the liabilities, and on undertaking to construct a costly and probably unremunerative railway that the Commonwealth shall be permitted to acquire the territory. The necessities of the Commonwealth are severe ; of the necessities of South Australia I leave the representatives of that State to speak. But clearly, although we may recognise what may be termed our manifest destiny in the matter, we cannot - controlling, as we do, the influx of labour and the conditions of tropical cultivation - refuse to shoulder the responsibilities of the Territory when they are cast on us. It is much more the interest of South Australia to cast their burden on us than it is our interest, looking at the matter in a selfish light, to accept it. There is first what may be termed the moral claim of South Australia on the Commonwealth, which now controls the coloured races, whether re-entering the Commonwealth or to be found within its boundaries ; there is next the general duty of the Commonwealth to undertake a task which is likely to prove too great for the powers of the State. Theseare thesubstantial reasons why South Australia should transfer this territory, and I have just indicated the reasons why we should accept it. I do not desire to detain the House, but if I did so, should have required to consider some of the valuable remarks made by the honorable members for South Australia, Mr. Poynton and Sir Langdon Bonython. But the speeches of those gentlemen, like the speech of the mover of the motion, remain on record, and it is sufficient, at this stage, to say that the matter has not until now escaped the attention of the Government. One of the first duties which fell to my lot on taking over the temporary control of the Department of External Affairs was to call for the papers, in order to be quite prepared to lay before the House, when necessity arose, a complete statement, from the official standpoint, of the present position of the territory. I found that a very valuable Royal commission had investigated the matter in South Australia, and that a great mass of evidence had been accumulated, but unhappily that evidence was entirely without an index. The report of the commission was a model of brevity and straightforwardness, but it did not disclose the particular grounds upon which its conclusions were reached, and did not furnish the means of analyzing the evidence, from our new stand-point. One of my first acts was to direct that a proper index should be prepared ; that would have been completed by this time but for the fact that the officer directly concerned has been temporarily lent to the Drayton Grange Royal Commission. But the index will shortly be completed ; and when the evidence, together with all the other papers and speeches delivered, have been collected, the Government and Parliament will be put in possession of well-digested information, very fairly up to date. It seems to me that the motion, in itself, has much to recommend it, if it be put in a form not quite so peremptory as that in which it was originally submitted. Taking into consideration all the circumstances, and realizing that, even if we do express our willingness to acquire the territory, it remains a matter of terms to ‘ be settled on a business basis, so that some equitable arrangement may be come to which will be fair to South Australia, and not plunge the Commonwealth into unjustifiable expense, I suggest that the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, accept, not the amendment of the honorable member for Richmond, which appears to point a little too directly towards a Royal commission, but an amendment which I shall indicate. Until we have had an opportunity of thoroughly examining the information already in our possession, I do not wish to commit the Government to the appointment of a Royal commission, which may or may not be necessary. The Government is pressing on inquiries, and when these have been completed, honorable members will be made masters of the subject. I suggest that all the words after “Commonwealth” be omitted, and the words “on just terms” inserted in lieu thereof. It would not be decorous for the House, in view of the action recently taken in both Houses of the South Australian Parliament, to direct the Government to open negotiations which the other, side are temporarily unwilling to take part in. It is not our business to enter into negotiations; and I am inclined to think the honorable member had that in his mind when he hesitated to press the resolution this afternoon. My suggested amendment will show that the Commonwealth Government are willing to acquire the territory on just terms, but it will not require us to make proposals which may be flouted or set aside. The amendment will enable us to proceed with the task we have already undertaken, namely, that of preparing from the official documents, and other trustworthy information that can be collected, a statement with regard to the Northern Territory which will enable us to discuss terms and conditions with a full knowledge of the situation. Having done that, we shall be able to present to Parliament propositions supported by the facts and figures necessary for their complete comprehension. I apologize for having delayed the House, perhaps, longer than was necessary ; but it would not have been proper to consent to this motion light-heartedly, as if it were a mere matter of a few pounds, or some trifling accession of territory. It would not have been proper to consent to the motion without indicating the very serious responsibilities involved, financial, legislative, and administrative. It was due to the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, and to his colleagues who supported the motion, not to treat it with less consideration than they had done, which would have been the result had it been dismissed with a few words. It seems to me that the motion ought to be carried so long as the form does . not unduly force the hands of the Commonwealth into entering on what must necessarily be, to some extent, a bargain with another State. At the same time, I quite agree that no huxtering spirit should prevail. We shall expect the South Australian Government to meet us on that broad basis on which a State should conduct important transactions of that kind, while the Commonwealth must not fight for the last farthing, or seek to take advantage of the difficulties of the South Australian Government in order to take this territory, without making reasonable compensation for the great work already done, and the many sacrifices, financial and otherwise endured in order to pre-: serve this territory for the white race.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- I am sorry the motion has been brought forward, and regret that the honorable “member for South Aus-, tralia, Mr. Y. L. Solomon, was not able to withdraw it. It is a motion to which we cannot give effect, because at the present time South Australia does not appear willing to part with the territory, and we put ourselves in the position of being flouted.
– We are merely saying “Barkis is willin’.”
– South Australia has control of the whole of this territory, and a dozen resolutions on our part cannot affect their rule in any particular. Without the consent of South Australia we cannot take a square yard of the land ; and I cannot consent to any action on our part which puts us in the position of seeming to do something we have not the power to do. I agree with some of the reasons given by honorable members as to why it may be desirable that the Commonwealth should have control of the Northern Territory ; but as I consider that this is not the proper time to discuss the matter, I will content myself with what I have said,
Mr. V. L. SOLOMON (South Australia). - I wish to assure the honorable member for Bland, and other honorable members, that my sole reason for desiring to withdraw the motion was the attitude taken in regard to the matter by the South Australian Parliament. On the 4th December, 1901, the following resolution was carried in the Legislative Council of South Australia : -
That it is expedient that the Government should without delay communicate with the Imperial Government with a view to obtaining their consent to the transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth on the following conditions : -
That is taking about 300 miles of territory away, including the McDonnell Ranges and their gold-fields, although they ask to be repaid the whole of their expenditure upon it-
South Australia to bear its proportion of debt on the basis of area.
I thought those terms so absurd and inequitable in the face of the motion which I had moved in this Chamber, that the only thing I could do was to ask leave to withdraw it. However, after listening to the remarks of the honorable member for Bland and others, I am satisfied that good may accrue from carrying it, as the Acting Prime Minister proposes to amend it. If we do that, we shall at least assure the people of South Australia that, in the event of their own Parliament not reflecting their opinions in regard to the non-desirability of constructing the transcontinental railway on the land-grant system, there is the alternative of the Federal Government taking over the Northern Territory upon just terms. If the House agrees to the motion, as it is proposed to amend it, I shall be satisfied that my efforts in bringing the matter forward have been productive of good results.
– I wish to say, by way of explanation, that when I spoke just now I did not know what had taken place in the South Australian Parliament. I hold that under ordinary circumstances my contention - that a matter of this kind should not be dealt with until we are given official information by responsible Ministers - would hold good. But if the negotiations referred to by the honorable member for Bland are on foot, we should lose no time in saying that we are willing to accept the responsibility of acquiring the Northern Territory, and acquaint the South Australian Government of our intention.
Question - That the words “advisable that the complete control and jurisdiction over the Northern Territory of South Australia be acquired by the Commonwealth,” proposed to be omitted, stand part of the motion - resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the words “ and that the Federal Government should at once enter into negotiations for that purpose with the Government of the State of South Australia,” proposed to be omitted, stand part of the motion - resolved in the negative.
Resolved - That in the opinion of this House, it is advisable that the complete control and jurisdiction over the Northern Territory ofSouth Australia be acquired by the Commonwealth upon just terms.
Resolved (on motion by Mr.Kingston) -
That the select committee on the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill have power to send for persons, papers, and records, and to move from place to place ; that they have leave to sit at any time, and to report the minutes of evidence from time to time ; the quorum of the committee to be five when sitting at Parliament House, Melbourne, and three when sitting elsewhere.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the report of the Printing Committee be now adopted.
– It seems to me that, as recommendation No. 1 of the Printing Committee’s report affects the other branch of the Legislature alone, it is inexpedient that this House should adopt any resolution in regard to it. In the matter of recommendation No. 4, I desire to inform honorable members that if it is passed as it stands, no member of the House who is neither a Minister nor a member of the Printing Committee can under any circumstances move for the printing of any paper, which is contrary to Standing Order No. 322, while No. 2 is contrary to other standing orders. In respect to recommendation No. 7, the reduction referred to has already been made.
– Recommendation No. 4, to which you, Mr. Speaker, directed attention, is one to which I think the House is scarcely likely to agree. The committee recommends -
That no despatch, report, or paper presented either to the Senate or the House be printed except (a) on a motion proposed by some responsible M innister of the Crown for special reasons duly stated: -
I do not know why the word “responsible” is used, because presumably every Minister of the Crown is a responsible Minister - or (?>) on the recommendation of the Printing Committee of either Chamber duly confirmed.
It seems to me that that is a very arbitrary proposal. It deprives members of this House of a privilege which members of Parliament have enjoyed from time immemorial, and I think that the House should not adopt it. I have gone through the committee’s report as carefully as my limited time would allow, and I am sorry to say that it reminds me of the old fable of the mountain in labour. In my opinion, a very’ small result has followed the rather Herculean efforts of the committee. I cannot understand why the committee, with every opportunity available to it of calling expert witnesses, of whom, perhaps, there are at least 100 in Melbourne, were content to confine their investigation to the examination of the Government Printer, the Clerk of the Senate, the Clerk of the House of Representatives, and the Chief Reporter. The committee were charged with the investigation of a highly technical matter, in regard to which very few, if any, of its members had any expert knowledge ; but, instead of going outside and ascertaining from individuals engaged in private enterprises what their views on the subject were, the committee carefully avoided that course, and confined its investigation to the examination of the officials whom I have named. Considering the nature of the work which the committee was called upon to perform, it seems to me that some of the Melbourne printers should have been invited to look carefully into the matter, and. to offer what information they could on the subject. Some time ago the Treasurer made rather a point of the statement that the printing which is being done for the Commonwealth in the Melbourne Government Printing-office is being done at cost price ; but I find that whereas the compositors employed in setting up the Victorian Ilansard reports are paid only ls. per 1,000 ens, the Commonwealth Government have in their generosity paid 25 per cent, more, or ls. 3d. per 1,000 ens, for the setting up of the reports of the debates of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– That is not a fair way to put it.
– The honorable and learned member will hear, before I have finished, a few more remarks which he may consider unfair. I will presently reach the point which is troubling him. The statement which I have just made gives the exact facts. It may be said that members of this Parliament make more corrections than are made hy the members of the Victorian Parliament, and that the work has to be done under different conditions ; but will any one contend that it is not essentially the same work for which, the Commonwealth is paying 25 per cent, more than Victoria pays ?
– That is quite little enough to pay the men.
– I am not denying that, nor asserting that, the men are overpaid. The honorable member is trying to take a point. We are being continually told that this work is being done at cost price, and I reply that the price is greater than is paid for the same class of work by this State.
– The Commonwealth Treasurer authorized the payment of the extra amount to those engaged upon the Federal Ilansard.
– That may be. I am not disputing that the payment of the extra rate was duly authorized, and that it is deserved. I see that at question 297, the Chief Parliamentary Reporter was asked how many pages Hansard contained up to the 31st March, 1902. The answer was 11,250 pages, and it was stated that the cost of production was £12,630. That would bring the cost of Hansard to’ £1 2s. 6d. per page. From a return previously laid upon the table of the House, I ascertained that the cost of paper used in the production of Hansard was £2,130, so that the cost of printing 11,250 pages was £10,500, or about 18s. 8d. per page. The Hansard, is set up in what is known as long primer type, and contains about 4,000 ens per page. Therefore, the total cost of setting up one page of Mansard would be about 5s. - that would be the total amount paid to the compositor. Yet, if we are to credit the Treasurer, the work is being done at cost price, notwithstanding that we are paying 18s. 8d. per page instead of 5s. for setting up the type. Of course, a certain amount of allowance must be made for corrections, proof reading, binding, and the like ; but after taking everything fully into account, there is a serious discrepancy somewhere, which emphasizes my contention that the committee should have called in some expert authority to give them information.
– What better expert information could be obtained on the subject of corrections?
– There would be no difficulty in the matter. If proofs of Hansard showing the corrections for a week, were submitted to any printer in Melbourne he could, within half-an-hour, give an estimate of the cost of making the corrections. Even if the matter were re-set entirely at a cost of 5s. per page, there would still be a very large discrepancy to account for. I suppose it is inevitable that we should have the greater part of the parliamentary printing done in Melbourne. This probably explains why out of £17,215 spent on printing for Parliament we paid the Victorian Government Printing Office £17,073, leaving only £142 to be distributed amongst the offices of other States. Of course, if the work were done at cost price - which I take leave to doubt - there would not be much to grumble at. Before I proceed any further, I should like to ask how it is that the department of Home Affairs has spent £2,747 lis. 2d. in printing in Queensland ? That seems an extraordinary circumstance, regarding which the Minister should be prepared to furnish some information. I notice also, that 250 copies of Hansard are being sent to the Agent-General- of Victoria in London. I do not see anything in the report to show why this should be done, or ,any recommendation that the supply should be discontinued.
– We have cut down the supply of Hansard, but have not gone into details.
– But I wish to know why we should send 250 copies of Hansard to the Agent-General of Victoria any morethan to any other Agent-General ?
– Because in connexion with the circulation’ of parliamentary papers theAgentGeneral of Victoria acts for the Commonwealth. I may further inform thehonorable member that these 250 copies of Hansard are distributed. among the leading newspapers in England and other agencies for disseminating public information.
– I am glad to have that explanation. I think that the committee have overlooked a most important recommendation. In the reports concerning the pearlshelling industry which were recentlyprinted, honorable members will see reproduced some half-dozen very expensive maps, with which we might very well have dispensed. Although I am very much interested in the pearl-shelling question, which to some extent affects my constituency, I cannot see that these maps are necessary to enable any one to thoroughly understand the reports. I would also point out that the expense of printing documents ordered by this House might be very materially reduced if some one would take the trouble to sub-edit them. If honorable members refer to almost any of the reports laid upon the table, they will notice that they include a lot of unnecessary verbiage, and we ought to compel the officers of the departments from which these documents emanate’ to make abridgments for printing purposes. Therefore, if I am in order, I desire to move an amendment in this direction.
– I understood that the honorable member was moving the adoption, of the report, otherwise I should not have permitted him to speak, because, until the adoption of the report has been moved, there is really nothing before the chair. The honorable member would be in order if
I might take it that the Acting Prime Minister had formally moved the adoption of the report.
– I am willing that it should be taken that I have, on behalf of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, formally moved the adoption of the report.
– Then the honorable member for Coolgardie may move an amendment upon the report.
– I do not wish to impose any fresh duty upon the Clerk of the House. In recommendation No. 6, the committee suggest that if the Clerk sees that the cost of printing any document will be very great, he may report his opinion to the Speaker or the President, as the case may be. I move -
That the report be amended b)’ the addition o£ the following recommendation : - S. The Clerk of the House which orders any despatch, report, or paper to be printed may return the document to the department by which it has been prepared, with the request that an abridgment of the same be made, and that such abridgment be printed in lieu of the original.
I also desire that recommendation 4 be amended to read as follows : - “ That no despatch, report, or paper presented either to the Senate or the House be printed except (a) on a motion ‘for special reasons duly stated ; or (ft) on the recommendation of the Printing Committee of either Chamber, duly confirmed.”
– I must apologize for not being in my place when this report was presented to the House for its consideration. I may remind honorable members that the report is the work of a joint committee of both Houses - a committee upon which both sides of this Chamber and of the Senate were fairly represented. The committee did not represent any particular view or party. Both branches of the Legislature were interested in the inquiry, and every shade of political opinion was represented in the committee. I would further remind honorable members that the committee have reported upon the cost of work for which the House itself, and the Senate were responsible, and not merely upon expenditure authorized by the Executive Government. Our mission was to investigate the whole cost of printing, including that which was ordered by both the Senate and the House of Representatives - printing for which the mouthpiece of the House, in the person of the Speaker, and the mouth-piece of the Senate, in the person of the President, were responsible. Consequently our report is not intended to be a criticism of what has been done either by the Executive Government or by any department, but of the printing of the Commonwealth as a whole. The reason why a joint committee was instructed to investigate and report upon this matter was that some time last year very exaggerated statements were circulated in the press regarding the cost of federal printing, and concerning certain extraordinary expenditure connected therewith, which, it was alleged, was caused by our new federal system. Some of those statements were of a very startling and extraordinary character, one being to the effect that federation had caused a new expenditure upon printing which amounted to upwards of £40,500 for the first year. Another report went further, and declared that the federal printing bill would amount to £78,000 per annum. These statements were calculated to damage not only the Federal Government, and this Parliament, but the whole federal system. Consequently, all who were interested in maintaining the good name of our federal institutions felt anxious that the statements contained in these reports should be investigated, so that, if they proved to be true, we might ascertain how far such expenditure was justified. Of course our work has been a very important one, and I may say that the committee devoted a considerable amount of attention to it - as is disclosed by the evidence which has been collected and printed. We also made numerous . private inquiries, which have resulted in the best recommendations at which we could see our way clear to arrive. We did not desire to launch into a very wide or expensive inquiry, extending over numerous and long sittings. Neither did we wish to examine outsiders, if we were satisfied that the expense which was being incurred^ upon our printing was reasonable. Had we felt doubtful whether that expense was justifiable, or whether the wages being paid to our employes were unduly high, we should have consulted outsiders in regard to the matter. But after examining the Government Printer, and other Commonwealth officers, and exercising our own knowledge of the world, we concluded that it was not necessary to take the opinion of outsiders either in regard to the wages paid, or the nature of our federal printing. We availed ourselves of our own knowledge, .and submitted our report. I do not see that we could have arrived at any conclusions other than those set out in the report if we had examined witnesses from Sydney, Melbourne, or any other part of Australia. I am pleased to be able to say that our inquiries, and a scrutiny of the returns submitted to us, show that the alleged expenditure in connexion with federal printing was extremely exaggerated, and that there was no justification whatever for the reports that the printing bill would be either £40,000 or £78,000 per annum. The report shows that for the first fifteen months of the Federation the expenditure was £24,647, being at the rate of £1,643 per month, or only £19,716 per annum. That, of course, is an absolute and unqualified refutation of the fairy tales which were being industriously circulated by those who were either not properly informed or who made statements without a due sense of their responsibility. It is a matter for general congratulation in this House, and in the Parliament, that our investigations were able to establish that fact. I would further point out that the £19,716 expended for printing is not confined to what may be generally described as “new” departments, consequent upon the inauguration of our federal system. As shown in a letter from the Government Printer, which appears in the appendix, it includes the cost of printing Bills connected with the Customs, Post and Telegraph, and Defence departments, during the whole of that period. As a matter of justice, as well as of reason, the federal system ought not to incur either censure or praise, because of any extra expenditure in connexion with these old departments. It is certain that the Customs department must have incurred expenditure for printing long before its transfer to the Commonwealth, and the same remark applies equally to the Defence, and Post and Telegraph departments. As a matter of course, the revenue of these departments was taken over by the Federal Government together with the expenditure, so that the latter cannot reasonably be charged to the federal system. But the return which was presented to this House includes the cost of printing all the very elaborate and expensive Bills connected with the transferred departments, namely, the Post and Telegraph Bill, Defence Bill. Customs
Bill, and the whole of the other measures which have been dealt with by this Parliament during the present session. The case for the federal system as a whole is, therefore, much better than it appears at first sight. I was under the impression that the sum of £19,716 included merely the expenditure connected with new and original departments. The result of our investigations, however, shows that it includes, not merely the expenditure incurred by new departments, but that incurred by the transferred departments to which I have already referred. That fact alone justifies ‘the appointment of the committee. But the result of our inquiry went much further than that. It swept away the false rumours in circulation, and showed that the expense was not so alarming as to render necessary any very drastic reform such as was suggested by the last speaker. As a’ matter of fact, we were satisfied that no unnecessary expenditure had been incurred in the printing-office, and that there was no necessity to examine printers outside of the Commonwealth departments as to the way in which they conducted their own businesses. We further concluded that, considering the long delays which they have to suffer in waiting for copy, and the long hours which they are on duty, the small extra remuneration of 3d. per thousand to the compositors employed by the Commonwealth is well earned.
– The increased pay is more apparent than real.
– That matter is dealt with in paragraph 6, on page 5.
– We were quite satisfied that it was not necessary to ascertain how much per page was .involved in the printing of Hansard. In its present form the report is elaborate enough. Sufficient particulars have been supplied to the House to enable the committee to feel that they have fairly discharged their duty. Complaint is being made that we have not submitted any vast scheme for retrenchment. We did not see our way to do so. We did, however, investigate a number of points which were brought under our notice, and in regard to which we thought important savings might be effected. We cannot afford to despise retrenchment in small matters.
– I wish that the Senate would hurry up.
– I am not anxious to speak - I am merely acting as the mouthpiece of the committee. I am in a very thankless position if, having been asked to sit upon this committee, I am refused an opportunity of explaining the results of our inquiries. I was calling attention to the fact that the recommendations of the committee refer to matters of detail, but even in reference to these we thought that economies might be effected in various quarters. In making our recommendations, we intended no reflection upon any department, or any particular officer or officers. It was merely thought that in the beginning of our federal system the practice of the various States in regard to many matters might be improved, and that if savings could be effected, they should be made. One of the joint recommendations alone, if carried out, will result in a considerable saving, though on its face, it is apparently a small matter. The committee recommend - (1.) That the practice of printing questions and answers in the Senate journals be discontinued.
Of course we sat as a joint committee, and that is why the paragraph which I have quoted appeal’s in the report. We represented both Houses, and senators agreed to recommendation No. 2 just as the representatives of this House upon the committee acquiesced in recommendation No. 1. Of course we could not give effect to that recommendation. We have no desire to pass resolutions dictating to the Senate any more than we expect that Chamber to adopt resolutions dictating to us. It may be that paragraph 1 might with advantage be omitted, leaving the Senate to deal with it in any manner that it thinks fit. Paragraph 2 recommends -
That the practice of printing weekly reports of divisions in committee of the House of Representatives be discontinued.
That practice is founded upon Standing Order 307, and if our recommendation is adopted it cannot be given effect to until the standing order in question is modified, as no doubt it will be in due course. Paragraph 3 is intended to operate as a sort of brake on any tendency in the direction of expense in printing amendments or new clauses in block or erased type. It is thought that the House ought to have supreme direction in a matter of this kind. At the present time, a Minister or the Speaker may order amendments to be so printed, but in the opinion of the Printing Committee, a Minister who desires that course to be taken ought to ask the consent of the House. Paragraph 4 is intended to be a check on wholesale motions for the printing of documents.
– Why confine the privilege to Ministers?
– At the present time any honorable member may, under Standing Order 316, move that a document be printed.
– There has never been such a motion in this House.
– It has been found that sometimes even a Minister is liable to move that documents be printed, and afterwards, on reflection, to find that such a step was unnecessary.
– Can a standing order be altered by a report?
– No ; and this paragraph in the Printing Committee’s report simply amounts to a recommendation for a subsequent amendment of the standing orders. In one case a document was printed on the recommendation of a Minister, and it was afterwards found by the clerk that an almost precisely similar document had been prepared for one of the States Governments, and could, with a little alteration and small expense, be made available for the Commonwealth Parliament. On the matter being brought under the notice of the Speaker, the suggestion of the clerk was acted upon, and there was thereby saved an expenditure of over £200. It is thought by the Printing Committee that even a responsible Minister should move the printing of any report - such as that, for instance, recently presented on the pearl fisheries, and give reasons to the House.
– I cannot understand why private members are not allowed the same privilege.
– A Minister is in a responsible position, and has opportunities of perusing the report, and forming an opinion before presenting it to the House.
– Supposing the House desires a document printed, and a Minister refuses to submit a motion to that effect?
– Then an appeal may be made to the Printing Committee, who can order the document to be printed. Only last week a request was made by an honorable member for a document to be printed, and the committee after holding a special meeting granted the request. The reason for restricting such motions to
Ministers is that very often, out of pure good fellowship, private members’ motions for documents to be printed are passed undebated and unconsidered. If we are to keep expenses within reasonable limits, the House will have to submit to the selfdenyordinance suggested.
– It is a curtailment of our privileges.
– If an honorable member desired a report or other document printed, there should be no difficulty in approaching the Printing Committee and asking their consent. At any rate, it is for the House to decide whether this recommendation of the committee introduces an undue restriction. And all I can say is, that the recommendation is submitted in the interests of the House, and that all honorable members are on the same footing.
– In New South Wales documents first go before the committee, and if they fail to recommend, any honorable member may move that it be printed.
– At any rate, the recommendations represent the unanimous opinion of the Printing Committee. We have done our best, and we now leave the report to the House. One result of the inquiry is extremely satisfactory, and that’ is, the refutation of statements which were put in circulation as to the cost of federal printing, and which were seriously calculated to damage the federal system of Government.
– I am sorry to hear the honorable member for Coolgardie object to the report, though, after all, his objections do not amount to very much. It must be remembered that the’ printing committee had no particular instructions to initiate any very sweeping reform. It was primarily an investigation as to whether charges in regard to excessive printing expenditure were or were not justified. It must also be remembered that the present printing arrangement in connexion with the printing of Hansard and other documents is only temporary. It has been urged by the Government Printer of Victoria, Mr. Brain, that it would be well to let any attempt at more drastic reforms stand over until the Federal Government is able to order its affairs in a more definite fashion. As to Hansard, it is the intention of the Government Printer to employ typesetting machines, which will undoubtedly reduce the cost. At the same time we have been given to understand that the cost is not much beyond what is usually charged for work of this kind. It is work which is always regarded as demanding special care, and, for that reason, entitled to special payment. As to the rate of ls. 3d. per 1,000, I draw the attention of the honorable member for Coolgardie to paragraph 56, on page 5 of the report, in which, I think, he will find a perfectly satisfactory explanation. The men employed by the Federal Government have to work at hours when, they are entitled to more pay than are those employed on the work of the State Governments. I, for one, am perfectly prepared to accept the responsibility of giving these men the extra 3d., which, I understand, is not altogether representative of the difference between their position and the position of printers who set up type for the .States Governments. An allowance of 10 per cent, is made, at least in some of the States, in connexion with the work done for Hansard. I am unable to follow the honorable member for Coolgardie in his observations as to recommendation No. i. He objects, in the first place, that an attempt is being made to curtail privileges of members in regard to the printing of certain documents, and yet in the next breath he urges that certain documents shall be abridged, or edited by, I presume, the Clerk of the House. I fail to follow the necessity for allowing a privilege with one hand and modifying it with the other.
– What about the honorable member’s.own recommendation, under which the Clerk may suspend an order of the House ?
– The Clerk, as a matter of fact, exercises his commonsense and judgment in regard to all matters which pass through his hands, and he indicated to the committee several instances in which his work had resulted in a considerable saving to the federal printing account. On . the whole I would remind the House that what the committee have done amounts to very definite savings. The limit of our action wag narrow, and the present arrangement is only temporary, and I think I may fairly urge that the committee were not justified in proposing more drastic changes, but that what they have recommended is a direct improvement in the way of economy.
– As one of the members of the printing committee, I should like to say a few words. The whole question was considered very exhaustively, the witnesses being most minutely examined. It was shown that the expenditure on printing for the Federal Parliament is not more, or, in some cases, not much more, than the amount expended on similar work by the States Governments. The object of the committee was to see that the expenditure was not allowed to be any greater than is absolutely necessary under the circumstances. The report has been explained in detail by the chairman of the committee, and I do not think it necessary for mem-bers of the committee to add much. We feel sure that the few recommendations will not be regarded as made with any desire to dictate, but merely as suggestions to the House. The honorable member for Coolgardie can scarcely have thoroughly considered recommendation No. 4. That recommendation is made because it was found that similar motions passed in both Houses led to duplication of printing, and the idea is that the Clerks shall communicate in order to prevent unnecessary expense.
-I thoroughly sympathize with the last speaker, who, as a member of the committee, would no doubt like to see all the recommendations carried out. Apparently the work of the committee was to silence some statements made in the press in regard to the excessive cost of printing ; and in that respect they have succeeded fairly well. The only recommendation which will have the effect of economizing is the fourth of the committee’s recommendations. Some honorable members have stated that to carry that recommendation into effect would curtail their rights and privileges. I have had some experience of what has. been done in New South Wales in regard to parliamentary printing. There the amount of printing done has been very large. The Printing Committee has made a comparison between the printing done for the Commonwealth Parliament and that done for the Parliament of Victoria, but if they had made a comparison with that done for the Parliament of New South Wales, it would have been still more to our advantage. In New South Wales the cost of parliamentary printing came to be so great that a few years back a Printing Committee was appointed, consisting of members chosen at the commencement of each session, to determine what papers should be printed. Now, when a member thinks that a document for which he has moved is of such importance that it should be published at the expense of the State, he must appear before the committee, and give reasons why it should be printed. If he does so, and the reasons are considered satisfactory, the committee authorizes the printing of the document. It often happens that the papers laid upon the table of the House contain information which is of interest only to the member who has asked for them, or to one or two of his constituents, and such papers are not allowed to be printed ; but where a document is of general importance, the committee accede to a member’s request to have it printed. That system, which entails no breach of privilege or loss of right upon members, might very well be adopted here, and, if adopted, would save considerable expense. There is one part of the report to which I particularly take exception. The committee say-
At the beginning of the session the proceedings of the Federal Parliament were fairly well reported in the metropolitan newspapers. There has been of late a distinct falling-off in the character and value of those reports, and a tendency on the part of some of the leading newspapers to condense their reports into mere skeleton summaries, whilst in some cases even “the pretence of reports is dispensed with, and sketches of an amusing description, but sometimes inaccurate and U 111 U st have been substituted.
The committee therefore recommend that, for the information of the Australian people, and for the protection of honorable members, the Federal Ilansard be maintained in unimpaired efficiency. I agree that the efficiency of our official reports should not be impaired, but I do not think that we should be called upon to indorse the commiteee’s statements in regard to the parliamentary reporting of the newspapers. No doubt some honorable members are reported at greater length than are others.
– The honorable member has no reason to complain.
– That is so, and I am not complaining. I simply wish to point out that the newspapers are private concerns, which are run, not for the advantage of Members of Parliament, but to make money, and their proprietors are the best judges of the requirements of the public in the matter of the reporting of parliamentary proceedings. It is not often that one has an opportunity to publicly compliment the press, but I wish to use this occasion - I am not speaking to obtain any advantage for myself - to place on record the fact that the reports of the proceedings of this Parliament published in the metropolitan press of New South Wales are admirable. I object to the paragraph which I have just read on the further ground that it can hardly be said to be accurate. It states that sketches of an amusing description regarding the proceedings of this Parliament are published in the newspapers. Possibly, I am lacking in the sense of humour,but I have failed to discover such sketches. No doubt, those who conduct the newspapers would be very ready to present their readers with amusing matter if they could obtain it from our proceedings; but, unfortunately for themselves, they are unable to do so. However, in future, I shall read the newspapers more closely, on the chance of discovering these humorous paragraphs. The only real complaint that a member can have against the press is that it leaves him alone. When that happens we generally hear very little of him afterwards. But I think it is our duty to leave the newspapers alone. I trust that the result of the committee’s report will be still further economy. The direction given by you, Mr. Speaker, and the President earlier in the session, that reports of committee proceedings should be curtailed, was a wise one. No doubt, a great deal of repetition takes place in committee ; and it was an admirable idea to empower the Chief Reporter to condense committee reports. But I do not think it would be wise to give him that power in regard to the debates in the House. No doubt every honorable member has much cause to thank the Chief Reporter, and the skilful shorthand writers under his control for the manner in which our speeches are presented to the public. Probably, if they were printed exactly as they were delivered, we should only be too glad to prevent our constituents from seeing them, instead of endeavouring to have them scattered broadcast through our electorates. I have heard, however, that some honorable members cause considerable expense by the costly corrections which they make in the proofs which are furnished to them. In my opinion, neither members nor Ministers should do more than correct obvious errors, but I understand that several important speeches have been so trimmed and refashioned that if an oppositionist were to wish to use them six months hence in the interests of the Commonwealth, he would find that their whole tenor had been changed. Now, as those who take an active part in politics rely upon the impression created in their minds by the delivery of a speech, and not to the dreary perusal of Hansard, for a knowledge of what a Minister said, it is unfair that when they turn to Hansard they should find that the speech they wish to quote has been so manipulated as to be hardly recognisable. When a speech is so altered theHansard report becomes practically worthless. I think that some saving could be made in regard to the issue of printed matter to members. Honorable members now find their homes inundated with printedpapers of all sorts, which they have neither the opportunity nor the wish to read, and which they can get rid of only by using as fuel, or by paying people to cart them away. It is, at any rate, quite sufficient to send honorable members single copies of the papers printed by Parliament. Then, if other copies are required, special application can be made for them. The committee point out that considerable retrenchment has already taken place. They show that a saving of £900 has been made in the cost of printing the debates, comparing the cost from 9th May to 30th September, 1901, with the cost from 1st October, 1901, to 28th February, . 1902. That shows that the officials are exercising care in the direction of economy, and, no doubt, with the exercise of further care in other directions, our printing bill may be still further reduced.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McDonald) adjourned.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, the general elections of Members for the House of Representatives should take place on the same date as the general elections of the Senate.
I know that the time for long speeches has passed, and I shall endeavour to make my remarks as brief as possible. Honorable members will see at once that I am imbued with profound patriotic motives, inasmuch as I propose that honorable members shall sacrifice some five or six months’ salary in order to save the Commonwealth unnecessary expense.
– May I ask whether the honorable member intends that his motion shall apply to the next elections only, or to elections in general 1
– It would apply to all general elections.
– No matter when the previous dissolution might have taken place?
– In the case of a dissolution it might not always apply. Our Constitution provides that three at least of the members of the Senate for each State shall seek re-election in January, 1904, because their three years’ tenure as members of that House dates from the January preceding the date of their election.
– That applied to the first election only. In regard to all subsequent elections the term dates from the January succeeding the date of the election.
– Under our Constitution the election for the Senate will take place some months before the election for this House, and what I wish to avoid is the expenditure of, say, £50,000 upon the election of eighteen senators, and a further expenditure of a like amount in connexion with the general election for this House. There can- be no real necessity for any such outlay. In South Australia, the whole of the electoral machinery will be brought into operation prior to January, 1904, to elect three senators. That will probably involve a cost of £5,000. Within four or five months a similar process will have to be gone through, in order to return seven members to this House. Apart from the actual cost to the States, we have to consider the convenience of the electors. With State elections of one kind and another, and the duplication of federal elections, the electors may be called upon to make undue sacrifices. In many cases men have to lose a day’s pay in order to record their votes, and some difficulty may be experienced ‘in inducing them to go to the polling booths time after time. There should be no difficulty in arranging to hold the elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives upon1 the same date, and I hope honorable members will support the motion.
– I have great pleasure in seconding the motion. If it is carried out it will involve some sacrifice on my part. I think that the money that would bc saved by holding both elections on the same date might very well be distributed amongst honorable members, in order to keep them out of the destitute asylum.
– The motion is well worthy of the consideration of honorable members. I am not prepared to apply . the principle to all elections, but I think it might be followed with great advantage at the next general election.
– It would rest with Parliament to alter the conditions at any time.
– Yes, and in view of that fact the honorable member would do well to limit the application of the motion to the next general election. In the ordinary course retiring senators would require to submit themselves for re-election before January, 1904, whereas the term for which honorable members are elected to this House will not expire until some four or five months afterwards. If arrangements could be made for holding the elections for both Houses at the same time a saying of fully £50,000 or £60,000 might be effected. This arrangement would also meet the convenience of the electors. It is difficult to induce the average elector to record his vote. There is considerable canvassing to be done, in addition to which a large number of electors are compelled to make substantial sacrifices in order to exercise the franchise. In many cases long distances have to be travelled, and very frequently the loss of a day’s pay is involved. Under this proposal these disadvantages can be considerably minimized. Under existing conditions the elections for the Senate will take place in January, whilst those for this House will be held in May or June. I entertain very grave fears that, if separate elections are held for the two Houses, public interest in them will not be thoroughly aroused, and it is very desirable that the greatest interest should be created in respect of elections for this Parliament. Both Houses are vested with very large powers, and public interest can only be properly concentrated upon the elections if they are held upon the same day. Of course, the adoption of this proposal will involve a sacrifice on the part of honorable members of this House. That, however, cannot be obviated. The time for the retirement of senators is fixed by the Constitution. The elections for the Senate cannot possibly be postponed to bring them into line with those for this House. The only way in which the difficulty can be overcome is by honorable members agreeing to retire at a period which will enable the elections for the House of Representatives to take place simultaneously with those for the Senate. From every stand-point the matter should engage the best attention of the House and of the Government. I heartily support the motion.
– Having listened to the arguments advanced by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, and the honorable member for Canobolas, I cannot see how this motion is practicable. The Constitution declares that the States shall regulate elections for the Senate, and this House has no power to compel the States to provide that they shall be carried out simultaneously with those for the House of Representatives. For example, in Queensland the elections for the Senate may be held upon Saturday, whilst in South Australia they may be decided upon Monday. These are some of the difficulties with which the mover of the motion has omitted to reckon. On the other hand, let us suppose that there is a dissolution of this House but not of the Senate. How does he intend to cope with that position 1
– That would not be a general election.
– It would be a general election so far as this House is concerned. This Chamber has no power to order that the elections for both Houses shall take place upon the same day. Of course, I thoroughly sympathize with the desire of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, to secure economy. We should reduce the expenditure incurred in connexion with the conduct of general elections as much as possible. At the same time I should like to know how he proposes to overcome the difficulties to which I have referred. It would be a perfect farce if elections for this House were held upon one day, and those for the Senate were held in the various States upon six different days.
Mi’. Poynton. - I do not think that that is possible.
– It is not only possible, but it is very probable. The honorable member knows enough about party Government to realize that the Ministry will not go to the country at a time when they expect to be defeated. If I had to determine the matter I should fix a day that would best suit my party, and the honorable member would do likewise. A statement has been made which I think should be contradicted by the Minister in charge of the Electoral Bill. He declares that the next election in connexion with this Parliament will cost more than did the last one. We have been assured by the Minister, times out of number, that it will not cost half as much as did the first federal election, and yet some honorable members declare that it will involve a larger expenditure. It has not, however, been shown how that result will be brought about. To my mind, they should support their assertions by facts.
– We have increased the facilities for voting.
– But at the same time we have simplified the method of voting, and made it more effective. When the Electoral Bill was before this House, not a single suggestion was made that the increased facilities which it confers upon voters would involve a greater expenditure. I would further point out that, in Victoria and Western Australia, elections have been carried out under the system proposed in that measure. In this connexion the experience of Western Australia is that the elections conducted there are less expensive than they are in the model State of South Australia - the State that could do no wrong if it tried, not even in the appointment of military drillinstructors. I fail to see that the honorable member for South Australia has made out a good case for his motion.
– I hope that this motion will be carried, because, by its adoption, the Commonwealth will save £40,000. That fact, in itself, should be sufficient to recommend it to the favorable consideration of the House. I fail to see any difficulty in members of this Chamber going before the country simultaneously with senators, and I do not apprehend that any of the States would be so stupid as to provide that the two elections should not take place on the same day. The last .federal election cost about £50,000.
– I am not quite sure that it did cost £70,000, but I know that it cost £50,000. If two elections are to be conducted within a month of each other we shall have to incur a double expenditure. I would further point out that when the last federal election took place, the whole of the electoral rolls were compiled for us by the various States, and the only expense which the Commonwealth had to incur was in connexion with the printing of them. That will represent a very small sum as compared with the cost of compiling the first Commonwealth roll.
– The cost of compiling the roll will have to be incurred irrespective of the elections for both Houses being held simultaneously.
– Exactly. But in connexion with the next election there must necessarily be a considerable increase of cost as compared with the last, by reason of the extension of the franchise to women, which will necessitate double the number of names being placed upon the roll. Consequently, if an election is to be held for the return of eighteen senators, and a” couple of months subsequently the members of this House are to face their constituents, the expenditure incurred will constitute nothing short of wilful extravagance. If we put the matter on the low ground of party politics each party will be compelled to contest two sets of elections within three months ; and we must all admit that there must be parties so long as we have party government. With increased expenditure, the party with the biggest purse is the one which will score ; and in Queensland party feeling is perhaps more bitter than in any other part of Australia. In that State men who cannot vote in the dinner hour or in half a day, have to lose a whole day’s pay. If the elections for the two Houses are held at separate times great hardship will be imposed on working men not only in Queensland, but throughout the Commonwealth. As I understand the Constitution, the elections will take place about December.
– At any time during the year preceding the termination of the Parliament.
– Then I presume the elections will take place about the end of the year, and so far as Queensland is concerned, particularly in the north-west, I should much rather see themtake place in December than at any other time. From December to March is in normal years the wet season, and it is of course intensely inconvenient to be cut off by floods from the centres of activity during election time, as I have been on occasions, and as my opponent was at the last federal election. Of course, it may happen that there is a dissolution of this House without a dissolution of the Senate, and in that case, of course, the extra expenditure must be incurred, but on the present occasion that expenditure can and ought to be avoided.
– I move-
That the debate be adjourned.
The motion involves an important question, to which I desire to address myself.
Motion agreed to ; debate adjourned.
– I have to announce the receipt of a Message which is not in the usual form of third-reading Messages ; but as we have no standing orders dealing with the matter, and as the departure from the form is apparently immaterial, I propose to read it. It is as follows : -
The Senate returns to the House of Representatives, the Bill intituled “A Bill for an Act relating to duties of Customs,” and acquaints the House of Representatives that the Senate has agreed to the further amendment made by the House of Representatives in regard to Senate request No. 38, and has agreed to the modifications made by the House of Representatives in regard to Senate requests Nos. 36, 39, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 58, 59, and 66 ; and has agreed to the modification of the House of Representatives in regard to Senate request No. 9, to which the House of Representatives adheres ; and has agreed not to request the House of Representatives to make the amendments originally requested by requests Nos. 4, 7, 8, 14, 15,16, 20, 25, 26, 29, 30, 67, 86, and 90, and has agreed to the modification as to the date from which the amendments now made come into effect.
The Senate has agreed to the Bill returned herewith, as amended by the House of Representatives at the request of the Senate.
– The Message which has just been read calls for no motion on my part. But the remarks which you, Mr. Speaker, havemade, are my first justification for saying that having hastily perused its contents they appear to me to contain a great deal of unnecessary particularity, which may be intended as a courteous response to the Message from this House, but which cannot in any way, whatever may be the intention, affect our position or that of the measure. No doubt, when we pass, as I hope we shall, the joint standing orders to which you, sir, hare alluded, the form of Messages will be considered. In the meantime,I do not altogether regret that there should be some special form chosen for a special class of Bills ; that is a circumstance which has a twofold bearing. I may be permitted, without repeating the congratulations, mainly personal, offered an evening or two ago, to congratulate this House on the conclusion of the longest, most arduous, most complex, most difficult, and most important task that any Parliament in Australia has yet attempted. At its conclusion, none of us are entirely satisfied with the measure as it stands, but we all recognise that it is the result of unprecedented devotion to parliamentary duties - of honest work of many months’ duration, spent in the endeavour to perfect to the best of our power, and according to our divisions of opinion, the task that was intrusted to us. I desire to say no more with regard to the Tariff as a Tariff, but may remind the public how much, beyond the Tariff imposed, this measure actually means. It now fixes the 8th of October of last year as the date of the imposition of uniform duties; and thus supplies the fundamental financial foundation of the Commonwealth. From that all-important date the several chief periods limiting our powers commence to run. We were required by the Constitution to pass a Customs Tariff within two years, and Parliament has fulfilled that task. In sections 89 and 93 of the Constitution the imposition of uniform duties is made the dividing-line between two slightly different systems of accounts. Under section 90, from the same date, the power to impose duties of customs and excise becomes absolutely exclusive, and the power of the States to legislate in regard to them absolutely ceases and determines. Trade, commerce, and intercourse are from that date throughout the whole of this Commonweal th absolutely free.
– After two years.
– After two years of taking accounts. I am happy to say that the Minister for Trade and Customs is about to introduce a ; new and very much simpler certificate covering all Inter-State transactions, providing nothing more than is absolutely necessary for the statistics of commerce, and for the adjustment of InterState accounts. Inter-State free-trade will practically begin from now. The date from which the five years period of our limited financial powers begins is the8th of October last. The complex calculations for the reduction of the Western Australian duties also commences from that date.,
– Is that not illegal?
– No; not in my individual opinion.
– Did the Supreme Court not so decide ?
– The Victorian Supreme Court decided that until the Act was passed no duty was legally imposed, but that was all. In a few days the first year of the special period allotted to Western Australia will have expired. The date now fixed by the Act of this Parliament is, it is scarcely an exaggeration to say, the real beginning of the Commonwealth. It does not mark the entrance of the Commonwealth into its full power, but it marks the time from which it commences gradually to acquire the ample authority intrusted to it by the people. “ Finance is Government and Government is finance.” The hands of the Commonwealth are tied to a large extent for five years from that date. But now that it has been fixed, we escape much of the indefiniteness of outlook, and many of the doubts, legal and constitutional, hitherto besetting us. From this moment we may begin to exercise by degrees the larger powers and more independent sway vested in Parliament by the people of the Commonwealth.
– I move -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Tuesday, 23rd September.
On that date the financial statement will be made, after which it is customary to proceed with other business. In the present case that other business will be the Electoral Bill, which I hope will be disposed of before we commence the discussion of the Budget.
– I must enter my protest against the proposed adjournment. We have the Loan Bill and a number of other measures which require tobe dealt with.
– All these Bills depend on the Budget, and cannot be dealt with before the latter has been disposed of.
– Nearly three months have elapsed since the close of the financial year, and yet we are told that the financial statement cannot be proceeded with. There must be some reason, which the House is entitled to know, for this delay. When the financial statements in the various States Parliaments can be made a few days after the end of the financial year, it is hard to see why three months are required by the Commonwealth Treasurer to obtain the in formation he requires. There seems to be no anxiety on the part of the Government to end the session, and I am given to understand that the desire is to wait until the return of the Prime Minister.
– That is what I have been led to believe is the reason why the Budget statement is not proceeded with earlier.
– I can assure the honorable member that that is a mistake.
– To those of us who have a long way to go to get to our constituencies every week’s delay is serious. It is absolutely selfish for honorable members to consent to continual adjournments, and thus to prolong the session. I have been in Melbourne almost continuously since the 4th May, 1901. I have certainly got my wife and family with me, but I found that there would be no opportunity to get back to my home for a long time to come, and I did not desire to live by myself. I have, however, hardly seen my constituents since Parlia-ment began. It will take at least three weeks after the delivery of the Budget speech to conclude the session, and it will be a week or eight days after that before I can get to my constituency at all. There will then be sufficient time remaining before Christmas for me to visit only a part of it, and I shall be forced to visit other parts of it during the wet season, which I hope we shall have next year. When I was in State politics I tried to visit my constituents as often as possible, and I wish to carry that practice into federal politics. Every elector in my constituency has a right to hear what I have to say on political subjects, if it is at all possible for me to visit him ; but the Government are so managing their business that I shall have practically no opportunity to see many of my constituents. We’ shall probably be brought back here again in February next.
– Well, we are not going to sit in Melbourne during another winter.
– Whether we are called back in February, March, or April,
I shall still have barely sufficient time to devote to the wants of my constituency, and next session is sure to be a long one, because there are so many contentious matters still to be dealt with. When next session is over, the life of this Parliament will be practically at an end, and I shall have to ask my constituents to re-elect me when I have hardly visited them since last election.
– The honorable member will be practically a stranger to them.
– Yes. The representatives of Victoria are very differently situated.
– We do not object to going on with business, because we are anxious to finish.
– I have no wish to say anything against the representatives of Victoria. I am simply pointing out that they are much more favourably situated than are other members, and can, if they like, visit their electorates almost every week. I suggest that, instead of adjourning until the 23rd, we should meet again tomorrow, and finish what business remains to be dealt with, except the Budget and the Estimates.
– The work is not ready for us.
– We might easily deal with the Loan Bill before the Budget is delivered, and we could also finish the Electoral Bill, and the one or two minor amending Bills to which the Attorney-General has referred. Then everything would be clear for dealing with the Estimates.
– I sympathize with the representatives of distant ‘ constituencies who object to the proposed adjournment, but I should like to point out that the strain of the session is probably felt by representatives of New South Wales to a greater extent than by other representatives, because they are sailed upon to make the long journey from and to Sydney every week in order to attend to the business of Parliament. The proposed adjournment is asked for, I understand, because the Treasurer is unable to deliver his Budget speech straight away, for want of full information. If he has not the information which he should have, the fault lies with the officers of the Customs, the Post and Telegraph, and the Defence departments, who should be brought- to book for it. It is deplorable that the Treasurer of the Commonwealth should be at the mercy of the officers of these three departments, and that the representatives of the whole of Australia should be compelled to submit to delays, and to put up with conditions which no State Parliament would allow to exist. I hope that the Acting Prime Minister will emphasize the remarks made in this Chamber in regard to the inefficiency of the officers who are to blame. If this Parliament is to set the time and tune for other Parliaments, we cannot allow ourselves to be treated in this way by our officers. I would ask honorable members to remember, however, that a number of members have gone away, believing that the adjournment would be agreed to. The Minister for Home Affairs has intimated that the amendments made by the Senate in the Electoral Bill are so drastic that themeasure to a great extent requires remoulding, and therefore cannot be gone on with at present. It is absolutely necessary that there should be a full attendance of honorable members when the financial proposals of the Government come to be dealt with. Surely, such a Bill as the Loan Bill should not be dealt with in a thin House, and therefore it would not be fair to take it into consideration until the Budget speech has been delivered, and every honorable member is able to attend. Those who are away have entered into professional and business arrangements on the strength of the proposed adjournment, and considering the amount of time which they have been called upon to give to their parliamentary duties since we. first met, I do not think we can complain of that. While on my feet I wish to intimate to the Minister for Trade and Customs that the Inter-State free-trade which we now have is not sufficient for the commercial and general public of the Commonwealth, and I am glad that he has promised to introduce a simpler system than that now in force with regard to the complicated Inter-State certificates, which are not liked in this State or in any other. The members of the Opposition, and the great majority of the representatives of New South Wales, have done what they can to make the Tariff acceptable to the people of the country, and while, as framed, it does not meet with the approval of the people of New South Wales, nor, I think, of other parts of Australia, it is so different from that introduced in October last that
I think even its framer can hardly recognise it.
– I think that the Government should be held responsible for this proposal to adjourn for a lengthy period so late in the session.
– Then the honorable member should not consent to the adjournment.
– I am prepared to vote against the motion for adjournment. I think that it is a most improper one. It is all very well for Ministers to urge that the officers of the various departments have not got the information which the Treasurer requires, but it is preposterous to say that they have not had time to procure it. They are well paid for the work which they do, and if they are incapable they should be sent about their business. Why should the convenience of a few public servants be considered before that of the members of’ this Parliament, so that we are kept here weeks longer than is necessary.I should like the House to meet every day this week, to finish up the business in hand, and to insist upon the delivery of the Budget next week. After a session lasting sixteen months, it is most improper to ask honorable members to consent to a prolongation simply to meet the convenience of a few public servants.
– I rise to protest against the proposed adjournment. It is a proposal in regard to which the Government are very badly advised. They should have some sympathy with those who represent constituencies in States other than Victoria, and who have been absent from their States nearly sixteen months.
– Hear, hear.
– If the Minister has sympathy with us, why does he not show it ?
– We had no choice but to ask for an adjournment.
– Honorable members have been in Melbourne for sixteen months in attendance upon their parliamentary duties, and waiting upon the convenience of the Government, and it is about time that the Government showed some consideration for us. I am not prepared to condemn the Commonwealth public servants for this delay, ‘because I do not know whether they are in fault, or whether the blame should rest with the Government. In any case; I, and other honorable members who are similarly situated, have to suffer.
But if the Government were really in earnest in the desire to close the session, and had had a little of the business foresight which characterizes men who are in charge of ordinary commercial concerns, they would have been able to tell us weeks ago what, they proposed to do. Now, however, at the last moment, and at the very end of the session, they ask us to consent to an adjournment for thirteen days. It appears that some arrangement has been made that the House shall adjourn this evening, but it is scarcely fair for the Acting Prime Minister to specially study the convenience of a few members of the Opposition without taking others into his confidence. The Government also appear to have forgotten that to-morrow is the day of the month which is usually devoted to the ventilation of grievances. I had a very important matter to bring forward to-morrow, and had I known that the Government proposed to adjourn this evening, I should have mentioned it this afternoon. Now I shall be deprived of an opportunity of directing attention to it unless I mention it at the risk of interfering with more important public business at a later stage. If we are to have these frequent long adjournments, honorable members ought to have fair notice of the intentions of the Government, so that those who are situated as I am may make preparations to get away to their own electorates, to which they are now comparative strangers. I can heartily support the remarks of the honorable member for Kennedy, and I think that the Government might even at this late stage reconsider the proposal to adjourn until the 23rd instant. I understand that the Electoral Bill will be ready for our consideration tomorrow, and as that measure is one of great importance, to many of the States, we might very well continue our sittings and dispose of it before we adjourn for such a long period as that contemplated. I would urge the Government to show a little consideration towards the representatives from the more distant States.
– I am quite in accord with those honorable members who are protesting against this adjournment. Prom what I can gather, the whole matter was arranged, not at a Ministerial caucus, but by those honorable members who travelled to Melbourne this morning in the express train from Sydney. Honorable members from other States had no intimation as to the intentions of the Government until we met this evening. Surely the Acting Prime Minister was not so ignorant last week regarding the state of business in the Senate as to be unable to forecast an adjournment such as that now proposed. We are told that this is probably the last occasion during the current session on which we shall be asked to consent to an adjournment for more than a day or two, but I would point out that this is by no means the first time that the supporters of the Government have been put to inconvenience. As one of those who suffer through having to remain away from home for a considerable time, I feel very strongly with regard to this matter. . I am anxious that the business of the country should be transacted as quickly as possible, so that we may return to our homes and enjoy some little comfort, and make ourselves acquainted with the requirements of our own electorates. Already we are being spoken of as Victorians instead of as Queenslanders.
– We are Australians -all.
– In this Chamber we do not represent Australia as a whole, but we require to legislate with a view to meet the requirements of our respective constituencies, and it is necessary that we shall keep ourselves in touch with those whom we specially represent. I admit that an immense volume of business has been transacted, but that affords the greater reason for showing as much consideration as possible to honorable members ‘by bringing the session to an early close. Had honorable members representing Queensland known of the proposed adjournment, they might have proceeded to their homes before now, and have enjoyed the benefit of the full vacation. Believing, however, that they would be required to remain in Melbourne, they have made arrangements which will have to be broken through if they desire to take advantage of the adjournment in order to visit their electorates. I arranged to proceed to Adelaide with some of my constituents to attend the rifle matches, and I have engagements for this week and next week which were made on the assumption that the House would be sitting. All these arrangements will now have to be set aside unless we are to forego the opportunity of visiting our homes. We should not waste time if we were to proceed with some of the business now on the notice-paper.
Honorable members who have private business on the paper will grumble because they have had no opportunity of bringing it before the House.
– We can go on with that to-night, if it is desired.
– It would be impossible to consider such a large number of important motions in the few hours that would be available to us to-night. It is with difficulty that we have managed to maintain a quorum even up to the present stage, because many honorable members have left Melbourne under the impression that we should adjourn this evening. The practice of arranging for these long adjournments is one which calls for a very strong protest. The Government should consider those who sit behind them as well as those honorable members who are on the opposite side of the Chamber. They have shown a want of consideration for their supporters, who have been the last to know of their intentions. Apparently the acting leader of the Opposition, and those associated with him, have enjoyed the confidence of the Government to a greater degree than have those upon whom they have depended to maintain them in office.
– I must also enter my protestagainst the way in which this adjournment has been sprung upon some honorable members. It is apparent from the condition of the Opposition benches that certain honorable members have had some intimation regarding the intentions of the Government.
– We had no intimation before we came here to-day.
– If an arrangement has been entered into between the Government and certain honorable members representing New South Wales-
– That is not so.
– An intimation has been conveyed to some honorable members, because I believe that several have already gone back to Sydney. I fail to see that the slightest consideration has been shown for those honorable members who represent the more remote States. We have been here very patiently attending to the affairs of the Commonwealth for the past eighteen months, and I think it is clue to us that we should be advised regarding the intentions of the Government as early as possible, in order that, in common with those who are more favorably situated, we may make arrangements to proceed to our homes.
– I heartily indorse the remarks which have fallen from previous speakers. I complain bitterly of the ungenerous way in which the Government have treated their supporters. I concur in what has been said by the honorable member for Moreton : that those who sit behind the Government are the last to receive any information regarding the intentions of the Government. Further, I have every reason to believe that what the honorable member said regarding an arrangement having been made in the Sydney express was perfectly true. I have been told that one member said that he intended to suggest an adjournment to-morrow, and that another stated that he would favour an adjournment to-day. What surprises me more than anything else, is that the proposed adjournment was never mentioned in the Age. How the Government could arrive at the determination to adjourn tonight without a recommendation from the Age, is to me amatter of great surprise. I hope the Government will reconsider their decision, and ask honorable members to meet to-morrow and then if necessary adjourn for a fortnight.
– Let us have the Budget and complete our business.
– I should prefer that if it were possible, but I believe it is not practicable. I am informed that the Electoral Bill will be ready for our further consideration to-morrow, and it is desirable that we should if possible dispose of that measure before we adjourn. I hope the Acting Prime Minister will reconsider the proposed adjournment.
– I disagree with the remarks of the honorable members who have immediately preceded me. We have come to the end of our business for the time being, and our sitting to-day has nearly lapsed more than once for want of a quorum. I am quite willing to sit here every day of the week when there is any business to transact, but under the circumstances I think the Government proposal is a reasonable one. It is evident that the Estimates will not be brought before usuntil nearly the end of this month.
– It is a scandalous shame and a disgrace.
– If we do not adjourn as proposed we shall have to suspend our sittings for a week later on. As soon as I heard that there was a possibility of the House adjourning over next week I altered my plans so as to permit of my currying out some important private ‘business. Therefore, I desire that the adjournment should take place as arranged.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Attorney General), in reply. - A good deal of misapprehension appears to exist in regard to this proposal. In the first place, I would remind honorable members that in moving the adjournment of the House on Thursday last, I pointed out that it was hardly possible for us to receive any further measures from another place before Wednesday next - that is to-day. I said -
I hope that honorable members who have private motions on the paper will be ready to proceed with them, should time permit,’ during the remainder of next week. _ .
That is this week. Surely that was a failnotice that all we could undertake to do this week was to receive a. Message from the Senate, and then proceed with the consideration of private members1 business. We have done that to-day. The reason why a more definite statement concerning this adjournment could not be made last week was that, whatever our private opinions might have been - and they differed - we could not possibly know what action would be taken by the Senate in regard to the measure which has been disposed of by the Message received this afternoon. It was quite possible - and, indeed, in conversation with me, some honorable members urged that it was probable - that the result of the consideration of the Customs Tariff Bill in another place would be a further Message to this House. That would have been a very serious matter, and few honorable members would care to have been absent upon such an occasion. There was no certainty, I repeat, that such a step would not be taken. Consequently, we dare not adjourn for this week, or. propose anything which might have involved a further delay in the final settlement of the Tariff. Had I known as much last Thursday as I do now, I could only have added that the Customs Tariff Bill would be passed, arid that this week there would have been no need to deal with anything save private members’ business. To-day private members’ motions were called on, and the Government are prepared to proceed with their consideration just so long as . honorable members care to discuss them. But when honorable members learned that the Customs Tariff Bill had been settled, I was asked - by the leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Macquarie what business it was proposed to proceed with this week. When I informed them that only private members’ motions would be considered, they at once made up their minds that it was unnecessary for them to remain. The Government entered into no arrangement of any kind.
– The House was empty because honorable members understood that this adjournment would take place.
– The understanding was that it would take place only after private members’ business had been disposed of. If the House is prepared to proceed with that business, the Government are perfectly willing to fulfil their obligations.
– Why should we adjourn until the 23rd instant ?
– Honorable members must see that they are somewhat unjust when they declare that the Government did not give them fair notice of their intentions. Until the House met to-day, I did not know that we should not require to deal with the Customs Tariff Bill and that private business would not fill the remainder of the week. I have been asked why it is proposed to adjourn until the 23rd instant. In speaking the other night, I referred to two minor Bills which the Government might possibly introduce during the present session. The Cabinet has since taken those matters into consideration, and has decided that, under the circumstances, it would be premature to ask the House to consider them. One of those Bills had reference to an amendment of the /Public Service Act, and the second to the amendment of another measure. The fate of the other Government measures which remain on the business paper will all depend upon the nature of the Budget. The honorable member for Kennedy has asked whether we could not deal with the Loan Bill and thus advance the Budget. Since the last discussion of that .Bill, the Treasurer has been recasting his Estimates, dividing them into loan expenditure and expenditure from revenue. He is now preparing proposals which will be considered by the Cabinet during the coming week, when we shall decide whether it is necessary to ask for a loan at all. Should it be determined that no loan is necessary, a very critical position will be created financially, and it will -need all the Treasurer’s skill and knowledge to enable him to frame Estimates which this House will be prepared to accept. The one important measure with which I had hoped we should be able to deal this week was the Electoral Bill. The Minister for Home Affairs, however, informs me that the Senate has altered that Bill by omitting many provisions that were inserted in this House, and replacing those which it originally contained’. In some instances amendments have been made to meet the views of this House, and in still others new amendments have been introduced. In any case he says that the Bill has been so recast that he will require time to reconsider it from the first clause to the last before he is in a position to bring down his proposals. That was the one measure with which I had hoped we should deal with this week. If the amendments had not been of such a vital character it would have been possible to consider it next week, although I believe that those who are most concerned in the matter desire that it should be dealt with in a full House. In another place the Government have adhered to the amendments which were made in that Bill’ by this House. The Senate, however, entertained a strong objection to some of the most cardinal changes made during its passage through this House, so that the measure practically requires remodelling. To accomplish that satisfactorily will occupy the Minister for Home Affairs all this week. A statement has been made in regard to the delay which has occurred in the delivery of the Budget. To my knowledge, ever since the 30th June the Treasurer has been indefatigable in his endeavours to obtain his Estimates from every part of the Commonwealth.
– He is not severe enough upon his officers.
– Honorable members should recollect that the Treasurer’s officers are not in any way to blame for the delay. The Treasurer’s Budget depends, not upon his own officers, but upon those of every department of the Commonwealth, and upon officers in a certain number of State departments who are at present doing duty for the Commonwealth. On behalf of my colleague I have already forwarded several circulars to the Premiers of different States and to others asking for particulars which he requires in order to make his Budget statement. Large masses of figures have been received, but in some cases they have had to be returned, because they showed alterations upon last year’s Estimates, which demanded explanation. I think that the Treasurer now has in his possession all the information that he requires.
– I obtained the last information yesterday.
– When the Treasurer has obtained all his Estimates, he then has to prepare his Budget. He has to cut down the Estimates in those directions which appear to him legitimate. If a difference arises between himself and any other Minister regarding the Estimates of a department, the Cabinet has to decide the matter. The Treasurer informs me that the very earliest date upon which ‘he can be ready to deliver his financial statement - he expresses some .doubt as to whether he will be ready then, but, knowing his great capacity for work, I have every confidence that he will - is the 23rd instant. The Electoral Bill cannot be considered before that date. It is quite possible that we might be able to consider it at the end of next week, but that would mean keeping honorable members here for a week in order to do a couple of days’ work. Moreover when the Budget speech has been delivered, Opposition members will probably desire an adjournment of that debate for a day or two. Last year an arrangement was made for the publication of a special number of Hansard, so that honorable members might have an opportunity of criticising the details of the Budget.
– I have arranged for that this year.
– Having regard to the operation of the Customs Tariff Bill, and to the fact that since the 8th October last uniform duties have been collected, the financial statement for this year will necessarily be of a more precise and complete nature than the statement of a year ago. The Treasurer can now present a Budget upon definite lines, which were not then available, and the forthcoming statement will be one of the most important to which this House is ever likely to listen. My colleague has at last obtained, even from the most remote parts of Australia, all the information that lie requires. Of course, there is a great deal to be said in mitigation of the delay which has occurred, because every little expenditure proposed - say, in connexion with a post - office in the remotest portion of Queensland - has had to be sifted and checked. If honorable members take into account that, in preparing his statement, the Estimates of the six States have to be blended and criticised, they will realize the nature of the task which -the Treasurer has to undertake. I felt the reproaches of honorable members to-night, because in some respect-s they seem legitimate. But until they look at this matter from our stand-point–
– The Government will not permit us to look at it in that light.
– The honorable member has never asked me for information, and been refused.
– But the Government never hold a caucus meeting of their supporters.
– In many parliaments the holding of caucuses is a practice which is more honoured in the breach than in the observance, and I do not know that the matter with which we are now dealing could have been better dealt with by any caucus. The Government are perfectly willing to proceed with private members’ motions, and to sit the whole week if necessary.
– Private motions are not so important as is Government business.
– Nothing else with which we can deal will shorten the session by a single day.
– The proposed adjournment will prevent some of us from getting to our constituencies for a couple of months.
– Postpone the Budget for a couple of months.
– That is a good idea. Let some of the members from a distance get “nome.
– Unfortunately we must have the Budget statement, and pass a Supply Bill. I should never be one to counsel honorable members to fail in their attendance in Parliament, but think that if any honorable members wish now to absent themselves, they will be excused by their constituents and by this House.
– I should not do so. A number of honorable members absent themselves, but I do not think it is right. It ought to be public business first, and private business afterwards.
– I quite agree with the honorable member, but the circumstances are so exceptional that if honorable members did absent themselves one could not reproach them. Do honorable members suppose that Ministers desire to prolong this session a single day or a single hour 1
– It seems like it.
– It may seem like it to those who look at the matter from the outside, but those who know the situation as well as .Ministers do, will never suspect us of any desire to prolong the session. All honorable members are exhausted - we have almost reached the limit of our powers ; and that is why we are endeavouring to have short adjournments. It is true that all honorable members cannot take advantage of them, but some are able to do so ; and the position of members from a great distance has from the commencement been most unfortunate for them.
– They have had to sacrifice their own personal business in a way in which other honorable members have not been called upon to do.
– Honorable members who, like myself, are fortunate enough to reside in Melbourne, ‘and to be near their constituents, have always freely admitted that there is no comparison between the sacrifices made by them, and the sacrifices made by members from a distance.
– “Fine words butter no parsnips.”
– That is true ; but my words are sincere - I think no one will doubt their sincerity - and are an intimation that the sacrifices are not unnoticed or unappreciated. When honorable members look at the matter fairly, they will see that the proposal for an adjournment arises out of the extraordinary condition of affairs in which we find ourselves ; at the end of the session we are endeavouring to make the task as light as possible. We should make the task heavy enough, if by doing so we could expedite the close of the session - that is, we should propose to sit late and often, as we shall propose to do after the “Budget is launched. We think it better to have a week’s recess now, and then ask honorable members to sit every available clay and make the utmost effort to deal with the remaining work which is presented in the Estimates.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister give us any idea of the length of the recess 1 I hope we are not going to leave the meeting of Parliament until May or June next year, and then go on right up to the time of the elections.
– That is a matter entirely for the House. As a Government we have not yet considered the question, owing to the uncertainty which prevailed until the Tariff had been dealt with. It appears now as though the session would close early next month, and Ministers will lay their views before the House in regard to the recess before we separate.When we meet again on the 23rd, the Government will be willing to fall in with any proposal to sit oftener and later. The time has now been reached when our administrative work must be put aside, and everything sacrificed in order to bring the session toanend. If honorable members will help us when we meet on the 23rd the Government will ask for or consent to no adjournment, hut will sit as long and often as may be desired in order to dispose of the remaining business as quickly as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have made no empty offer, and if there is still a desire to proceed with private members’ business, I am prepared to go on. If not, I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– The Acting Prime Minister has made some announcement of the business with which he intends to invite Parliament to deal when we meet again, but he has omitted to say anything of the intentions of the Government in regard to the federal capital sites. I understand, however, that the honorable gentleman is prepared to make a statement, and that being so, I need say nothing further than that I hope the matter will not be delayed any longer than is absolutely necessary. If the Government propose to submit the question to a board of experts, that submission should be mode as speedily as possible.” It will take some time for the board to deal with the question, and it is desirable that they should have ample opportunity for making inquiries and furnishing their report’ when the House meets again next session.
– Some few weeks ago the Minister for Home Affairs, as representing the Minister for Defence, promised to submit to us the report of Major-General Hutton on the distribution of the Commonwealth Defence forces. If that . report could be supplied to honorable members immediately, it would enable them to consider it during the adjournment. I particularly desire to know what is intended in regard to the disposal of rifle clubs. I saw it announced in the Sydney newspapers that there are to be three different grades of riflemen, but I know that in Queensland the majority of the members of rifle clubs object to be made a portion of the military forces. I desire to have the report in order to learn the intentions of the Government in this matter, so that I may be prepared to deal with the point when the Estimates are before us.
– The report of MajorGeneral Hutton has not yet come under my observation, nor that of my colleagues ; but I shall make inquiries, and hope it will be made available before the discussion of this particular matter.
– Could we not have a look at the report now?
– I will ask my colleagues to lay the report on the table at once.
– But that will be a fortnight hence.
– The report can be circulated informally in the meantime. The Minister for Home Affairs failed to “ catch the Speaker’s eye “ on the first motion on the paper, which had reference to the choice of the federal capital site. His intention was to have announced that he had selected the sites he intends to propose shall be examined by experts. It will be for honorable members, if they consider any other site has a claim, to make a suggestion.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister a list of the sites?
– Yes ; the sites which the Minister for Home Affairs proposes to submit to the board of experts are Albury,
Bombala, Lake George, Orange, and Tumut. There was a sixth site, about which the honorable gentleman was somewhat uncertain, but these five he proposed, and the proposal was indorsed by the Cabinet.
– Does the term “ Bombala” include not only Bombala proper, but Dalgety ?
– I should say that Dalgety and all other proposed sites in Bombala are included.
– Ballarat might as well be in cluded as Albury.
– If Ballarat were included there would be no chance for any other site; but as the federal territory has to be in New South Wales, we in Victoria are not prepared to part with the city of Ballarat, even to have it made the federal capital.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 8.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 September 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020910_reps_1_12/>.